Proper 5 (June 8, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Hosea 5:15-6:6; Ps. 50:7-15; Rom. 4:13-25; Matt. 9:9-13, 18-26
This week we visited a women’s cooperative in the Jordan Valley, attended a kindergarten graduation in Irbid, worked on exciting project proposals with several Iraqi partners and made significant progress in planning for an Iranian religious leaders’delegation to the United States in August 2008.
With a grant from MCC, the women’s cooperative in Wadi Rayan has established a revolving loan fund to help women launch small businesses. MCC is working at a similar program with Iraqi refugees living in Amman.
The kindergarten graduation was at an innovative school that integrates blind and low-vision children in the same classroom as sighted children. The Arab Episcopal School is an MCC Global Family partner.
On the international scene, Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee. Generally, we have sensed enthusiasm in the Middle East that Obama might bring a more engaging approach to U.S. relationships in the world. For example, he has said he will talk with the Iranian president without preconditions. But in his speech to the Israeli lobby group AIPAC on the morning after securing the nomination, Obama said that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel. For a candidate who has run on a platform of change, this seems like more of the same old. Calling for Jerusalem to be a shared city for Palestinians and Jews would have offered a more hopeful direction.
This week’s Common Lectionary readings highlight the responses that God desires from humans.
God desires our steadfast love (Hosea 6:6a), knowledge of God (Hosea 6:6b), thanksgiving (Ps. 50:14) and mercy (Matt. 9:13) — not our sacrifices and burnt offerings. As humans, we are quick to offer things that keep us in control, rather than those things that remind us of our complete dependence on God.
Two of the readings focus on the importance of faith. In the Epistle, Paul writes about Abraham’s faith. In spite of his old age, Abraham did not doubt God’s promise that he would become the father of many nations. Indeed, Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised” (Rom. 4: 21).
The Gospel reading offers three personal examples of faith. Matthew left his tax booth to follow Jesus (Matt. 9:9). A synagogue leader trusted Jesus to restore life to his dead daughter (9:18). A woman who had been sick for 12 years had faith that Jesus could heal her (9:20-22).
Today, how do we keep faith in a world that is riddled with brokenness and conflict? How do we keep faith in situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iraq? Amid circumstances that seem to defy healing, reconciliation and hope?
Abraham, Matthew, the synagogue ruler and the woman with the long-term illness provide good role models. They did not deny the reality of their circumstances. But they trusted that God’s promises were true and that God is able to act for good even in the most dire of situations.
May this kind of faith guide our responses in today’s world.