Today, we’ll look at the first part of the Works of Mercy, or the exercise part of our spiritual life. Again, I would not recommend trying to add all of the Means of Grace into your daily routine at once, pick one or two to work on between now and the start of Lent (March 6).
Individual Practices – doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others
In my experience, these works of mercy are not easy to start doing on our own if it’s something completely new. At LUMC, our youth program is intentionally designed to give our youth practice in doing some of these activities as part of a group, so that they are equipped as adults to serve others. If some of these are new to you, you are welcome to accompany the youth as chaperones or observers to get your own practice. We also have opportunities in other areas to train adults.
- Doing Good Works – I like to think of this as “random acts of kindness.” It’s really about being intentionally aware of those around you and you might be able to help someone. This is how we represent Christ in the world. While we might not be able to sure someone’s disease or blindness, we can give up our seat on the plane, stop to help someone on the side of the road, be the friend to the person who appears lonely, etc. Many of the collections we participate in for coats, UMCOR kits and money, and Christmas gifts are good works.
- Visiting the sick and those in prison – I combined these, because both have evolved over the years, thanks to the advocacy of the merciful. There was a time when people literally rotted in prison and those who were sick were completely cutoff of basic needs. There are still a great many people who are cut off from society and who live on the extreme fringes. They need companionship and to be treated with human dignity and respect. We have ministries in our church that reach out to congregation members and friends who are sick and home bound.
- Feeding the Hungry – There are a few direct ways to feed the hungry in our area such as TOP (Teens Opposing Poverty), volunteering at LHR or to serve meals with Salvation Army or the homeless shelter. You can keep extra food in your car for when opportunities present themselves. Indirectly, you can pack bags for Backpack Buddies on the first Sunday of the month. Indirectly, you can bring in food for BB or Loudoun Hunger Relief, contribute to the Souper Bowl of Caring collection for LHR on Super Bowl Sunday or donate to the 30 Hour Famine.
- Giving Generously to the Needs of Others – there are so many ways to give, many organizations that help to meet the needs of others. The key here is the generosity of your spirit. Do you give “here and there” to “this and that,” or do recognize the real needs that others in the world have and carve out some of what you have and give it to their benefit? What drives your giving?