Rest for the weary

Proper 9 (July 6, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Zech. 9:9-12; Ps. 145 8-14; Rom. 7:15-25a; Matt. 11:16-19, 25-30

This week, we met with a group of Jordanian alumni of Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute. They are eager to apply peace concepts to their work in Jordan. As an initial step, they are planning to bring together youth from different denominations in Amman to discuss how to better collaborate. It’s a small but important step.

In the region this week a Palestinian man drove a bulldozer down a main street in West Jerusalem, smashing cars and a bus along the way — killing three Israelis and wounding dozens more. The story caught my attention because I’ve been reading Jeff Halper’s book, An Israeli in Palestine, which describes how Israelis have used bulldozers for years to terrorize Palestinian families. How sad that machinery designed for building has become a weapon of war.

There continue to be regular stories in the press about possible U.S. or Israeli military attacks on Iran. Thankfully, there are also reasoned voices, including Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who this week encouraged dialogue with Iran and said that military strikes would be a very bad idea in such an unstable part of the world.

Similarly, Dr. Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, and Schlomo Ben-Ami, former foreign minister of Israel, co-authored a piece for Christian Science Monitor, which says that war between Israel and Iran is not inevitable, and that serious diplomacy and a nuclear-free Middle East offer a much more hopeful path forward

This week’s Common Lectionary texts describe God in majestic terms. God’s dominion, spans time and space. It “endures throughout all generations” (Ps. 145:13) and spreads “to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10). God is a “triumphant and victorious king” who will “command peace to the nations” (Zech. 9:9-10) and who will inspire people of faith to speak of God’s glory, tell of God’s power and make known God’s mighty deeds (Ps. 145:11-12).

The texts also speak of God in tender terms. God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, good to all and compassionate over all creation (Ps. 145:8-9). God’s anointed come “humble and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart” and ready to offer rest to those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens (Matt. 11:28-30).

In the Epistle reading, Paul describes the human dilemma. We do not do the good we want to do, but rather, the evil and very things we hate (Rom. 7:15, 19). We can will to do what is right, but we cannot do it (v. 18). We are capable of knowing what is good and right, but incapable of consistently doing these on our own strength. Exasperated, Paul, describes himself as “wretched”! But he also says that Jesus Christ can deliver us from this dilemma and that God’s Spirit can empower us to live in new ways (Rom 7:25-8:11).

Today, as proud nations boast of their military might and make threats against other nations, it is helpful to remember that their dominion is short-lived. In time, God will bring peace to the nations. Already, in Jesus, God has shown us a new, more humble model for human relations. By acknowledging our brokenness, letting go of our own feeble attempts to control and yoking ourselves to Christ, we will find rest for our souls and a hopeful way forward.

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