Exalted servants

Palm Sunday (April 17, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 50:4-9a; Ps. 118:1-2, 19-29; Phil. 2:5-11; Matt. 21:1-11

This week Cindy visited MCC partners in the Jordan Valley communities of Adasiyeh and Wadi Rayan. In Adasiyeh, community leaders were offering training to women who are interested in starting their own businesses. In Wadi Rayan, a women’s cooperative has initiated beekeeping as an income-generation project.

Cindy shares a laugh with Um Yousef, director of the women's cooperative in Wadi Rayan

The MCC Ontario learning tour returned home, Wednesday, with many ideas for sharing their Palestine/Israel experiences with others. Before returning to Jordan, Daryl met with MCC’s Palestine Advisory Committee to receive feedback on a number of issues related to MCC’s work in Palestine.

In the Jordan this week, some 2,000 demonstrators gathered in cities across the country to call for democratic reforms and a greater voice in political decisions.

Demonstrators in Amman unfurl a huge Jordanian flag (AFP photo)

In a separate demonstration, about 350 Salafis, a conservative Muslim group, rallied to call for the release of prisoners, for Islamic law in Jordan, and to denounce Jordan’s ties to the United States. More than 80 unarmed police were injured in the clash with the Salafis, who were armed with clubs, swords, knives and barbed wire.

Salifis demonstrated in Zarqa, a city north of Amman (AP photo)

Syria’s president formed a new government after weeks of growing public protests that have resulted in the deaths of scores of Syrians. Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, and two of his sons have been detained for 15 days of questioning related to corruption and abuse of power charges.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on servants who are exalted.

In the Old Testament reading, God’s suffering servant sustains the weary with a word (Is. 50:4) and endures insults and abuse (v.6) because he trusts that God will help him and not allow him to be put shame (vv.7-9).

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” writes the psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing.” (Ps.118.22-23a)

The Epistle reading is an ancient hymn, highlighting the humility and exaltation of Jesus, who “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” (Phil. 2:6) Instead, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave (v.7), humbled himself (v.8a), and became obedient to the point of death on a cross (v.8b). For this reason, God “highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.” (v.9)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus humbly rides into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:7). But a large crowd spreads their cloaks on the road, waves branches and shouts, “Hosanna . . . Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (vv.8-9)

The Palm Sunday readings remind us that God expects us, like Jesus, not to exploit the power and privilege we have been given, but to use them to serve others. Humble servants are sometimes insulted and abused (Isaiah 50); rejected (Psalm 118); and even killed (Philippians 2). Still, they can be confident that, in due time, God will vindicate and exalt them. We pray for servant leaders in these troubled times in the Middle East.

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