7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 31, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 55:1-5; Ps. 145:8-9, 14-21; Rom. 9:1-5; Matt. 14:13-21
Judi and Tom Snowdon, MCC Egypt representatives, visited us this week in Amman. We enjoyed learning about each other’s program and visiting sites in Jordan. Judi and Tom have skillfully shepherded the MCC Egypt team through a time of national unrest since demonstrations began in January 2011.
Together we visited a number of MCC partners — including Caritas Jordan, who provides medical care to Iraqi refugees in Amman. According to the UNHCR – the U.N. agency that works with refugee resettlement — there are still more than 30,000 registered Iraqi refugees remaining in Jordan.
It was moving to hear Caritas Jordan staff share about what motivates them to do their work. One staff member, formerly a banker, said his work with refugees and other marginalized persons has given him a new sense of purpose and also helps him to see the world through a more compassionate lens. Now when he sees people on the street he realizes, “this person may be struggling with cancer or diabetes or a financial crisis.”
Jordan had its own royal wedding recently. Prince Rashid, son of Prince Hassan bin Talal, married Zeina Shaban.
Ramadan will begin in a few days. During Ramadan, devout Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset – an amazing commitment amidst the long and hot days of summer. Many are wondering how Ramadan will affect the demonstrations across the region. As if to anticipate that question, thousands of demonstrators across Jordan marched Friday and took an oath stating:
“We pledge to God, the country, and the people that this movement will continue until reform is actualized. We pledge to God, the country, and the people, to remain loyal to our homeland and its demands, and to remain the soldiers who will defend its dignity and might, and pledge to remain the voice of the oppressed and those who are deprived of their freedom. We pledge to you to remain loyal to the country and the people, praying to God that it will be purified of despotism and corruption. We pledge to freedom to remain the true and loud voice that demands rights, and we pledge to the Jordanian people that the goal and objective of our activism is the interest of the country.”
In Egypt a rally dubbed “Friday of Unity and the People’s Will” only exposed divisions among the protesters. In Syria security forces killed at least 20 civilians participating in mass marches across the country, calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
The Common Lectionary readings for this 7th Sunday after Pentecost are about compassion.
In the Old Testament reading, our compassionate God beckons: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Is. 55:1) God desires us to have that which truly satisfies (v.2) and fullness of life (v.3).
The psalmist writes: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (Ps. 145:9) This compassion moves God to uphold all who are falling (v.14a), raise up all who are bowed down (v.14b), give food to all in due season (v.15), satisfy the desire of every living thing (v.16), and hear the cry of all who fear God (v.19).
In the Epistle reading, Paul’s compassion moves him to “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” because his own people have not embraced Jesus (Rom. 9:1-5).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus seeks some moments of solitude to grieve the death of John the Baptist. But the crowds follow him. The compassion of Jesus moves him to heal the sick (Matt. 14:14) and feed the multitudes (vv.15-21).
Across the region this spring and summer, the compassion of ordinary people has moved them to courageous action. They have turned out by the thousands and millions to demand that governments end corruption and become more responsive to the needs of the people.
Ramadan is about surrendering to God, restoring broken relationships and showing compassion to the vulnerable. Our prayer is that the spirit of Ramadan will move leaders to make necessary changes for the benefit of all.