Proper 11 (July 20, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Is. 44:6-8; Ps. 86:11-17; Rom. 8:12-25; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43
This week we visited partners in the northern Jordan communities of Adasiyeh and Himmeh. In both locations MCC has worked for years with benevolent societies – voluntary associations of community members – to support education, income generation and water projects.
We also said goodbye this week to two MCC SALT (Serving and Learning Together) workers who have lived in Jordan for the past 11 months. Lindsey Brubacher from Ontario worked in Irbid at the Arab Episcopal School – an innovative school that integrates blind, low-vision and normal-vision children in the same classroom. Josh Weaver from Ohio worked with the Latin Parish in Karak, teaching English in an elementary school and also assisting at a nearby high school.
Lindsey and Josh were the first SALT workers in Jordan and taught us important lessons about courage, risk-taking and persistence. We wish them well as they return to Ontario and Indiana, respectively, for a job and graduate studies.
There was hopeful political news this week. Israel and Hezbollah exchanged prisoners, in a move designed to bring closure to families on both sides. And the United States sent a high-level State Department official to Geneva to participate in nuclear talks with Iran, the European Union, China, Russia, France and Germany. This is a significant shift in U.S. policy, which previously demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium before direct talks could be held.
This week’s Common Lectionary readings are about waiting with eager expectation.
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that “the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Rom.8:22) and that it waits with eager longing to be “set free from its bondage to decay” (v.21). Meanwhile, God’s children groan inwardly while we wait for adoption and full redemption (v. 23).
The psalmist waits eagerly for God to: give him an undivided heart (Ps. 86:11) and strength (16b); turn to him and be gracious (v.16a); save him (v.16c) and show him a sign of God’s favor (v.17a).
The prophet Isaiah notes that God waits for the human community to turn away from false idols and to recognize that there is no god besides God, who is the first and the last (Is. 44:6, 8).
In the Gospel reading, some are eager to take matters into their own hands and root out evil (Matt. 13:28). Instead, the children of God are to concentrate on producing a good crop and to wait on God to “root out all causes of sin and all evildoers” (v.41).
These texts acknowledge the world’s brokenness, human frailty and the reality of evil. They encourage God’s children to wait with eager expectation for God to act.
And yet, they also call us to take certain steps while we wait. We are to recognize no other god besides God (Is. 44:6) and to seek an undivided heart (Ps. 86:11). We are to “put to death the deeds of the body,” be “led by God’s Spirit” (Rom. 8:13-14), live as first fruits of the new creation (v.19-23), and live with hope of what we cannot yet see (v.25). We are to concentrate on bearing good grain, even when surrounded by weeds (Matt. 13:24-30).
Will the events of this week lead to new breakthroughs in Israel’s relationship with Hezbollah and the U.S. relationship with Iran? It is too early to say. But of this we can be confident: People of faith can live with hope because God is working – through us and sometimes in spite of us – to redeem and restore all creation. The forces of evil, which today seem so strong and destructive, will not have the last word.