Proper 18 (September 6, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 35:4-7a; Ps. 146; James 2:1-17; Mark 7:24-37

We are continuing to enjoy the rhythm of Ramadan in Amman, which runs from new moon to new moon. We are nearing full moon, so Ramadan is half way through its cycle. Click on this link to view some incredible pictures of Ramadan around the world.

A crescent moon over the King Hussein Mosque in Amman, near the beginning of Ramadan (Reuters photo by Mohammad Hamed)

This week we said goodbye to friends who are moving to British Columbia, after working on Iraq issues during the past several years from a base in Amman. We also celebrated the birthday of long-term MCC worker Nada Zabaneh. Nada began her work as an administrative assistant in MCC’s Amman office in 1991. She now serves as MCC Jordan program coordinator, overseeing projects with partners throughout the country.

Nada Zabaneh celebrates birthday in MCC Jordan office

The new SALT workers in Jordan, Julie Lytle and Brent Stutzman, are completing their initial month of in-country orientation and language training in Amman. Next weekend they will head to their work placements in Irbid and Salt, respectively. We have been impressed with their positive attitude, sense of humor and willingness to embrace new experiences.

In the region this week, Iran announced its willingness to re-open talks on its nuclear program.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on God’s concern for the vulnerable – a concern that leads to God to make dramatic changes in the world.

In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah writes that God will open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the lame to leap like a deer and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy (Is. 35:5-6a). God also transforms burning sand into pools and thirsty ground into springs of water (v.7)

Likewise, the psalmist declares that God executes justice for the oppressed (Ps. 146:7a), gives food to the hungry (v.7b), sets the prisoners free (v.7c), opens the eyes of the blind (v.8a), lifts up those who are bowed down (v.8b), watches over the strangers (v.9a) and upholds the orphan and the widow (v.9b).

In the Epistle reading, James says that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith. Therefore, we should not make distinctions and show favoritism to wealthy and powerful people (James 2:1-7). Instead, if a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, those with true faith must supply their needs. “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead,” says James (v.17)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus heals those who are outside his own community. He casts an unclean spirit out of the daughter of a Gentile woman in the region of Tyre (modern day Lebanon) and in the area of the Decapolis (modern day Jordan) he heals a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:24-37).

As we wait for God to transform those broken and seemingly hopeless situations in our world today, we are reminded that God calls us to make changes as well. How are we treating those who are most vulnerable? Does our faith have feet? Does it express itself in action?

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