Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reflections on Travels to Israel

By: Michelle Heinrichs
What was the best part of your trip?  This is the question people ask me when I tell them I have just returned from Israel.  Even now, two weeks later, I am still speechless.  How do I pick from the view of the Sea of Galilee on a sunny morning as I finish the climb at Mt. Arbel?  Or should I choose standing in the Sea of Galilee in the place where Jesus called Peter back to discipleship?  It must have been standing in the Jordan River thinking of how significant these waters were for Joshua, Elisha, and John.  Or maybe it was the mikveh at Ein Gedi, climbing Qumran and Masada, or walking the Jericho Road?  And then there was Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.  And the people.
I’ll offer these two experiences for your consideration.
Caesarea Maritime – I didn’t really know much about Caesarea Maritime.  I learned that Herod developed this city and built the harbor.  This was a Hellenistic city, so Herod didn’t bother with a synagogue, but instead built a theatre, palace, hippodrome, and a large temple to Augustus (because he knew where his bread was buttered).
As we read Acts 10, 12, 21, 25 and 26, I realized the story of Caesarea Maritime was not what Herod or Rome intended it to be.  Caesarea Maritime was the port to Israel – an entry point for Empire to overcome Kingdom.  It was here that Herod shifted the center of government from Jerusalem.  It was here that Roman legions prepared for occupation (and eventually the destruction of the Temple).
But Caesarea Maritime was also the pivot point where Kingdom overcame Empire.  It was here a Roman centurion and his household was baptized.  It was here Paul appealed to Caesar taking his fate out of Agrippa’s hands.   And in this way, what was built to be a tribute to Empire and provide entry to overcome Kingdom becomes a launching point for God’s Kingdom to take over the Empire.
What does this mean for me?  Empire is an out-dated term today – we usually use the “world” or “culture.”  Sometimes these are backed by government and military as well.  Regardless, the same struggle still exists.  The challenge seems to be whether the pivot point where Kingdom and Culture collide will result in the deterioration of the Church or our entry to reach those outside the Church.
Living Stones – We spent an afternoon with David and Rivka, an orthodox rabbi and his wife in the settlement of Efrata and Atallah, a third-generation resident of Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.   They live within miles of each other, but it’s worlds apart.  Sure of home, Rivka emigrated to Israel.  She was an American and a Jewish convert but came to Israel freely.  Attalah owned (owns) land here and lost his home – and cannot move freely in Israel or even just a few miles into Jerusalem.
Rivka and David have hope on not just a secular nation but re-embracing Judaism.  Between them, they have 10 children (both are in their second marriage, one of Rivka’s sons was killed by a Palestinian).  I heard no concerns about the future of their children.  Education is obviously valued because David is a teacher and Rivka mentioned that class she had taken the night before on the Psalm 107.  When the 50-year lease is up on the land they live on, they have no concern about its renewal (they joyfully referred to the Jubilee).
Atallah, however, says with great emotion, “What about my son?”  He does not have hope of getting his land back.  He has not visited it.  He cannot live with his family in the bet ‘ab because the foundations cannot support another story.  He has moved out of the refugee camp and rented an apartment with his wife and son.
Where is true hope found?  Atallah said he is about “20% Muslim” so not very devout.  You could argue that hope is only found in your faith – but I didn’t necessarily see that as the basis for David and Rivka’s confidence.  They have hope because of power.  Living in a settlement may be dangerous – but it is their choice.  The danger Atallah lives with has been forced upon him.
Rivka called herself a “first generation” emigrant to Israel “but someone has to be the first generation.”  She is looking at building something.  Atallah is a third generation refugee in his own land.  He hopes that either he or his son will be the first generation back on their family land.
Rivka and David spoke of their desire for justice and to live righteously, but they also see their life in the settlement as normal.  All Palestinians (and Lebanese, as David fought in this war) are lumped together as Muslims and dangerous.  They don’t seem to see the humanity of their Palestinian neighbors as a reason to actively seek dialogue – or maybe they do but didn’t mention it to us.  They haven’t transferred the common humanity of their Palestinian friend and former neighbor to all Palestinians.
The hopes of David, Rivka and Atallah are really the same – until you get to the Jewish state.
What does this mean for me?  Is justice something you do or is the way you are?  If justice doesn’t define your relationships – especially with your enemies – than can true justice ever result?  It would be easy to judge David and Rivka for being so blind to what is right before them; to what is more than just theory but is flesh and blood just a few miles away.  But then I have to ask myself, what elements of truth and justice in Scripture do I proclaim but fail to translate into my daily life?  Who do I fail to see as my neighbor, a fellow human being created in the image of God?  What is the log in my eye?
“I love the Word, and I love to make it come alive for people.  I love to help them find themselves in the story.  I love to help them hear God’s Word to them – maybe even the answer to the question they didn’t even know they had. I can study about history, archeology, culture, etc., but I would like the opportunity to add to it the smell, feel, sound, taste and spatial experience by actually being there. I believe that this opportunity would bring God’s Word to life in new ways for me so that I may bring it to others.”
I didn’t realize how true these words when I wrote them last year.  I am so thankful to McCormick for the opportunity to travel and study in Israel through the John Hayes Creighton Fund for Graduate Study in the Holy Land and the Robert and Jean Boling Memorial Fund for International Travel and Study.  I would be happy to speak further about my experiences.
Note:  I traveled with Light for the World Holy Land Study Tours (


CLASS of 2013!!!!!

Photo Credit: Jerry Downs, Creative Commons license.



Reflections on the Midwest Region of the SBL Meeting

By: Kristin E. Riegel
On Saturday, February 9, 2013, I traveled to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL for my first Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) meeting. In addition to it being my first SBL meeting, it was also my first time presenting a paper at an academic conference. The paper I wrote, "Queen Vashti and Issues of Power, Resistance, and Personal Agency in Esther 1:10-22," was one I developed in the Fall 2012 under the guidance of Dr. Kelly Whitcomb. The process of writing, revising and then writing and revising the paper again (and again) was one that was tedious, but also fun, as I saw my paper slowly take shape.

At the conference, I presented in the Gender, Sexuality, and Post-Modern Biblical Methodologies session. This section was interesting as many of the papers utilized critical theory, including post-modern and post-colonial theory, to approach, understand, and interpret biblical texts. Using these theories as lenses allowed for new and often liberative readings of texts to emerge. For my paper, I utilized an anthropological lens to examine Queen Vashti's actions in Esther 1. As my abstract states:

Through the lens of anthropological work on honor-shame societies, I examine Esther 1:10-22 and argue that Queen Vashti is a strong, countercultural female character, who by refusing to come at King Xerxes’ command, resists objectification, claims personal agency, and challenges the kingdom’s patriarchal honor-shame-based sociopolitical system. Queen Vashti as a character who disrupts, but is deposed by, power raises important questions about the intersection of the personal and political and the costs involved in challenging oppressive systems. A close literary analysis of the power dynamics in the text, with the aid of an honor-shame lens, sheds light on our understanding of Queen Vashti and challenges female readers to consider more closely the implications of their own acts of resistance as political.

After presenting my paper, there were questions from the audience. I appreciated this time as it allowed for dialogue with and between audience members. Many people shared their work on Esther and raised important questions, especially about the potential impact of this text on women and religious communities today. 

Preparing and presenting a paper at an academic conference was an encouraging experience and one that helped me in my discernment process about further study. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Kelly, to present this paper, and to hear about the work other scholars are doing in the field of biblical studies. I am also grateful to the student session for financially supporting my participation in this conference.

Community Organizing Training

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Feast of Fools!

McCormick's Feast of Fools

 Saturday, May 4, 2013  
6:00 to 9:00pm
McGaw Common Room

Want to participate?  
Have a skit or talent to share with the community?

Email Kristin Riegel.

What is Feast of Fools?
Feast of Fools is McCormick’s end of the year celebration where students, faculty, staff, and others get together to roast and toast McCormick, share talents of song and dance, and have fun! Oh yeah, sometimes there’s also karaoke after the show.

For this year’s show to be best one yet, we need YOU to participate! The more members of the community that host, perform, and come to the show, the more fun it is!

Faith House Manhattan

Faith House Manhattan has developed a new experience-based program on religious diversity for seminary students.  In partnership with Union Theological Seminary, they are offering 3-day custom-made immersion experiences in the rich religious life of New York City.  
If you think this is something that might be of interest, feel free to visit their website, listen to a piece by BBC Radio on one of their prior immersions, and see pictures of an immersion.

If you want to know even more, contact:
Jaime Myers
Director of Programming
Faith House Manhattan
(201) 390-0056

Op-Ed Volunteering by Ronald Barnes

"Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul"

On Monday, May 6th, 5:15-6:15, the PhD Student Association of Chicago Theological Seminary would like to invite you to a special event to celebrate the publication of Dr. Theodore Jennings’ newest book, Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Dr. Jennings offers a re-reading of the Epistle to the Romans that places Paul in the context of radical political theorists.  Dr. Jennings will discuss his book and answer questions.  Books will be available for purchase, and refreshments will be provided.  Please join us in exploring this timely and engaging new work. 

This special event will be held at Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th St, in room 419.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ecumenical Exchange Dinner Success!

On Friday, April 19th, thirty seminarians from McCormick, LSTC, CTU and the U. of C. Div School joined together to share a meal, our unique Christian identities, and seminary experiences.  This was a learning experience for everyone involved and also a networking opportunity for Christian leaders who found common interests across denominational lines.

The evening started off with a prayer and a finely crafted family style meal prepared by the LSTC Refectory staff.  Students were divided evenly so you were given the opportunity to sit with new faces and get to know each other during the meal.

Following the meal, one Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic seminary student presented their personal faith narrative and theological perspective to the group.  Tyler Orem shared his story of the Presbyterian tradition - rather eloquently I might add.  At the individual tables, students were given the opportunity to share their own stories which turned into an open dialogue between Christians who realized how little they knew about each other!  Even just when talking about what seminary life was like, there was a huge diversity of experiences, and we all live in the same neighborhood.

We plan to continue these types of ecumenical student events in Fall 2013.  Plans that are being discussed currently are more dinners with student speakers and themed dialogue, ecumenical pub nights, and opportunities to serve our community to promote justice and peace together.  If you would like to be involved in these events in the future, please contact

We have also been invited to the 13th Annual Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christian Unity for Chicago on Sunday June 9th at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral.  If you are interested in attending this event, please contact for more information.  I look forward to more ecumenical exchange in the future!  I hope you can join.

Young Adults invited to participate in delegation to Palestine & Israel

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is seeking passionate young adults with a commitment to justice and peacemaking to participate in delegation to Palestine and Israel in January 2014.

Have you ever expressed interested in visiting the Holy Land? Have you heard about the conflict in Palestine and Israel and have felt the desire to learn more? Are you familiar with the situation but want to see if for yourself?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then this trip is for you.

Join the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship delegation January 3rd-17th for the opportunity to learn about the situation in Israel and Palestine directly.  Participants will experience the realities of life in the Holy Land – the occupation, settlements, and peace efforts – by meeting with those living there.  Delegates will meet with a few of the almost 250 Israeli and Palestinian peace groups and visit the holy sites in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Galilee.

Those who attend will be expected to be ambassadors for justice at the mid-June 2014 General Assembly in Detroit. Additionally, participants will be asked to make a commitment to work as advocates for the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and control of the Gaza Strip, and for security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship was blessed with a grant to help support travel for young adults to the Holy Land, therefore a large portion of this delegation will be subsidized. Funds are also available for participants' GA expenses.

For more information please visit here or

Application due June 1, 2013.

Preaching the Headlines blog

See what the MWP468: Preaching the Headlines class has been up to! 

Read sample blog posts at:

Exercise your Christian Spirit - Volunteer!

By: Ronald Barnes 
One sunny afternoon my father and I were driving down north Michigan Ave, on the Magnificent Mile. All of a sudden my dad said to me, “See that man over there”

I replied, “Yea dad, he’s going through the garbage, he’s a bum”

My dad replied, “That’s right, he can take care of himself for a long time just going through garbage and finding what others have thrown away. He can survive that way. Anyone who lives life only taking care of them self and does nothing for anyone else is no better than a bum.” Those words have stuck with me to this very day.

TV journalist and anchor Tom Brokaw once said: “It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.”  I attended a meeting on the University of Chicago campus sponsored by a group called Intervarsity Christians. I was amazed at the attendance. There must have been 125 – 150 people there. They were serving delicious Asian food dishes. They organized a bag stuffing session to fill hundreds of gift bags with necessity hygiene items to give to the homeless and needy people. The event was well organized with a room full of positive Christian energy. I was impressed.

I asked two of the attendees why they volunteer and their responses were:

I want to volunteer and help others because it is God's calling for us to love other people selflessly through our actions and words. Ultimately, it is because God loved us first that we are able to love other people, and once we receive God's love into our hearts, we are convicted to share this same love with those around us. Volunteering and doing community service is a very active way for me to show God's love to people in need; it is very humbling because volunteering has opened my eyes and made me aware of just how much spiritual and physical brokenness there is in the community. We can't be stuck in our own bubble, doing everything for ourselves and trying to climb higher up the success ladder. Doing volunteer work keeps me in touch with the reality and to not lose myself in selfish worldly pursuits; it reminds me that our lives are only worth living if they shine a light in other people's lives.  In high school, I worked with a teen-run non-profit organization (Hand Up Youth Food Pantry) that actively fights against hunger in San Diego, California. We hosted food drives and led food distributions that served the homeless, military families, low-income families, teen mothers, and anyone in need. I also did advocacy work to promote anti-hunger legislation by meeting with legislators and raising awareness about hunger. I chose this cause because it was astonishing to me that so many families didn't have access to nutritious food in a city that was known as a wealthy, tourist attraction. These people go hungry not because there isn't enough food, but because the community isn't aware about the issue or doesn't care enough to help them; that's why I wanted to help raise awareness, to arouse the community's attention, and to actively help San Diegans in need.”

“The main reason for my volunteering really goes back to what I believe about myself. I, personally, believe that I was a broken person, sinful and fallen, until Jesus Christ redeemed me. I know that if I am in a more socio-economically advantageous place, it is not because I am better than anyone else, but rather only by the grace of God--nothing of myself. Volunteering and getting connected with the community is one way of being grateful for my undeserved blessings and giving back the things that don't belong to me in the first place-my time and my energy, among other things.”

When I asked a McCormick student why she volunteered her response was most touching:

Why I volunteer:

I am so thankful to God for giving me this "bonus time" in my life. I do not want to squander it or use it foolishly.  I had breast cancer in 1982, endometrial cancer in 1993, and a bowel resection surgery in 1995. Also I have two progressive chronic diseases: Systemic Lupus and Crohn's disease. God has given me a vibrant life and I want to thank him for this extra time, using it to be a servant to others. I like to organize opportunities so that others can serve him too. A project may look complicated, but each person can do just one thing and all will be well. All I ask is that you come and help me. 

What do I get from volunteering?  

I get a sense of "doing something." Too many people talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Each little act helps someone else. There is a famous quote about "I am only one, but I can do one thing." I like to see the smiles on people's faces.  I like to see a relaxed composure when I serve a meal. It is important to me that everyone knows they are valuable. I will listen to your story as I ride the bus or train. In a little tiny way, I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. I'm not perfect and I miss many chances, but I'm trying. I get joy and contentment, because I tried. Also because of my health, I can't wait for next year, when I'm retired, etc.  I must do it now. 

What in your nature caused you to want to volunteer in the first place?  

I saw my parents volunteer at school, church and help the neighbors. I heard stories of grandparents taking in teens that their parents threw out. My farmer neighbors helped each other at harvest time or plowing and planting when someone was sick. I grew up thinking that helping was a way of life.  Everyone did it.  It came naturally. In church, Sunday school, youth group, I learned that volunteering was a way to show your Christian concern for society. So I volunteer at my church serving hungry, under-employed and lonely people. I guess this is just who I am.”

Motivating each person is a Christian spirit and a resulting feeling giving more fulfillments to each of their lives. Volunteering is one way each of us can exercise our Christian Spirit and make a difference.

“Not Alone at McCormick”: A Reflection

By: Tracy Turner
OK, so they look kind of like ghosts, but they are not! This is my interpretation of Christ the King on the Cross, flanked by two convicted criminals. I’ve always found comfort in this Chapter of Luke as well as this iconic image. As sad as this chapter reads, it gives us who believe in the risen Christ the assurance that we are not alone! I enjoyed attending the evening worship service on Monday, it was a great ending to a good workday. There was a small but attentive crowd. The staff who worked to put this together was in good spirits and ready to worship. Things didn’t proceed as planned, however with good humor and faith we eventually came together.

I’ve always been one to add my  ‘touch’ to things and leave my spirit for others to join me in prayer or worship; so when there is an opportunity to express my artistic nature (no matter how unskilled it looks) I’m always willing to take part.

The flyer that promoted this event said, “Let Us Worship Together”; this says to me that no matter what your circumstance, no matter how tired you feel, nor how busy the world is around you…know that you are not alone.  There are always eight, ten or 20 souls willing to gather together, and if not, one or two can call upon the presence of Jesus and he will attend. I would like to encourage the OSA team to continue to work in creating space for worship, play and fellowship. Matt. 18 says; 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” I could go on about my experience Monday night however; I feel that my painting says it best.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

McCormick's Feast of Fools!

Spring is here & McCormick's Feast of Fools is just around the corner. 
McCormick's Feast of Fools
Saturday, May 4, 2013 6:00 to 9:00pm
McGaw Common Room

What in the world is Feast of Fools?
Feast of Fools is McCormick’s end of the year celebration where students, faculty, staff, and others get together to roast and toast McCormick, share talents of song and dance, and have fun! Oh yeah, sometimes there’s also karaoke after the show.

For this year’s show to be best one yet, we need YOU (and yes, “you” means faculty & staff, too) to participate! The more members of the community that host, perform, and come to the show, the more fun it is!

Below are some areas we need help with. If you have other ideas of how you’d like to participate, that’s great! We’d love that, too!  To sign up, email Kristin Riegel.

The fun of this event starts way before the show with crafts and activities for kids and families. Let us know if you’re interested in helping to organize and lead a short activity for kids and families!

We need volunteers to help with the meal, which will be catered. If you’re interested in what food we eat and refreshments we drink, then this is the place for you!

Participate in the show
We need people to write and organize short skits/monologues/etc. for the show. We don’t need to see what you’re doing yet, we just need to know that you’re planning on doing something.  In the past, this has included the faculty performing skits about students, students performing skits about faculty, dance routines, and other forms of debauchery. Remember, the point of the show is to make people laugh, not cry, so be funny, but not mean.

If you want to participate in the show, but don’t feel comfortable writing or organizing a skit, let us know and we’ll find people you can work with or skits that you can participate in.

Host the show
This is usually reserved for seniors, so seniors, sign up!

Set up the set/decorate the Common Room
Don’t want to perform, but want to help with the show? Then, sign up to help set up the set and decorate the Common Room.

Hurrah, 2013 Feast of Fools is underway!