Lent 3 (March 3, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63; I Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
This was a full week. Cindy had 45 Iraqi adults in her ESL class on Monday evening. She is now teaching three classes each week – two for children and one for adults. All of her students are in the process or resettling to third countries – primarily to the United States.
Wednesday evening we attended “A Spiritual Chants Concert” – an event to strengthen interfaith understanding and appreciation by sharing sacred music from Christian and Muslim traditions. The Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies organized and hosted this event, which was sponsored by MCC.
His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein and head of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies, told the crowd that, around the world, music has lifted the human spirit in times of struggle and has been a bridge between various cultures and faith groups. Prince Hassan called for taking the necessary steps to “transfer from the culture of hatred to the culture of love.”
On Wednesday Daryl attended a workshop on worker care issues for NGO staff who are responding to the growing Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan. MCC is working with Lutheran World Federation to design a program that offers strategies and tools for humanitarian workers who are increasingly stressed by the burgeoning crisis.
On Saturday Daryl visited the Za’atari Camp near Mafraq along with worker care experts Amber Gray and John Fawcett, who are designing a proposal for supporting humanitarian workers. More than 100,000 Syrian refugees live in the camp — about six miles (10 kilometers) from the Syrian border. Click here for more photos.
As many as 3,000 to 4,000 new refugees arrive at Za’atari Camp on any given night, stressing the camp’s infrastructure and placing heavy demands on NGO workers for organizations like Save the Children, which has some 300 staff working in the camp. Street vendors are cropping up everywhere in the camp, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to washing machines.
In the region this week:
- The U.S. government offered $60 million in additional non-military assistance to Syrian opposition groups. More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two-year-old conflict. Some 150,000 Syrians fled the country in February alone. The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan now exceeds 400,000, placing enormous stress on local resources.
- Iran and six nuclear powers (China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States) engaged in talks about reducing sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran scaling back its nuclear program activities. The negotiators agreed to meet again in April, hopefully helping to avert a major confrontation that would benefit no one.
The Common Lectionary Readings this week remind us that humans tend to seek satisfaction in things incapable of offering fulfillment.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” asks the prophet Isaiah (Is. 55:2). “Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them.” (v.7)
The psalmist recognizes the source of satisfaction. “My soul thirsts for you,” he writes. (Ps. 63:1). “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast.” (v.5), he reflects. “My soul clings to you.” (v.8)
In the Epistle reading Paul describes how God delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and provided resources during their 40 years in the wilderness (I Cor. 10:1-4). And yet many of them turned to idolatry (v.7), sexual immorality (v.8), testing God (v.9) and complaining (v.10). Paul urges his readers to learn from this negative example and to stand firm in times of testing, for “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.” (v.13)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus repeats the call for repentance (Luke 13:3, 5) and tells a parable about a fig tree that fails to bear fruit (vv. 6-9).
One of the staff at Za’atari camp told us she used to work in a high-paying profession but left to become a humanitarian worker. She finds the latter to be much richer and fuller of meaning. Likewise, repentance is our human acknowledgement that we too often look for meaning in the wrong places and the wrong things. It is only as we turn away from that which is hollow and seek God and God’s ways that we are satisfied as with a rich feast and that our lives bear fruit.