The good life

Proper 23 (October 11, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Amos 5:6-15; Ps. 90:12-17; Heb. 4:12-16; Mk. 10:17-31

This week we hosted a luncheon for Jordanian alumni of Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute. During the past 10 years, MCC has provided scholarships for 15 Jordanians to attend this internationally acclaimed program. Upon returning to Jordan, many of the alumni are engaged in creative peacebuilding projects – developing children’s TV programming; leading workshops that combine art and peacemaking; and integrating peace concepts in teaching, business and government roles.

Thyme is a popular spice that, with water, grows well in the deserts of Jordan

We also had opportunity this week to visit MCC partners in the south and north of Jordan. In Wadi Araba, MCC supports the Prince Hussein Benevolent Society in doing water projects that bring life to the desert.

Drip irrigation conserves water and makes it possible to grow corn and tomatoes in the desert

In Irbid, MCC provides a SALT worker and financial resources to the Arab Episcopal School. This innovate Global Family partner integrates blind and low-vision students into the classroom with sighted children.

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell returned to the region this week to try to breathe new life into a peace process that the Israeli foreign minister now describes as an illusion. Regional expectations for the Obama administration to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have only been heightened this week as a result of Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about the good life. Not surprisingly, the good life begins with a good teacher.

“Teach us to count our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist begs God (Ps. 90:12). In addition to using our time wisely, the good life includes being satisfied with God’s steadfast love (v.14), being aware of God’s work and power (v.16) and asking God to prosper the work of our hands (v.17).

In the Old Testament reading, Amos tells the people that the good life comes from seeking God (Amos 5:6), seeking good (v.14), hating evil (v.15a) and establishing justice for the needy (v.15b).

In the Epistle reading, the writer of Hebrews credits God’s living word – most fully revealed in Jesus Christ – as being able to “judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12) and root out that which is harmful. Because Jesus was tested in every way that we are, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and offer mercy and grace in our time of need (v.16).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells a wealthy man that the good life is not found in the abundance of possessions, but in being free to follow (Mark 10:21). Ironically, it is those who give up that receive the most (vv.29-30).

As we see modeled by many of our partner organizations in the Middle East, the good life is not about accumulating wealth or living in luxury, it is about simple faith that leads one to freely serve God and others. May God teach us to count our days for such purposes. And may God prosper the work of our hands.

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