Ronaldo vs Messi?So What?

1 Corinthians 3: 21- 4:7

So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,  and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.  For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

 

Message

The social media across twitter, Facebook, whatsapp was abuzz with the debate of “Messi Vs Ronaldo”. Let me clarify that I am a Messi maniac. When I am truly low, I turn to youtube to see the videos of his best compilations of his goals. I just can’t get enough of it. 2010 when Germany literally humiliated Argentina in the World Cup quarter finals, I did not sleep that night. In 2014, I was sure the day of redemption is very bear as it was Argentina vs Germany in the finals and I would be alive to see Messi lift the coveted trophy. I was so confident about the victory that I decided to do a screening for all interested to come and see the match at the parsonage (place where a priest lives). But again I faced humiliation as Argentina lost. As a Barcelona fan, supporting Messi was awesome but not so with Argentina. But we all had one question that settled all equations “What has Ronaldo done for Portugal? How many World Cups or Euro has he won?” Things in the recent times got ‘messier’ when Argentina lost the Copa America 2016 to Chile which broke all the Messi fans’ hearts when in a fit of emotions the wizard of football declared his decision to retire from playing for Argentina. I honestly was shattered. My wife now has become used to such madness of mine and has made her peace with it. To make things worse, the jail term for tax evasion did nothing good for Messi or his fans. But we all had one solace. “What great did Ronaldo do for Portugal?” That too was snatched away from us on 10th July 2016 when Portugal won the Euro 2016 and the inspiration of Ronaldo was instrumental for this victory, at least I cannot deny. Now I am just exploring this human phenomenon of just not being a fan, but also about denigrating the rival of the idol we admire. As a Rafa fan, I could not stand Federer. Because I loved Rahul Dravid, I neither liked Sachin nor Ganguly. Please bear with my rant on basis of the passage above.

During the times of Paul, is Appollos better or is it Peter or is it Paul, was a debate in the Market place. Therefore these apostles had their own fan clubs. If you are a follower of Appollos, you would detest Paul and Cephas (Peter). This rivalry was actually doing no good to the church and Paul addresses it in this passage. He exhorts them not to boast in human leaders. Vs 6 is very significant.  Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” Puffed up? Some translation says pride one over other. Normal word for pride in Greek should be hubris. But the word that Paul uses here is physioo.   It is an unusual word. Paul uses it here and another five times in this particular book and once in Colossians  You will not find it anywhere else in the Bible as it is used only by Paul.  By using this particular word, Paul is trying to teach these Corinthians something about the human ego. This word used here for pride literally means to be overinflated, swollen, distended beyond its proper size. It brings to mind the image of a balloon. There is a picture here. Imagine going to a shop. You ask for Balloons. You get a packet. You take one out of it. What is the size of the Balloon? Small and the texture of the balloon is opaque. Now blow air into it. It takes a larger size. It becomes transparent. It is full of air. Paul says that the pride we have in our lives is like the empty hot air in the balloon. So when we live a life of a fan to its extreme, we are living a borrowed life. We are not happy with the original size of the balloon. So we attach ourselves to heroes and derive self worth and self esteem. But this is still emptiness. It does not do any good. It gives an illusion that you are something with all the air. It is just that your ego is puffed up. An admirer of Messi will also admire the dedication of Ronaldo. If it becomes Messi Vs Ronaldo, it is an infantile ego game. Attaching ourselves to any human leader beyond a point is also similar. Why do you think that people troll each other so mercilessly over P.M. Narendra Modi. Some venerate him and some hate him. People derive their identity by associating with such human figures and their heroics. Paul reminds, it is like hot air inside the balloon. Now keep the balloon in your imagination. You have a filled balloon in your hand. Take a candle. Light the candle. Bring the balloon to the candle and there you go. The balloon will burst. Anybody knows that.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 3: 21 is trying to say, fill yourself with God in Christ. Keep the Balloon image intact. Pick another empty balloon. Do not fill air. Instead fill water into it. It is in your hand. Now take the candle next to you. Bring that balloon near the candle. Bring the water balloon even closer. It will burst, isn’t it? For a science ignorant like me, I was surprised when the balloon did not burst. It survives the heat. With God being the centre of our lives, we are like the water balloons, no matter how terrible the situation, we will not burst.

Paul gives us a timely reminder that humans and their heroics will fascinate us. We will enjoy it and venerate it. But in the end, it is just a borrowed life. Let us not be so fragile, so as to derive identity from such human icons. It is all hot air. Let the Holy Spirit fill you to live an authentic life where you take risks to be in the heat of the world and are driven to action to make this world a better place.

In the meanwhile enjoy the game. I have started to read up on Ronaldo and his inspirational rise. Similarly it teaches me, envy too is a game of pitching ourselves with our perceived competitor. In this, we trust that we deserve more than our competitor. We fill ourselves with hot air of pride to be burst by the circumstances of life. Let the Holy Spirit fill us to trust God and He will adequately fill us.

*If this is not enough, let me introduce you to Mummy Logic

She Says “They play, they earn, they win, they lose, they train, they live, why are you losing your sleep. Do what you can with your life.

Enough said. mes

 

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Mera Parmeshwar Chor Hai

Luke 23:39-43

 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Message

“Hello Rev Merin, how are you?” This was a phone call from an unknown number and whose voice I just could not manage to place. So I tried to act as if I know who this is. “I am fine. How are you?” I have highlighted the ‘How are you’ because I was just hoping the person across would reveal who it is and end the game of “Guess who?” But the person continued “So you remember who I am?” I was wondering if it was Malayalam Superstar Suresh Gopi as his favourite one liner is “Orme undo ee mukham? ” (Do you remember this face). Jokes apart this was not funny at all. “You do not remember right? You have forgotten us.” And this person disconnected the call. I was dumb founded. How irrational this person was? Why was he so offended? What is there to be so offended?

To be remembered is the basic need of all human beings. Our life is a consistent struggle to be remembered. When we are remembered it means we matter, we belong, we exist. There is life, presence and relationship in being remembered. Being remembered is to affirm of our wholeness. Remember is Re-membering. When you remember a person you say, you are a member of my life, you are connected to me, you are part of my story. And if you do not remember, the exact opposite is what happens. The person feels dis-membered, disconnected from your life and concludes that they are no more part of our stories and not members of our lives. That really hurts, there is an isolation that other person feels in being dis-membered.

The scene at Calvary with Jesus hanging on the cross with 2 thieves on both of his side has caught my imagination. Leonard Sweet at Maramon Convention said that the picture of Calvary is not that Jesus is alone on the cross. The scene at Calvary is the picture of 3 Crosses. Let us hear the prayer of one of the Thieves “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23: 42) The thief wants to be remembered. That is his prayer.

We have to now connect some dots. In Luke chapter 22 we see Jesus having Passover with his disciples.  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22: 19) What was Jesus saying here? He was saying, I am giving you my body by being broken for you. Jesus is asking his disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus wants to be Re-membered in the story and lives of the disciples. Jesus wants to be part of our stories and wants us to be part of his body. So the Holy Communion is allowing Jesus to be re-membered in our lives, to invade our lives. Are you ready to re-member Jesus in your lives?

Is this always possible?  After the Passover meal Jesus is arrested and let us see what one of his disciples does.  Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.”But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” (Luke 22: 55-60).

Peter is denying him? So what? Peter is dis-membering Jesus from his life by saying “I am not with him, I am not a member of his group.” Out of fear, Peter wants to forget that he is a member of Jesus’ group, a follower. Peter does not want to be part of Jesus’ body as he knows He is headed toward the Cross. We too wish to forget that we are members of Jesus’ body. It is dangerous. It is inconvenient. It is boring and we do not want Jesus to be part of our lives. We want Jesus to leave us alone in some aspects of our lives. We too deny like Peter.

And it is here that we see the thief at the Cross who has a life broken in regret, in pain, in contradictions, revenge, sin and remorse. He is a dis-membered person. He asks Jesus to Re-member him. Jesus promises him “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 43). Jesus says “You will be ‘with me’ (joining the dots) in Paradise. Jesus keeps saying to us that we who are alienated from ourselves and our Creator, Jesus through the Cross has re-membered us into the eternal story of God. It is such a beautiful thing that Jesus says, that we will never be forgotten. Not because of who we are. We will be remembered, because of “Whose we are”. That is Paradise.  My dear friends Jesus promises to Remember you. You are important to him. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49: 15)

At an early age Sam lost his father due to an unfortunate circumstance. There were some people responsible for it. He grew up with hatred and a sense of revenge. But Sam was blessed with a devout mother who had faith in God and abandoned herself and her 4 children in the hands of God. She taught Sam the importance of faith and worship. When Sam became a youth the hatred deepened surrounding the death of his father. The sense of revenge got louder. He was entrapped in the cage of regret, hatred and revenge. It affected his personality. He attended the worship and took part in the Holy Communion but he could never let go of his deep seated wounds. The only comfort was the love and prayer of his mother. Rev K.O. Philipose who was the Vicar of his church introduced him to the love and grace of Lord Jesus through his pastoral care. One day when he took part in the Holy Communion, Sam was moved by the words of Liturgy said by the priest before he administered the Holy Body and Blood. “The Holy Body and Holy Blood  of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, is given to you for the health of body and soul.” When he received the body and blood of Christ he remembers being moved beyond words. This encounter led him to experience the Cross and his fragmented body of hate, revenge, anger and self pity was re-membered into the beautiful promise of Jesus. His hatred had forced him to forget the promise and offer of Jesus. But the Broken Body of Christ and Blood poured out  on Calvary saw his life being invaded by Jesus with his wonderful promise of being remembered.  It was this encounter that turned his life around where he let go and waited for God to catch him. It was this act of surrender that shaped his course of life. This story is the true story of my friend and mentor Rev Sam who is currently the Vicar of Kuwait Mar Thoma Church.

Leonard Sweet Says the story is of the Thief on the left, the thief on the right and the thief in the middle. What? Jesus also is a thief who robbed from us our shame, our guilt, our regrets and pain. He has robbed us from the world that easily forgets and dismembers us. Jesus is the Holy Thief who 3-crosses re-members us. We are his Beloved and being remembered by him, we are eternally alive in Paradise.

Rev Merin Mathew

Bethel Mar Thoma Church

Kolar Road, Bhopal

Who Is Your ‘Onesimus’?

Who Is Your ‘Onesimus’?

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GeethaPhilemon: 8-20.

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty,  yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.  I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me.  I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.  I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel;  but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever,  no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.  So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.  Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

 

Message-.

 

Let me quote a story illustrated by Stephen Covey in his book “Eighth Habit” which I have adapted to my convenience. “ In  a school a teacher declared to the Class 8 that the next day he would conduct a written quiz. The quiz would have a question paper with 20 questions. The students were all excited and surveyed encyclopedia, google, Wikipedia, etc. to do their best in the quiz. The day came. The teacher distributed the question papers. Their pen were in a ready, get, set, go… mode. The questions were tough but their preparations were great. Till the 19th question the sailing was smooth. But the 20th question was a stumbling block. Nobody knew the answer. One of the students stood up and asked “What kind of a question is this? Name the woman who helps in cleaning the premises of your school? Is that a question worthy of a quiz?” The teacher patiently replied. “Son, you know the name of the president of Belaruz. The name of the Fifa Player of the year comes to you as easy as breath, but the lady who has been cleaning the school premises seems invisible to you. When she walks around you don’t even acknowledge her. It’s a danger when we recognize and acknowledge people only on basis of labels and merits. We need to respect people as humans. Even if you have answered 19 questions, if u can’t answer the 20th one, my students you have failed the quiz of being good humans.” Let us ask who the invisible people in our lives are.

 

Now, how many reading this note has written postal letters? As some of my cousins were far away in Kerala and when there were no emails, facebook, Whatsapp,  to be in touch and when phone calls were strictly to be spoken for 3 minutes maximum, Inland letters were the only way to be in touch. My cousin Rev Mathews George was the best at writing letters and I was very lousy at replying it. During my seminary days, I used to wait eagerly for the letter of my mother who used to give all the details of our home and used to assure her prayers for my seminary studies. The personal touch of a postal letter cannot be recaptured. Of all the letters Paul has written, letter of Philemon is the most personal one in my reckoning.  Paul’s Letter to Philemon is a classic letter to a Christian who had a runaway slave. Philemon seems to be a very devout Christian, with lavish praises from Paul. But then the shift in the letter is very disturbing and intriguing. It seems Philemon had a slave who ran away from him. Running away from a master was a crime worthy of imprisonment. Paul himself was imprisoned for reasons not mentioned here. Prison seems to be the contact point of Paul and Onesimus. We can assume that this slave had brought Philemon huge loss in his act of running away. This is where the appeal of Paul to accept Onesimus as a brother and not a slave becomes very important.

Let us analyse Philemon. He was a very zealous Christian but his slave was beyond the ambit of the Gospel or communion. He needed a Paul to remind him about the dignity of a slave. It was not in the stratification but the communion of Jesus that makes us all brothers and sisters in fellowship. Philemon thought that the gospel was only for people in the church and the slave at home was away from it. Probably he even did not recognize the personhood of Onesimus. It is here that Paul reminds that Onesimus is a human worthy of being called a brother. We too are like Philemon. We need a Paul to remind us about the dignity of people around us. Let us look around and ask ourselves what are our attitudes towards our servants at home, peons at our work places, the auto rickshaw drivers, coolies et al, and we will find that our attitudes are abysmal, marred with suspicion and prejudice. It may have basis too. But Paul reminds us we have to rise above these prejudices and accept people and respect them as our brothers and sisters. We may answer that we do not mistreat them. That is true, we hardly ill-treat any of them. But the problem lies somewhere else. The problem is that these people have become invisible for us. We behave as if they do not exist. Ignoring the existence of the personhood of people is a sin comparable to no other.

The meaning of Onesimus is useful. But Philemon considered him useless. The idea of seeing people in the binary or category of useful and useless itself is demeaning. Onesimus has incurred heavy loss to Philemon and Onesimus sure was in no position to repay him. This part of the letter is the climax and the zenith in verses 18 and 19 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” Boooom. Did you hear that? This letter is just not about platitudes. Just not free advice. Paul is ready to vouch for Onesimus by saying all the debts Onesimus has incurred, Charge that to my account. Paul is saying, I stand for him, I take the guarantee. Charge that to my account. It sounds like a blackmail or arm-twisting tactic. But he is doing it for a brother he found in prison and who is no more a slave but a son of Christ. When we keep saying Jesus died for the debts of my sin, it is just platitudes as we do not understand the magnitude of the cost. Paul knows it and brings into action by being ready to pay a debt for someone who can never pay the debt. I do not know about you, I am deeply moved by the passion with which Paul ends the letter. If I may say, I see his eyes pop out when he is writing it with intensity. What a wonderful letter

 

There is a ragged lady who kept coming to our Church in Bhopal. After the service, I kept ignoring her and behaved as if she does not exist. But she kept persisting. I used to give her token amounts of Rs 5 and 10 just to shoo her off. But still she kept coming. One day I told her “Amma, baar baar math aaya karo.” She went away with a sad countenance. But she came again. The day she came, I was reading a book my Paul Miller who said, if we look at people how Jesus saw them, we would enter into their lives and stories. I thought of giving it a try. I called the lady that I kept calling ‘Bai’. I asked her what is her story. Her husband was an alcoholic and used to abuse her and he died in a road accident long back. She had a wonderful son who looked after her very well. She conducted his marriage with whatever resources she had. He had two adorable daughters. Life was very peaceful. Son used to work in a construction site and died in a freak accident. Her life came crashing down. Within a year the wife of her son ran away with another man, leaving the daughters with “Bai”. Her name is Geetha. She said “Beta, I do not want anything. These two granddaughters are the reason why I am alive. Their need to go to school is what keeps me working and also asking for help.” I felt overwhelmingly guilty at how I treated her. With the story of her life she was no more a nuisance but a human being with great resolve. And whenever we offer her money now for the education of her granddaughters, she showers us with a lot of blessings that we earnestly need. One day she came saying “Tomorrow is Makarsankranti, and I have to make Laddoos of Til for my bacchas.” I smiled at her and said, I will give but when you make, we also want some Laddoos for us.” I meant it as a joke. But she came next day with 6 laddoos. Soji and I were competing to hog it as the taste was awesome. Now she wants us to come to her juggi (hut) so that we can have lunch with her and her granddaughters. All she really asks is “Please pray for Priya and Swathi”

(Irony of the story is Geetha the real person in front of me, needed a “Paul Miller” -{Paul again} the author who I have never heard or seen, to knock some sense into my head to consider the lady with worth and dignity. This story is a testimony of the Persistence of Geetha and her triumph)
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal

Nathaniel Factor: Aaaah Se Aaha Tak *(Are we Racists?)

John 1:45-51
Philip found Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.There is no duplicity in him.” Nathaniel said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathaniel answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Message
We Indians have fought racism. We have fought it in the developed countries, in work places, universities and cities. We have also lost precious lives to this sickening malice of humanity. We have held dharnas and questioned this discrimination. Effectively all these dharnas portrayed us as people with unparalleled virtues who do not have a bone that discriminates. Something spectacular is always needed to shatter some well nurtured myths. In a shocking incident in Bangalore/Bengaluru, a 21 year Old Tanzanian Woman was attacked by 200-300 people where she was pulled out of her car, beaten and stripped and her car was torched. The reason was in an unrelated event, a Sudanese driver had a case of hit and run with a local woman and since the Sudanese man was elusive, the next most intelligent option is to hunt and find somebody similar and punish them. Wow. And we have tried to show it as a mob justice. Since then many African students have come out and expressed their horrifying experiences of racism that they encounter in the cities of India, just because of their skin colour. They have problems of finding accommodation, are subject to strange stares, abuses and taunts like “drug dealers and pimps.”But there have been many ‘patriotic Indians’ who have denied the accusation that we are racists. The fact of the matter is, we are racists and to accept it is the beginning of our healing process. Richard Rohr, taking clue from Carl Jung has explored the idea of Shadow Self where we like to project an idealized version of ourselves with all virtues and positive image. But we have our shadow selves where we like to hide the dark sides of ourselves which are part of us and keeps manifesting in our interactions no matter how much we try to hide it. Being racists is part of our collective conscience which we need to be aware and deal with.
In today’s passage we see Philip with a lot of excitement introducing the Messiah to his friend Nathaniel. But Nathaniel gives one of the most cynical replies recorded in the Bible where he says “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Wow. When we learn about Nazareth, it was an obscure town, populated mostly with manual laborers who didn’t have money, status, or power. So the assumption that a people from certain places because of their language, ethnicity, religion and caste are simply of no value, is only getting intensified. We have strong prejudices against people from Bihar and U.P. In my experience in the Northeast India, exposed me to the resentment people of Nagaland and Manipur have towards the people of so called “Mainland India” who discriminate against them in various walks of life. So some or the other way, we have a “Nathaniel Factor” in us that refuses to be hidden. The “all knowing” Jesus is aware of the prejudice that Nathaniel has harbored against him. But Jesus changes the equation in the encounter. In vs 47 we see Jesus saying “Here is a true Israelite, there is no duplicity in him.” This statement of Jesus opens up Nathaniel. The gaze of Jesus that penetrates through the shadow self of ours, reveals what we can truly become. Sometimes we are so filled with frustrations, complexes and hatred towards ourselves that we look out for the perceived inferior to find a scapegoat and hate her/him. But Jesus sees us. He knows who we are and he knows what we can become. Jesus’ opinion forms us. It reveals our shadow selves. He sees what our self is. That is the starting point. My Lord knows who I am. He loves me. That is the point of “Formation”.
Before the passage ends Jesus gives Nathaniel a promise. “You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen,[e] I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (vs 50b, 51). Did he see anything as promised? The Gospel of John is known for using words like a painter. Now we come to Chapter 2 where we have the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Jesus and his disciples were invited to the feast. And as the story goes, the wine runs dry. We know the crux of the miracle is that Jesus tells the workers to fill water in the 6 Jars used for ceremonial cleansing. They filled it to the brim. It was taken to the steward who certifies the great quality of the wine. The Water was turned into wine. So what’s the story? Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. Disciples believed him. Nathaniel was a disciple. Still not clear? Now if you see the question still lingers on “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” The answer is the miracle at the Wedding of Cana. Certainly a memorable event has occurred. But still what does it have to do with Nathaniel? “ Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons,[a] and two others of his disciples.” (John 21:2) Boom. Nathaniel was from Cana. A person from a place of no good did a miracle in his own backyard in Cana. It is like the time when I was an expert at criticizing Sachin Tendulkar. I used to say “He has lost his touch. He cannot bat. He is past his prime.” And the next match he comes with a century. Baam. Slap in the face. As it was said “Tendulkar does not answer with his mouth. He lets the bat do the talking”. The miracle at Cana was a point of transformation for Nathaniel. Jesus made tasteless water to turn it into the most wonderful wine. Jesus who provides taste to our lives. A racist Nathaniel is transformed to a believing and life giving Nathaniel. With Jesus in our lives our bland existence with hidden prejudices and hatred is transformed to a life giving ministry and vocation for life.
Now when the transformation happens, we stop at that. But our faith is like an obscure language. It needs translation. What happened to Nathaniel? Do you know what happened to Peter? It is said he was crucified upside down. What happened to Thomas. It is said he came to India and was martyred at Mylapore. Is this in the Bible? No. But Church tradition preserves their memory and contributions. So what happened to Nathaniel? It is said after encountering the resurrected Christ, he set to North India with a scroll of Gospel of Matthew. He opened up the gospel proceedings in North India though this is not popularly known. It is said, Nathaniel reached out to people. He travelled to many places as a witness of the Gospel. He was persecuted and hunted down. And finally it is said he was crucified upside down in Albania. A man who was full of prejudice and bigotry goes from Formation-Transformation-Translation. The Great Lent is a time to deal with our Shadow selves. The hatred, the prejudices that we have is making us turn into beasts. We are connecting ourselves to the Grand Story of Salvation where through Jesus Christ, God calls us his beloved Daughter/Son. He forms us in his love and we get transformed in our encounter with him. Our transformation through the Holy Spirit enables us to translate our faith from abstract belief to concrete works.
Noble
As a priest, I have talked enough on formation and transformation. But I always struggle with the translation part. One day when I was just checking FB, I saw a status update by my friend Rev Noble Abraham who is the Director of Wardha Mission run by the Jerusalem Mar Thoma Yuvajan Sakhyam, New Delhi. Rev Noble is a dear friend and a fellow parishioner in Pune and a co-travelling brother in faith. Let me verbatim paste his status
“I was on a casual talk along with Johny Uncle, Prabhakar and Valmik (all part of wardha Mission). That’s when the topic of the plight of people staying on the pavements of Sevagram hospital came into the focus. Our words matched and found meaning when we all vouched why not we initiate at least one time meal for the needy. We left saying let’s pray over it.
Then after days I watched an interview of Azhar Maqsusi. He had initiated a feeding program in Hyderabad and is successfully feeding more that 150 people for that past 1382 days and still counting. And to everyone’s surprise including mine, my wife and me were invited to hyderabad early this month to lead a children’s camp. To cut it short, I met Azhar bhai myself and also participated in his work to know and understand how he worked out this initiative. Also, this reminded me of my Kottayam Seminary days when we used to assist the Navjeevan staff to distribute food at Kottayam Medical College. And here we are on the 26th day of January 2016 joining hands with many such as Azhar bhai, P U Thomas sir of Navjeevan and many whom we don’t know. But all I know is one that in the Gospel of Mathew 25:35a it says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food….” I praise God that he choose Wardha Jmys Mission for this movement. Do pray for us.”
Jerusalem Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam (JMYS) Mission, Wardha has initiated a feeding program called Arpandhara that undertakes to feed more than 100 people from the Sevagram Hospital.
This example is just one of the examples of translating our faith. We need to make a conscious decision to combat the shadow selves in our community and us and strive to be translating our faith into action to be co-participants in the Kingdom of God.
*If you are wondering, what is ‘Aah Se Aaha Tak’ well it is a tag line of MOOV Pain Relief which shows transformation from being in pain to being relieved, alive and kicking
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church,
Kolar Road, Bhopal

He taught me many things…

Merin Mathew, doing my Master of Social Work, 2nd year in the field of medical and psychiatry. My fieldwork is in Chaitanya Mental Health Centre, a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill patients. I was trying to learn and get acquainted with the work. i really did not know what is was doing n at the verge of disillusionment

I used to attend the Psychiatrist’s consultation, observe counselling and participate in the morning session of patients. Attending the morning session my attention was drawn towards a man who said the morning prayers with a lot of passion and involvement. He was a very pleasant looking man. His hair was jumbled, he had heavy stubble on his face, and it was accompanied by a wide smile. A short man, who could be called fat and had a slight hunch back. After the morning session he came to me and told me his name. I could very evidently say he was the first person who made me feel welcome at the agency.

After the first meeting we kept exchanging pleasantries. Those were the days when I was growing an ugly looking beard. He came and asked “Sir, why don’t you shave?” I used to smile and pass. His smile was something I got used to and I mechanically kept smiling at him. One day when I had finished my tea, this middle-aged man stopped me and asked me” Sir, do you know my name?” I was caught unaware. I wish I could tell him I don’t know. I remember him telling me, but I was not sure. I was feeling very sorry and with a lot of reluctance and a low voice that was hardly audible, I asked ”Are you Vivek?” After saying I imagined him saying on now, you don’t know me. I thought you would remember I smiled everyday thinking you know my name. But you don’t. All this I viewed in a split second of his reaction. He said ”You are absolutely right”. His smile became more radiant. And was that smile rewarding for me? Oh! Of the highest order. There are times when we surprise ourselves and this time I surprised myself. I gifted a smile to a person. Let me ask nothing more.

After this day I made a special effort to say hi to him. Asking his well-being.

On another field workday I went and attended the morning meeting. The prayer today lacked the passion and had a certain detachment. The person saying the prayer was same, the prayer was same, but the state of mind was different. The radiant smile was replaced by an unpleasant frown. The man who was most participatory in the session was most pre-occupied with his own thoughts. The Counsellor conducting the session also noticed the evident change. The Counsellor asked him what was bothering him, Vivek did not respond. Then he abruptly said ‘I do not believe in God’. The Counselor’s effort to motivate him was a failure. This deeply disturbed me and I decided to intervene. I called Mr. Vivek for counselling. The session started with a lot of reluctance and silence. Then I broke the silence asking ”Vivekji, how are you feeling?” He answered with a frown ”What is wrong with me, I am fine”. His defenses were in place and his message was clear, don’t intrude into my life. After a little silence he told me ‘I have lost my appetite for life’. After sometime he said ‘I want to die’.

The man who was so positive, so pleasant, was such a man of smiles, is suicidal. What went wrong? ”My life is meaningless. Nobody cares for me” . He had flight of ideas. He told me ”Sir you have double standards” . I was shocked when he said that, my natural reaction was ‘why?’ pleasant. ”Sir, you only say we should be clean, should be But look at yourself. You don’t shave, you look so unpleasant , if this is not double standards then what is it ?” I couldn’t help laughing but at the same time I was humbled. He taught me the importance of congruence in speech and action. Did I learn? I am doubtful. On this light note, we continued. He said that ” All my education has gone waste”. He had some traumatic memories of E.C.T. He spoke of his hatred for food. He had a lot of negativity in him that he could not channelise. So he kept silent looking at the ceiling as if looking for answer from the ceiling. Then I said ‘Vivekji, I understand”. He very skeptically answered ‘What you understand?”. This taught me how lightly we use words. Did I understand his emotions, his helplessness, his feelings, his fear? Hardly. Then I told him ”May be I don’t understand Vivekji, but you understand. I think you like to write, why, don’t you write your feelings?” He said ”You cant make it compulsory? ”I wont do anything that is compulsory”. I assured him that it is not compulsory. He said ”I will try, but I can’t promise”. The counseling ended. The outcome was uncertain. Did what I say make an effect? Did I make a difference? Time will tell. I tried. My intentions were earnest.

After this I spoke to his counsellor who briefed me about his illness. Vivek is a schizophrenic for last 20 years and his chance of recovery was very poor. The counsellor told me that he was very close to his mother and his mother is dead and Vivek does not know. This disturbed me even more. Knowing this, I went and spoke to him. but i could not tell him about his mother. Seeing me he said “I am very sad, n i dont want to live. Sir, but whatever you said, I will try”. I will try. Am I ready to try? I just spoke to him about his interests and he spoke in length about literature. He really looked different and spoke as an authority. I was so happy seeing his revived spirits. Sometimes we don’t need to try too much. Just listen. Thats all we got to do.

Next field work when I met him He smiled at me but it was not the same smile that I was used to. He came to me and said ”Good morning Sir, I am trying”. That’s all he said and went.

After sometime he spoke to me about Marathi literature, its high points, the importance of mother tongue and how its losing its importance. I was ignorant about it and listened to him like a child. I was impressed about his conviction. I wished I had atleast quarter of conviction that he had. What a pleasant site. After all this, he said ”Sir, my mother is dead”. I was shocked that he knew all this and spoke this way. I was speechless. ” I was told by the Doctor. I am sad but I dint cry. I loved her a lot. She understood me. I will come out of my feelings of worthlessness. I will try. I am going to write. I want to write. My mother wanted me to write. Sir, you want me to write. But I will write because I want to.” What a lesson to learn. “I will do it because I want to do it.” What a resiliency. In a matter of 3 days this man changed so much, He still had little negativity. But he was trying to come out. How important it is for us to keep trying.

Vivek was upset the next time when I visited him. He said” Sir, what bad words these patients speak. Language is so beautiful, why do they destroy it, with so much of filth?” He was disturbed.

After sometime he came and told me” Sir, I am not going to let these things affect me. I am going to write an article on ‘Film and Industry’ from a commerce perspective. I want to write”. After this he told something that moved me the most. He said ”There is a creation in all of us that compels us to rise above the destruction of our negativity”. I was dumb struck. How true from a man who was battling with his emotions. I was fortunate to learn this from him. I started getting a new perspective for my field work and my life.

We kept meeting and I kept learning. He wrote his article and showed it to me. It does not matter how it was. He conceived an idea and he did it. He was determined to do it. He kept saying ‘I will try’. He tried. That is the most important thing.

He kept telling me how he made himself happy. He spoke of his experiments with diet and how happy he was. He said he wanted to write short stories for children. He said” Telling the right story to the child prepares the child for the story called ‘Life.’ He said at times ”I feel bad but I have a lot of things to feel good about. I choose to be happy”. I felt ashamed of myself. I have so many things to be happy about but I choose to complain. Everything is about choices.

‘In this life we have more pain than pleasure. Pain is pleasurable’. This is what he said. It made so much of sense. Then he smilingly asked ‘Sir, hope I am not boring you?’ We both laughed together. ‘I am very happy talking to you. Because of you I started writing and made, myself happy. Thank you’. This is what he told me. He could tell me this so easily. He taught me so much but I could not tell him. Why? I still need to learn from him. My teacher.

Next day he again spoke to me about his experiments with diets. He told me ”Sir, it is a great feeling to be married. What a feeling when my child would call me ‘Papa’. Why dint I marry? But it’s OK. I am happy. I still can marry with a widow or someone. But chances are remote. I was in love with a girl in my eighth standard. She was very intelligent. She looked very cute in her frock. I respected her but she never knew about my feelings. Wish I could tell her. If I would tell her, I would be happy and may be I would not have had schizophrenia. But it’s OK. If I had a physical illness I would take treatment, so I took treatment during my productive years of my life. Its OK. It was for my good. Still nothing is lost. I can still do a lot of things. I am just 51. I have more to do”. What an attitude ? He told me ‘Sir, my eyes can be taken, my hands can be taken, but nobody can take away my attitude’. I was awestruck. Was I counselling or was I learning ?

I told him to write and he made himself worth writing about. I am still learning from a man who does not know he is teaching me? Sometimes God helps you to give without you realising how much you are about to get.

#This was written on 21st January 2005, as part of my report to my Institute Karve Institute of Social Service

Baptism Reloaded: Listening to God’s Original Love Song

Matthew 3: 13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Message:

Early Church pictured Jesus going down or dipping in the River Jordan, and as he comes out of the water the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove and the voice speaks from Heaven: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).Reflecting on this, they soon began to make connections with the Creation story which involved Water and spirit. At the beginning of creation, Genesis tells us, there was watery chaos. And over the watery chaos, Holy Spirit was hovering. There is watery chaos, there is wind of God’s spirit. Out of the watery chaos comes the world. And God says ‘This is good.’ This is how St Paul connected Baptism of Jesus to the Creation account and therefore gave the apt title to Christian life as New Creation. So the beginning of Christian life is a new beginning of God’s New Creative work. Just as Jesus came out of the water, receiving the the Spirit and hearing the voice of the Father, so for the newly baptized Christian the voice of God gives a new identity saying “This is my son/daughter, whom I love; with her/him I am well pleased.”

There is a tribe in Sierra Leone  called the Himba Tribe where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him.And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it. And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee,someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song. In this African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything to prove yourself or usurp what is not yours.

God is singing the original song at our Baptism where he says “You are my beloved son/daughter.” That is our identity and we should often be reminded of the original song.

What is the significance of Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus restores the creation to its purpose of ‘It is good’. When Jesus who restored humanity to the Original love song of God, entered into the river Jordan, symbolizing entry into the chaos of the human world. Jesus entered into our level, where things are broken, shapeless and meaningless, in a state of vulnerability and risk, to give birth to a New Creation of humanity. So when we share in the baptism of Jesus, it is not going to be a life that is going to be successful and in control of things, but it is going to be a life that reaches out from the pain of brokenness and loneliness (chaos), to be touched by the hand of God. So where do we find the Baptized? In the midst of brokenness, pain, death, illness, risk, in short “in the neighbourhood of chaos.”Being baptized means to be lead to where Jesus is. Therefore baptism means being led to the chaos and neediness of a humanity that has forgotten its identity and destiny. But more so, Baptism touches the depths of not just outside chaos, but also the chaos of her or his own life. Because the chaos is not just outside but also there is a lot of inhumanity and muddle inside us. A baptized person should have the honesty and courage to look at the chaos inside and should combat the chaos outside. If this is so, baptism does not confer on us a status that makes us special or a claim of privilege. It is a claim a new level of soladiruty with other people through Christ. Therefore Baptism never is a convocation or graduation ceremony for the privileged elite, but it is an entry into the messy, needy, contaminated world with Jesus. When Jesus rose from the water, it symbolizes that, through the resurrection of Christ, we will also overcome the forces of death and destruction. Baptism opens us to the chaos of the world and at the same time it opens us to the Holy Spirit. Baptism opens up to the brokenness and pain of the world and also gives us the joy of communion, with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It helps us listen to the voice of God, constantly reminding our identity as His beloved.

Now we have wasted a lot of energy, debating the validity of infant baptism and adult baptism. We have turned baptism into a validity contest of who is right and who has the entry visa to Paradise. That is how we completely miss the point. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4) It calls for a complete identification with Jesus. . Church identifies Jesus to have lived a threefold identity: the prophet, priest and king. Baptism calls us to live a life identifying with these 3 roles. We do not see ourselves in such a perspective. Let us analyse these 3 roles

  1. Prophet: We have reduced a prophet to just foretelling the future. But biblically if we analyze, the role of a prophet is to challenge the community to be what it is meant to be. So the baptized person, reflecting the prop[hetic role of Jesus Christ is a person who needs to be critical, a questioner. A person who asks, “Have you forgetten what you are here for?” “Have you forgotten the gift God gave you?” Prophetic role reminds us that we are God’s beloved and therefore questions the human practices in the wake of our identity. Prophetic role is a risky role as we pose uncomfortable questions to ourselves and to people around us, commiting ourselves to the identity that God has given us. We hold each other accountable to our faith and action. Prophetic role is not just about having a private life of faith, but a faith that overflows to combat injustice, discrimination and suffering. Let us remember our prophetic role.
  2. Priest: The role of a priest in Old Testament is one who interprets God and humanity to each other. Priest was seen as somebody who builds bridges between God and humanity when that relationship has been wrecked; somebody who by offering sacrifice to God recreates a shattered relationship. This is the priestly role Jesus espoused and we can try to identify with that role of being peacemakers and bridge builders. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:2). In a world characterized by brokenness and estrangement, Baptism calls us to the priestly role of building bridges between communities, races and people from different hues
  3. King: King is a one who had the freedom and power to shape the law and justice of society. King is a one who had the power to bring to fruition what he wishes to see. While prophets are those who break dividing walls and dismantle new structures, kingly role calls to build alternative structures. Kingly role calls us to shape our lives and human environment in accordance with the justice of God. We are part takers of the freedom and liberty that God gives us to make the world a better place.

So Baptism is not just a vain speculation of whose Baptism is valid, but it initiates us to a life of playing the role of Prophet, Priest and King. We live in times of mediocre faith that makes us feel that one must just tag along. Baptism is just seen as a societal necessity. There is a theory called Pygmalion effect. In the Greek mythology Pygmalion is a sculptor from the city of Crete. His statues were very popular and he was deeply admired. There were many girls who wished to marry him but he refused to do so. One day he sculpted a beautiful woman. It is said he fell in love with this statue. He kept telling the people of the city that the statue of the woman is his wife. People thought he had lost it to call a statue a stone, as his wife. It is said that his constant love and affection on the statue gave breath to the sculpture and the lifeless body came to life. Pygmallion effect says that any person ordinary, if endowed with expectation, love and responsibility can rise up perform beyond expectation. Through baptism, ordinary humans like us are endowed the love and expectation of our Lord to rise up to live the divine-human life of discipleship consisting of the roles of Prophet, Priest and King.

Rev Merin Mathew

Bethel Mar Thoma Church

Kolar Road, Bhopal

Ps: This article is adapted from Archbishop Rowan Williams’ book ‘Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, PrayerBaptism 2

 

 

 

 

 

In Beirut, Paris, Syria, Yemen, Iraq……World in a Mess: Where Do I Run?

Jonah 1:1-17
The Lord spoke his word to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it, because I see the evil things they do.”
But Jonah got up to run away from the Lord by going to Tarshish. He went to the city of Joppa, where he found a ship that was going to the city of Tarshish. Jonah paid for the trip and went aboard, planning to go to Tarshish to run away from the Lord.
But the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, which made the sea so stormy that the ship was in danger of breaking apart. The sailors were afraid, and each man cried to his own god. They began throwing the cargo from the ship into the sea to make the ship lighter.
But Jonah had gone down far inside the ship to lie down, and he fell fast asleep. The captain of the ship came and said, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray to your god! Maybe your god will pay attention to us, and we won’t die!”
Then the men said to each other, “Let’s throw lots to see who caused these troubles to happen to us.”
When they threw lots, the lot showed that the trouble had happened because of Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, who caused our trouble? What is your job? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”
Then Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew. I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
The men were very afraid, and they asked Jonah, “What terrible thing did you do?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord because he had told them.)
Since the wind and the waves of the sea were becoming much stronger, they said to him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
Jonah said to them, “Pick me up, and throw me into the sea, and then it will calm down. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come on you.”
Instead, the men tried to row the ship back to the land, but they could not, because the sea was becoming more stormy.
So the men cried to the Lord, “Lord, please don’t let us die because of this man’s life; please don’t think we are guilty of killing an innocent person. Lord, you have caused all this to happen; you wanted it this way.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea became calm. Then they began to fear the Lord very much; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made promises to him.
The Lord caused a big fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
Message
Every tragedy reminds us “What a mess this world is.” The human evil manifested at Beirut in Lebanon, Paris in France, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Russia show us the ugly side of what humans are capable of doing in the name of God and religion. We have senseless people in U.S. who want only Christian refugees to be allowed in U.S. We have a section of people who want Sharia to be implemented in U.K. We have tribal clans who wish to eliminate their rival. We have people losing lives for no fault of theirs, but just that one section believes the truth of their belief to be supreme and want all else to be shut and closed and eliminated. Everywhere we see fear, anxiety and paranoia. What a terrible, terrible world we live in, is our ruling thought. One question that bothers us all is the same. “If there is God, why do such things happen?” This question disturbs those who believe in God and confirms the belief of those who don’t. I am reminded of John the Baptist who was languishing in the prison of Herod, where he sets a question for Jesus through his disciples “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt 11:3). Seeing that Jesus was doing nothing spectacular and also that John continues to remain in prison makes John doubt. He feels, Jesus is not Messiah enough for the messed up world he lived in. Such times we also feel, God is not God enough. The ways of God just does not work. We are tired of listening to, God is love, love your neighbours, love your enemies. Rubbish! We are fooled.
Let us now go to the text in front of us. The story of Jonah resonates in our lives. It is a call of God to go to Nineveh, to engage with messed up people. People, who are useless, wicked and evil. Jonah is too good to waste his life on such losers. So what does he do? He goes the opposite direction, where he runs away from God to a place called Tarshish. Now Tarshish is a wonderful and idyllic place with great port and wonderful people. It is like the Vegas, where the world can be damned and we can just have fun. But the journey to Tarshish is very stormy. And what does he do? He sleeps through? Jonah has chosen that the best way to avoid the mess and storm of the world is to sleep through it or to escape in the opposite direction that God is leading. This is exactly what I feel like doing. Just to escape to a place that John Lennon talks about in his wonderful song ‘Imagine’. By the way I have been listening to this song and it is the most shared and performed song.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
We really wish that world be at peace. But there is no escape route. We cannot just imagine it. We have to engage with it. We cannot run or hide. We have to get into the mess. The Jonah in us has emerged. But let me introduce to you a person who is in contradistinction to Jonah. His name is Dietrich Bonheoffer. He lived in a time in Germany when all the Christians biblically justified the elimination of Jews and supported the Nazi vision. Along with Karl Barth and the Confessing Church, he challenged the Nazi regime and also criticized the Lutheran Scholars who were party to such madness in the name of religion. His friends saw that there was danger to his life and therefore seemed it best that he is transported to The United States of America. But after the long journey on ship, when he reached America, Bonheoffer was deeply disturbed. He felt he had run away from his calling. He asked his well wishers who risked their life to get him to America, to send him back to Germany. His well wishers thought it was insane. But Bonheoffer would not budge. And he sailed back to Germany. He engaged and challenged the Nazi regime through his sermons and students in seminary. The inevitable happened. He was arrested and was taken to Flossenberg Concentration Camp. He was ready to pay for his conviction. He was executed, hours before the Americans liberated the Concentration camp at the end of World War II in 1945. We could ask, what did he achieve? He lost his life. What good does that do? When and how, religion was bent to suit the oppressor, Bonheoffer through his life and death reminds us that discipleship is not about going where we wish to go and say it is God’s will. But it is abandoning, where we wish to go and to be led by God. I am sure this is what Jesus meant when he called Peter after resurrection in John 21:18 . I tell you the truth, when you were younger; you tied your own belt and went where you wanted. But when you are old, you will put out your hands and someone else will tie you and take you where you don’t want to go.”
I was very overjoyed to know about the initiative of “The Game Changer Project: The Mar Thoma Youth Ministry of Mumbai” which is led by a dynamic Youth Chaplain Rev. Mathews George. On 14th November 2015, they organized an event called “Dumpyard Dare” in association with Navodaya Movement, an initiative of the Mar Thoma Church, Mumbai Diocese, which is led by the enterprising Rev. Mathew Philip. There are many aspects to Navodaya and one particular concentration is their work among the ragpicker colony in Kalyan and Bhivandi. Along with our church members we visited it as a part of our Edavaka Mission trip. Navodaya has a day care centre in the heart of the Dumpyard Colony and ensures that the children go to school nearby. It is a very powerful movement. Now the Dumpyard is not an easy place. Mind you, there is not one single NGO working there. The stench and the filth absolutely overwhelm us. It is said that when Rev. Mathew Philip Achen went for the first survey, he fainted. But that was his resolve that helped him, that something has to be done. Now the Dumpyard Dare focused on exposing the Youths to something they would never like to engage with or never wish to go. But as 40 youths entered into the world of stench, filth and ugliness, they realized, this is how the people and the children live there. It sure opened new vistas in their lives. A moment where the message of Christmas came early, where we celebrate that God did not abandon this world, but engaged with it, made himself lowly to be a human, lived with us, became a victim, suffered, died and was resurrected. This world is sure a mess. But we are called to engage with it, to embrace the brokenness, to heal the wounds. We sure want to go the other way, but we should not.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”

Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal
To Know More about Navodaya Movement call Rev Mathew Philip- 9930914409
The Game Changer Project – Mar Thoma Youth Ministry of Mumbai: Rev Mathews George– 9769391772beirut