Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 21, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
This week we enjoyed hosting Darrin Yoder, MCC’s material resources manager. Darrin has been responsible for coordinating shipments of relief kits, school kits, health kits and blankets to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in the wake of the Syrian crisis.
On Monday we visited Caritas Jordan distribution sites in Husson and Mafraq and talked with Syrian families about the violent situations they left behind in their own country.
Caritas has an orderly, efficient and dignity-preserving distribution system, taking time to assess each family’s needs and tailoring its response accordingly. Caritas makes extensive use of a network of Jordanian and Syrian volunteers.
At Caritas’ distribution site in Husson, a family with two boys received several MCC blankets, a relief kit and one school kit. The brother’s both wanted the school kit and had a friendly tugging match for who would get it. As the boys walked away from the distribution site, the Caritas staff member realized that they had made a mistake in the allotment and called the family back. The family ended up leaving with three school kits and lots of smiles.
At the Caritas distribution site in Mafraq an elderly volunteer removed his baseball cap and showed us a large bandage on his head. “I just had surgery,” he said. “I can’t go to my job, so I thought I’d volunteer with Caritas today!”
On Tuesday we visited the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, where MCC SALTer Willy Stell works with children on the deaf-blind unit and offers administrative support for Brother Andrew, who heads the school.
Wednesday we welcomed guests from MedAir, a Swiss organization responding to the Syrian crisis. On Thursday, Paul Parker, a professor at Elmhurst College who is spending his sabbatical at Sabeel Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem, joined us for lunch. Paul regularly leads groups of students and adults on tours to Palestine/Israel.
In the region this week:
- The United States announced plans to send 200 military personnel to Jordan to assist with training exercises. The Jordanian government confirmed that U.S. soldiers would be arriving, but offered multiple explanations for why and for how long.
- The Institute for Health is providing psychological support and art workshops for Syrian residents of the Za’atari refugee camp.
- A suicide bomber killed 27 persons, including 2 children, in a Baghdad café.
- The Right to Movement Marathon was held in Bethlehem — the first ever marathon in the Occupied West Bank.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about shepherds and sheep.
In the reading from Acts, Peter puts into practice the charge that Jesus gave him to “tend and feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). When the beloved disciple Tabitha becomes ill and dies, Peter prays and restores her to life (Acts 9:36-43).
The psalmist describes the shepherd who cares for the sheep by leading them to green pastures and still waters, on right paths and through dark valleys (Ps. 23).
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me,” Jesus says in the Gospel reading. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish,” he promises. (John 10:27-28).
The reading from Revelation offers a stunning image. The Lamb who was slaughtered and who now sits with God at the center of the throne, will become the shepherd, guiding God people to “springs of the water of life.” (Rev. 7:17a). With such a shepherd, God’s people “will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (vv. 16, 17b)
The Bible is filled with paradoxes:
- A shepherd boy with only an abiding faith and a sling shot defeats a bullying giant in full military armor (I Samuel 17).
- The prophet Isaiah paints this image of God’s coming kingdom:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them (Is. 11:6)
- Gentile men and women – thought to be outside the community of the faithful – are lauded by Jesus as the examples of true faith (Mathew 8:5-10; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 4:25-27).
But perhaps the ultimate paradox is that the Lamb who was slaughtered – the picture of utter vulnerability – becomes the powerful shepherd of the sheep, offering them protection, guidance and sustenance.