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Serving, not ceremonies, changes the world

June 22, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Isaiah 58:5-8

5 Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
8 Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Many in Jesus’ day tried to limit the command to love your neighbor (cf. Leviticus 19:18) to other Israelites. Even that was hard to live up to. Isaiah 58 spoke to those whose many “religious” deeds (including fasting) sprang from self-serving motives. (Isaiah’s fellow prophet  Micah said the same—Micah 6:6-8.) Why, people asked, didn’t God honor their feasts and fasts? The prophet said they didn’t need skin-deep piety and external fasts. They needed to “fast” from mistreating other people.

  • Fasting is a helpful spiritual practice, whether from food or some other valued activity. But the Israelites’ fasting only seemed to go skin-deep. Isaiah 58:3-4 noted sadly that the pious “fasters” kept abusing their workers and fighting each other. How do verses 6 and 7 speak to your heart and your life today? What is one step you can take this summer to make your spiritual practices truly life-changing, as the prophet called Israel to do?
  • Jesus’ echoed Isaiah and Micah when he said, “’Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13)? How have you seen your spiritual practices change your heart and lead you to a life of greater service? How are you growing in your ability to show mercy to others? To whom can you extend a merciful act of service today?
Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for opening my eyes and heart to care for and show mercy to your children in need. Use me and whatever good things I have so that through me “your light will shine in the darkness.” Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

Let me tell you about Diane. Diane is my mother, and she is one of the kindest people you’ll meet. If you ever spend any time with her, you’ll leave the conversation feeling better. It doesn’t even matter if you know her. My mom has never known a stranger, and she passes out compliments like throwing out candy at a parade. Earlier in her life, my mom was quite involved in serving others. She used to deliver meals on wheels, teach Sunday school, teach Bible studies, serve at a local food pantry and on and on. Due to some very unfortunate circumstances over the past few years, her health has taken a major decline. Now my mother lives alone in an assisted living facility. She has mobility issues that keep her bound to her apartment. This means that this social butterfly’s socialization is extremely limited.

Now, let me tell you about Jeannie. If I’ve met Jeannie in person, I don’t recall. But Jeannie is one of my favorite people. In April, my mother moved to the Kansas City area to be closer to my brother and me. It’s great that we’re able to visit her, but there is still a good portion of her time when the only people she sees are the caregivers at her facility. Soon after my mother moved, I contacted the Silver Link ministry at Resurrection. Silver Link is dedicated to caring for frail elderly individuals, those who are no longer able to attend church on their own. I was able to explain my mom’s situation to Pastor Emily, and she said she knew perfect volunteer to assist–Jeannie. Since then, Jeannie has visited my mom in her facility about twice a month. I always know that Jeannie has been there for a couple of reasons:
1. She brings the most adorable handmade, handwritten cards.
2. My mother always tells me what a wonderful visit she had.
“You should meet Jeannie. You’d just love her!” my mom always says emphatically. And while I haven’t met Jeannie, I do love her. I love her because she’s made such a positive impact on my mother’s life, which has had a positive impact on my life. At some point Jeannie said, “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation to be his hands and feet in the world by visiting those in care facilities. I can’t imagine how many people this “Yes” has blessed, but my guess is that it’s far beyond what even Jeannie would know.

What I love about God’s design for serving is that at any given point, we might be the one serving, or we might be the one being blessed by the service of others. We’re all invited to join in this story as God’s hands and feet in the world. We get to be a blessing. My hope is that when the opportunities arise, we will all be like Jeannie. We will say, “Yes.” There are so many “Dianes” and even “Janelles” out there who will be forever changed for the better when we do.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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