Proper 14 (August 9, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Kings 19:4-8; Ps. 34:1-8; Eph. 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51
We spent the week in Amman, receiving a number of guests in the MCC office. On Thursday afternoon, two Japanese visitors stopped by to discuss their organization’s work in Israel-Palestine and Iraq — both places where MCC also has projects. As we talked about our joint peacebuilding interests, it dawned on us that this day – August 6 — was the 64th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. It was a humbling and surreal moment.
In Iraq, at least three dozen people were killed on Friday by bombings aimed at Shia Muslims. The Iraqi government has been seeking to reduce sectarian fighting by – among other strategies — offering $2,000 to Sunni and Shia Muslims who get married! Sunni-Shia marriages were common before the 2003 U.S.-led war.
The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on God’s provision and care in times of special need.
In the Old Testament reading, Elijah fears for his life after Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him. He flees to the wilderness where he begs God to take his life (I Kings 19:4). Instead, God sends an angel to provide him with food and water so Elijah can travel to a place of safety.
In Psalm 34, David is also fleeing for his life. He cries to God, who delivers David from his fears and saves him from his trouble (vv. 4-6).
In the Gospel reading, the Jews complain when Jesus claims that he is “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41). Jesus is undeterred. He reminds the crowd that their ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but eventually they died (v. 49). He claims that whoever eats the bread that he offers “will live forever” v. 51).
In the Epistle reading, Paul challenges the church to be “imitators of God” and to show concern for one another as Christ did for us (Eph. 5:1-2). They are to: Speak truthfully (4:25); share with the needy (4:28); speak only grace-filled words that build up others (4:29); and be kind and forgiving (4:32).
It light of ongoing violence in Iraq and the anniversaries of the dreadful atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Aug. 6 and 9, respectively), it seems especially appropriate that young adults from East and West will gather in Amman this week to discuss a more hopeful future.
God is in the business of offering sustainable solutions to human needs and conflicts. God’s strategy includes using human beings who have learned to see the beauty and value in those who are different than themselves. May God give us living bread for this journey.