10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 5, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ex. 16:2-4, 9-15; Ps. 78:23-29; Eph. 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
We spent several days of orientation this week with Dan Bergen and Joanna Hiebert Bergen, who became MCC Reps for the Palestine-Israel program, Aug. 1. Dan and Jo, along with their daughters Emma and Chloe, are from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They will be living on the Mt. of Olives in East Jerusalem. We wish them well as they support MCC partners and staff who are working nonviolently to end Israel’s military occupation and to create a a just place in which Palestinians and Israelis share the land.
We also enjoyed visits from a number of MCC partners and friends who stopped by the MCC office in Amman to say hello. The pace of work during Ramadan is generally slower, with official hours in government offices from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. However, things come alive in the evening after the iftar meal that breaks the dawn to dusk fast. It is not uncommon to hear children still playing until 1 or 2 a.m., in the cool of the night.
In the region this week:
- Syrian forces clashed with rebel groups in Aleppo. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan announced that he will not renew his mandate as special UN and Arab League envoy for Syria. The decision is viewed as an admission that a diplomatic solution to the violence is less likely.
- As the Syrian crisis becomes more volatile, Jordan continues to welcome Syrian refugees but is beginning to restrict their movements by placing them in tent camps.
- The Iraqi government reported 325 deaths from violent attacks during the month of July – the highest number since August 2010.
The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on place and provisions.
In the Old Testament reading, God’s people complain of hunger in the wilderness (Ex. 16:2). They are afraid of going to the “promised land” where God has called them, but are unhappy with the place they are. So they pine for their past, forgetting that they were slaves. “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread…” they lament (v.3) God promises to rain bread from heaven (v.4). “You shall have your fill of bread,” says God, “then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” (v.12)
Reflecting on this same wilderness experience the psalmist writes that God “commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.” (Ps. 78:23-24) The people “ate and were well filled.” (v.29a)
In the Gospel reading, after Jesus feeds them with bread and fish, the crowds follow him (John 6:22-24). Jesus bluntly tells them that they are only following because they ate their “fill of loaves” (v.26). He challenges them instead to work for “the food that endures for eternal life” (v. 27). “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. . . (bread that) gives life to the world.” (vv.32-33) Jesus himself is this bread.
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that God gives gifts for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. God’s provision of gifts is expansive – Christ ascended to the heights and descended to the depths — so that he could “fill all things.” (v.10)
A place to live and daily provisions are basic human needs. Too often we take these things for granted. Not so with the Syrian refugees who are streaming into Jordan. Their stories are compelling. Syrian families who used to travel to Jordan for work or vacation are now coming as refugees.
We also are thinking more about a place and provisions as we begin to pray about and plan for our transition back to the United States in the coming year. Like God’s people in the wilderness and the crowds who followed Jesus, we sometimes find it difficult to trust God for these daily necessities. God has always been faithful to us in the past. Why then is it is still hard to trust God for the future?