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
Scripture
Mark 7:24-30

24From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go — the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Devotional
It was Sunday and a church was welcoming a new pastor. The elders were set to introduce the pastor and everyone was excited about the big coffee hour that would follow. It being a big Sunday with many people in attendance, a homeless man sat outside the main entrance doors with his shopping cart filled with all of his worldly possessions and a paper coffee cup for donations. He didn’t say much, and most people walked right past him. As the church bells rang, the homeless man pushed his cart into the narthex and started to look for a seat while the organist played the prelude. The ushers showed him to a seat in the rear of the church, rationalizing that the man wouldn’t want to be far from his shopping cart when in truth they were too embarrassed to show him a place of any greater importance.

After the prelude, an elder went to the microphone to announce that this Sunday would be the first Sunday for their new pastor. She read the pastor’s impressive biography and detailed the onerous search process for finding the right pastor. As she read the name of this new clergy person that would be their spiritual leader, the homeless man made his way up the center aisle from the back of the sanctuary.

There was confusion at first. Maybe this man was lost. Maybe he was having a break from reality or needed medical attention. But as he took off his hat and his layers of sweaters, it became clear that the person they all assumed was a “homeless man” was actually their new pastor. He had dressed in old clothes and sat outside to observe the congregation’s reaction. No one had spoken to him, offered him food or money, and no one had welcomed him inside.

It is easy to judge a congregation like this for their lack of compassion. In doing so, we forget that sometimes even Jesus needed reminders that the people standing in front of him were, in fact, people and not the adjectives used to describe them. The woman standing before him was a mother, not simply a Gentile. Her daughter was hurt and suffering, she was not an animal. 

This desperate mother used Jesus’s own teaching tactics to hoist a mirror before the Son of God. It is tempting to reduce people to their most outwardly observable characteristics, forgetting that they are the delight of their creator. Even Jesus needed to be reminded of the trap. 

Wherever this week takes you, and whoever you encounter, remember that the adjectives describe the child of God. It is not the adjective we serve, but the person.
Prayer
Our ideas and intentions do not always match our actions. Sometimes we are not even aware of the incongruity between the two. Forgive us when we fall short and show us again the path toward righteousness. 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: agape@westfieldpc.org.
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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