Proper 14 (August 10, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
I Kings 19:9-18; Ps. 85:8-13; Rom. 10:5-15; Matt. 14:22-33
This week we bid farewell to three young Jordanian women who will participate in the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) during they coming year. They will live with host families in Canada and the United States and do volunteer work in their new communities.
MCC has a mirror program called Serving and Learning Together (SALT), in which Canadian and U.S. youth spend a year in another country. We will soon welcome three SALT participants from the United States, who will be working in Palestine and Jordan from August 2008 until July 2009.
In the region this week, a group of 40 peace activists – including 81-year-old CPT member Anne Montgomery; an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein; and an Israeli Jew, Jeff Halper — announced plans to sail from Cyprus to Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza seaport. The group will carry medical supplies for the Gaza Strip. To follow the group’s progress, visit www.freegaza.org
Meanwhile, the Israeli government invited bids for an additional 416 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, even as MCC Palestine staff reported an increase in the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes.
This week marked the 63rd anniversary since the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also this week, U.S. officials called for further punitive steps against Iran, as the face-off over that Iran’s nuclear program intensifies. Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for the purpose of generating electricity and that it is acting within its legal rights as a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the United States and Israel are convinced that Iran is attempting to gain the expertise to build a nuclear weapon — an outcome they deem to be wholly unacceptable. Both countries have said they will consider military strikes against Iran if it does not stop enriching uranium. This week Israel cabinet minister, Shaul Mofaz — a leading candidate to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmurt this fall — called Iran “the root of all evil.”
The Common Lectionary texts this week are about crying out to God.
In the Old Testament reading, God has just used the prophet Elijah to win a decisive victory over 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. One would expect Elijah to be feeling on top of his game. But Queen Jezebel threatens his life. Elijah is afraid and flees for his life. He begs God to simply let him die, as everyone else has abandoned the faith. “I alone am left,” complains Elijah, “and they are seeking my life, to take it away” (I Kings 19:10, 14). God visits Elijah, not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the sheer silence (vv. 11-12). God reminds Elijah that, in fact, there are 7,000 who have remained faithful and that God will call new leaders to carry on God’s work (vv. 15-18). Elijah is not really alone.
The psalmist asks whether God will be angry forever (Ps. 85:5) and cries out: “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation” (v.7). Upon reflection, the psalmist acknowledges that God “will speak peace” to those who are faithful and turn to God in their hearts (v.8) and that “God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear him” (v.9). Indeed, God’s people will experience God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, justice, peace and goodness (vv.10, 12).
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that God is generous to all who call on God (Rom. 10:12). Everyone – both Jew and Greek — who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13). Paul argues that we must be sent (v.15b) to proclaim God’s good news (v.15c), so that people can hear (v.14c), believe (v.14b) and call on God (v.14a).
In the Gospel reading, the disciples are caught in a storm at sea and their boat is battered by the waves (Matt. 14:24). Jesus walks toward them on the sea. The disciples are terrified and cry out in fear (v.26). At Jesus’ command, Peter steps out of the boat and starts to walk on the water toward Jesus. But Peter soon notices the strong wind, becomes frightened and begins to sink (Matt. 14:30a). He cries out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (v.30b) Immediately, Jesus reaches out his hand and rescues Peter, saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (v.31)
As the siege on Gaza continues, as Palestinian home demolitions and Israeli settlement housing construction both increase, and as the possibility of war with Iran grows, it is easy to identify with the feelings expressed in these readings – aloneness (Elijah), wondering where God is in the midst of all the world’s suffering (the psalmist), fear and a sense of being overwhelmed with our circumstances (Peter).
And yet the promise of these texts is that God does hear our cries. Ultimately, all who call upon God will be delivered. And God’s salvation is not simply a spiritual reality. It is tangible deliverance that will, in due course, end all forms of oppression, violence and suffering. Thanks be to God!