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
Mark 9:38-41

38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
In the past several weeks, I’ve stumbled upon two books about refugees, The New American by Micheline Aharonian and Where the Wind Leads by Vinh Chung. I wasn’t looking to read books about refugees, these just fell in my lap. Each story is a harrowing tale about a family trying to escape imminent danger by fleeing their homes in search of safety in another country. In both stories, the writers describe how they nearly died as a result of no one wanting them. Without a safe place to call home, refugees somehow become dangerous to other people and other nations. People fear they would steal their jobs, strain their healthcare systems, make neighborhoods “dirty” with their poverty, or somehow infect their communities with the violence they fled.

In each story, families were stripped of their dignity and treated like criminals for wanting to live somewhere where men with machetes won’t rape their wives or where they won’t worry that their children will be kidnapped for impossible ransoms. Too often, the horrors the refugees faced were ignored in favor of stoking the fears of receiving nations that would result in them being treated like leeches. 

I think the disciples felt threatened by the “foreign exorcist” in much the same way people feel threatened by refugees today. A foreign person facing an unknown horror had “stolen” their tactics. They were clearly not thinking about the dangers facing this “foreign exorcist” that forced him/her to take action. They were only thinking about how this would impact them and their ministry.

Humans, like other mammals, become unpredictable when they feel threatened, whether the threats are real or imagined. Jesus implores his disciples to take a minute to examine the threat to see if it really requires a fight, flight, or freeze response. In this case, what felt like a threat to their livelihoods could be reimagined as bolstering of their worldview. It would be harder for people to see Jesus as a menace if others were acting on his behalf on their own volition.

In our polarized environment, it feels like a lot to ask people to examine the validity of their fears, but I think that is exactly what the gospel requires of us. Is there more than one way to understand an issue or problem? Are the things that divide us real and true, or are there more things that unite us than we care to see?

Paradigm shifts take a tremendous amount of energy and creativity. It is hard to break a pattern of understanding to see things in a new way. Doing so can relieve us of the burden of constantly feeling attacked, or worse, attacking others.
Generous God, relax our minds, bodies, and spirits so that we can think past our reflexive fight/flight/freeze responses to see the humanity in the people around us. 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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