Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (June 16, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
II Samuel 11:26-12:15; Psalm 32; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
This week we said our last goodbyes in Jordan. On Monday, Wafa Goussous of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate hosted a lovely farewell gathering on behalf of MCC Jordan partners.
On Tuesday we traveled to Karak to say goodbye to our friend Mamun Tarawneh, who has introduced us to many Jordanian families during our time in the Middle East. We enjoyed the Jordanian national dish, mansef — a meat and rice dish served with nuts and yogurt.
On Thursday evening the MCC office staff took us out for a farewell dinner. To use a Middle Eastern expression, we feel generously “fare-welled.”
This will be our last posting from the Middle East. We plan to fly to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 15.
Thanks to those who have journeyed with us during these six years. According to WordPress, we have had readers from 127 countries during the past several years. Many have taken time to send notes of encouragement. Our friend Mike Charles from Arizona, our small group from Washington, D.C. and Don and Lurline Campbell from Brisbane, Australia, deserve distinction as “encouragers-in-chief”! We are still trying to decide whether we will continue a blog — obviously under a new name — when we return to Virginia. If so, it will be at this same site.
There have been significant changes during our six years in the Middle East:
- The aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war uprooted some 5 million Iraqis. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of the Iraqi Christian community left the country since the 1991 and 2003 wars.
- When we arrived in 2007, as many as 700,000 Iraqi refuges lived in Jordan, seeking resettlement to third countries. While the number of Iraqis in Jordan has decreased to tens of thousands, more than 560,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in their place. UNHCR estimates the number could swell to 1.2 million by year end, severely straining Jordan’s infrastructure.
- As a result of the Arab Spring, four governments in the region have been toppled in the past two years – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. A major civil war rages in Syria.
Long-simmering tensions between the minority Bedouin tribes of Jordan and the majority Palestinian population, which arrived as refugees in Jordan after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, are now threatening to split the country apart.
- When we arrived in Amman, a large construction site near our flat was a patchwork of large holes in the ground. Today tall buildings are rising from the ground, comprising the new Abdali downtown.
MCC has also seen major changes. A strategic planning and re-structuring process known as Wineskins has resulted in MCC Canada and MCC U.S. now jointly administering MCC international programs. MCC has also adopted a more rigorous planning, evaluation and monitoring system for partner-implemented projects around the world.
The Common Lectionary readings this week offer still timely reminders about the connections between confession, forgiveness and restoration.
The prophet Nathan confronts King David after he commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband killed. To David’s credit, he acknowledges his sin. While God forgives David, the long-term consequences of his actions haunt him for the remainder of his days (II Sam. 11:26-12:15).
Reflecting on this experience David writes: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. . . . Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:3-5)
In the Epistle reading, Paul acknowledges that we cannot be made right with God by “doing the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16), but by placing our faith in Christ who loves us and gave his life for us (vv. 16, 20).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus commends a sinful woman who has demonstrated her repentance by washing Jesus’ feet, while he criticize a religious leader who neither shows hospitality nor recognizes the depth of his need for God’s forgiveness. “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love,” Jesus observes, “But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke :47)
It will be special to arrive in Virginia in time for Father’s Day. We plan to spend time this Sunday with Holden, Heidi and granddaughter Sydney.
Thanks again to all who have journeyed with us!