Lenten repentance

First Sunday in Lent (February 21, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Deut. 26:1-11; Ps. 91:1-2, 9-16; Rom. 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Over lunch one day this week in Amman we met with a delegation from Washington, D.C., which included members of J-Street, Churches for Middle East Peace, and several members of Congress. The group was in the region to better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that they can more effectively advocate for peace.

After leaving Jordan, the group traveled to Israel, where Foreign Ministry officials refused to meet with them because they considered J-Street (a progressive Jewish lobby) to be “anti-Israeli.” Later, the Foreign Ministry apologized for the snub.

After a two-month process that included seven trips to the Ministry of Interior, we finally renewed our Jordanian residency cards for another year on Wednesday. In the end, a well-connected Jordanian friend – our wasta or “influence” — accompanied us to help smooth the process that requires a multitude of signatures and stamps!

Site along Jordan River where Jesus was baptized

On Saturday, we visited the Baptism Site of Jesus. There the Archbishop of Canterbury dedicated the foundation stone for a new Anglican church and then led a special Liturgy, “Bethany our way to repentance” at the site along the Jordan River where Jesus is believed to have been baptized.

The Common Lectionary readings for this first week of Lent are about God’s deliverance from oppression, trouble, sin and temptation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury leads a special Liturgy at baptism site

In the Old Testament reading, Moses reminds the people that, when they were aliens in Egypt, God heard their voice and saw their oppression and brought them out with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8). As a worshipful response for this deliverance, the people are now to share the first fruits of their land with the priests and aliens.

The psalmist records God’s reassuring promise: “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” (Ps. 91:14-15)

In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that God’s deliverance extends to all people. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” (Rom. 10:12)

The Gospel reading describes the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13. After his baptism in the Jordan River, God’s Spirit leads him to the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days. Three times the devil tempts Jesus. Each time, Jesus recites Scripture that unmasks the devil’s deceptive suggestion or promise.

As we begin this Lenten season — a time of repentance and humbling ourselves before God — it is reassuring to remember that God’s deliverance extends to all people and to situations great and small.

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