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
Judges 17:1-13

1There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2He said to his mother, "The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and even spoke it in my hearing, - that silver is in my possession; I took it; but now I will return it to you." And his mother said, "May my son be blessed by the LORD!" 3Then he returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother; and his mother said, "I consecrate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make an idol of cast metal." 4So when he returned the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into an idol of cast metal; and it was in the house of Micah. 5This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest. 6In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

7Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the clan of Judah. He was a Levite residing there. 8This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah, to live wherever he could find a place. He came to the house of Micah in the hill country of Ephraim to carry on his work. 9Micah said to him, "From where do you come?" He replied, "I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to live wherever I can find a place." 10Then Micah said to him, "Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a set of clothes, and your living." 11The Levite agreed to stay with the man; and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12So Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest."
The congregation of a clergy friend of mine has decided to worship on Sunday mornings outside, at least for the month of August. Before the first Sunday, the trustees measured the courtyard space, they bought athletic paint to mark boxes for families so that everyone would be six feet apart. The musicians plotted out which speakers, amplifiers, soundboards, and cords they would need, and where they would get their power source. They decided they would need an altar table and cloth. And, the pastor would need some kind of podium. Singing, of course, is out of the question, but they agreed that having one person sing was important so they devised a clear shower curtain contraption so that a vocalist could perform without risking anyone’s life.

The week before the first Sunday of August they practiced getting all the equipment out and where it would go. There was a separate practice for the ushers, who would have to direct people in very specific ways. 

Then it rained that first Sunday. They weren’t able to put any of that hard work into immediate action. My friend recorded her sermon and edited together the music and prayers and posted the video to YouTube the way she had every Sunday prior.

So much planning, effort, and labor were put into making this worship happen. Even though the outdoor service didn’t take place, it was a lot of work to do the video recording and editing to make YouTube worship happen. 

I started to wonder, is this worth it? Are all these things necessary? Who is any of this for?

Sometimes it takes the whole world turning itself inside out for us to ask the most basic questions about our motives. 

The world of Judges is topsy-turvy and upside down. For starters, the whole story is borne out of theft. Micah’s mother swears a curse on the thief, but upon finding out her own son stole from her, curses turn to blessings. Micah’s name means “Who is Like the Lord?,” which makes the idol his family makes rather ironic. At the end of the story, he actually hires his own personal priest, which he seems to think will bring God’s favor upon him. The story is a little over the top and even the most cursory reading bears a message about Micah’s privatized manipulation of God and self-interested motivations. 

Sometimes it takes the most extreme circumstances for us to really reflect on the things we take most for granted. When the world is upside down we suddenly have a different perspective on everything.

Why do we worship and what it is for? What must we absolutely have in order to make worship possible? Who benefits from worship? Are religious words and actions just a smokescreen for our own self-interest?

Maybe these are cynical questions, but I think they are the deep introspective work we are invited to during these long months of quarantine. We have an opportunity to really examine what we believe and who we are and how we want the world to understand us. What will we want to continue when the pandemic is over (it will end!)? What should we change? What new things might emerge?
Discerning God, we don’t always have the wisdom to see things as they are. Make clarity where there is obfuscation give us wisdom when fear threatens our sensibility. And when it is time, help us to embrace change. Amen.
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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