Odd characters, peculiar strategy

Third Sunday of Easter (April 18, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 9:1-20; Ps. 30; Rev. 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

We enjoyed spending the past two weeks in Amman working with colleagues and welcoming many visitors in the MCC Jordan office. Last weekend, Cindy attended a large wedding in Amman and Daryl ran the Dead Sea Half Marathon. Click for CNN video link

Runners in 2009 Dead Sea Marathon (website photo)

Road races in Jordan are a fascinating contrast of cultures. Women in head scarves run alongside runners clad in scanty western-style sports gear. At one point, a shepherd in Bedouin dress led his herd of sheep and goats across the four-lane highway in front of the runners. Camels and donkeys also dotted the race course.

In the region this week Israeli troops killed several Palestinian militants on the Gaza-Israel border.

Israeli troops on border with Gaza (AFP photo)

On Thursday Hamas joined the list of governments who use the death penalty as a tool of control, executing two Palestinian men charged with collaborating with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skipped a nuclear summit in Washington, D.C. after learning that Egypt and Turkey planned to use the occasion for raising questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the Washington gathering and announced that Iran would hold its own nuclear summit, beginning April 17.

The Common Lectionary Reading for this third Sunday of Easter remind us that God chooses a seemingly odd list of characters (persecutors, betrayers and One who is slaughtered like a lamb) and a peculiar strategy (suffering and death) for accomplishing God’s purposes in the world.

In the reading from Acts, Saul, a religious leader, is breathing threats and murder against the early church (Acts 9:1). Still, the Lord chooses Saul to “bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel” (v.15). But there is a cost for Saul. “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” the Lord warns (v.16).

In the Gospel reading (John 21), Jesus calls and trusts Peter – who just days before had betrayed Jesus three times – to “Feed my lambs” (v.15), “Tend my sheep” (v.16) and “Feed my sheep”(v.17). Jesus also warns Peter that following will be costly (v.19).

In the reading from Revelation, it is the Lamb that was slaughtered who alone is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).

While the nations use well-trained militaries, weapons and the threat of death as tools for ordering society, God works with a completely different strategy and cast of characters. It is encouraging to know that God is able to use seeming weakness and flawed human beings like us in the work of God’s kingdom.

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