4th Sunday after Epiphany (February 3, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Jer. 1:4-10; Ps. 71:1-6; I Cor. 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Cindy, along with our MCC Amman office colleague Suzi Khoury, successfully navigated the annual process of renewing our Jordanian residency – no small feat when working with multiple government ministries!
Daryl accompanied incoming MCC Europe-Middle East area director Amela Puljek-Shank to Jerusalem for three days, where she learned about MCC’s Palestine-Israel program.
On Monday, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem distributed MCC blankets, relief kits and school kits in Husun, a community in northern Jordan. Two other MCC partners in Jordan submitted large proposals to the Canadian government, seeking funds for their work with Syrian refugees in Jordan.
In the region this week:
- Syrian refugees continued to pour into Jordan, where the government expects to open a second refugee camp near Zarqa early next week.
- Iran announced plans to speed up the enrichment process at its nuclear plant in Natanz, prompting sharp criticism from the United States.
- Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims demonstrated in Anbar Province, Friday, saying the Iraq’s Shia-led government is marginalizing them.
- The Syrian government threatened to retaliate against Israel, alleging that Israel attacked a military research center near Damascus.
- More than 60 persons were killed in Egypt in clashes between protesters and forces controlled by the new President, Mohammed Morsi.
The Common Lectionary readings this week describe how God calls and delivers us — from the womb to adulthood.
In the Old Testament reading, God reassures Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5) Jeremiah protests that he is too young and not a good public speaker, but God persists: “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” (v.7) God reassures, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” (v.8)
In a time of trouble, the psalmist appeals to God for deliverance from the unjust and cruel, taking comfort in God’s faithfulness in the past. “Upon you I have leaned from my birth,” the psalmist reflects, “it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.” (Ps. 71:6)
In the Epistle reading, Paul acknowledges: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (I Cor. 13:11). In a familiar and powerful text, Paul describes what mature love looks like:
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (vv.4-8a)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus encounters resistance in his hometown of Nazareth after announcing the ministry to which God has called him. “Is this not Joseph’s son?” they ask (Luke 4:22), not convinced that the young man they knew as a child was capable of carrying out such a mission. “No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown,” Jesus responds (v.24). The angry crowd drives him out of town and seeks to hurl him off a cliff, but Jesus escapes.
From the womb God calls and delivers us. Sometimes we feel ill-equipped to carry out that calling. Or we experience resistance from others along the journey. The readings this week assure us that the God who calls us also delivers us from our enemies. Our job is to put away childish resistance, to trust God and to walk faithfully in our calling.