Words

Third Sunday in Lent (March 11, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
John 2:13-22; Ex. 20:1-17; Ps. 19; I Cor. 1:18-25

This week Cindy completed her TESF/TEFL certification course, graduating with merit! We celebrated with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Amman. She now hopes to do some part time teaching with MCC partners who offer courses in English as a foreign language. We also welcomed a two-person review team that will evaluate MCC’s programs in Iraq and Palestine/Israel.

MCC partner Bethlehem Bible College hosted more than 600 evangelical leaders from around the world, Mar. 5-9, for a conference, “Christ at the Checkpoint,” which challenged the assumptions of Christian Zionism.

In Jordan another MCC partner, the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies, will host a conference this coming week to explore the reasons that Christians have been emigrating from the Middle East. The conference will bring together religious and academic Christian leaders from nine countries in the region.

Suleiman Saikali, Omar Abawi and George Akel (left to right) check the content of food boxes that were later distributed to Syrian refugees by Caritas Jordan in Mafraq

MCC will provide cash for local purchase of infant formula and diapers, and is shipping two containers of blankets, relief kits, hygiene kits and school kits to partner Caritas Jordan, to assist Syrian refugees in Jordan. Syrian Bedouin are among 80,000 refugees who have fled to Jordan as a result of the situation in Syria. According to one report this week, Syrian officials are acting to stem the flow of refugees to Jordan and other countries.

Syrian refugees coming to Jordan

Former U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan is scheduled to meet in Syria this weekend with government and opposition leaders. The worst violence is in the city of Homs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a timetable for a military attack on Iran if a diplomatic solution is not found with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. “This is not a matter of days or weeks. It is also not a matter of years,” Netanyahu told an Israeli TV station. Analysts say that likely Iranian responses to an Israeli attack could have devastating consequences.

This week, Israel killed the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. Militants in Gaza responded by firing at least 80 rockets into southern Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. Israel responded with more airstrikes, killing 12 Gazans.

The Common Lectionary readings for this third week of Lent are about words.

Syrian Bedouin are among refugees who have come to Jordan

The Old Testament reading begins, “Then God spoke all these words…” The 10 Commandments begin with a reminder of God’s act of deliverance then summarize God’s call for humans to honor God, parents and neighbors (Ex. 20:1-17).

The psalmist marvels that creation speaks without words. “The heavens are telling the glory of God;” writes the psalmist; “and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1). “There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (vv. 3-4) The psalmist concludes, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (v.14)

In the Epistle reading, Paul challenges those who take pride in their written or spoken words: “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (I Cor. 1:20) By contrast, Paul proclaims that the message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (vv.23-24)

UNICEF Representative in Jordan sits with displaced Syrian children at a UNICEF-supported facility in Ma'an (Photo by Raji Dominique Hyde for UNICEF)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus speaks both angry words and prophetic words. He confronts the merchants and money changers, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (Jn. 2:16) and then predicts that he will rise three days after he is killed (v.20). John writes, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (v.22)

Too often, words are misused to threaten or harm others. Bluster, bluff and bravado are all too common tools of political discourse. The Lectionary readings for this third week of Lent call for a different approach. Words are to guide us in constructive behaviors toward God and one another (the 10 Commandments). Like creation that speaks without words, our words should tell the glory of God. Like Jesus, our words should challenge injustice and proclaim God’s prophetic truth.

Fortunately, we need not be skilled writers or orators in order to communicate God’s message with power and wisdom. With the psalmist, we pray that our words be acceptable to God.

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