Waiting with hope

5th Sunday after Pentecost (July 17, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 44:6-8; Ps. 86:11-17; Rom. 8:12-25; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

We spent the week in Amman, attending a peacebuilding workshop with a delightful group of Jordanians who serve as religious leaders, lawyers, human rights advocates, trainers and social service providers. The workshop was a refresher course for Jordanians who have attended the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) during the past 10 years.

Dr. Alma Abdul-hadi Jadallah and Cindy during peacebuilding workshop coffee break

Dr. Alma Abdul-hadi Jadallah, an adjunct professor from EMU, led the workshop. She presented the latest research on peacebuilding theory and practice; shared excellent practical tools; and facilitated lively discussions and role plays.

The workshop could not have been timelier given events in the region. At least 10 persons, including several journalists, were injured in clashes between police and pro-monarchy and pro-reform demonstrators in downtown Amman, Friday.

In general, protests in Jordan have been smaller and less intense than elsewhere in the region. Youth are facilitating constructive conversations during the “Arab Spring” — which is now well into the summer months.

Demonstrators carry an injured protestor in Amman (photo by Moises Saman/NYT)

Also in the region this week, Israel bombed Gaza, injuring several, after rockets were fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians marched together in support the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition as a state.

Palestinians and Israelis march together in East Jerusalem (AFP photo)

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on waiting with hope.

God waits.  In the Old Testament reading, God waits for the people to recognize that there is no other god. “I am the first and I am the last;” God declares, “besides me there is no god. Who is like me?” (Is. 44:6-7a) And yet the people choose to build and worship idols made of wood and metal (vv.9-20).

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells a parable to illustrate God’s patient waiting. A planter sows wheat in a field, representing the children of God’s kingdom. An enemy then sows weeds among the wheat, representing the children of the evil one (Matt. 13:24-30). Rather than pull out the weeds and risk uprooting the wheat, the planter tells his helpers, “Let both of them grow together until the harvest,” then I will separate the two (v.30). God patiently waits for both the wheat and weeds to mature so that none of the crop is lost. (vv.36-43).

We wait.
  In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that, in spite of our present sufferings, we wait with hope for full adoption into God’s family and the redemption of our bodies (v. 23). We hope patiently for these promises even though we do not yet fully experience them. For “hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul reminds (v.24).

The psalmist describes being under attack. “The insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life.” (Ps. 86:14) In this trying circumstance, the psalmist pleads with God: “Teach me your way” (v.11a), “give me an undivided heart” (v.11b), “turn to me and be gracious to me” (v.16a), “give your strength to your servant” (v.16b) and to “show me a sign of your favor” (v.17a).

Creation waits.  Creation itself waits with hope. “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now,” writes Paul, “(waiting) with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:19, 22) Creation longs to be set free from bondage to decay and to experience God’s children who will care for rather than damage and destroy creation (vv.19-21).

Clara, Deema and Sharin converse during a workshop break

Across the region, people are waiting with hope for positive changes – an end to corruption, better public services, the opportunity for meaningful work, and leaders that listen to the voices of ordinary people rather than to the powerful nations who prop them up. Like weeds sown among the wheat, powerful forces are at work to choke out the crop.

But the harvest is coming. In the workshop this week, we caught a glimpse of how these changes can happen in nonviolent ways. We hope it will be sooner rather than later.

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