20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 14, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Ps. 90:12-17; Heb. 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
This week we welcomed Evanna Hess and Jean Peifer from Lancaster, Pa. and Hagerstown, Md., respectively. They will volunteer for three weeks with MCC partner Caritas Jordan, providing training to women at a Caritas center in Husn, Jordan. Caritas is seeking to boost its capacity for local collection and preparation of items such as school kits.
We also enjoyed visiting with our friend Wafa Goussous, who is now serving as director for the Orthodox Initiative – the Syrian refugee response on behalf of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
In the region this week:
- Jordan’s King Abdullah appointed a new Prime Minister, who immediately extended the registration deadline for participation by the Muslim Brotherhood in upcoming elections. Brotherhood leaders responded that they still plan to boycott the elections, citing their belief that the government is not serious about reforms. Tension is mounting between the protesters and the regime.
- The leader of Hezbollah announced that his organization was responsible for sending an Iranian-built drone into Israeli airspace as a response to repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace. Israel shot down the drone.
- Some 4,000 Syrian children attended school in 14 temporary tent classrooms in the Zaatari Refugee Camp near Mafraq. Workers are preparing more durable classrooms that are expected to open in November.
The Common Lectionary readings this week juxtapose God’s judgment and God’s grace.
In the Old Testament reading, Amos prophesies that those who “trample on the poor” will build stone houses but not live in them and plant pleasant vineyards but not drink their wine. (Amos 5:11). “Hate evil and love good,” challenges Amos, “and establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord … will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (v.15)
“Turn, O Lord! How long?” a weary Moses pleads in Psalm 90. “Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us . . . Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands . . .”
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-sword,” the writer of Hebrews asserts. “It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). Indeed, “all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (v.13) Still, Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, the writer encourages. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (v.16)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus encounters a man who is weighted down by his possessions. He invites the man to sell his possession, give the money to the poor and then come follow Jesus. It is more than the man is willing to give up. Jesus promises his disciples that those who leave everything to follow him will receive a hundredfold in return – albeit, not without persecution (Mark 10:17-31).
The Middle East is undergoing dramatic changes. Those in power seek to hold on to the old ways, while those at the margins are demanding governance that listens to a broader spectrum of voices. We are watching human judgment play out before our eyes. We pray that God’s favor and grace will ultimately win the day.
We do not control God’s grace. Still, we place ourselves in a space to most abundantly receive God’s grace when we act justly, surrender fully and plead boldly.