A place and provisions

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.

Dan Bergen with daughters Chloe (left) and Emma (right), leaving Amman for the trip to Jerusalem

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.

Cindy and Jo Hiebert Bergen go over last minute details before departure for Jerusalem

In the region this week:

Jordan’s King Abdullah greets U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Amman on Thursday for discussions about Syria and the region (photo by Yousef Allan)

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.

Syrians huddle under a tent at the King Abdullah Park transit facility in Ramtha. Refugees from Damascus began pouring into Jordan in late July after rebels began an offensive against regime forces in the capital (Jordan Times photo by Taylor Luck)

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?

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