Simple faith — not so easy!

Proper 27 (November 8, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Kings 17:8-16; Ps. 146; Heb. 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

This week we learned firsthand about issues facing Iraqis who were uprooted by war. While some Iraqis are beginning to return home, more than 2 million are still refugees — mostly in Syria and Jordan. Another 1.6 million are displaced inside Iraq. Those who are returning home face many challenges – including lack of access to food, fuel, health care and electricity (75% have less than 6 hours of electricity per day).

Leaders of the Iraqi Student Project – a MCC partner who prepares Iraqi refugees for study in U.S. universities – visited our office in Amman to report on their work. They presented MCC with a book of writings by the students, The River, The Roof, The Palm Tree: Young Iraqi Refugees Remember Their Home (see entries below).

Iraqi girls pose while waiting for the bus to their after-school program in Amman

On Thursday afternoon, we visited an after school program operated by Jesuit Refugee Services for Iraqis living in Jordan. The program offers a variety of language, computer, art, drama and sports classes for children and adults, while they await resettlement in 3rd countries. We were moved by the resilience and friendliness of Iraqi children who have suffered the trauma of displacement; and yet the scars of war remain.

A game of basketball is squeezed between English, French, computer and art classes

In the region this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he will not seek re-election in January 2010. Meanwhile, in New York, the U.N. General Assembly voted 114-18 to endorse the Goldstone report, which calls on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate human rights violations and potential war crimes committed in the January 2009 fighting in Gaza. The report next goes to the U.N. Security Council.

In Iran, protests marked the 30th anniversary, Nov. 4, of the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. An anti-American rally was held at the site of the former U.S. Embassy, while, nearby, large crowds gathered to continue protesting the results of the Iranian presidential election in June.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on simple faith. Several of the readings specifically highlight the faith of widows.

In the Old Testament reading, the prophet Elijah meets a widow who is gathering sticks to cook a last meal for herself and her son before they die of starvation. Incredibly, Elijah asks the widow to use her last bit of flour and oil to first make him a cake! She does so, and God blesses her with a constant supply of flour and oil (I Kings 17:8-16).

The psalmist declares that God “keeps faith forever” (Ps. 146:6) and “upholds the orphan and the widow” (v.9).

The Epistle reading describes the faith of Jesus who fully entrusted his life to God, sacrificing himself “once for all” to remove sin (Heb. 9:26).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus and his disciples watch as people put their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people contribute large sums. But Jesus is only impressed with a poor widow who drops in two small copper coins. “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance,” Jesus says, “but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).

Simple faith is not simply about our beliefs. It is about giving our all to God and to God’s service – our time, our resources, ourselves – trusting that God will continue to care for us and provide for our needs. Simple faith is not so easy to practice! The most vulnerable people are often our best role models.

From The River, The Roof, The Palm Tree: Young Iraqi Refugees Remember Their Home

Iraq, when I say your name I remember my Mom!
You gave me your love,
You gave me your arm.
When I look back, I see something,
I see something different from my Mom.
My Mom breastfed me for a while,
but Tigris and Euphrates never stop.
I’m your spoiled child!
Your hands held me for so long
And still want to hold,
but I left!
When I think of what was going on,
I realize that you are in the labor!

Yeah, Iraq is in labor, Iraq is having a new baby,
a new generation.
I’m sorry Iraq because I had to leave,
but I promise I will get back and help you
To take care of that new spoiled baby.

Salaam (peace) is what we lost in the mist of war.
Salaam is what we dream of in our lonely nights.
Salaam is what we wished for under the Christmas tree.
Salaam is what we hope in our future days.
Salaam is what we make, not what we wait for.

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