Tag Archives: St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Seminary

Last of all, servant of all

17th Sunday after Pentecost (September 23, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Jer. 11:18-20; Ps. 54; James 3:13-4:8; Mark 9:30-37

The provocative Innocence of Muslims movie continues to generate violent responses in the Middle East.  This week the MCC Jordan office invited a small group of Jordanian Christians and Muslims together for a lunch conversation. All are alumni of Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute.

Drawing on the concepts they learned at EMU, the group held a lively conversation, agreeing that: 1) religious faith should be a tool that unites rather than divides the human community; 2) there is no justification for denigrating one another’s religious leaders and symbols; and 3) the violent response after the movie is probably more about long-standing anger over U.S. policies in the region than about the movie itself.

(left to right) Arthur Mann, Jim Fine, Carolyn Reesor, waiter, Deb Fine and Diana Epp-Fransen enjoy a meal together

Arthur and Diana received costumes (dishdasha) from a play about Jonah, which they directed at St. Peter’s Seminary

Also this week, three short-term MCC volunteers finished teaching a five-week Intensive English course at St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Seminary in Erbil, Iraq.  They did an excellent job, under the leadership of Deb Fine, a MCC service worker who lives in Iraq with her husband Jim. While in Iraq, the teachers had opportunities to travel and experience the local culture.

Diana Epp-Fransen, Arthur Mann and Carolyn Reesor will now join MCC staff from Palestine, Jordan and Iraq for a retreat in Amman, Sept. 22-25, before leaving the region.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on what it means to trust and be fully surrendered to God.

In the Old Testament reading Jeremiah describes himself like a gentle lamb led to slaughter (Jer. 11:19a).  The people don’t like Jeremiah’s call for justice.  They look for a way to kill him.  “Let us cut him off from the land of the living,” they say, “so that his name will no longer be remembered!” (v.19b)  Jeremiah trusts God to judge righteously, “for to you I have committed my cause,” he concludes.

Likewise, when the psalmist is under attack he calls out to God, affirming, “But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.  He will repay my enemies for their evil.” (Ps. 54:4-5a)

The hotter and drier it is in Amman, the more the Bogendelia seems to thrive!

In the Epistle reading James writes that heavenly wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)  “God opposes the proud,” says James, “but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (4:6-7)

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples that he will be betrayed into human hands, killed and three days later he will rise again. (Mark 9:31)  The disciples miss his message and the importance of the moment.  Instead, they argue about which one of them is the greatest.  Rather than chastising them, Jesus challenges them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (v.35)

The Lectionary readings remind us that being surrendered to God means:

  • trusting God to deal with our enemies, rather than taking matters into our own hands;
  • being willing to serve others; and
  • willingly being last of all; trusting God to raise us up rather than promoting ourselves.

    Our granddaughter Sydney will celebrate her first birthday in just over a month!

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Living good

12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 19, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 34:9-14; Prov. 9:1-6; Eph. 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

This week our daughter Jessica turned 30, offering indisputable evidence that we are no longer in our 40s! How did that happen? Jessica was born Aug, 18, 1982, at Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. She is now a social worker in Denver, working with children in transitional housing situations. We are proud of Jessica for persevering in a challenging job. Her generous spirit is a gift to many. To celebrate her birthday, Jessica flew to Portland to spend time with friends.

Jessica holds her niece, Sydney

On Friday afternoon we welcomed two new SALT (Serving and Learning Together) volunteers to Jordan. Kristy Guertin, a 2011 graduate from Seattle Pacific University, will be a teacher assistant at Arab Episcopal School in Irbid. William Stell, a 2012 graduate from Wheaton College, will work at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt.

Kristy Guertin and William Stell — on arrival at Queen Alia Airport in Amman.

On Saturday afternoon we welcomed three short-term MCC volunteers — Arthur Mann and Diana Epp-Fransen, both from Winnipeg; and Carolyn Reesor from Toronto — who will be teaching a four-week intensive English course at St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Seminary in Erbil, northern Iraq.  After a brief orientation in Amman, Cindy will accompany the teachers to Erbil.  This is the third summer that MCC has provided English teachers for St. Peter’s.

Arthur Mann, Diana Epp-Fransen and Carolyn Reesor bring significant EFL teaching experience to this year’s Intensive English Course at St. Peter’s

This has been the last week of Ramadan. While many Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, the evenings offer welcomed times for families to gather in homes for meals or to go out to eat. Indeed, the restaurant business does very well during Ramadan.

Amman comes alive during Ramadan evenings (photo by Muath Freij for Jordan Times)

From our home, only  steps away from the King Abdullah Mosque, we will hear the beautiful chanting of the congregational prayers, Aug. 19, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the three-day feast known as Eid al-Fitr.

Jahnabi Barooah, Assistant Religion Editor for The Huffington Post, describes the first day of the Eid:

“Many Muslims wake up early in the morning and pray Salat ul-Fajr, or the pre-dawn prayer. After brushing their teeth, taking a bath and wearing perfume, they have breakfast before heading off to perform special congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Eid. Many Muslims recite the takbir, a declaration of faith, on the way to the prayer ground and give special charitable contributions known as Zakat al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr is a day of great merriment and thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate by gathering with friends and family, preparing sweet delicacies, wearing new clothes, giving each other gifts and putting up lights and other decorations in their homes. A common greeting during this holiday is Eid Mubarak, which means, “Have a blessed Eid!”

While Ramadan is intended to be a time for restoring broken relationships, the fighting in Syria seems only to have intensified in the past month.  The UN observer mission in Syria pulls out Sunday night.  A diplomatic solution seems increasingly unlikely.

Jameel Dababneh, Caritas Jordan’s emergency response coordinator, welcomes a small Syrian boy in Mafraq

The violent situation in Syria is also adding pressure to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, who are hosting thousands of Syrian refugees. On Thursday,  Sojourner’s website published Daryl’s article about the welcome Jordan is extending to refugees.

The threat of Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites is a weekly topic of discussion in local media.  A recent article announced that Israel is prepared to accept 500 Israeli casualties as a consequence of attacking Iran. Leaders of Iran and Hezbollah promised that the retaliation would be on a much grander scale.

The Common Lectionary readings reflect on living good. The focus is on quality of life, not on accumulated possessions.

The writer of Proverbs portrays wisdom as a woman pursuing the simple and calling them to maturity. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed,” she appeals, “Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Prov. 9:1-6)

“Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?” asks the psalmist. “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:12-14)

Chris Thabet and Cindy enjoy a conversation in our home Monday evening. Chris’ father Bassem works in the MCC Jerusalem office and came to Amman this week for training.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that, in spite of the evil around us, the wise “make the most of the time” (Eph. 5:16), “understand what the will of the Lord is” (v.17) and are “filled with the Spirit” (v.18).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus declares himself to be the “living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). Jesus promises that, unlike their ancestors who ate bread that satisfied only for a day, those who eat this bread will live forever (vv. 51, 58), have eternal life (v.54), abide in Christ (v.56), and live because of me (v.57).

Living good is not about the size of our bank accounts, cars and houses. It is not about how much power we hold or the prestige we command. It is about walking wisely, shunning evil, doing good, seeking peace, making the most of the time, understanding God’s will, being filled with God’s Spirit, and feasting on the living bread that Jesus offers.