God’s promises, human responses

Second Sunday in Lent (March 4, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Gen. 17:1-7, 15-16; Ps. 22:23-31; Rom. 4:13-25; Mk. 8:31-38

It snowed in Amman this week, capping a winter that has had an unusually high amount of rain. Some parts of Amman received 25 centimeters of snow — nearly 10 inches! Precipitation is always welcomed in Jordan, which is among the top five countries in the world for water scarcity.

Braving the snow, worshippers head to Friday prayers at Amman's King Abdullah Mosque

Cindy’s classes were canceled on Thursday due to the snow. She has just one week left in her intensive TESL/TEFL certification course. It has been like being back in college, with late-night papers and projects!

Wintry scene on our street in Amman

In the region this week:

  • A Red Cross aid convoy traveled to Hom, Syria, but was denied access to Baba Amr, the most heavily damaged neighborhood of the city. The Red Cross had hoped to deliver food and medical supplies and to evacuate the wounded. U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki moon accused the Syrian government of “systematically attacking its own people” as the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to worsen.

    Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts vote Friday (EPA photo)

  • Iran held parliamentary elections on Friday, which were widely viewed as a contest between the country’s Supreme Leader and its president. The government said that voting hours had to be extended by several hours due to heavy turnout.
  • While the Obama administration has publicly encouraged Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, the Pentagon acknowledged that it has a plan for joining a military action “should conflict erupt.”

The Common Lectionary readings for the second week of Lent focus on God’s promises and human responses.

In the Old Testament reading, God promises an aging Abraham and Sarah that they will be the ancestors of “a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:4-5), “exceedingly fruitful” (v.6) and that “kings of peoples” shall come from them (v.16). Abraham’s initial response is to fall on his face and laugh: “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (v.17)

By contrast, the Epistle reading emphasizes Abraham’s response of faith. “Hoping against hope, (Abraham) believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what God promised,” writes Paul. (Rom. 4:18) “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead . . . or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (vv.19-21)

The snow created a winter playground for children -- and adults! (photo by Khaled Oudat for Jordan Times)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus promises that, “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mk.8:35)

In response to God’s promises, the psalmist says that humans are to fear, praise, glorify, stand in awe of, pay vows to, seek, remember, turn to, worship, bow down to, live for and serve God, and to proclaim God’s deliverance (Ps. 22:23-31).

The region is experiencing extraordinary tension and turmoil. Principalities and powers are vying for political and economic dominance, with little regard for the impact on ordinary people and the potential for creating a humanitarian nightmare.

At the moment, it is hard to imagine a hopeful way forward. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine things getting much worse still. And yet the psalmist declares that “dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:28) God promises to hear the cries of the afflicted (v.24). In the Daily Office reading for March 3, the psalmist articulates God’s reassuring promise even more clearly: “When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady.” (Ps. 75:3)

It would not require faith if God’s promises were fulfilled immediately. It is in the waiting that our faith is stretched and put to the test. May God give us eyes of faith — the faith of Abraham and Sarah.

Weekly pictures of our granddaughter Sydney help keep us going during this stressful time

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