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 1:4-8

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Devotional
After the violence we all witnessed on television this week, amid so many things people posted on social media, two things gave me pause. A wise teacher of mine wrote, “We are all responsible for what happens next,” and a former student of mine said, “Jesus did not call for peace and unity. He called for repentance.” These two statements made me stop to reflect: what could I do next? Should I repent? What should I repent? Where should I start?

Our Christian tradition is built on repentance. Baptism is about repentance. In my Methodist tradition, we baptize babies even before they can repent. In doing this we acknowledge that God’s grace is freely given to all of us before we even know we need it. As a community of faith, we covenant to teach the child before us how to repent and how to seek the grace of God. We describe this process as “going on to perfection.” Striving for perfection is a bit like finding the end of a rainbow or walking to the end of the horizon. It is always just ahead of us, a moving mark.

Falling short is hard. It is painful and it is not always clear what we should do next or how. The Hebrew word for repent, shuv, literally means to turn around. It’s a word that is sometimes used to describe going back the way you came. It is an action word that describes something you do with your body.

I wasn’t at the Capitol this week, and I admit to finding a comfortable simplicity in “us” vs. “them” tropes that make me feel better about my own culpability. But even if I do not share the views of the people who participated in violence, I do share a society and a community with them. That makes me responsible for helping to create a place of peace and unity, but how can I do that if I do not first acknowledge the pain and anguish of the present moment? How can I create peace and unity if I do not first examine my own role in creating disharmony?

I would like to turn around, but I am afraid that if I turn around there may be an angry mob behind me, or worse: a mirror. I do not want to turn around alone. I want to turn with you, with my neighbor, and with your neighbor. I want to do it together.
Prayer
God, we are are often a sinful and faithless people. Give us courage to turn around and face what chases us. Help us to repent so that we can continue our journey toward perfection. 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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