Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Matthew 6:1-6; 16-18

1"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Late last week I watched as a family received a large, important, life-changing gift. Unfortunately, that’s just about all I can tell you about it. The family wishes to be anonymous. The donor wishes to be anonymous. It was one of the best days for both, but they’ll never know each other. I was privileged to be part of it, and I can’t tell anyone about it.
In this “social distancing” environment, it made me a little irritated at first that I couldn’t share this really good news, a highlight in a week filled with a lot of bad news about enormous killer wasps, unseasonably cold weather, and (of course) the ever present Coronavirus. I couldn’t even hug the family as they received this incredible gift because that could be dangerous. To not be able to also make this public felt cruel, and if I’m honest it felt selfish on the part of those that wished to be anonymous.
Given our current circumstances where none of us have been able to worship in public for almost two months, it feels cruel for me to tell you that you also shouldn’t practice any acts of devotion or acts of compassion in public. I actually think it helps to hear and see the ways people are caring for each other during this pandemic. I think it is good to hear about how people are keeping their prayer life alive, apart from public worship. I want to sound a trumpet when I hear these things. I wanted an entire parade to celebrate a generous donor this week!
When the anonymous donor was told how happy the family was with his gift he said, “My soul is smiling.” I think that means he felt joy. For as much as I want to tell other people about how awesome that day was, I do not think it is selfish for him to want to feel that joy just for himself.
I don’t think it is selfish for any of us to want to experience joy for ourselves.
Like most parts of the gospel of Matthew, this one stings a little. To me, it reads like an admonition from a stern parent to a naughty child. If I can get past the finger-wagging tone to the praxis of the scripture, I think it grants us permission to find deep, soul-satisfying delight in our personal acts of devotion and compassion. It is not selfish to experience joy.
In this environment where the needs of our community are loud and relentless and there seems to be more bad news than good, it is good and right to share what we can with others, whether it is a prayer or a sandwich or something bigger. It is also good and right to quietly savor the warm joy that these acts bring. 
Quench our thirsty souls with a joy that rises with the morning sun, creating God. Soothe the soreness in our hearts with an irresistible desire to be generous, redeeming Christ. Blow the beautiful, refreshing breeze of new life into our hearts, sustaining Spirit, and bring us to the present to savor the satisfaction of being alive.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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