Life and death

Proper 29 (November 22, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Dan. 7:9-14; Ps. 93; Rev. 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

Last week we visited MCC partners in northern Iraq. In 45 small villages near the Iranian border, MCC partner REACH is doing an “integrated drought response” project aimed at increasing food security for families. We traveled to two remote villages – each home to less than a dozen families. Due to the REACH project, one of the villages had just begun receiving running water several hours before we arrived!

A young girl and grandmother in a small Kurdish village in northern Iraq

Water now comes directly to homes in this small village

Later, we traveled to Erbil, where an MCC worker teaches English to priests-in-training at St. Peter’s (Chaldean Catholic) Seminary. Many of the young men are from Baghdad and have seen their country torn apart by war. They struggle to understand the U.S. intentions in Iraq.

A 3-year old child collects balls during recess at Sisters of the Sacred Heart Kindergarten

We also visited MCC Global Family partner, Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who operate an impressive kindergarten for children ages 3-5. Many of the children are from Iraqi families who have been uprooted from their homes in Baghdad or Mosul.

Upon returning to Jordan we received the sad news that Reham Hijazin, a MCC International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) participant last year, died on Thursday, Nov. 19. We attended her traditional Jordanian village funeral the next day. The crowd processed on foot with the casket from Reham’s home to the church. After the brief service at the church, the women went back to the home to offer condolences, while the men processed to the cemetery for the burial.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on God’s kingdom.

The prophet Daniel foretells of God’s anointed one. “To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him,” writes Daniel. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).

The psalmist declares “The Lord is king . . . your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1-2).

In the Revelation, John describes Jesus Christ as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells the Roman ruler Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world” (John 18:36). Indeed, the kingdom over which Jesus reigns is of a completely different quality and character – not based on force and dominance but on self-giving love and service.

In the short span of two weeks, we have seen water bring new life to one village and leukemia strip away the life of a young daughter in another. We saw children who have been uprooted by war and spoke with young priests who hope to be part of the healing for their beloved country of Iraq. These mysterious cycles of life are filled with pain and joy, despair and hope. In the midst of life’s fragility, the biblical affirmation is that God’s kingdom will never be destroyed.

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