Fifth Sunday of Easter (April 20, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Psalm 66:1-8; Deut. 6:20-25; I Pet. 2:1-10; John 14:1-14
This week we visited the north-Jordan village of Youbla, near the Syrian border. More than 100 families in this hilly village depend on the fruit of pomegranate trees (rumman in Arabic) as a major source of income.
While pomegranate trees themselves can tolerate drought, they need a regular source of water in order to bear healthy fruity. Youbla has several springs, but they are located some distance from the trees. Twelve years ago, MCC helped construct small channels or canals to transport the water from the springs to the trees. In 2008, MCC is providing a grant to repair and expand this system of canals.
Several weeks ago, John Hagee, pastor of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (Texas), led a group of more than 100 U.S. Christians to visit Israel. They also visited the Ariel settlement, which has been built with financial support from Hagee on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land.
In 2006, Hagee founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI) to “provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.”
CUFI rightly laments that too many Christians were silent during the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed. CUFI is correct that, today, Christians must do a better job of standing with Jewish people.
But CUFI goes too far when it takes the position that the State of Israel has an exclusive claim to all of the West Bank and Gaza, home to millions of Palestinians. When CUFI criticizes the Israeli government, it is not for Israel’s policies of occupying Palestinian land and demolishing Palestinian homes, but for seeking to negotiate a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinian government.
In this week’s Common Lectionary epistle reading, Peter speaks of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (I Pet. 2:9a). Peter is not speaking of a modern nation state with exclusive claim to God’s blessing.
Rather, just as Jesus was “chosen and precious in God’s sight” (I Pet. 2:4,6) — and just as Jesus offered “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) to a confused and broken world — God’s people are chosen to “proclaim the mighty acts” of the One who delivered them from slavery, oppression and darkness and brought them to places of promise and light (Deut. 6:21-23; Ps. 66:5-7; I Pet. 2:9) .
God’s “chosen” – be they Jews, Christians or Muslims — have no exclusivist claims to God’s love and blessing. This view has led to far too much injustice and bloodshed. Indeed, God’s chosen are never springs unto themselves but are always called to be channels of God’s blessing and grace to all the world.