God guides us

3rd Sunday after Epiphany (January 27, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Nehemiah 8:1-10; Ps. 19; I Cor. 12:12-31; Luke 4:14-21

This week we hosted a group of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) students who are spending the spring semester in the Middle East, led by Linford and Janet Stutzman.  The group of 30 students graciously squeezed into MCC’s small office in Amman to learn about MCC’s work in the region and to hear from several MCC partner organizations who work with refugees in Jordan.

EMU's Middle East students at Jordan's Arnon Valley (photo by Erin Rheinheimer)

EMU’s Middle East students at Jordan’s Arnon Valley (photo by Erin Rheinheimer)

Leila Diab, director of Jordan YWCA, reflected on how her childhood experiences as a Palestinian refugee have influenced her decision to work with refugee issues today.  Frances Voon, staff person with the Jesuit Refugee Services, spoke about JRS’s new higher education program for refugees and the challenges faced by Syrian, Iraqi, Somali and Sudanese refugees living in Jordan.

Amela Puljek-Shank (2nd from right) with Sisters Narges, Maryam and Azhar

Amela Puljek-Shank (2nd from right) with Sisters Narges, Maryam and Azhar

We also hosted Rick Janzen and Amela Puljek-Shank, outgoing and incoming MCC Europe-Middle East directors, respectively.  Daryl traveled with Rick and Amela to northern Iraq, where they met with MCC Iraqi partners — including Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who operate Kids House Kindergarten for some 240 children ages 3-5.

MCC Iraq program coordinator Jim Fine with Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

MCC Iraq program coordinator Jim Fine with Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

On Saturday evening, we hosted the MCC Jordan staff for a belated Christmas dinner.  It was a wonderful time of sharing food, stories and laughter.

MCC Jordan staff with Amela Puljek-Shank (l to r): Nada Zabaneh, Amela, Cindy, Kristy Guertin, Suzi Khoury, Willy Stell, Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen

MCC Jordan staff with Amela Puljek-Shank (l to r): Nada Zabaneh, Amela, Cindy, Kristy Guertin, Suzi Khoury, Willy Stell, Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen

In the region this week:

  • The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted Jordan’s parliamentary elections, Wednesday, due to concerns that the electoral system is weighted toward Jordan’s Bedouin tribes, who dominate the government and security forces.  Not surprisingly, initial results suggest that pro-government candidates will form a majority in the new parliament.  Jordan’s King Abdullah will appoint a prime minister from among the largest blocs in parliament, or someone approved by them.
  • Thousands of additional Syrian refugees spilled into Jordan, even as the Jordanian government prepares to open a second refugee camp. MCC is assisting the refugees through several local Jordanian partners.
  • At least five people were killed Friday in Fallujah when Iraqi security fired on Sunni protesters and worshipers.  For the past month, Sunni Muslims have been protesting what they perceive to be second-class treatment under the Shia-led Iraqi government.
Hanaa Edwar, general secretary of Iraqi al-Amal

Hanaa Edwar, general secretary of Iraqi al-Amal

The Common Lectionary readings offer glimpses of God’s guidance.

In the Old Testament reading, exiles who have returned to Jerusalem from Babylon ask Ezra the scribe to read the law of Moses to the assembled crowds. Ezra agrees, reading from early morning until midday.  His assistants then explain the law to the people so that they will fully understand God’s expectations (Neh. 8:1-10).

The Psalmist writes that God’s law revives the soul (v.7a), makes wise the simple (7b), brings rejoicing to the heart (8a), enlightens the eyes (8b) and warns against harmful ways (v.11).  There is great reward in keeping God’s commandments, the psalmist declares.

In the Epistle reading, Paul describes God’s plan for the church – the body of Christ.  Members are given differing gifts for the benefit of the whole. By functioning in unity, the parts of the body can effectively care for one another, both rejoicing and suffering together (I Cor. 12:12-31)

In the Gospel reading, the Spirit empowers the ministry of Jesus, guiding him to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of God’s favor (Luke 4:14-19).

In the midst of the chaos and suffering which seem so prevalent in our world, God’s guidance comes in many ways – through God’s written word; through the community of God’s people working together; and through God’s empowering Spirit.

Amela with MCC Iraq English teacher Deb Fine, outside Mar Qardakh School -- expected to become the first IB school in Iraq

Amela with MCC Iraq English teacher Deb Fine, outside Mar Qardakh School — expected to become the first International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Iraq

 

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