11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 28, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Jer. 15:15-21; Ps. 26:1-8; Rom. 12:9-21; Matt. 16:21-28
This week we enjoyed interacting with the new MCC SALT workers who are studying Arabic in Amman, while living with Jordanian host families. We especially enjoyed hearing stories from Sarah, Meredith and Trish when they visited our home for dinner one evening. We feel fortunate to have such gifted young adults to work in Jordan and Palestine this year.
Ramadan is drawing to a close and Muslims are preparing for the Eid al-Fitr (or festival), which celebrates the end of this holy month. On the first day of the Eid, Muslims are encouraged to forgive any differences and animosities that have occurred with others during the previous year. It is time to let go and move forward.
In the region this week opposition forces in Lybia took over Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s compound, signaling the near-end to his 42-year rule. However, Gaddafi himself has not yet been found, even as a transitional council begins to assume the mantle of leadership for Libya. Another wave of violence in Iraq resulted in a dozen deaths across the country.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about letting go and trusting God.
In the Old Testament reading the prophet Jeremiah bemoans the hardship he has experienced at the hands of an unfaithful people. He begs God to “bring down retribution . . . on my persecutors.” (Jer. 15:15) God instructs Jeremiah to turn back and faithfully serve God. “I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,” God promises, “and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.” (v.20)
The psalmist also asks God to intervene and vindicate him. “For I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering,” David argues. (Ps. 26:1)
In the Epistle reading, Paul appeals: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Rom. 12:17) Rather than taking matters into our own hands, we are to leave matters of vengeance in God’s hands (v.19). We are to feed our enemies (v.20) and overcome evil with good (v.21)
In the Gospel reading Jesus challenges his would-be followers to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24). Jesus offers a compelling reason for such a counter-cultural approach: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (v.25). Jesus is not simply preaching lofty words. He, too, plans to lay down his life and to trust God for the outcome (v.21).
In an uncertain world, we spend much of our time grasping to control whatever we can, and seeking to put in their place those who make life difficult for us. The Lectionary readings this week remind us that both of these behaviors are of little value. Letting go and trusting God does not come naturally. For people of faith seasonal spaces like Ramadan and Lent help us to do just that.