Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hear our cry O God, when righteousness upturned….
when the river of justice is directed away from the weak……
when crocodile tears flood from the thrones…
when our protests are confronted with ‘moral codes’ and protocols…
when our traumas are equated with currencies ….
Let our cry realize your presence as in the lives of Dinah, Tamar, Soumya and Jyothi…. Let their tears lubricate the immobilized structures of justice.  Let their weeping faces and torn fleshes fire up our conscience 
In Jesus’ name….Amen

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Green in the Rainbow

Text:Genesis 9: 8-17

This week is observed as the Environment Week and this Sunday the Church meditates on the Ecological Sunday.  The text involves the communication of YHWH with Noah after the great flood. The flood story and the incidents followed by it have a great ecological relevance.

I. An Altar that affirms a Cosmic centered community.

The whole passage happens in the context of worship and an altar. Soon after the great flood, YHWH establishes a covenant. Unlike the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants, this covenant is an everlasting universal promise by YHWH. This covenant can be seen as a promise with not only Noah but to the whole creation. It is the first covenant in the Bible that is applicable to the generations for ever. In other words this law is an attempt to remind and reaffirm that human beings, how advanced they are, is a part of the Cosmos.  
The so-called ‘developments’ of our times are aimed more towards an isolated growth of human beings secluded from the nature.  Modern technologies are also interested in ‘creating’ environments rather than adapting to the nature [Whatever weather outside you stay cool inside!]. This Isolated growth assisted by modern technologies had compelled human beings to destroy nature and its resources. Nature is considered as a mere object for manipulation, a sink to dump waste products. This Anthropocentric, Ando-centric view has ruined the nature. In this context, this covenant is an attempt to rejoin human to the nature’s link.
More often in the funeral services we are reminded that human beings are a part of cosmos and will return to the soil from where they are taken. This passage reminds that the voices arise from the altar must always enable the people to have a cosmic centered spirituality. By overcoming the third temptation Jesus overcame the enticement to become a Super Human by overriding the laws of nature. Human beings are not isolated beings but called to be a cosmic centered Community.

II. Listening to the Groaning of Creation through Calamities

The covenant mentioned here reveals that flood will not become an agent of destruction again.  It was also a promise that water will not became an agent for destruction of the Earth.
Traditionally natural calamities are considered as the signs of God’s wrath that is irresistible.  Even the warranty/guarantee of many damaged gadgets could not be covered if it is caused by God’s activities. But a close examination of this covenant reveals that Natural Calamities are not Natural or God’s action. This covenant reveals that natural resources are not the basic agents of natural calamities. In other words, neither the Nature nor God cannot be blamed for the disasters; Human induced activities are the key agents of natural calamities. In this context the Global warming, global dimming, Snow sliding of our times can be interpreted as the groaning of creation due to human exploitation.

III. Rainbow as a ray of hope 

The flood narrative ends not with a catastrophic devastation but with a graceful hope to the entire creation. Whenever YHWH see the bow [usually interpreted as the rainbow], YHWH promises to remember the creation. The weapon used for fighting and killing has now transformed to a tool for love and redemption. Rainbow is not only a natural phenomenon nor an optical illusion; it has a great theological significance. It is the most powerful symbol of hope from Genesis to Revelation. In Ezekiel and in Revelation, rainbow is symbolized as the God’s glory.  Rainbow reflects the idea of diversity. Diversity is the only treasure and tool in the nature that sustains life and hope in the midst of all calamities. The ark of Noah too is an outstanding example of this bio-diversity. 

 Lastly, rainbow often appears in a cloudy sky. But the presence of rainbow affirms that there is sunlight behind the one who views it. This is our only hope in our journeys and struggles for a new alternative world. Whenever we saw the cloudy complex conditions in our actions, the rainbows in the journey reflect the  our God’s presence with us. Amen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Propensity towards a deforming spirituality-by Abraham Sudeep Oommen

Text: Exodus 32:1-6

‘Hijacking’ is a familiar term for many of us. It means seizing the control of a person or an object for an undesired function. The confiscation of Indian Airlines in Kathmandu in Dec 24, 1999 and the air bus in 09/11 has made this term a more familiar. Interestingly this word has not often used for the last decade. But for the last one month, this term, in another sense, has become a topic of discussion in Kerala. A catholic magazine of this month labeled one of its articles as ‘Hijacking the Christ’. The vanishing of Christ’s face  from the Da Vinci’s last supper and the appearance of Christ’s picture  in a so called traditional atheist political party meeting may have influenced  the author to work on this title. But this incident should make us to think whether we, as Christians, have hijacked Jesus Christ. Are we following the person and work of Jesus who lived in the first century Palestine? Are we following the ethical values upheld by Jesus? One of the portraits in the quarters of my theology professor reads like this “O God, save us from your followers”. I think this thought has originated from the hearts of a person who feel Christians as the hijackers of Christ.
The passage also depicts the hijacking of YHWH by the people of Israel. The passage begins with a confusion of the people of Israel due to the absence of Moses. The people were ashamed and impatient on the non-responsiveness from the Mount Sinai. As a result they approached Aaron and asked to make a god for themselves. I believe that the expression ‘make us a God who can lead us through the wilderness’ is one of the hardest phrases in the entire scripture. They didn’t search for a God who revealed in their pains and pathos in Egyptian bondage, but tried to construct a god who is adaptable with their needs. They are not asking for a god who lead them through the wilderness but for a god whom they can handle.
There may be many reasons that made Israelites to demand the need of a constructed god. The life in Egypt was a static one which is contrary to the exodus journey which involves dynamic events like red sea, desert, Marah, wars and so on. They may be fed up with the adventurous journey through the desert which awards these unexpected events to them. They failed to see the works and providence of YHWH in their risky journeys. The transition in the social status of the people may have also compelled them to demand for a ‘god with handles’. The shift from cucumber to manna, from bondage to freedom has made them to think for an alternate God. May be the need for a symbol or an icon has made them for demand for a God. Unlike Israelites, the other people had many cultic symbols to denote their success, fertility. So it may be a need of the people to get a cultic symbol like that.
Whatever may be the reason; we too believe and like to see this passage as the fault and flaw of the people of Israel. But often we forget or caused to make forget that all these incidents happened by the orders of Aaron, the priest. The priestly presence which is often considered as holy and serene had made the people to move and accept a deforming spirituality.  
When Aaron heard the need of the people he asked them to collect the gold rings from their wives and children and he fashioned it in to a calf which is the symbol of success and victory in those times. He made an altar for its worship and announced a celebration. A faith affirmation, “These are your gods, O Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” was formulated.  Sacrifices were offered to the god. Feast and festivals were started.  Aaron who was called to be the ‘tongue of YHWH’ has now become a ‘God maker’. The priest par excellence has now become a compromising person.
Similar voices can also be heard in the present day society. Many people in our times demand for a success oriented, safety oriented spirituality which are often selfish motivated. Many of them want a God which can be handled easily. In this context, we can see leaders and priests who make god for selfish interests. Similar to this passage we too can hear the interesting songs and interpretations of such people who try to manipulate God for their vested interests. These ‘god-makers’ like the king-makers, are the agents of a deforming spirituality. Kosuke Koyama, the well known third world theologian,  in his book, No handle on the cross, explains the difference between technology and theology: “ The basic difference with the technology and theology is that the former gives us both an engine and a handle, where as the latter has an engine but no handle. Theology does not aim to control the power of God. The theology that puts a handle to the power of God is no longer a theology but a demonical theological ideology.” The priests and leaders are called not to mould God but to mould the life of people and drew them to more and more commitment towards God
The result of this inclination in spirituality by the priest is well depicted in the passage. Unlike the preceding chapters, Aaron is never called to meet YHWH along with Moses. His office, as a priest was cut down to conduct some ritualistic cultic practices. The people of God too are affected with this attitude.  Instead of addressing the people with the usual phrase “my people”, YHWH addresses them as the corrupted people and the stiff-necked people. Moses breaks the two stone tablets which hold the commandments.  There is no need of a commandment for those who never had a commitment to YHWH. Moreover Moses asks them to fought within the community and kill their own brothers and sisters. It symbolizes the destruction of a community in the absence of a God. Furthermore YHWH sends plague on the people. In short,  every attempt to manipulate God disturbs the relation with God, nature and with the fellow human beings.
The priests are called to be the ‘bridge makers’, the ministers of the word and the sacraments. Are we considering these duties seriously? Rev.Dr.S.Jaganathan, professor of the department of Old Testament in Gurukul Lutheran Theological college, Chennai,  wrote in a devotion that Terrorism and violence need not come with political rebels; it can come from altars and pulpits with a sacred coating, it is more violent when it is oriented towards a systematic marginalization of the helpless”. Does the voices from the altars and perpetuates selfishness and success and comfort oriented spirituality? May our almighty God help us to be effective ministers in the society.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Listen to the Voices of the meek by Biji M.Raju

Listen to the Voices of the meek

Text:  1 Samuel 9:1-14

This passage illustrates the story of a man who went in search of his father's lost donkeys and founds a kingdom instead. This is the preface for the first anointing of Saul a benjimate as king of Israel who was sent out by his father to search for his lost donkeys which had strayed. Saul and the servant searched for the donkeys in vain. As time goes Saul feared that his father might have been worried about them leaving the thought about the lost donkeys because they were far away. So when Saul  decided to return home then his servant said that there was a man of god in the town,  man of honour, whose words always come true. He also said that perhaps the prophet  will tell us about the journey on which they have set out. It was very absurd that the servant knew about Samuel and told  Saul of his presence in the city in the land of zuph. This may disturb us and sound very strange. We suppose that the name of Samuel could have been as  familiar to all the people of Israel as the name of Gandhi to the people of India. But for Saul it was something new. Doesn't this indicate that here was a family living entirely outside all religious connections, entirely immersed in secular things, hearing nothing about godly people, and hardly ever even mentioning their names? .
Verse 7 also says about  a custom in Israel that if a person want to a meet a seer, they should have a present  as a token of respect. When Saul thought of the present he should bring to the man of God, he found his hands empty. Here again the poor servant came with solution that he can present the money that he had to the man of god to tell about their way, a quarter shekel of silver. A quarter shekel of silver would have been equivalent of a week or so of wages for the ordinary working man. This would be appropriate considering the value of the donkeys that had been lost.  On other hand we can say that the poor unknown servant is the reason why Saul to get the kingship, the greater privilege for a Benjamin, a small tribe could never have aspired to dominate over other large tribes in Israel
                   In the bible also we see many people like this whose service and help enable others to get blessings in their life. For an instance in 2 kings 5 we can see Naaman getting healing on account of the initiative of an unknown young slave girl.
                 Dear friends, in our society and in our church we see many people like this who don't have any name or identity or any recognition. But in the fuss of the society we cannot see or hear their voices. We are not ready to recognise or honour them nor hear the voice or cry of the meek. When we hear the voices of the meek we consider it as silly, because we feel that we are more experienced, educated and sometimes far better in the social status . But these incidence of unknown servant and unknown slave girl shows that the voice of the meek may lead to change and blessings in our lives. There are many barriers  which restricts us from hearing their voice, the barriers of economic status and social statuses. We should overcome our barriers to build the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ who is the model for our mission and vision gives importance to the poor widow's offering   rather than all the other rich offerings.
          In our midst we also see such persons whose silent actions and works result in the greater achievement of society as well as our church. We neither recognise nor listen to their words or hear their cries. Don't we think that they were  only the stepping stones for our success. Don't we close our eyes and ears to the cries of the poor, low and downtrodden, who lose everything even life, in the name of development and modernization. We should also be sensitive to their voices. It is our responsibility to respond to their voices, some time the voice of cries. How much importance are we giving to their cries? their cry for their land, rights etc.  For instance the land acquisition for power projects in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, lot of people lost their land and their right to  live. What's our stand towards the victims of the so called developments. As a theological community, the follower of the Christ, the revolutionist for the poor, what's our stand?. In Matthew 25 last judgement is based on our attitude towards the poor and needy.
what is our response towards vulnerable.   Will we become an agent for a change ?
May the almighty strengthen us to become agents for a sea change. Amen
[Biji M.Raju, the preacher of this sermon, is a second year B.D student in Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Chennai.]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Anger- a way to express our concern

Text: Mark 3:1-6
Dr. Kadheeja Mumtaz, a leading medical professor in the Department of Gynecology, shares one of her experience in the medical college. On her first day in medical college as the assistant professor, she met a fourteen year old pregnant girl who came for abortion along with her parents. After consultation the doctor advised her not to abort the fetus as she is suffering from chronic heart disease. Her father who was very calm and polite listened to the doctor’s advice very patiently. On the other hand her mother, she was very angry and cried to the doctor that in spite of her daughter’s heart disease she wanted her daughter to undergo abortion. Dr. Kadheeja stood spell bound to see such a mother who wants to uphold the reputation of her family costing her daughter’s life. However a deep conversation with the mother revealed the fact, that the pregnant girl’s father himself was responsible for the pregnancy. This mother out of her deep anguish asked the doctor how her daughter can take care of the child who was born from her own father. What does this mother’s anger reflect?

The passage we listened also portrays an angry Jesus who involved in one of the Sabbath controversies. The scene is set with three parties, which allows interpreting the scene from various perspectives. Here we can clearly see the fight between Jesus and the religious leaders on the issue of saving life and the keeping the Sabbath.

The Sabbath had served as a mark of self identity to the people of God that separated them from Gentiles and it also presented a constant testimony to their faith in one God. Sabbath was intended to be a day of joy, a day of rest and has also included an element of social justice.

But later the same day was transformed in to a day for being passive. According to Jewish interpretations there are about 39 actions that are forbidden on the day of Sabbath. In fact the observance of Sabbath has became a crushing burden, a symbol of religious bondage. Thus for the religious leaders to keep Sabbath is ‘ doing good’ where as healing the person is ‘doing evil’. Jesus deliberately uses this occasion to teach the dignity of life by placing himself on the side of human worth against a depersonalized legalism.

Jesus became very in making the man as a mere object in the whole plot to trap Jesus. The strong anger . Jesus’ anger against the narrow attitude of the religious leaders is a means to express his deep relationship and care for others, especially the less privileged. His anger was an invitation to look into the situation in the perspective of the victims. His power of anger resulted in the restoration of the man.

Usually anger is portrayed as the opposite of love. It is expressed as one of the deadly sins. But from this passage we can see that Jesus’ anger is a mode of taking others seriously and helping them to find a space. It shows an explicit relation to others and a clear form of caring. For Jesus, anger is a radical activity of love that expresses solidarity and reciprocity. In other words we can see the power of anger in the works of love.

Anger is a sign of the resistance in ourselves to the morality of the social relations in which we are placed. All serious human activity, especially action for change arises from the rising power of human anger. Can’t we see an angry Jesus in Jerusalem temple?

As a part of church and as a part of theological community, we often thinks that anger is not a part of the spirituality. We are often blind to see the angry feelings of the people. We often undermine the anger as uncultured or an undisciplined. We are trained to ‘hear’ the cries of the people, but are we equipped to see the anger of others? Do we realize that When ever a person confronts us in anger he or she is demanding an acknowledgement from us? And whenever anger is hidden or un-attended, the power of love, the power to act also dies.

May our anger reflect our deepest concern to bring justice to our society...Amen