An Act of Grace Devotion
Faith United Methodist Church, June 2013
Scripture: Read Mark 12:28-31 and 2 Corinthians 4:15
28 “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15
Reflection: Earlier this month, one of our new small groups, Reflection Walk, organized a prayer and reflection walk around the church neighborhood. That might not sound as exciting as walking one of the many beautiful trails around Stark County, but there is beauty in the neighborhood around the church and good reason that Faith UMC was built in this particular neighborhood. As we walked, we were challenged to see the church neighborhood, to really look at the community where God has planted Faith UMC. You see sometimes that which is close to us often becomes mundane, even a little boring. We come to church every Sunday and often several times during the week with our focus often only on our destination and what we will be doing when we arrive at the church building. It is easy to take the neighborhood we drive through to reach the church for granted because it has become all too familiar to us.
On our walk, we marveled at the beautiful plants and gifts of nature we encountered along the way. We even noticed things around our church building that we had not noticed before. And we learned some things about our neighbors. Did you know that many of the homes in Faith’s neighborhood are multi-family homes? Did you know that hidden among the many manicured yards are yards in need of some repair? And we wondered about the families living in those homes. Do they have a church family? Are there needs in our neighborhood that are being overlooked? Do they know that Faith UMC is here to support the families in our neighborhood? What Acts of Grace might make we consider to make a difference for Christ in our neighborhood?
The Great Commandment is a powerful passage of scripture. Wrapped in this passage is a beckon to make God most important in your life, a beautiful exhort to love God with everything you have and are, and a tremendous challenge to love others. Jesus’ teaching in this passage is foundational to what it means to live as a mature Christian disciple. Of course it makes sense that we begin teaching the Great Commandment to our youngest of children to guide them as they grow in faith and return to this passage often throughout our faith journey. Sometimes though, I wonder if we become so accustomed to hearing this passage that we are at risk of overlooking its significance. Sometimes what is familiar fades from our attention and we need to be reminded of its importance so we can see it again with fresh eyes. I wonder what might happen if we all prayerfully consider this passage and ask God to reveal how we as a church and as individuals might look at the Great Commandment with new eyes, perhaps even the eyes of grace.
2 Corinthians 4:15 reminds us that as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will be glorified! I hope that is an image that excites you! Spend some time this summer in and around Faith’s neighborhood. How can we get to know our neighbors? Do the same in the neighborhood in which you live and the neighborhood that surrounds where you work or go to school! To whom and in what ways might God be calling us to extend His grace? Ask God to open your heart, mind, and eyes so that He might reveal fresh, new ways to live the call to love God and others with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. To God be the glory!Blessings in Christ, Kathy Schmucker, Director of Christian Education & Spiritual Formation, Faith United Methodist Church
Questions for Reflection and Sharing:
- What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, & strength & to love your neighbor as yourself?
- In what ways have you experienced or observed the Great Commandment in action at Faith UMC?
- A parent registering her child for Faith’s Camp Read-A-Lot mentioned that she didn’t know there was a church on 9th Street. What ideas do you have for increasing our communities’ awareness of the ministries of Faith UMC?
- What is one new observation you have recently noticed about the neighborhood and community of Faith UMC? The neighborhood where you live? The neighborhood where you work or go to school?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the neighborhood and community surrounding Faith UMC. Pray for God to reveal how we as a church and as individuals are called to extend acts of grace to the neighborhoods and communities in which we live and work.
Prayer: Gracious God, Thank you for your love and grace and for your call through the Great Commandment. Help us to more fully love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as we love ourselves. Open our eyes, hearts, and minds to notice people and circumstances in our neighborhoods in need of your love and grace. Grant us the courage to respond to your call to be your hands and feet and extend your grace to others so that our hearts will overflow with thanksgiving and you will be glorified. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
A Prayer of John Wesley: “O that we may all receive of Christ’s fullness, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, whereby we may be transformed into that blessed image wherein thou didst create us.”
Means of Grace Challenge:
Prayer Walk Suggestions:
- Walk through the neighborhood and spend some time noticing God’s creation.
- Stop and thank God for the gifts you observe in nature.
- Pray for the families living in the homes you walk past.
- Pray for your community and those who serve in your community.
- Pay attention to what you see on your walk. Do you notice any needs or someone or something that could use some assistance?
- Some scripture prayers to consider as you walk: Pray for God’s Spirit to search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24), Pray for a sensitivity to God’s work (John 17:20-26), Pray for spiritual eyes to guide your prayers (Eph. 1:18)
- Thank God for all that he reveals to you on your reflection and prayer walk!
- Take your time! This is not a race! Take your time so that the Holy Spirit can show you whatever He wants to reveal to you as you walk.
- Walk inconspicuously and pray quietly. Keep your spiritual eyes & hears open. Listen and pray as the Lord leads.
- At the end of your walk, reflect on your impressions and observations.
- Continue to pray daily about what you have observed and experienced during the walk.
Act of Grace: Commit to being intentional about touching one person’s life with God’s grace each day. Be creative and have fun! Look for Act of Grace cards in the literature racks and share them with someone. These acts of grace can be simple with no planning required or can involve your friends and family and plan something extravagant! Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God! Some suggestions:
- let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store
- smile and hold a door for someone
- make time to listen to someone
- help a neighbor’s child with their homework
- share food or clothes with someone who is hungry or in need
- surprise someone by paying for their meal or a cup of coffee
- make friends with someone who is lonely or new to our congregation or your neighborhood
- write an encouraging note or email to someone and tell them how you see God at work in their life
- Help a neighbor or an elderly person clean up their yard for spring