Proper 17 (August 29, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Prov. 25:6-7; Ps. 112; Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16; Lk. 14:1, 7-14
The Muslim observance of Ramadan is more than half over. In this season, life slows down and attention is given to repentance, acts of compassion and family gatherings. Thankfully, the temperatures have begun to cool down, making fasting a bit less onerous. Year round, the call to prayer sounds from minarets around the city five times a day. During Ramadan, fasting begins with the first call to prayer at dawn and ends with the call to prayer at dusk. (To see BBC photographer Hugh Sykes’ Ramadan pictures of holy sites in Karbala, Iraq, click here)
We are enjoying the four new SALT workers in our region. Sara Brubacher, Janae Detwiler, Trisha Fallon and Joanna Hoover are studying Arabic in Amman, before heading to their work sites. They take time each day to have lunch with us in the office. They are delightful young adults with a vision for service and learning to know Middle Eastern people and culture.
This week in the region, Israel announced that it will begin teaching Arabic language in Israeli public schools – a decision that could have long-term positive impact on Israeli-Palestinian relationships.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about good guests and good hosts.
Good guests. Both the Old Testament and Gospel readings warn against self-promotion. “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great;” warns the Solomon, “for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” (Prov. 25:6-7) Jesus tells a parable about a guest who takes the seat of honor, only to be disgraced when his host asks him to move to a lower seat (Lk. 14:7-10). “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,” Jesus concludes, “and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(v.11)
Good hosts. Good hosts focus on those who are most vulnerable. The writer of Hebrews warns against two areas of neglect:
-“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2)
-“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (v.16)
Rather than inviting one’s friends and close relatives for dinner, Jesus tells his followers to welcome the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind – those who may not be able to repay us (Lk. 14:13).
The psalmist notes that the hospitable are a “light for the upright” (Ps. 112:4a) and “gracious, merciful, and righteous” (v.4b). They deal generously and lend (v.5); they distribute freely and give to the poor (v. 9).
Whether as hosts or guests, the biblical call is to be humble. We are to find blessing in welcoming the stranger and sharing with those who are vulnerable; and in unpretentiously receiving the hospitality of others.