Extreme makeovers

2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 20, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 62:1-5; Ps. 36:5-10; I Cor. 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

The directors of MCC’s three advocacy offices visited us in Amman this week to learn about the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan.

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach visits with Caritas Jordan emergency response coordinator, Jameel Dababneh outside a distribution center in Amman

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach visits with Caritas Jordan emergency response coordinator, Jameel Dababneh outside a distribution center in Amman

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach (MCC Washington), Paul Heidebrecht (MCC Ottawa) and Doug Hostetter (MCC United Nations) met with several refugee families and with MCC Jordan partners who are assisting some of the nearly 300,000 Syrians now living in Jordan.  The most recent issue of MCC’s a Common Place magazine features the stories of MCC partners working with refugees in Jordan.

Rachelle, Paul and Doug with Dr. Kamal Abu Jaber, director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies

Rachelle, Paul and Doug with Dr. Kamal Abu Jaber, director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies

The large influx of refugees is putting strong upward pressure on food and housing prices in Jordan and, in some cases, creating tensions between the refugees and Jordanian host communities.

7-year-old Ghadeer (right) served us tea at her family's one-room flat in Amman

7-year-old Ghadeer (right) served us tea at her family’s one-room flat in Amman (photo by Doug Hostetter)

In the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of Amman, we visited a Syrian family with four small children, living in a one-room flat.  The father earns $125 per month selling clothing.  The rent on their flat costs $100 per month, forcing the family to take out loans to make ends meet.  In spite of the hardships the family has encountered, they welcomed us in their home and the 7-year-old daughter served us tea.

On Friday, we welcomed Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They will be studying Arabic until summer when they succeed us as MCC Reps in Amman.

Gordon and Carolyne Epp-Fransen from Winnipeg will become new MCC Reps in summer of 2013

Gordon and Carolyne Epp-Fransen from Winnipeg will become new MCC Reps in summer of 2013

In the region this week:

  • The Jordanian government announced a contract with MCC partner the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies (RIIS) to promote the Amman Message in the Middle East and Europe.  The Amman Message – which, according to the Jordan Times “seeks to affirm what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not” — was released by His Majesty King Abdullah in November 2004.  “The promotion of the Amman Message reminds Muslims themselves of the true nature of their religion,” said Dr. Kamal Abu Jaber, director of the RIIS. “It is not the terrorist ugly faith that is presented sometimes by the Islamophobia in the West.”

The Common Lectionary readings for this second Sunday after Epiphany highlight extreme makeovers and second chances.

In the Old Testament reading, after a period of exile and shame, God’s wayward people receive a new name and a second chance.  “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,” God promises, “but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married.” (Is. 62:4)

The psalmist contrasts the wicked who do not fear God or do good, who are full of deceit and who plot mischief and evil, with those who drink from the river of God’s delights.  “For with you is the fountain of life,” the psalmist proclaims. “In your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:9)

Our granddaughter Sydney examines a snowflake (photo by Holden Byler)

Our granddaughter Sydney examines a snowflake outside her home in Virginia (photo by Holden Byler)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11).  In a dramatic sign of the theological shift from law to grace, Jesus transforms the water in six large stone jars used for Jewish rites of purification into the finest wine for joyful wedding guests.

In the Epistle reading, God’s Spirit activates gifts in each member of the community, transforming self-interested individuals into ministers for the common good. (I Cor. 12:1-11).

With all the brokenness around us, it is encouraging to know that God is in the business of extreme makeovers – transforming exile and shame into intimacy and delight; legalism into grace and celebration; and self-seeking individuals into a caring community.

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