Lenten Reflection: Serving in the Beloved Community
March 3rd, 2016
Much of Lent is spent with righteous people reflecting on their shortcomings, their failures. The watchword is “Don’t just do something; stand there.” We can only sit around reflecting for so long. As worthy an exercise as it is to be introspective and to gain perspective on our situation and that of others, in the final analysis, no one feels the love until we DO SOMETHING.
The Jewish Christian author of the little book of James writes that we should not just pray for someone who is hungry or cold. Our responsibility, he claims, is to feed them and clothe them.
At United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) we act on the premise that real prayer is action, that God is a verb. Our analysis of problems would become a quagmire if we only reflected, analyzed and prayed. Instead we mean to follow Jesus’ command to his disciples as recorded in the gospels. When they prayed him to feed the 5,000 people who had come to hear him preach, Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”
Reflecting on service during this period of Lenten meditation is a super exercise for us. Still the hungry stay hungry, war rages, mass incarceration continues in the United States. Our neighbors, locally and globally, don’t profit from our spiritual exercises until they translate into service. Cutting out chocolate or cigarettes for 40 days won’t affect our communities.
So we pray for peace (while we work for peace in whatever ways we can); we decry injustice (while marching and voting and standing, sitting and wheeling for human rights). One piece of bread to a hungry child is a better offering than a thousand prayers. A warm gently used coat is more a gift of righteousness than weeks of fasting.
Anything we do is better than doing nothing.
So the beginning of our Lenten journey is to reflect, meditate, pray, repent (turn toward God)…and do with all our might for our neighbors what we would wish they would do for us were the situations reversed. The beginning, middle and end of our Lenten journey—perhaps our life journey—is to serve, SERVE, SERVE.