Images of Iran

Trinity Sunday (June 7, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 6:1-8; Ps. 29; Rom. 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

We spent the week in Iran, visiting partner organizations and exploring next steps for exchange programs between Mennonite and Iranian universities. While we were there, Iranians commemorated the 20th anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s death. Iranians from across the country streamed to Khomeini’s burial site just south of Tehran – many on foot.

Shopkeeper in Tehran

Presidential elections will be held in Iran, June 12, and supporters of the main candidates campaigned in the streets into the wee hours of the morning – honking car horns, handing out leaflets and displaying banners. Many Iranians expect a change of administration.

Two men enjoy conversation in Tehran park

We feel fortunate that MCC has developed a rainbow of relationships in Iran. For example, we began one day visiting some of Iran’s most conservative Muslim clerics and ended the same day sharing dessert with an evangelical Christian couple.

Cindy walks with Iranian woman on streets of Tehran

The hospitality in Iran is remarkable. One day we traveled south from Tehran to Qom – about 80 miles (130 kilometers). Our host organization in Qom sent a driver to pick us up in Tehran. The driver brought along his daughter – who speaks fluent English – just to make us feel welcomed. Back in Tehran later in the week, another family invited us out for dinner. Before going to the restaurant, they stopped by a nut shop to purchase gifts for us to take back to Jordan.

Tehran mountains were still capped with snow

The Common Lectionary readings for this Trinity Sunday are about God’s majesty, transcendence and might – but also about God’s intimacy.

Isaiah is humbled to be in the presence of a holy and majestic God. “Woe to me,” Isaiah exclaims, well aware that he is a man of unclean lips and yet has seen God’s glory (Is. 6:5). And yet God’s angel offers Isaiah assurance of pardon and when God looks for a messenger, Isaiah responds, “Here am I. Send me!” (v.8).

The psalmist declares that God sits enthroned as king forever (Ps. 29:10). God’s voice is powerful and majestic. God’s voice breaks the cedars (v.5), flashes forth flames of fire (v.7), shakes the wilderness (v.8) twists the oaks (9a) and strips the forests bare (9b). And yet this powerful God gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace (v. 11).

The New Testament readings highlight God’s intimacy and care. Paul speaks of our adoption as God’s children. When we are led by God’s Spirit we are no longer slaves to fear but able to address God in intimate terms, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15). And John’s Gospel says that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son – not to condemn the world but to give fullness of life to all who believe (John 3:16-17).

We had a few moments this week to sit quietly in the majestic Armenian Orthodox cathedral in Tehran, adorned with stained glass, beautiful murals and candles. There we reflected on the God who transcends the political conflicts that plague the nations. But in the beautiful array of persons that hosted us in Iran, we also experienced the intimacy and care of God – who indeed blesses his people with peace.

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