Understanding minds

Proper 12 (July 27, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
I Kings 3:5-12; Ps. 119:129-136; Rom. 8:26-39; Matt. 13:31-33, 44-52

This week we met with Caritas Jordan, an MCC partner that distributes school kits, offers university scholarships through MCC’s Global Family Program and is at the forefront of HIV AIDS education in Jordan. We also met with Baghdad-based Iraqi Youth League to discuss an exciting project to develop a peace curriculum for Iraqi children. The courage and creativity of these partners is an inspiration to us.

In the region this week, U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama visited Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Israel/Palestine. In Iraq he met with Prime Minister Maliki and U.S. military leaders. Obama promises to withdraw most U.S. troops within 16 months if he becomes president.

Jordan's King Abdullah greets U.S. Senator Barack Obama in Amman (photo for Jordan Times by Naser Ayoub)

In Jordan he met King Abdullah and held a press conference at an ancient Roman Citadel in Amman – about half a mile (1 km.) from the MCC Jordan office. While Obama made a brief visit to the West Bank during his trip to Israel and called for a stronger U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, many Palestinians are concerned that his rhetoric strongly favors Israel.

On July 19, Nicholas Burns, a high-level U.S. State Department official, participated in a hopeful multi-nation meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. The day after that historic meeting, however, U.S. officials demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium within two weeks or face stiffer international sanctions. The coming weeks will tell us whether world leaders find a constructive way to defuse this tense situation or move toward potentially catastrophic confrontation.

The Common Lectionary Readings this week are about understanding.

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon asks God to give him an understanding mind to govern God’s people and to discern between good and evil (I Kings 3:9).

The psalmist declares that the unfolding of God’s words gives light and “imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130).

In the Epistle reading, Paul says that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to make sense of our prayers to God (Rom. 8:26-27). Paul also insists that we must understand these essential realities about God: In all things God is working for good (v.28); that if God is for us, we need not worry about the opposition (vv. 31-34); and that nothing can separate us from God’s love (vv. 35-39).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus – through a series of parables – urges his followers to understand the nature of God’s kingdom. Just as tiny mustard seeds grow into useful plants and a small amount of yeast influences a large batch of flour, in God’s kingdom, seemingly insignificant things can have a large and lasting impact (Matt. 13:31-33). God’s kingdom is also like a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great value. Once we discover God’s kingdom, we must lay aside all other priorities in order to pursue it with our undivided attention (vv. 44-46).

With the writers of this week’s Lectionary readings, we long for greater understanding — understanding minds to use our gifts in ways that support MCC partners in the region, greater understanding of what it means to be peacemakers in this place and fuller understanding of God’s character and the ways of God’s kingdom.

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