Eighth Sunday after Epiphany (February 27, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 49:8-16a; Ps. 131; I Cor. 4:1-5; Matt. 6:24-34
The world’s attention turned to Libya this week, where protesters are calling for the ouster of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, who has led the country since 1969. While some Libyan cities have already fallen to the opposition, Gaddafi still controls Tripoli. By some reports more than 1,000 persons have already died in clashes and the potential for even worse violence is high.
Again after Friday prayers this week there were demonstrations across the region.
In Tunisia and Egypt – where protesters overthrew regimes in January and February, respectively – crowds were out on the streets again, calling for reforms in the new interim governments. In Egypt, the military used force in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
A common theme of the protesters is the desire for more democratic forms of government which will be more responsive to basic human needs. The cost of food and other living essentials has risen dramatically in recent years, making it difficult for many to feed their families.
In Iraq, 12 persons were killed in a “day of rage” that saw protesters gather in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities to protest government corruption and lack of basic services.
Jordan saw its largest demonstrations in 8 weeks – with 6,000 taking to the streets to call for additional economic and political reforms.
Some governments are beginning to hear the concerns. In Amman the government announced this week that fuel prices will remain constant in Jordan even though they are rising rapidly on global markets.
The king of Saudi Arabia announced new funds for housing, study abroad, pay raises, unemployment benefits and social security.
The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on God’s care for the human family.
The Old Testament reading promises that God “will have compassion on his suffering ones” (Is. 49:13). They “shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.” (v.10)
In Psalm 131, David writes that assurance of God’s care has calmed and quieted his soul “like a weaned child with its mother.” (v.2)
In the Epistle reading, Paul admonishes that we are to be trustworthy servants of Christ, and not to worry about the judgment of others. In due time, we “will receive commendation from God.” (I Cor. 4:5)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus assures his followers that they need not worry about the essentials for life – food, drink and clothing. God knows that we need these things. They are instead to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)
While God cares for basic human needs, God usually does so through human agents – governments, religious communities, and business leaders who provide jobs. When these human agents forget their proper roles, the people suffer. Across the region, large crowds are reminding leaders of their rightful responsibilities.