Power to change

Pentecost (May 23, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Gen. 11:1-9; Ps. 104:24-35; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17

The week we attended a graduation ceremony for Iraqi refugees studying in Jordan, visited a home for elderly women in Amman and had a fascinating conversation with two Jordanian professionals about U.S. policy in this region.

Iraqi girls dance at graduation ceremony in Amman

Jesuit Refugee Services hosted a graduation event for Iraqi children and adults in Amman who have been studying English, French, and computer skills (and developing art, drama and sports skills) in preparation for re-settlement to third countries. In addition to receiving certificates for their work, students sang, shared stories, danced, displayed crafts and demonstrated soccer skills.

Iraqi youth demonstrate soccer skills

Typically Jordanian families take care of their aging parents. But occasionally there is a need for special care. The home we visited is operated by the Anglican Church and provides a beautiful home environment for 10 women. The director has given 45 years of her life to quietly working with elderly residents.

Iraqi girls perform at graduation ceremony

Our conversation with two Jordanian attorneys quickly moved from MCC business to their sense of frustration with U.S. policy in the region. While there is much about the United States that they admire – and both had lived or visited there – they are mystified why the world’s “leading democracy” attacked Iraq while supporting an Israeli government that occupies another people.

In the region this week, Israel denied entry to Noam Chomsky, a well-known Jewish professor at M.I.T., who was planning to speak at Ber Zeit University in the West Bank. Chomsky gave his lecture by video link from Amman. Meanwhile, a flotilla of 8 ships carrying humanitarian supplies is leaving several European ports, May 23, and heading to Gaza. Israeli officials say the ships will not be allowed to dock in Gaza.

A second round of indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ended with no visible progress. May is a month of remembrance for both peoples. Israelis celebrate the birth of a Jewish state, while Palestinians mourn the Nakba or “catastrophe” that led to the displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians in 1948.

Also this week, Iran struck a deal with Brazil and Turkey for enrichment of uranium to be used for medical purposes. But the United States will continue to press for additional sanctions, since Iran is not completely stopping their own enrichment programs. Meanwhile, the mothers of three U.S. hikers who are being held in Iran were allowed to visit their children in Tehran, but returned home without securing their release.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on changes connected to coming of God’s Spirit.

The psalmist writes that God’s Spirit creates and renews life (Ps. 104:30). In John’s gospel, Jesus says that God’s Spirit is our ever-present Advocate and the bearer of truth (John 14:16-17).

In the Old Testament reading, the people seek to “make a name for ourselves” and build a city with a tower that reaches the heavens. But God confuses their common language and scatters them across the whole earth (Gen. 11:1-9). By contrast, on the day of Pentecost, people from every nation are gathered in Jerusalem and, when the Spirit comes with power, they each hear the disciples speaking in their own language about God’s deeds of power (Acts. 2:1-11). In addition to bringing clarity and common understanding, God’s Spirit brings the power to speak God’s truth, see God’s visions and dream God’s dreams (vv. 17-18).

On this Pentecost Sunday, we remember with longing that God’s Spirit comes with power to our broken world – bringing renewal of life, truth to light, common understanding and the ability to dream new dreams.

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