12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 19, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 34:9-14; Prov. 9:1-6; Eph. 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
This week our daughter Jessica turned 30, offering indisputable evidence that we are no longer in our 40s! How did that happen? Jessica was born Aug, 18, 1982, at Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. She is now a social worker in Denver, working with children in transitional housing situations. We are proud of Jessica for persevering in a challenging job. Her generous spirit is a gift to many. To celebrate her birthday, Jessica flew to Portland to spend time with friends.
On Friday afternoon we welcomed two new SALT (Serving and Learning Together) volunteers to Jordan. Kristy Guertin, a 2011 graduate from Seattle Pacific University, will be a teacher assistant at Arab Episcopal School in Irbid. William Stell, a 2012 graduate from Wheaton College, will work at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt.
On Saturday afternoon we welcomed three short-term MCC volunteers — Arthur Mann and Diana Epp-Fransen, both from Winnipeg; and Carolyn Reesor from Toronto — who will be teaching a four-week intensive English course at St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Seminary in Erbil, northern Iraq. After a brief orientation in Amman, Cindy will accompany the teachers to Erbil. This is the third summer that MCC has provided English teachers for St. Peter’s.
This has been the last week of Ramadan. While many Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, the evenings offer welcomed times for families to gather in homes for meals or to go out to eat. Indeed, the restaurant business does very well during Ramadan.
From our home, only steps away from the King Abdullah Mosque, we will hear the beautiful chanting of the congregational prayers, Aug. 19, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the three-day feast known as Eid al-Fitr.
Jahnabi Barooah, Assistant Religion Editor for The Huffington Post, describes the first day of the Eid:
“Many Muslims wake up early in the morning and pray Salat ul-Fajr, or the pre-dawn prayer. After brushing their teeth, taking a bath and wearing perfume, they have breakfast before heading off to perform special congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Eid. Many Muslims recite the takbir, a declaration of faith, on the way to the prayer ground and give special charitable contributions known as Zakat al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr is a day of great merriment and thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate by gathering with friends and family, preparing sweet delicacies, wearing new clothes, giving each other gifts and putting up lights and other decorations in their homes. A common greeting during this holiday is Eid Mubarak, which means, “Have a blessed Eid!”
While Ramadan is intended to be a time for restoring broken relationships, the fighting in Syria seems only to have intensified in the past month. The UN observer mission in Syria pulls out Sunday night. A diplomatic solution seems increasingly unlikely.
The violent situation in Syria is also adding pressure to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, who are hosting thousands of Syrian refugees. On Thursday, Sojourner’s website published Daryl’s article about the welcome Jordan is extending to refugees.
The threat of Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites is a weekly topic of discussion in local media. A recent article announced that Israel is prepared to accept 500 Israeli casualties as a consequence of attacking Iran. Leaders of Iran and Hezbollah promised that the retaliation would be on a much grander scale.
The Common Lectionary readings reflect on living good. The focus is on quality of life, not on accumulated possessions.
The writer of Proverbs portrays wisdom as a woman pursuing the simple and calling them to maturity. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed,” she appeals, “Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Prov. 9:1-6)
“Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?” asks the psalmist. “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:12-14)
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that, in spite of the evil around us, the wise “make the most of the time” (Eph. 5:16), “understand what the will of the Lord is” (v.17) and are “filled with the Spirit” (v.18).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus declares himself to be the “living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). Jesus promises that, unlike their ancestors who ate bread that satisfied only for a day, those who eat this bread will live forever (vv. 51, 58), have eternal life (v.54), abide in Christ (v.56), and live because of me (v.57).
Living good is not about the size of our bank accounts, cars and houses. It is not about how much power we hold or the prestige we command. It is about walking wisely, shunning evil, doing good, seeking peace, making the most of the time, understanding God’s will, being filled with God’s Spirit, and feasting on the living bread that Jesus offers.