Choices

Easter 7  (May 24, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Ps. 1, I John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

On Friday evening, we visited the Citadel – ancient Roman ruins in Amman.

Ruins of the Temple of Hercules, built at the Citadel between 162-166 A.D.

This outing to the Citadel was possible because we’re getting some unexpected time in Amman. Our visas were not approved for travel to Iran, where we had planned to attend a conference, May 24-27, involving Mennonite Christian and Shia Islam scholars.

Pillars from the Temple of Hercules

Fortunately, the Mennonite scholars from Canada and the United States did receive visas and the conference will move ahead. This will be the fourth in a series of conversations between Mennonite and Muslim scholars about topics of mutual concern. This year’s topic is how our respective faith traditions understand justice and peace.

In the region this week, new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from talks in Washington with U.S. President Barak Obama and declared that he is ready for peace talks with Palestinians. But Netanyahu still refused to talk about the possibility of a Palestinian state and declared that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital. Palestinians want Jerusalem to also be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

One of the hills of Amman, as seen from the Citadel

This week’s Common Lectionary readings are about choices.

In the reading from Acts, the 11 Apostles choose a successor to Judas, who betrayed Jesus. They look for someone who can “become a witness with us to Jesus’ resurrection” (Acts 1:22). After selecting two suitable candidates, the Apostles cast lots, leaving the ultimate outcome to God (v.26).

The psalmist describes the differences between those who choose the path of righteousness and the path of wickedness. The righteous – who delight in God’s law and meditate on it day and night – are “like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season” (Ps. 1:3) On the other hand, the wicked are “like chaff that the wind drives away” (v.4). While the way of the righteous will prosper (v.3) the way of the wicked will perish (v.6).

In the Epistle reading, John describes the choice we make whether or not to believe God’s testimony. Using courtroom imagery, John says that God has testified to Jesus as the one who is authentic, true and real – the one who gives us life (I John 5:9,12). We are the jury. Those who believe God’s testimony have life. Those who do not believe God’s testimony do not have life and make God out to be a liar.

In the Gospel reading, John records Jesus’ prayer for his followers. While Jesus is facing imminent death, he chooses to focus on his disciples, asking God to protect them from the evil one (John 17:11b, 15), to make them one in spirit (v. 11c) and to set them apart in the truth (v. 17).

Our choices, small and large, often have long-term consequences that determine whether our lives are like rooted trees that bear fruit in season or like chaff scattered by the wind.

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