From death to life

Proper 5 (June 6, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Kings 17:17-24; Ps. 30; Gal. 1:11-24; Lk. 7:11-17

We spent the past weeks with two extraordinary groups of young adults. During the last week of May, we accompanied a group of 10 Iraqis to Sarajevo for a trauma workshop that included MCC partners from Bosnia and Serbia. It was fascinating to hear participants compare and contrast their respective situations and to reflect on what it means to be effective peace builders in post-war contexts.

Participants in the Bosnia-Iraq workshop

This past week, we interacted with some 30 young adults from Canada, the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel and Syria, who were in Amman for the third East-West conference sponsored by MCC and the Middle East Council of Churches. The group visited local mosques, churches and historical sites, and made significant progress toward better understanding each others’ cultural and faith perspectives.

Participants in 3rd MECC/MCC East-West Dialogue (photo by Maryanne Mutch)

With both groups of young adults, we came away with confidence that the future is in good hands!

In the region, the big story has been Israel’s interception of a six-ship flotilla, May 31, that was carrying humanitarian supplies and 700 activists to the Gaza Strip. Nine persons were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship and forced the flotilla to dock in an Israeli port. The international response has been swift and critical. MCC sent letters to the U.S. president and Canadian foreign minister, calling for a full investigation of the events and an end to the economic blockade.

Mavi Marmara, the lead ship on the humanitarian flotilla, before sailing from Istanbul

While tragic in so many ways, the flotilla events of this week may well mark the beginning of the end of the economic siege on Gaza. The international outcry regarding the conditions in Gaza has become too great to contain. Already more ships are on the way to Gaza. In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, General Secretary for Hezbollah, has called for a steady stream of flotillas to head to Gaza, carrying humanitarian supplies. Indeed, by week’s end another boat was headed toward Gaza. The idea is reminiscent of the lunch counter sit-ins during the U.S. civil rights movement – wave after wave of persons willing to be arrested for calling attention to an unjust policy.

The Common Lectionary readings this week mark the transition from death to life.

In the Old Testament reading, Elijah prays to God to restore the life of a widow’s only son (I Kings 17). God honors Elijah’s prayer and the widow responds, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (v.24)

Similarly, in the Gospel reading, Jesus restores the life of a widow’s only son (Lk. 7:11-17). The crowd responds with fear and amazement at Jesus’ action, “A great prophet has risen among us!” (v.16)

In a time of great stress, David cries out to God for help and healing (Ps. 30:2). God responds favorably and David proclaims: “O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.” (Ps. 30:3)

In the Epistle reading, Paul recounts his journey from being one who persecuted and tried to destroy the church to one who proclaims the faith (Gal. 1:24). The people respond by glorifying God.

Today we see much evidence of death and many situations in need of healing. We also celebrate the way God is working in the life of young adults and others to be agents of healing and hope in our world. Indeed, the movement of God in history is from death to life. Economic sieges, humanitarian disasters and calls for war will some day give way to the reign of God’s kingdom where justice and peace prevails and life will flourish for all.

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