Bulaava Aaya Hai

Genesis 12: 1-9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

 “I will make you into a great nation,     and I will bless you; I will make your name great,     and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you,     and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth     will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.  He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Aion the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

 

Message:

I do not know how many of you all have seen the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption.’ If you have not, please do. The narrative revolves around the prison set up at Shawshank and the two central characters are ‘Andy Dufresne’ a banker who was wrongly implicated in his wife’s murder and Ellis ‘Red’ Redding who was caught for murder as a teen and is a veteran at the state prison. There is a certain difference of attitude in the way the two approach life. Red is more practical and accepts life as it is, saying ‘Hope is a very dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.’ Prison is all he sees and there is no place for hope. Andy a co- prisoner begs to differ in his attitude, saying ‘Hope is a good thing, may be the best thing, and no good thing ever dies.’ He saw something beyond the confines of the prison, vision beyond  the securities of the wall.

 

It is here in this context we read about Abram where God calls him to a promise for which he has to leave all visible securities of ‘country, people and household to the ‘unseen’ land and promise of being a great nation. But this looks absurd as when we read this promise comes in a context of impossibility. ‘Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.’ (Genesis 11: 30) It is into this barrenness and hopeless situation that God’s call breaks through to Abram. In situations in life where the world along with ‘Red’ says lets be practical. Things are going to be the same way. Are we going to be an ‘Andy’ and hear Jesus say “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20: 29b). Hope is dangerous. It just makes us restless where we are compelled to keep journeying towards our goal.

 

Now Abram was from Ur which is Babylon. Genesis Chapter 11 talks of the judgment of God on Tower of Babel which also is in Babylon. So the promise of God to Abram is a reverse to the human intention of people who tried to build ‘Babel’. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11: 4. While the people wanted to be secure in one place God challenges Abram to ‘Go’ out. People of Babel wanted ‘Make a name for ourselves’ while God promised ‘I will make your name great’. And how he was going to do that? He was not just going to Bless Abram but he was going to make him a blessing. The people of Babel believed that life is all about self preservation while God challenges Abram that life is a journey where God will lead. To illustrate this let me use something that has been doing the rounds on Facebook. It talks about the difference between ‘Dogs’ and ‘Cats’. Dog says ‘“You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, You must be God.” A cat says, “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God.’ Did you know based on this premise there is a book called ‘Cat and Dog Theology’ by Bob Sjorgen. He says that there is a ‘Cat’ in all of us that wants to be served by God and people, who enjoys security and has a sense of entitlement. A Dog is driven by gratitude and therefore gives himself fully to his master. God calls us not to be a reservoir of blessing to be kept within us, but calls us to be a channel of blessings.

 

Verse 4 says ‘So Abram went…’ Before we dwell on this, let me put you a riddle.

Question: There were once three frogs on a log. One of them made a decision to jump out. How many were left? 

Most likely the answer that you have come up with is two. That is maths. But Anthony DeMello gives a different answer.

 “There are still three frogs on a log, he only made a decision, he took no action!” When God told Abram to Go, he just did not decide to follow suit. He actually went. He was ready to journey the unfamiliar terrain. Many camps have dedication sessions where the participants decide to follow Jesus. But the question is, is there action to the intentions. When Jesus called his disciples, the woman at the well put down her bucket. Peter dropped his net. Matthew got up from his tax collector’s chair. Abraham loaded up the camel. He went…..

 

Now when Abram came to Canaan where God led him was there a hammock waiting for him to lie down where servants played soothing music and fed Abram and his mates with endless grapes and wine? Well, no. It was not as he had expected it to be. VS 6 says ‘…At that time the Canaanites were in the land.’ So he had left his land to amidst hostile people? What kind of a deal is that? And there God gives a twist “To your offspring I will give this land.” He is part of a call where the end result or fruit he will not see. Why would anybody like to be part of a future where we cannot see immediate results? But it is here that Abram builds an altar to the Lord. While the people of Babel tried to build a tower for themselves, Abram builds an altar to the Lord.

 

The new place is nothing what Abram expected it to be. So what does building the altar signify?  Abraham’s building of the altar represents his saying: “I’m accepting a promise, understanding that this is different than what I thought it was going to be, but it’s also something that I believe God can bring to pass. I trust You, Lord, that You will make it work.”

 

Altar signifies that ‘It is not about me’. Altar declares that ‘It is all about You, Lord.’ We may not build physical Altars. But this maybe the time to pause and realize the presence of God by building an Altar that ‘alters’ the course of our lives where we journey from being just consumers of blessings to being a Blessing. And God said ‘And you will be a blessing.’

 

Let me end my meditation with one of my favourite songs by Matt Redman ‘The Heart of Worship.’ Sing along.

 

When the music fades and all has slipped away and I simply come.

Longing just to be something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.

 

I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required.

You search much deeper within, through the way things appear, Your looking into my heart.

 

I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You, its all about You, Jesus.

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when its all about You, its all about You, Jesus.

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Bethel Mar Thoma Church

Kolar Road, Bhopal

 

Journey From Broken Hearts to Hearts Burning With Hope

 

Text: Luke 24: 13- 35

 

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

 

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 

Message:

 

The story of Resurrection stated above is a story of our lives. We are people on a journey. But with all the comforts that we have in our lives, there is one thing that we lack. It is hope that eludes us. The two disciples walking towards Emmaus is like any of us. It shows the Monday morning blues. The despair that we have. The questions that we ask. What is the purpose of life? Where is God in all this? Does my life really matter?  Look at what one of the disciples say. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24: 20). It is the story of broken hopes and broken hearts. It is our everyday talk. “We had hope. Now we feel cheated.” “Things are never going to change. We have to accept it.” “We have to live with this hurt. We cannot dream anymore.” “I wanted this job but now I have reached a dead end. I do not see purpose in my life.” There have been moments in my life where despair had a better share. Hope was just a very fancy word. The Lord that I worshipped looked very distant and far. Resurrection seemed just a story.

 

There is a very popular comic strip called “Finding Waldo” which is full of graphic images. The task of the reader is to find a character called ‘Waldo’. But the fun part is it is very difficult to find Waldo. In the first page Waldo is very prominent and we can recognize it with ease. But as the pages are flipped the task gets very difficult. Part of the difficulty in finding Waldo is that he is very ordinary looking. Last page is the toughest as the room is full of counterfeit Waldos which distract us. Finding the original Waldo is the ordeal. The popularity of this comic strip has led this to be a very popular video game and apps on phone. The creator of this series is Martin Handford. He says he developed it “So that children are curious of their surroundings and explore the wonder around them.” We saw that finding Waldo in the initial pages is relatively easy but when one flips page it gets tough. Similarly in midst of despair and heart break where one has given up hope finding the presence of God is next to impossible. Everything looks very meaningless. We feel cheated. No explanation of faith looks meaningful.

It is in the context of pain and despair Jesus joins the 2 disciples who were totally shattered at the brutal event of crucifixion of Jesus. In midst of their pain and confusion Jesus walks with them. But they cannot recognize who he is. The presence of God eludes them. Waldo is hidden. Jesus listens to their predicament. Offers them companionship and gives them an ear. Their story of brokenness is important to him. These disciples did hear about the resurrection of Jesus but their hearts were too clouded to believe it. Resurrection looks like a joke. An absurd one. After listening to their story, Jesus speaks. It is like he walks with them and helps them to look at the scriptures.He interprets the Bible and gives them hope.  He showed them the purpose of the suffering of Christ. He introduced the promise of God. He assured them that death and suffering will not have the last word. There is hope. Resurrection is real.  When he is about to walk past these disciples, they call him to stay with them. At the table Jesus blesses the bread and breaks it. After that he gives it to them and their eyes were opened. Now they recognize Jesus. It is in the simple act of breaking of the bread that resurrection becomes real to them. This subtle encounter with the Risen Christ who walked with them in their pain transformed their broken hearts to burning hearts.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (vs 32) After that they travelled to Jerusalem to give this message of hope and Resurrection.

 

William Bausch a Catholic priest narrates one of his experiences when a daughter of a man with cancer called him to pray with her father. When Wiliam Bausch reached to see the man suffering from cancer he saw that this man was lying on the bed and there was an empty chair next to him. So Fr William seeing the empty chair asked “Were you expecting me?” The man replied “No, who are you?” “My Name is Fr. William Bausch, the new Priest at your parish. Seeing the chair I thought you were expecting me.” The man who was bedridden answered “O the Chair, please close the door.” The priest got curious and closed it. “You know Father I always kept asking my priest about how to pray. He gave me all the answers that I never understood. One day he gave me a book by a Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. This book was about prayer. I started to read and when I reached the second page, I had to look up the dictionary six times. With that I gave up. I was really in despair. With the cancer I found no comfort. Then one of my friends Joel told me that prayer is something simple. He asked me to ‘Take a chair and sit on it. Place an empty chair in front of you. In faith see Jesus on that chair. Remember he told the disciples I’ll be with you always.. Speak to Jesus. Feel his presence.’ You know Father first I felt that the advice was stupid. But when I started talking to the empty chair I actually felt the presence of Jesus. I felt him in the midst of my pain. His wounds were healing me. I have a peace that is beyond my physical condition. I may die but now I have hope.” William Bausch was deeply moved by this encounter. He urged the man to continue his practice. After two days he got a call from the daughter informing that her father was dead. She said “I found my father leaning on a chair having a smile on his face when I found him dead.”

 

My dear friends the message of resurrection is that we have hope. Our circumstance may depress us. We may feel lost. But Jesus is walking with us in this journey. He is listening to our prayers and our frustrations. In simple acts like prayers, reading the Bible and worshipping we can encounter him. He is walking next to us, transforming our broken hearts to hearts burning with zeal. He wants us to spread this message of hope. Resurrection is here. We did not find Waldo. Waldo found us.  Happy Easter.

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati