Lent: Week One (James 1:19-27)

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On Sunday, Pastor Anna preached on some of the topics discussed in the Letter of James, particularly integrity and care for the needy and vulnerable.  During the sermon, Pastor Anna told a story about regularly seeing needy people with signs asking for money on the way to her home.  She talked about her emotional turmoil involved with trying to decide what to do: give them money, food, socks, with how his would be received, etc. Generally, when the light changed, she drove on. If you are able to relate to this story, you might find this meditation useful.  The point of the meditation is not to encourage a particular emotion, such as guilt.  The point is to become more aware of both our beliefs and our actions and to bring both into an active conversation with Jesus.

The Scripture passage that we will use today is from the first chapter of the Letter of James:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

When you have some time for prayer this week, I suggest that begin by recalling an instance in your life that is similar to Pastor Anna’s; one where you had the opportunity to help someone who appeared to be in need, yet felt inner turmoil about if and how to help them.  Then read the above passage slowly, inviting the Holy Spirit to be present with you. As you read, picture the person from your personal story who was in need and invite God to join with you in looking at them.  When you have gone through the passage, sit for a minute or two in silence. If any practical ways to help the person in need come to mind, jot them down.  Continue to be aware of God’s presence by sharing any emotions that you feel with Jesus.

After a few minutes, reread the passage slowly.  This time, again recall the situation with the person in need.  But instead of focusing on the person in need, imagine Jesus and the person in need looking at you.  Note how you feel, either positive or negative, and share these feelings with Jesus.  I encourage you to trust in Jesus’ love for you as you do this. He knows us better than we know ourselves, but he wants us to actively share our lives with him. Again, when you have gone through the passage, sit for a minute or two in silence. If any additional practical ways to help the person in need come to mind, jot them down.

Finally, read the passage one more time very slowly. This time, ask Jesus to help you to understand his feelings about the person in need. Feel free to converse with Jesus about this and ask any questions which you might have. Once more, when you have gone through passage, sit quietly for a few minutes in God’s presence.  When you are done jot down anything of significance from your time of prayer.  If you feel that there is anything that Jesus has encouraged you to do, make a separate note of it, maybe in a calendar.  You might also share this with a friend or life group.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

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