Clarity in the clouds

Transfiguration Sunday (February 10, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; II Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36

This week we hosted a delegation from the Food Resources Bank (FRB) and traveled the Jordan Valley from south to north.  FRB raises resources to strengthen global food security, by facilitating growing projects in the United States.  In Jordan, FRB supports an agricultural training project in Greigra – a small village in Wadi Araba.

Bev Abma, FRB director, inspects tomatoes at a farm in the northern Jordan Valley

Bev Abma, FRB director, inspects tomatoes at a farm in the northern Jordan Valley

FRB delegation members Wilma Wiens and LeRoy Brocka visit before a day trip to Wadi Araba

FRB delegation members Wilma Wiens and LeRoy Brocka visit before a day trip to Wadi Araba

The two-year-old Syrian crisis — started when several teenage boys painted anti-Assad graffiti in the southern Syrian city of Daraa — is having major impact on Jordan and other countries in the region.

This week the Economic and Social Council (ESC) issued a report stating that the economic cost of hosting the refugees for the past 18 months exceeded 590 million Jordanian Dinars ($833 million USD). This represents about 3 percent of Jordan’s gross domestic product.

According to the Jordanian government, the number of Syrians in Jordan now exceeds 320,000, placing strain on Jordan’s infrastructure and, in some cases, increasing social tensions between the refugees and Jordanian host communities.

Cindy with Rasha in Gregria

Cindy with Rasha in Greigra

More than 29,000 Syrian children are enrolled in Jordanian public schools at a cost of $19.8 million.  The influx of Syrians has also contributed to growing unemployment rates in Jordan, as 38,000 jobs have been offered to Syrians.

Some Syrians are moving their businesses to Jordan, creating stiff competition for Jordanian companies, according to The Media Line.  “Syrians are managing to cut production costs by operating from apartments, hiring refugees and avoiding taxation,” said garment factory owner Ebrahim Hadad.  “Syrians are welcomed; this country is comprised of refugees,” Hadad continued. “However, they are hurting our businesses. I am unable to compete with them.”

Za'atari Refugee Camp near Mafraq, where an MCC partner distributed children's shoes this week (photo by Mu'ath Freij)

Za’atari Refugee Camp near Mafraq, where an MCC partner distributed children’s shoes this week           (photo by Mu’ath Freij)

Dozens were killed Friday in a spate of car bomb attacks in mainly Shia Muslim areas near Baghdad.  Meanwhile, Sunni Muslims demonstrated against Iraq’s Shia-led government, alleging that Sunni’s are marginalized in Iraq.

Also in the region this week Iran and the United States considered the possibility of bilateral talks, but have not reached an agreement to do so.

Women from Gregria plant watermelons, using plastic "tents" to extend the growing season

Women from Greigra plant watermelons, using plastic “tents” to extend the growing season

Eric Mattson and Bev Abma, FRB staff, eye a delicious Jordanian Bedouin meal in Gregria

Eric Mattson and Bev Abma, FRB staff, eye a delicious Jordanian Bedouin meal in Greigra

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about finding clarity in the clouds!

In the Old Testament reading, Moses spends 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai in a cloud, speaking with God and receiving the Ten Commandments.  When Moses comes down the mountain his face shines because he has been talking to God. (Ex. 34:29-35)

The psalmist writes that Moses, Aaron and Samuel were among those who called on God’s name and that God answered them (Ps. 99:6).  God “spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.” (v.7)

The FRB delegation made a quick stop at the Dead Sea on the way to Wadi Araba

The FRB delegation made a quick stop at the Dead Sea on the way to Wadi Araba

In the Epistle reading, Paul recounts that Moses’ face shone after encountering God on Mt. Sinai.  Subsequently, after speaking with the people, Moses put a veil over his face so that the people would not see that the shine was fading.  Paul says that this same veil is there today for those who hear the old covenant.  However, in Christ, the veil is set aside.  “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (II Cor. 3:18)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain to pray.  While praying, the appearance of Jesus’ face is changed and his clothes become dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appear briefly.  A cloud envelops Jesus and his terrified disciples.  A voice says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)

Ironically, God often speaks most clearly when things feel most cloudy to us.  Clouds can cause us to feel confused and disoriented.  But they can also filter out distractions, freeing us to concentrate fully on God’s presence and to hear God’s voice with greater clarity.  In the clouds, God seeks to transform us from one degree of glory to another.

Ripe tomatoes in Jordan -- in February!

Ripe tomatoes in Jordan — in February!

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