4th Sunday after Pentecost (July 10, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 55:10-13; Ps. 65:9-13; Rom. 8:1-11; Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23
This week Cindy’s mother, Phyllis Lehman, and her cousin, Rachel Augspurger, visited from Kidron, Ohio. We enjoyed introducing them to our colleagues, seeing sites in Jordan, and sharing meals and stories together. We visited the Citadel, Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea. Rachel ventured off on her own to Petra.
In the region this week:
-Hundreds of international activists, who planned to participate in “Welcome to Palestine” events in the West Bank this coming week, were turned back before boarding flights in Europe or at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. In response to pressure from the Israeli government, the Greek government prevented a flotilla of boats loaded with peace activists and humanitarian aide bound for Gaza from setting sail. Israel appears to be fighting a losing public opinion battle as internationals join with Israeli peace activists to call attention to Israel’s economic siege on Gaza and its 44-year occupation of the West Bank.
-Some 300 protesters in Amman gathered outside the Prime Minister’s office, Friday, to call for his dismissal and to challenge Jordan’s security apparatus.
-Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered across Egypt to demand quicker reforms and the prosecution of former officials.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about bearing fruit.
In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah writes that, just as rain and snow water the earth, “making it to bring forth and spout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,” so shall God’s word not return empty but shall accomplish God’s purposes (Is. 55:10-11).
Psalm 65 also uses imagery of agricultural abundance. “You visit the earth and water it,” writes the psalmist, “you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain” (v.9). The writer continues: “You water its furrows abundantly . . . you crown the year with your bounty” (vv.10-11). As a result, “The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, (and) the valleys deck themselves with grain” (vv.11-13).
In the Epistle reading, Paul urges his readers to live according to God’s Spirit rather than according to the flesh (Rom. 8:1-11). Those who live by the Spirit – the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead — bear fruit: life and peace (vv. 6, 11).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of a sower who scatters seed on different kinds of soil – a hardened path, rocky ground, thorny patches and good soil. (Matt. 13:1-9). The good soil represents those who hear God’s word, understand it, bear fruit and yield crops – thirty-fold, sixty-fold and even one hundred-fold (v.23).
In a hot and dry climate like Jordan’s it is sometimes difficult to think about life that flourishes. But as we drove through desert landscapes this week, we came across patches of green, where underground springs provide water to make even the most unlikely spots of desert bloom.
The Lectionary readings remind us that God is faithful to provide all the necessary resources for life to flourish on the earth. It is up to us to prepare good soil so that our lives will bear fruit.