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 8:11-20

11Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14Then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 19If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20Like the nations that the LORD is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
I read a news article this week about how many people may be caught with an unexpected tax bill on their unemployment benefits from last year, possibly while they are still unemployed due to the pandemic. I have a hard time understanding that in the same way I can’t seem to understand news articles about how some Texans now have utility bills many times higher than usual, even as power outages continue due to damage caused by the weather. 

I do understand how taxes work and I know that there is usually a choice to withhold taxes when one signs up for unemployment. I do understand an unregulated power grid has pros and cons and that the consequence of choosing a variable vs. fixed rate utility program is sometimes higher utility bills. I know this is how we have decided to operate our society. Other ways of organizing societies have other pitfalls. There are no perfect systems.

The Gospel lesson adjacent to this one in the daily lectionary is John 2:1-12 when Jesus’s mother urges him to miraculously turn water into wine at a wedding celebration. Although the transformation of water into wine certainly defies conventional explanation and meets the definition of a “miracle,” it also seems superfluous. If Jesus had this ability, why not use it to meet something of greater consequence on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Of course, later in the Gospel Jesus does heal the sick and feed the hungry, but why start with this display of excess and indulgence?

Our culture likes linear, sequential progress. We like bootstrap ideology and rugged individualism and Protestant work ethic because they all tell us that hard work will bear fruit, that good things come to good people, and that our world and our society are marching on to perfection. This kind of logic assumes that we start from a place of poverty, that we must eat our vegetables first, and that there will be no good things that are not earned - ideas that just don’t bear out in lived experience.
Jesus’s miracle at the wedding in Cana proves the abundance of God’s grace extends even unto extravagance, and perhaps out of sequence with our expectations. The reflection on the events of the Exodus in Deuteronomy serve as reminders that God is boundless in love and grace. Both stories demonstrate that the expectations we set up in our social systems often constrain the ways we can experience God. Taxes on unemployment benefits and astronomical utility bills are what they are because we, as a society, decided that those were the rules. We could have just as easily decided on a different set of rules that would result in other outcomes, perhaps without many better results. 

God does not operate inside human social systems. God makes the last first and serves the best wine last. God gives good things to people who have not earned it. God will probably not be paying utility bills or making tax payments, but it helps my moral imagination to know that the way we have set ourselves up to treat each other is not the only way to imagine a world together.
We desire tightly scripted, predictable narratives in a world where we have scientifically proven that entropy is impossible to evade. We are contradictory and inconsistent, but you are static in your love and dynamic with your grace, bountiful God. Open our minds and our hearts to a wider order of possibilities. 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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