Set free

Proper 7 (June 20, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 65:1-9; Ps. 22:19-28; Gal. 3:23-29; Lk. 8:26-39

We are spending the month of June in Jerusalem, meeting with MCC partners and preparing for new MCC service workers who will arrive next month. An added bonus has been some family time. Our son Jeremy is doing an engineering internship with the Applied Research Institute, located nearby in Bethlehem. Cindy’s brother, Phil, plans to visit this coming week. Her mother was also planning to come but, unexpectedly, had to have surgery on her leg.

Cindy and MCC worker, Bassem Thabet (far right), with staff from the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominates daily life in this place. For many, simply getting to their jobs or to the doctor can take hours because of an elaborate system of checkpoints and a 400-mile-long fence/wall that separates communities from one another. Nothing is certain here. Flexibility is a survival skill.

By the Garden Tomb, where some believe Jesus was buried and raised to life, we participated in an ecumenical prayer service, June 7, asking God for another miracle of life – an end to the economic blockade on Gaza and the military occupation of the West Bank, and the fears that underlie these policies. (This week Israel announced that it will ease, but not lift, the blockade.)

We have enjoyed the Thursday noon Eucharist services at Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and Sunday worship at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City.

This week we visited East Jerusalem YMCA’s rehabilitation program. Historically in this region, persons with disabilities are thought to be a shame on the family. But that is changing slowly, as organizations like the YMCA offer education and resources to families.

We met one woman who had been kept home for more than 12 years because of a physical disability. Through the intervention and support of the YMCA, and the courage of her family, she is now operating a small grocery store. Her eyes twinkled as she told us how she enjoys interacting with customers.

Suha (sitting), pictured with her nephew and YMCA staff, operates a small grocery store in the West Bank

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on being set free from things that bind us.

In the Old Testament reading, God graciously sets free an obstinate people from their rebellious ways – even though they didn’t ask for help (Is. 65:1-9).

The psalmist declares that God rules over the nations (Ps. 22:28) and delivers people from their enemies (vv.20-21), from suffering (v.24) and from hunger (v.26).
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that, before faith came, we were “held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed” (Gal. 3:23). But now, through faith in Christ, we are set free to be children and heirs of God (v.26, 29) and to live in just and mutual relationships with each other (v.28).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus sets free a man who has been possessed by demons for a long time (Lk. 8:26-39). Clothed and in his right mind, the man returns to his home community to tell what Jesus has done for him (v.39).

May God set us free from the fears that bind us and cause us to hoard, to treat one another unjustly and to dwell only on ourselves. May God set us free to follow Jesus fully.

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