Easter 4 (April 29, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 4:5-12; Ps. 23; I John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
We hosted a 12-member learning tour from Canada and the United States, April 19-26, who came to visit MCC Global Family projects in Jordan and Palestine-Israel. Global Family is an MCC sponsorship program supporting quality community-based education for children and youth around the world.
In Palestine the group visited a special education program in Beit Sahour operated by Al Malath and the Latin Patriarchate School in Zababdeh; they also shared a Skype conversation with children who are part of the Shoroq wa-Amal (Sunrise and Hope) program at Culture and Free Thought Association in Gaza. While the learning tour was in Bethlehem, the CBS show 60 Minutes aired a piece on Christians in the Holy Land.
In Jordan the group visited an integrated education program for blind, low-vision and sighted students at the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid; the deaf-blind unit at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt; the university loans program operated by Caritas Jordan; and a kindergarten run by the Orthodox Educational Society in Ashrafiyeh.
The group shared many laughs but also shed many tears as they listened to inspiring and painful stories, and processed the political dynamics of the region. They now return home to share these stories with MCC’s constituency.
Just before the learning tour, we hosted Ruth Keidel Clemens (MCC U.S. program director) and Rick Janzen (MCC Europe-Middle East director), who came to learn about the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan. We visited a center in Mafraq where Caritas is distributing MCC-purchased milk powder and diapers to families with infants.
The Common Lectionary readings for this week describe the qualities of a good shepherd.
The familiar Psalm 23 describes a shepherd who makes the sheep lie down in green pastures (v. 2a), leads them beside still waters (v. 2b), restores life (v. 3a), leads them in right paths (v. 3b), and accompanies them through darkest valleys (v. 4).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The good shepherd, who has himself walked through dark valleys, now walks with frightened sheep on their similar journeys — unlike the hired hand who runs away when danger arises.
In the Epistle reading, John writes that God’s love for us is demonstrated in Jesus who “laid down his life for us” (I John 3:16a). In the same manner, we are to lay down our lives for one another (v. 16b).
In the reading from Acts, Peter and John put their lives on the line by healing a lame man, and then defending themselves before the religious authorities who want to know “by what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4: 7)
As we traveled around Jordan with our visitors, we saw many shepherds guiding their sheep and goats to the best patches of green grass. We also witnessed MCC partners who are acting as shepherds — providing amazing educational opportunities to vulnerable population groups and accompanying refugee families who have experienced dark valleys of violence in Syria.