Wednesday Gathering Instructions:
This exercise is best done in a group, but since many of you are following this as individuals it is designed to be accessible in either context.
Read Luke 10:25-37
Though this passage puts one of the primary ethical teachings of Jesus about loving God and your neighbor into the mouth of one of Jesus’ testers, one thing this really illustrates is that even when one knows of the connection between how we treat our neighbor and how we treat God in our heads, even the short journey that truth faces between head and heart can be quite daunting. A Daniel Goleman pointed out in the video in yesterday’s devotion, even seminarians on a trip to preach about this story who feel they are in a hurry can walk on by someone who needs help. This disconnect between how we want to be and how we actually are in practice which–if we wake up to its reality–can often be the start of God giving us eyes to see God Himself in our neighbors and in our neighborhoods.
Becoming aware of this same disconnect of integrity in my life helped me to realign my actions to what–in my heart of hearts–I already knew to be God’s truth in this area. As Christians we can sometimes find ourselves wanting compassion more than exercising it; we may genuinely want to help homeless people for instance but if we are honest it turns out that we want our own comforts and predictable patterns more. We may see someone clearly in a roadside jam but think, “I need to just get to where I am headed.” I am not trying to provide extra ammo for legalism here, just trying to acknowledge the reality that good intentions undefined hardly ever become tangible actions. If for instance I only “intended” to show love for my wife, but did not back up that intention with some concrete follow through, one would be right to be suspicious of what was meant by the word “love.” Love is a verb, an action word after all. If we are truly going to take seriously this understanding of a connection between one’s love for God and one’s love for neighbor, and truly want to see that at play in Jesus’ example of the Samaritans’ mercy, we must start by learning to see “God” in the man lying on the road. Quaker’s believe there is “that of God in everyone” and that is a good place to start making this God/neighbor, love/action connection. We need to learn to silence the voice within that seeks to justify, that only knows intellectually but not experientially the truth of loving one’s neighbor.
Directions for Group/Solo Experience:
Assemble chairs in a circle, grab a washcloth and a bucket of warm water and take turns wash one another’s feet. It is often just as humbling to let another do this for you as it is to give this sort of service to another. As you wash the feet of one person, do not think only of the person but the representation of Christ’s likeness they also are. As you let another wash your feet, pray that God would help you show this same kind of humility to one person this week in loving service. As you watch others do this for each other, pray that God would help both have their eyes opened in a new way to the humility and mercy of Jesus. If you are not following along in a group read John 13:1-17 and ponder the connection between Jesus’ example of loving God and neighbor in the interchange between Peter and Jesus.