[#pictureLent] Mar. 11: Pay Attention

By Tanya Marie Eustace
Discipleship Ministries (UMC), Nashville, TN

First, read Isaiah 58:6-7

My Portuguese Water Dog, Bela, and I love taking morning walks together. On these walks, Bela often stops and sits whenever she sees another person or animal pass by. This is Bela’s way of saying “Hello! Do you want to be my friend?” This behavior is fine as long as I am not cold or in a hurry.

One morning as Bela and I were returning home, Bela sat down, looked across the street, and then at me. I took a look around. Not seeing anything but parked cars and a few trashcans on the side of the road, I began to encourage Bela saying: “Let’s go.”

Bela did not respond to this familiar command, remaining completely still as she sat. The only

“Let’s Go!” I said a bit more forcefully as I was getting cold and anxious to be back inside. Again- Bela did not move, but instead sat with her gaze fixed upon the cars parked across the street.

As I continued to coax Bela, whose eyes remained fixed on the parked cars, I saw a small movement and heard a faint noise. Looking at Bela and then back at the cars I took a deeper look and stepped into the street as I tried to see what was distracting my pup.

At that moment I saw an elderly woman struggling in the ice and cold to bring her empty trashcan back towards her house. She was walking with a cane in one hand and her trashcan in the other- both wobbled back and forth slowly as she moved up the incline of the driveway. “Good girl!” I told Bela. “Let’s go and see if we can help!”

On this cold and icy day I was distracted by my own internal needs and motivations. Bela, however, helped me take a deeper look by drawing my attention to the needs of people around me. So often we reject Christ by ignoring his call to justice as we turn a cold shoulder to those in need. In today’s passage, Isaiah is calling the people of God to pay attention and to work for justice. The prophet challenges us to recognize and respond to the needs of our neighbors with radical hospitality.

The words of Isaiah are reiterated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in (Luke 10:25-37). In this story, Jesus declares that we are all called to love God and love neighbor. When asked by a lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with a story - one that tells of a person who paid attention, who took a deeper look, and who was willing to help someone in need. In my story, Bela was the Good Samaritan.

We turn towards Christ and work for justice when we welcome and love the stranger, clothe the naked, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and visit the prisoner (Matthew 25). God calls us to practice justice as a spiritual discipline - fasting from the ways of this world as we work to give up a self-focused way of living. During this season of Lent, we are invited to turn back toward God through our actions - seeking justice as we share the light and love of God with others.

Prayer: God of the last, the least, and the lost- You call us to practice radical hospitality- showing our love for you as we welcome, clothe, feed, and free our neighbors. Help us take a deeper look during Lent. Open our eyes so that we might see the need in our communities. Soften our hearts and inspire our minds as we seek faithful ways to respond to the needs of your children. May we show our love for you by helping all. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is on the side of the road that needs your help?
  2. What injustice do you see happening in your community that could be eliminated through actions that reflect God’s grace and love?
  3. Where do you see persons in need of clothing, food, and shelter? How can you help?