Fourth Sunday in Lent (April 3, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Sam. 16:1-13; Ps. 23; Eph. 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
We spent this week in Amman, hosting guests at our office, reviewing applications for new SALT workers and preparing for a learning tour group from Ontario that will be arriving on Sunday.
This weekend was a make-or-break moment for the “24th of March” youth protesters in Jordan. Last week they set up a tent city at the Interior Circle – a major intersection in Amman. But security forces dismantled their camp with water cannons, and some 120 persons were injured in clashes between 24th of March (“reformist”) and pro-monarchy (“loyalist”) protesters. This Friday, the 24th of March youth staked out a new location near the municipal building in Amman. Jordanian security kept the two camps of demonstrators away from each other this weekend. Several youth bloggers provide insight into the thinking and demands of protesters in Jordan.
Some accuse the U.S. of having double standards when it comes to backing the protesters in the region. In Libya, the U.S. has helped to create a no-fly zone intended to protect protesters from aerial assault by the Libyan president’s forces. But in Bahrain, where the U.S. maintains a large military base, U.S. criticism of Bahraini government attacks on its citizens has been blunted.
The Common Lectionary readings emphasize the theme of darkness to light.
In the Old Testament reading, Samuel grieves that God has rejected Saul as king. But God reminds Samuel that he has chosen a new king from among the sons of Jesse. (I Sam. 16:1) Samuel expects God’s choice to be Jesse’s oldest son, who is tall like Saul (v.7). God, however, does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. God chooses David, the youngest son; from that day forward God’s spirit rests mightily upon him (vv.12-13).
This same David wrote the popular 23rd psalm. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley,” David reflects, “I fear no evil, for you are with me. . . (v.4).
In the Epistle reading, Paul writes, “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Eph. 5:8-9) Rather than taking part in unfruitful works of darkness, we are to expose them (v.11).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus announces that he is the light of the world (John 9:5) and then, almost as if to demonstrate the point, he heals a man who had been born blind (vv. 6-7).
Darkness does not easily give way to light. We are observing that very struggle in the region as authoritarian leaders — many of whom have enjoyed Western support for years — are slow to give up their power and control. But the masses are clearly seeing the light of a new day when their voices will be heard and taken seriously. While things feel chaotic at the moment, the Lectionary readings remind us that God is present and guiding. Our prayer is that all will experience the fruit of light – that which is good and right and true.