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
Deuteronomy 34:1-5

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.
I was invited by a friend to view a livestream conversation with Bryan Stevenson at 7:30pm on March 22. Our friends at Temple Emanu-El are hosting the livestream and I was really excited to register (you can too!). I know about Bryan Stevenson and his work at Equal Justice Initiative, but I had not read his book, Just Mercy. I made a point to do that this week ahead of his lecture.

Mr. Stevenson describes his work defending people on death row and his advocacy for youth who have been sentenced to death in prison due to life sentences given to them as juveniles. He tells a number of eye-opening, heart-rending stories about violence and injustice. As I read each story, I realized that Mr. Stevenson always enters a person’s story in the middle. By the time he met the people he defended, their crime and sentencing were in the past but Mr. Stevenson was providing hope for a future beyond incarceration. 

There is something disorienting about hearing a story from the middle. We like stories that have a slow build, an exciting climax, and neat resolution. When you enter the story from the middle there is less time to develop empathy for the characters and the conclusions are often unsatisfying. Mr. Stevenson tells stories of clients who were sometimes executed even if there wasn’t compelling evidence that they were guilty. He tells stories of clients he was able to have released from prison who later died young due to the effects of the trauma of the experience. 

The troubling thing about Mr. Stevenson’s stories is that at their conclusion it becomes clear that there is much work left to be done if we desire a just and merciful society. You cannot read these stories without feeling that you have a lot of work to do, too.

When we pity Moses for having come so far without the reward of entering the Promised Land, we enter his story from the middle. Moses’ life may have ended, but the story of all that he accomplished continues. It is up to us to make Moses’ work worth the effort. We are the ones that must make the Promised Land distinct from slavery, injustice, oppression, and violence. 

There are lots of endings all around us that have yet to be written: the end of the pandemic, the end of the academic year, the end of Lent. We are in the middle of many stories right now. It is up to us to make an ending that feels whole.
God of mercy, have mercy on us as we fumble through middles in search of endings that will quench the thirst of the souls all around us. Let justice fall down like water to satisfy the weary soul. 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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