Beloved and belonging

1st Sunday after Epiphany (January 13, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 43:1-7; Ps. 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-22

Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas, Jan. 7.  The Christmas season in this region runs for a full month – beginning with Western Christmas on Dec. 25 and ending with Armenian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 19.

A Palestinian Orthodox Christian in Gaza lights a Christmas candle (AFP photo by Mohammed Abed)

A Palestinian Orthodox Christian in Gaza lights a Christmas candle (AFP photo by Mohammed Abed)

On Monday we did a briefing for a 40-member tour group led by Patty Shelly, head of the Bible and Religion department at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

Snow-covered Coptic Orthodox Church in our neighborhood of Amman

Snow-covered Coptic Orthodox Church in our neighborhood of Amman

A huge storm system dumped rain and snow on much of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine-Israel this week, causing flooding, stalled traffic and power outages.  Some Jordanians used the crazy weather to poke fun at local customs and politics.

Hi winds and heavy rain damaged tents at Al-Zaatari Camp in northern Jordan (Reuters photo by Ali Jarekji)

Hi winds and heavy rain damaged tents at Al-Zaatari Camp in northern Jordan (Reuters photo by Ali Jarekji)

But for others, particularly Syrian refugees living in Za’atari Camp, the storm caused serious hardships. Riots broke out at Zaatari Refugee Camp after bad weather damaged some 500 tents.  Citing UNHCR reports, the Jordan Times wrote: “The clashes came as high-speed winds and heavy rainfall pounded the desert camp for the second straight day, damaging 500 tents and leaving dozens of families without shelter.”

Flooding preceded the snow storm in Amman (Jordan Times photo by Hassan Tamimi)

Flooding preceded the snow storm in Amman (Jordan Times photo by Hassan Tamimi)

Students at Jordan University navigate high waters

Students at Jordan University navigate high waters

Also in the region this week:

  • In a radio address, Latin Catholic Bishop of Amman, Maroun Elias Lahham said that Christians and Muslims share the value of peace. He called on Jordan to keep its borders open to refugees who seek safe haven here. They “are our brothers that we have to welcome,” the Bishop said, noting that it remains a big burden for a small country like Jordan which is the fourth poorest in the world in terms of water supplies. “But when you love you share,” the Bishop concluded.
  • An Iranian Member of Parliament said that Iran’s oil revenues are down 45% in the last 9 months as a result of international sanctions against Iran.
Snow-ladened trees provide cover for cars in the Jabal Webdah neighborhood of Amman

Snow-ladened trees provide cover for cars in the Jabal Webdah neighborhood of Amman

The King Abdullah Mosque in Amman is beautiful with or without snow

The King Abdullah Mosque in Amman is beautiful with or without snow

The Common Lectionary readings for this first Sunday after Epiphany focus on belonging and being loved.

The Old Testament reading contains assurances of God’s love. “I have called you by name, you are mine,” records the prophet Isaiah (Is. 43:1). God promises to be present when the people “pass through the waters” and “through fire” (v.2), and to act in the best interest of the people, “Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (v.4)

The Gospel reading chronicles the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. A voice from heaven reassures Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk. 3:22)

Dozens of folks were being baptized in the Jordan River -- near the site of Jesus' baptism -- when we visited in October 2012

Dozens of folks were being baptized in the Jordan River — near the site of Jesus’ baptism — when we visited in October 2012

The Epistle reading also records a story of belonging. The apostles at Jerusalem receive word that Gentiles in Samaria have accepted God’s word. Immediately they send Peter and John to welcome the new believers and share with them the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17).

Especially in difficult times – when we pass through deep waters and through fire — it is easy to forget that we belong and that we are God’s beloved. The Lectionary readings this week offer comfort and reassurance for just such times.

Jessica and Elias Khoury, niece and nephew to our MCC Jordan colleague, Suzi

Jessica and Elias Khoury, niece and nephew to our MCC Jordan colleague, Suzi

Our MCC Jordan colleague's niece, Jessica, with a cap crocheted by our daughter Jessica

Our daughter Jessica crocheted this cap for her namesake

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