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
Matthew 23:1-12

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father - the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Years ago I worked a job I hated. I hadn’t started out hating it. I actually believed in the mission (and still do!) and looked forward to contributing what I could, especially if it would help others. But as the years went on, it was clear that the organization didn’t care about me. I was working very long days, I hadn’t had even a cost of living raise since I started, and I somehow kept getting more work to do. 

I had a point of clarity when my supervisor asked me to meet with her because she was frustrated about some expectation of hers that I hadn’t met. We talked for an hour, over the course of which she laid out all the things she wanted me to do in the future, things that would meet her expectations. About two-thirds through the meeting I became so overwhelmed I thought I might have a panic attack. When I left, I realized, “This is stupid. If I’m having a panic attack talking to my boss, I have the wrong boss and the wrong job.”

Before that moment, I don’t think it had occurred to me that I could just quit. I had been working so hard for so long I had never stopped to ask myself why. I was no longer working because I believed in the mission of the organization; I was working in order to keep the organization going.

The structure of something can never be more important than the thing itself. 

I think Jesus wanted the crowds and disciples to have the same moment of clarity that I had. Why are you doing all these things? Why do you follow all these religious laws? Who do you serve? Who do you worship? Who told you that you had to keep doing this?

“Laws are made by people, and people can be wrong,” Peter, Paul and Mary sing in their justice-provoking song. Sometimes we let ourselves believe that religious laws and customs are above reproach because they are designed to honor God. But sometimes our religious traditions do more to support the edifice of tradition, and the desires of those who create and enforce the rules than they do to honor God.

Moments of crisis have historically been times of theological innovation. We are living in a historic moment where the questions “who do we serve?” and “who benefits by our service?” are more relevant than ever. This is actually a creative opportunity to articulate what is important and why we do the things we do and which are most crucial to our identity as children of God. 
Gracious God, allow us to turn inward with a critical eye toward how we glorify you and where we fall short. Keep us accountable to make a better, stronger community through this moment of crisis. Lead us to humility, grace, and above all love. 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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