God’s gifts in an unsettling time

10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 21, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 51:1-6; Ps. 138; Rom. 12:1-8; Matt. 16:13-20

This week we met with the MCC Palestine advisory committee to hear their counsel about how MCC’s work in the region should be shaped by current events. We also enjoyed meeting MCC staff in Jerusalem. Back in Jordan, we welcomed three new SALT (Serving and Learning Together) workers for the coming year and three short-term workers who will be teaching an intensive English course at St. Peter’s Seminary in northern Iraq.

Meredith, Trish and Sarah arrive in Amman for language study in preparation for SALT assignments

Politically, it has been an unsettling week. On Monday, at least 60 persons were killed in a series of attacks across Iraq. On Thursday, Palestinian militants attacked several Israeli buses near Israel’s border with Egypt, killing 8 persons. Israel responded by bombing targets in the southern Gaza Strip. In pursuit of the attackers, Israeli forces also killed five Egyptian border police. In protest, Egypt has withdrawn its ambassador to Israel. Palestinian militants subsequently fired rockets into southern Israel, leading to more Israeli airstrikes against Gaza. At least 14 Palestinians have now been killed since Thursday. On Friday, demonstrators in Jordan rallied in support of pro-democracy protesters in Syria, where human rights groups claim that more than 2,000 civilians have now been killed. A growing number of Western nations have joined protesters in calling for Syria’s President Bashar Assad to step down.

Cindy with Rachelle, Ryan, Bassem and Ingrid -- at staff meeting in Jerusalem

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on God’s gifts for the journey.

In the Old Testament reading, God gives comfort to an exiled people. Even though the earth will wear out like a garment, “My salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended,” God promises (Is. 51:6).

The psalmist also walks in the midst of trouble (Ps. 138:7a), but gives thanks for God’s steadfast love, faithfulness and deliverance (vv. 2, 7b). “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me,” declares the psalmist, “your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” (v.8a)

In the Epistle reading, Paul says that we have gifts from God that differ according to the grace given us – prophecy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and compassion (Rom. 12:6-8). We are called to use these gifts to strengthen others.

In the Gospel reading, Peter declares that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) Jesus promises to give his followers the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 19a) Whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (v.19b).

There is a palpable feeling in the region that one major trigger event could lead to even greater upheaval. It is an unsettling time. It is a time to cling to God’s promise of deliverance. It is also a time to recommit to using our gifts to bind up injustices, to loose peace and to serve one another for the common good.

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