The race set before us

Proper 15 (August 15, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Jer. 23:23-29; Ps. 82; Heb. 11:29-12:2; Lk. 12:49-56

This week marked the beginning of Ramadan, during which many Muslims fast from dawn till dusk for a month. Ramadan begins 11 days earlier each year. It is now occurring in the part of the calendar year when daylight is longer and temperatures are hotter. Daryl and several colleagues in the MCC office fasted for the first day of Ramadan. Going without food was not that difficult. But, with temperatures in the high 90s, not drinking water from early morning till 7:30 p.m. was quite a challenge! The experience provided a deeper appreciation for the discipline required during Ramadan.

(left to right) Char Siemens, Bev Binder, Laura Kanagy and Liza Anderson -- MCC EFL teachers in Iraq

On Friday, we welcomed four EFL teachers who returned from northern Iraq, after teaching a five-week intensive English course at St. Peter’s Seminary in Erbil. The students showed remarkable improvement in their English language skills. The MCC teachers were creative, energetic and focused on their task, while building strong relationships with the seminary community. They maintained a positive attitude in spite of long days of teaching and temperatures soaring well above 120 degrees. We are grateful!

The Common Lectionary readings for this week condemn leaders who do not look after the well-being of the people, and remind us that the journey of faith is filled with struggles.

In the Old Testament reading, God chides the false prophets who try to make the people forget God’s name by prophesying dreams and lies, while claiming to speak on God’s behalf (Jer. 23:23-29). Such false prophets “do not profit this people at all,” God declares (v.32).

The psalmist criticizes leaders who fail to give justice to the weak, or to maintain the right of the lowly, or to rescue the weak and needy (Ps. 82:3-4).

The writer of Hebrews recounts many people of faith who experience dramatic victories during times of opposition. But the writer also notes that many people of faith have been tortured, tormented, mocked, flogged, imprisoned, stoned, destitute, persecuted and even killed. (Heb. 11:36-38). Likewise, Jesus “endured the cross” (12:2b). In light of this “cloud of witnesses” the writer admonishes us cast off all that distracts us and “to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (12:1-2a)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus declares, “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” (Lk. 12:50).

We would like the journey of faith to be easy and stress-free. But strong faith is no guarantee of comfortable living. The MCC community was deeply saddened this past week by the untimely death of MCC worker, Glen Lapp, in Afghanistan.

It still catches us off guard when we suffer for our faith. The Lectionary readings remind us that this should come as no surprise. How easily we forget. Let us run with perseverance the race set before us.

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