New visions

Pentecost Sunday (May 31, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Ps. 104:24-35; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-16:15

We spent the week in Jordan, enjoying visits with partners, receiving visitors from Holland and catching up on administrative duties. Our visas for Iran arrived belatedly. We plan to travel to Tehran in the coming week.

In the region this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah disguised himself as an elderly man and visited the health ministry office in Amman — to see first hand what kind of services Jordanians are receiving. He has previously made similar incognito visits to other ministries.

A suicide bomber attacked a mosque in southeast Iran, killing 25 persons and injuring 125. Gunmen attacked one of President Ahmadinejad’s regional campaign offices in the same city, Zahedan, injuring 3 persons. Iranian presidential elections will be held in two weeks.

Har Homa Settlement (top right) encroaches on Bethlehem (Jeremy Byler photo)

There is renewed hope in the region that the Obama administration may insist that that Israel freeze all settlement activity, as it violates previous Israeli government commitments and undermines any hopes of reaching a peace agreement. According to Peace Now, a Jewish advocacy group, Israel has built 4,560 new housing units on Palestinian West Bank land since January 2006.  The Israeli government says that natural growth of settlements will continue. In the past 10 days, President Obama has met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. In early June, Obama will give a major speech in Egypt aimed at addressing U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

The Common Lectionary readings for this Pentecost Sunday are about the many ways that God’s Spirit works in the world.

In the Old Testament reading, God’s Spirit brings life to a valley full of very dry bones, which represent God’s wayward people (Ezek. 37:1-14). “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil, then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” God promises (v.14).

The psalmist writes that all creatures are dependent on God for life and sustenance. “When you send forth your spirit they are created; and you renew the face of the ground,” the psalmist declares (Ps. 104:30).

Luke recounts the day of Pentecost when God’s Spirit comes like a rushing wind and as tongues of fire, causing the disciples to speak in many languages about God’s deeds of power (Acts 2:2-3). The Spirit causes God’s followers to prophesy, see visions and dream dreams (vv. 17-18).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus says that the Spirit will guide the disciples into all the truth and will declare the things that are to come (John 16:13).

With misunderstanding, conflict and violence so prevalent in this region and the world, it is easy to identify with the valley of dry bones – “our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (Ezek. 14:11). It is comforting to know the God’s Spirit continues to work – renewing life, helping us see new visions and dream fresh dreams, and guiding us in the way of truth.

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