All things new

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 2, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 11:1-18; Ps. 148; Rev. 21:1-6; John 13:31-35

We spent the past two weeks making final preparations for six persons from our region to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) at Eastern Mennonite University. This year one person from Iran, two from Iraq, two from Jordan, and one from Palestine will attend the month-long classes that bring together peace practitioners from some 40-50 countries. SPI alumni (nearly 50 in our region) help to shape MCC’s programs in the Middle East.

Nada Zabanah (SPI 2010) and Salwa Al-Sukhon (SPI 2009)

Indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestine are set to begin again next week and have received the endorsement of the Arab League. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Israeli Knesset said he would rather have Palestinians as citizens of one country than to have two separate states.

In Iraq, a recount in the recent parliamentary elections may take three more weeks. Bomb attacks continue while Iraqis await the outcome of the disputed elections.

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about new things.

The reading from Acts 11 is about God’s new community that includes both Jews and Gentiles. The Spirit tells Peter to visit the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, since God makes no distinction between peoples (v.12). Peter initially resists, as his religious upbringing made it clear that Jews and Gentiles should not mix. But eventually he obeys and God’s Spirit is poured out on this Gentile household. “Who was I that I could hinder God?” Peter tells an initially skeptical Jewish-Christian audience. But after hearing Peter’s account the crowd declares, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” (v.18)

The psalmist describes a new political order in which “Kings of the earth and all peoples” will praise God. (Ps. 148:11)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives a new commandment: “Love one another,” he instructs his disciples, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:12). Love for each other will be the distinguishing characteristic of those who follow Jesus (v. 35).

In the reading from Revelation 21, John sees a new heaven, a new earth and the new Jerusalem (v. 1-2). “See, I am making all things new,” God declares (v.5). In this new order, God will dwell among humans and there will be no more mourning, crying or pain (vv. 3-4).

Cedars of Lebanon

In the present moment — too often filled with suffering, violence confusion and disorder — it is sometimes hard to see the new things that God is creating. Still, as we are faithful to tend the trees by loving one another and accepting those who are different from us, God is faithful to look after the forest.
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