Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 15, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 2:42-47; Ps. 23; I Pet. 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
We returned home to Amman this week after a relaxing retreat with MCC colleagues from Europe and the Middle East. These annual gatherings offer the opportunity to worship together, share leisurely meals and swap stories. The retreat speaker this year was Dr. Patty Shelly, a Bible professor at Bethel College. Her topic was “the pieces of peace” – things that contribute to peacebuilding in our world.
We are now making preparation for a month-long speaking engagement in MCC East Coast and MCC British Columbia.
Demonstrations continued in the region this week. While things in Jordan have been relatively quiet, in Syria six persons were killed on Friday, even though President Bashar al-Assad had told security forces to hold their fire. Egyptian demonstrators gathered to protest the killing of Coptic Christians a week earlier, and in support of Palestinians who are commemorating the “Nakba” – or catastrophe — which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians when Israel was created in 1948.
The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on human security.
The psalmist uses the image of a shepherd to describe security. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” he declares. (Ps. 23:1) This shepherd leads us to green pastures and still waters (v.2); restores our soul and leads us in right paths (v.3); and is present with us through the darkest valleys of life (v.4).
Luke describes security in terms of the quality of our relationships. Each day, the early church spent time together in worship and fellowship. They shared meals and their possessions with one another so that no one was in need (Acts 2:42-47).
“You were going astray like sheep,” writes Peter, “but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (I Pet. 2:25) Peter suggests that security results from being aware of God’s presence during painful times and trusting God who judges justly (vv.19, 23).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus also uses the image of a shepherd calling his sheep by name and leading them (John 10:3). “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus declares. (v.10)
Political leaders often justify their use of force by declaring that they are acting in the “national security interests.” The preservation of the nation-state and its leaders becomes the ultimate goal, rather than concern for the well-being of ordinary human beings.
The Lectionary readings this week offer a glimpse of something much more powerful — human security. Such security does not result from authoritarian leaders and military might. It grows from building just relationships in the human community and a trusting relationship with the shepherd of the sheep.