Sun Raha Hai Na Tu…

1 Kings 19: 11-12
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper
Message:
Anyone following me on FB sure knows that I am a sports buff. As the T20 World Cup 2016 is going on, I am reminded of a World Cup match that I saw in 2003. This was the Semi Final Match between Australia and Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Australia was batting with gusto and the destruction man Adam Gilchrist was on song. Aravinda De Silva was bowling his second ball to Adam Gilchrist, which he tried to hit but it was caught by the wicket keeper Kumar Sangakara and there was a huge appeal. The umpire said no, not out and the appeal was about to fizzle off when the unbelievable happened. Adam Gilchrist started walking to the pavilion. The Sri Lankan players could not believe it. The most destructive batsman was not given out but walks out. What really happened? Adam Gilchrist says “ I knew I had a thick edge to the ball”Catch it! Catch it!” I heard. I stood and turned to see that [Kumar] Sangakkara had it. I knew I was out. It was so obvious.
Then, to see the umpire shaking his head, meaning, “Not out”, gave me the strangest feeling. I don’t recall what my exact thoughts were, but somewhere in the back of my mind, all that history from the Ashes series was swirling around. Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain and other batsmen, both in my team and against us, who did not walk out even when they were out disturbed me and I wanted to know what would I do in moments like these. I had spent all summer wondering if it was possible to take ownership of these incidents and still be successful. I had wondered what I would do. I was about to find out.
The voice in my head was emphatic.
Go.
Walk.
And I did.
It was a really weird sensation to go against the grain of what 99 per cent of cricketers do these days, and what we’ve been doing for our whole careers. I was annoyed because I felt like I was batting well and had the chance to lay the foundation for a big team score – and it was me taking that away from myself. But I could not ignore the voice that told me walk, you are out.”
This story may look very silly for those who read it. But I witnessed this live and it changed the outlook of my life. As a youth it became very clear to me that there is a whisper of God that does not blast on your face like a wind. Neither does God shake your world like an Earthquake to prove a point./ He intervenes in your life through a gentle whisper, and you should be able to discern that voice and heed to it. Strangely Adam Gilchrist made a Biblical truth more clear than any sermon or advice.
Adam Gilchrist
I think that statement is a starting point for us today. I believe today the air is saturated with voices that we keep hearing. Voices that say “You are important because you have money.” “You are ugly because you are fat.” “You are useless as you have done nothing significant yet.” “You need to prove your worth. Ordinary people like you cannot survive.” “This world is favorable to the young. Old people have no place here.” “Morality has no place in the market. The mantra is to compromise and move forward.” These voices are like the powerful wind, the earthquake and the fire. All three forces that we see in the text in front of us have a very devastating effect. It is powerful and it compels our attention. These voices of spectacular effect drown out all other voices. These voices are everywhere that we go. We cannot escape them. It is common logic that the voices we hear are the voices we replicate. We are not just victims of such voices stated above. We are the perpetrators of the said voices. These voices determine our relationships. These voices determine our understanding of community and family. These voices help us decide who is worthy to be called a human and who is not. It dictates our every part of life. These voices also end up in deciding who we are. We are always at the mercy of outside voices that sets conditions based on our utility. One is judged on the basis of being productive. That is the rule of the market.
The more we believe in such voices the more absurd our life becomes. We become an emotional wreck and competition looks like the only way to survive. It is interesting that the word ‘absurd’ is derived from the Latin word ‘surdus’ which means being deaf. So we are deaf to what? “After the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19: 12b). That gentle whisper was the voice of God. This voice says to us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11) or “This is my Son/ Daughter, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). But are we listening to such voices or are we turning deaf to it? The word ‘obedient’ has its roots in the Latin word ‘audiere’, which means to listen. Being obedient to God is to listen to his voice that is a gentle whisper. Listening to God is a discipline that we need to cultivate in the midst of the noise that we live in. The identity of Jesus’ followers are those who listen to his voice.“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.” (John 10: 27).
Prayer is that discipline that helps us listen to the gentle whispers of our God. As Henri Nouwen says “The toughest thing to do is, is to pray. Because the moment I remain silent I hear all the voices of the world that make me feel worthless. The silence makes me restless and to overcome it I start to talk to God. But I have to learn to listen to the gentle whispers of my Lord.” There are some voices that lead to death and destruction and some voices that lead to life and eternity. We are called to discern the voice of God that calls us “Beloved.” And when we listen to this voice, we spread this voice around us. We become a blessing to the people we work with and meet. Instead of gossiping, criticizing and spreading negative words, we become a blessing wherever we go. That is our calling and purpose of our life.
How to become a blessing? How to cut the chain of negative sequence? Let me end by telling you a story of my mentor Rev Dr Moni Mathew. During my internship with Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai, Rev Dr Moni was the director. Navjeevan is a Rehabilitation centre for children of commercial sex workers. It is a community living project for Children run by the Mar Thoma Church. We had a review session with the director. I had a feedback to give. I said “The children are not responsible about keeping their homes clean. Having surveyed their house (System where there will be 19-22 children per house with cooking facilities along with house parents), I find children have no sense of hygiene and their toilets and bathrooms are very filthy. Children are very irresponsible.” With the avalanche of my theatrics, Moni Achen just looked and said nothing. I was unsure as what steps would be taken. I was feeling let down by his response. After all I had given an Oscar winning performance in bashing the children up. Hope they who are now on Facebook, do not read this. All forgotten, next day all groggy eyed, I look out. I see Rev Moni walk out of the Farm house with a bucket, bathroom brushes, and some bottles. I was wondering what he was up to. I asked “What are you doing Achen?” He said “Let us clean the toilets of the children, I have some phenyl and acid, join me.” I was like “What?” But I did not dare to ask. He enters the house and starts cleaning the toilet to the utter shock of all the children. We all joined in the cleaning. With 6 hours, along with the Children and the director, all the toilets of 8 houses were cleaned and children all joined to the tune of a carnival.” No huge sermons of responsibility and no fire of wrath because of irresponsibility. An example where he got working and this picture I am sure remained with the children more than any other reprimand or sermon.
This example has become part of the “Gentle Whisper of God.” Whenever I am facing a situation where I judge people or condemn them, the image narrated above works as a gentle whisper of God. In our daily lives let us hear the gentle whispers of God to combat the negative voices and actions that surround and engulf.
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal

Are You Ready To Do a “Barnabas”

Romans 12: 8

If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Message

 

In midst of failure, when the whole world writes you off, you wish somebody vouches for you and trusts you. That little encouragement goes a long way. After the death of APJ Abdul Kalam, there are many tributes being paid to him which are very deserving. But one story that he recalled stands out and really touched me a lot. The story of his mentor Satish Dhawan. Let me put that story in the words of the Late APJ Abdul Kalam.

“Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project director of India’s satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India’s “Rohini” satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources — but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 — I think the month was August — we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts — I had four or five of them with me — told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal. It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference — where journalists from around the world were present — was at 7:45 am at ISRO’s satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure — he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite — and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, “You conduct the press conference today.”

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team and encouraged it.”

When we discuss on encouragement or giving second chances, there is no better name than Barnabas who became famous not by his original name Joseph or the name of his tribe “Levi” but the name that explained his character and attribute of being an “Encourager”. But before we dwell on Barnabas, let us just look at the verse that is set before us and particularly on encouragement.

Romans 12:8 says, “If it (a person’s gift) is encouraging, let him encourage.” The Greek word is very interesting. It is parakaleo. Para is a preposition meaning “alongside of” and kaleo is a verb meaning “to call.” So parakaleo means “to call alongside of.” It has the idea of coming to the aid or assistance of someone else. In particular, it implies an ability to help someone in an area where he cannot help himself/herself.

It’s the picture of a weary traveler stumbling down the highway with a heavy load on his shoulders. His head is low, his shoulders stooped, his knees wobbly, his feet barely moving. Each step is an agony. As you watch him, he staggers and begins to fall. You can see that he will never make it. So you rush from your place, come alongside and you lift the load from his shoulders and place it on your own. Then you put your arm around him and say, “It’s all right, my brother. I’ll help you make it.” And together you walk on down the road. That’s parakaleo. It’s coming alongside another person to help him in his moment of need.

The person who does that is called a paraclete. That’s the Greek word used in John 14:16 for the Holy Spirit and in I John 2:1 for the Lord Jesus Christ. So this gift could be called exhortation or comfort or consolation or advocacy or encouragement. It is the divine ability to lift the load from a brother or sister and help them along the way.

So that brings us to Barnabas. The terror of Saul of Tarsus echoed everywhere. So no one was ready to buy his sudden change in heart and conversion. If no one believed in him, what good was his conversion? When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9: 26- 28). Barnabas turns out to be the Paraclete who is ready to steady the stumbling Saul when no one was ready to even look at him. This act turned Saul into Paul the apostle. Thanks to Barnabas’ act,  we have 13 books in the New Testament written by Paul, the prolific apostle for Christ. Barnabas was ready to risk and encourage when none others believed. Paul was a man who benefitted by the magnanimous Barnabas who gave him a second chance. But the irony is, Paul was not ready to extend such favours to another man called John Mark. Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15: 36-41) The background to that is found in Acts 13: 13, where in the First Missionary Journey where from Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. Paul thought John Mark was a failure and cannot be trusted. But Barnabas stuck with John Mark and sailed with him to Cyprus to spread the gospel. Later on Paul reconsidered his folly where we see in his second letter to Timothy he writes “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4: 11.) Thanks to Barnabas, we have the gospel of Mark written by this discard who fled away from mission at the first opportune time. One man believed that failure is not the end of the story. Given encouragement and support one will exhibit his divine nature and potential. In an age where the productivity of man and super talents are only that matter, losers have no place. They are considered a waste of time and a burden. We have moved to a society where only achievers and celebrities are considered humans. It here that we need more and more Barnabas to correct our course.

I will end this meditation with a story that has transformed me. Before going to Seminary as a pre- Seminary training, I was assigned to Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai. The special task that I was assigned by the director Rev. Dr. Moni Mathew, was to teach the 16 children who were preparing for their Standard 10th exams. This was exciting as I had to teach History, Economics, Business Studies and English along with Roshen George and Koshy Kurian. Before the exams there was an aptitude test arranged for these 16 children. I was with the Psychiatrist and Psychologist when they did the test. All the feedback was given to me. It quantified how successful a candidate would be in clearing the 10th Standard exam. Out of that, one boy Prakash was given the lowest marks. The Psychologist made it very clear that “He is not a good choice for academics. He will not do well. Be prepared that if he appears he may fail in all the subjects. He just does not have the aptitude. He is only fit for manual labour ” My heart sank. I shared the results with Moni Achen. He said “Prakash will write the exam. These are tests. It may be wrong.  Do not tell this to him. If he knows this he may be discouraged. You just encourage. If he fails, it is ok. I will take care of that. He is entitled for a chance that everybody has.” Honestly it was very tough teaching Prakash. He took time to understand. But he was the most sincere among the 16. He woke up every day at 3:45 AM. He studied. He had many doubts. He kept asking all of us. He told me “It is very tough. I do not understand a lot of things. But I am praying. I am trying my best.” There were days Prakash felt discouraged but he kept trying. The day of exams came. One after the other exams was getting over. We all were worried about how the children would fair. This exam allowed failure in 2 subjects. So I was hoping at least that they should achieve. The result was out in July when I was in Seminary. The first result I asked Koshy was about Prakash. I expected the worst. I prayed for the best. He had passed in every single subject. Yes. Prakash had passed in every single subject. I just could not believe my ears. Tears flowed. I am still misty eyed writing this. Prakash had too many things against him. But he believed in God. He tried his best. There was a person in Moni achen who was ready to be a paraclete and stand by Prakash to give him a chance. It was a very important reminder for me, never to write anyone off. I thank God for the timely lessons.

Rev Merin Mathew

Bethel Mar Thoma Church,

Kolar Road, Bhopal

 

kalam2

What’s On Your Mind?

 

 

Text: Philippians 4: 8

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Message

The more I read this Bible verse, the more I am in awe of Paul. He is writing this passage languishing in a prison where the hope of release looks very bleak. He is aware of his death and getting ready for it. In midst of that he exhorts the Church of Philippi. Paul certainly was a man who had too many discouraging things happening in his life. He had opponents who hated him. There were people who thought he was useless. There were people who even made fun of his appearance and speeches. Take a look at this. ‘For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”’ (2 Corinthians 10: 10) In midst of all such negativity how did he manage to have so much hope? Not only that, he also gave hope to people around him.

Facebook had a patent question that it asked “What’s On your mind?” In short it was asking what you are thinking about. Did you know that the average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to be 3.5 million thoughts a year. If you live to be 75, you will have over 26 million different thoughts. Already most of you have had over 2,000 separate thoughts since you got out of bed this morning. You’ll probably have another 8,000 before you go to bed tonight. Then you’ll start all over again tomorrow. Every one of those 10,000 thoughts represents a choice you make, a decision to think about this, and not about that. So what gets clear is that thinking is a choice. But it is also true that our thinking gets influenced by the people and circumstances around us. There are many circumstances that discourage us. We face rejection, people call us useless. When we look around we feel out of place. We hear voices like “I am not good enough. I am not fair. I am not intelligent. I am never going to succeed. Nobody loves me” These are the range of voices that go on buzzing in your head. It pulls you back. It makes you fear taking a risk. You are afraid of falling. Everything looks very tough.

Let me share a small parable. There once was a bunch of tiny frogs who arranged a climbing competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants. The race began. No one in the crowd really believed the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower.Heard throughout the race were statements such as, “Oh, way too difficult”, “They will never make it to the top”, “Not a chance they will succeed”, and “The tower is too high”.The tiny frogs began collapsing, one by one – except for those who, in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher. The crowd continued to yell, “It is too difficult! No one will make it”!More tiny frogs got tired and gave up. But one continued to climb higher and higher. This one refused to give up!At the end of the race, all had given up climbing the tower except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!All of the other tiny frogs wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it. They asked him how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal. It turned out that the winning frog was deaf!

Now it is not possible for us to turn deaf to what people say. Neither can you avoid negative thoughts. Because the more you avoid negative thoughts, it becomes more prominent. Try telling yourself “I am not going to think about red.” The more the color red will pop up. So Paul says instead of avoiding negative thoughts, just hear a different voice. The voice of the Lord. Once when Paul complained about an ailment to God and asked him three times to get cured he heard the Voice of God saying ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9). This is why memorizing Bible Verses is so powerful. I had all kinds of negative thoughts before writing my Marathi paper in standard Eight. My head was full of the voice of my teacher who ridiculed me as I had failed in her subject. I just did not know what to do. This voice just stuck with me. There is when my mother told me to read Psalms 91. “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, can say to him, you are my defender and protector, You are my God, in You I trust…..” That was the voice that helped me sail through. I did not avoid a negative voice, I heard a different voice.

I will end this meditation with a story that has transformed me. Before going to Seminary as a pre- Seminary training, I was assigned to Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai. The special task that I was assigned by the director Rev. Dr. Moni Mathew, was to teach the 16 children who were preparing for their Standard 10th exams. This was exciting as I had to teach History, Economics, Business Studies and English along with Roshen George and Koshy Kurian. Before the exams there was an aptitude test arranged for these 16 children. I was with the Psychiatrist and Psychologist when they did the test. All the feedback was given to me. It quantified how successful a candidate would be in clearing the 10th Standard exam. Out of that, one boy Prakash was given the lowest marks. The Psychologist made it very clear that “He is not a good choice for academics. He will not do well. Be prepared that if he appears he may fail in all the subjects. He just does not have the aptitude.” My heart sank. I shared the results with Moni Achen. He said “Prakash will write the exam. These are tests. It may be wrong.  Do not tell this to him. If he knows this he may be discouraged. You just encourage. If he fails, it is ok. I will take care of that.” Honestly it was very tough teaching Prakash. He took time to understand. But he was the most sincere among the 16. He woke up every day at 3:45 AM. He studied. He had many doubts. He kept asking all of us. He told me “It is very tough. I do not understand a lot of things. But I am praying. I am trying my best.” There were days Prakash felt discouraged but he kept trying. The day of exams came. One after the other exams was getting over. We all were worried about how the children would fair. This exam allowed failure in 2 subjects. So I was hoping atleast that they should achieve. The result was out in July when I was in Seminary. The first result I asked Koshy was about Prakash. I expected the worst. I prayed for the best. He had passed in every single subject. Yes. Prakash had passed in every single subject. I just could not believe my ears. Tears flowed. I am still misty eyed writing this. Prakash had too many things against him. But he believed in God. He tried his best.

I have myself been a slave of other peoples’ opinion. Do not get me wrong, the friends who have critiqued me have helped me grow. But there are way too many things that pull you down. There are many stereotypes that we need to subscribe. Let nobody else decide what you can or cannot do. Hear the Voice of God who has created you. Let his voice guide you on. So my dear friends’ whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ Amen

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 

The Miracle of ‘Touch’ and the Infection of Life

Text: Mark 1: 40-45

 

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Message

Leviticus 13 and 14 gave the Jews rules to follow when it came to skin diseases. They were to come to the priest and get examined. There is a laundry list of things that that the priest will look over and in the end pronounce him unclean. If that person had leprosy that meant that had to follow Leviticus 13:45,46 “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” So this was the state of the man who came in front of Jesus. He lived alone. He yelled “Unclean! Unclean!” That is what he thought of himself.

In those days a Rabbi was considered holy because of the distance he kept from mundane affairs. He was perceived to be closer to God because he avoided association with sinners and unclean people. One could only be holy if one distanced themselves from the common people. But here was the Rabbi of Rabbis who was God in the incarnate form, who had what one could call the “Miracle of Approachability”. Jesus was available for everyone. If being Holy means to keep distance from people and the world, the one is definitely not following Jesus. His gift to the people was His availability. As a Priest, I always feel tempted to be aloof and disengaged from mundane affairs. But I need to constantly ask myself, am I approachable? Am I available to people? Am I following Jesus?

It is this availability of Jesus that compelled the person with Leprosy to come out of his isolation. The law demanded that such people should never come out in public and never appear in front of rabbis. But this Man did come out. He knew that Jesus could cleanse him and heal him. But he was not sure if Jesus would engage with him. That is why he says  “If you choose, you can make me clean.” What did Jesus do?

Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai is a rehabilitation Centre for children of Commercial Sex workers. Most of the children had something about them where we could call it the “touch-deficit” inscribed on them. Either they were touched for all the wrong reasons or were not touched at all. This affected their self-esteem and confidence. There was a phenomenon that I saw when the then Director Rev Dr Moni Mathew came to the Centre. Children would run towards him. Was he giving gifts for them to flock. Yes. He was giving them the biggest gift that he could give. The gift of ‘touch’. He would hold them, affirm them, pat them and encourage them. Children loved that moment of eternity where they were respected and touched as humans. To be honest it is that day it dawned to me how important a human touch is. A touch means the world to people who are deprived of it. It is the touch that makes them feel human.

This man with Leprosy was one who nobody touched. Imagine a life where no one touched you. No one held your hands. No one patted your back and said “Well done.” No one hugged. No one kissed. No one put hands on your shoulder and said “Do not worry. Everything will be fine.” It is here we understand the “Miracle of Touch” that Jesus uses. He could have just said “be healed” and that would have been enough. But he chose to touch him. He affirmed the man his dignity. And then he says “I do choose. Be made clean!”. The man’s biggest struggle was the fact that he was unclean. It bothered him more than being a leper.  Jesus addresses his deepest struggle and made him clean.

What is the most fascinating part of this miracle? The man with Leprosy was believed to be infected. His disease was believed to be contagious. But here the Leper did not infect Jesus with his sickness. Jesus infected the Leper with his life. How beautiful! Jesus is life. And the life he has is infectious. When Jesus touched him it is said in vs 42 ‘Immediately the leprosy[e] left him, and he was made clean.’ The infection of life was so strong that even when Jesus warned the man with Leprosy to not tell this to anyone, But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word. He was filled with a new life that compelled him to spread the infection of life that Jesus promised.

When I am on facebook I come out feeling very miserable. There is so much of hatred, abuses, and negative comments all over. In our daily life we are faced with so much of anger in bus, work places and roads. We are all infected with hatred and we too are spreading this infection. I remember when in college, my best friend Sherin Abraham came and hugged me. I did not know what the matter was. Then he narrated to me a story. “I was riding my bike. I came to a signal where there was this old man. I partially nudged him and his tiffin fell on the ground and his food was all over the road. The people nearby yelled out in anger. I knew that was it. Then I looked at the old man who I had wronged. He looked and smiled at me. You know I was in tears. And he told me to go. He had every right to be angry. But he chose to smile. It was such a huge lesson of grace for me. He just ended the cycle of anger there and then.” In a time where prejudices, hatred and anger are so contagious and spreading like wild fire, Jesus is asking us to be contagious with life. Spread the joy of love. Celebrate life.  Spread the infection of being human. Let us spread the joy of life.  Life is truly wonderful.

Before giving the Holy Body and Holy Blood at the Eucharist, the Mar Thoma Liturgy has a passage where the Priest holds the Holy elements and turns to the congregation and says “Daivamaya karthaave Kaanapedavtha-alaatha Ninte Valath Kai Neeti……” (Lord Stretch out your invisible right hand…). We at the table of our Lord are infected with anger, jealousy, hatred and pride. The Priest beseeches Christ to Stretch out his hands like he stretched out to the Leper, so that we may be cleansed and be infected with the Life that only Christ can give. May Christ Stretch out His Invisible Right Hand and touch us. Let us hear him say “I do choose. Be made clean.” Amen

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 

Jesus Calls Ordinary People To Do Extraordinary Works (Matthew 28: 16 – 20)

 

Text: Matthew 28: 16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Message

In the field of education we have a phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect. Before we explore what it means let us explore the myth of Pygmalion. It is said that Pygmalion was a Sculptor from Cyprus. He was not interested in any woman in his country and therefore delayed his marriage. Finally he decided to make a statue of a woman with all love and creativity. He invested all hopes and aspirations into it. Once when he kissed the statue, the lips became warm and the lifeless form breathed life. So the Pygmalion Effect challenges the grading of a student as intelligent, average or below average. It supposes that if we expect a student to do well despite his/her poor academic record, chances are great he/she will rise to our expectations. This approach is also useful for managers and team leaders who with their positive expectations and encouragements can transform their team to do wonders.

We are meditating the very well known passage which is popularly called as the Great Commission. Jesus commissions the 11 disciples on a mountain in Galilee. It is said that when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. When we look at the people we refer as disciples, their inconsistency strikes us the most. James and John said they wanted to be on Jesus’ left and right when he came in his glory. At Gethsemane, when Jesus asked Peter, James and John to pray along with him, they dozed off. During the crucifixion they all deserted him. Peter denied him thrice. When the news of his resurrection was around, they chose not to believe it. Even when fellow disciples said they saw Resurrected Christ, Thomas chose to doubt. To such a group of men with huge inconsistencies and failures, Jesus says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is investing his expectations on a band of so called ‘losers’. But by the help of the Trinity these 11 losers change and transform the history of the world. They rise up to the commission laid down by their Master. Not only that, he also assures his presence to the end of the age.

Personally when I look at myself and evaluate my call and commission, I am aware that with all my internal contradictions and failures, I do not fit the bill. When I was ordained and commissioned to the Northeast, the thought troubled me, whether I was ready for something so challenging. But I realized that God does not call perfect people to do His work. He makes imperfect people perfect in the journey of doing His will. He also assures us his presence and guidance.

My dear friends, we live in times where negativity has become order of the day. In this fast and competitive world, where 95 and 96 is also average, there seems to be no place for ordinary people. One of my friends doing M.B.A. confided that “This is a cruel world. You have to be extraordinary and different to be in the race. Ordinary people like me have no chance of survival.” We live in times where we need to prove our worth or else we are good for nothing. What does one do? Where does one go? What is the purpose of life? My dear friends this passage is a testimony where our Saviour used very ordinary people to do extra ordinary things. There will be many people who will question our worth and integrity. But take heart. Our creator has created us for a purpose; He has invested his expectation on us. He has called us to do great things. Are we ready to rise up to His expectations?

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Roshen George is from Vashi Mar Thoma Church. I happened to know Roshen through my association with Navjeevan Centre Mumbai where I volunteered for nearly 2 years. The imprint of Roshen in the lives of the Children of Navjeevan Centre is very unique and distinct. He initially volunteered to be a house brother at Navjeevan to mould the lives of the children. He also taught children maths and science. I realized his presence and guidance was an inspiration for children who were in search for role models. But who is Roshen? What is his past? After his twelth grade Roshen decided to do Engineering. After venturing into it he realized that he was not meant for it. He failed in many subjects, got back log after back log. His self esteem took a beating, he started to venture into the realm of addiction. He lost track of his life becoming a headache for his parents and a matter of ridicule and scorn for the people who knew him. He decided that he is no good and plunged into despair and depression. It is at this time that Rev Kurien George was the Director of Navjeevan Centre. He was renowned as a counselor par excellence. Roshen’s parent’s in their countless effort to help Roshen out, also approached Rev Kurien. Achen called Roshen to Navjeevan and Roshen too very reluctantly went tired of the many efforts of people to straighten him up. But when they first met, Reverend asked him what he is good at. This was a much unexpected question. He had come to believe he was good for nothing. But strangely he said he loves mathematics. Reverend assigned him the task of teaching math for the children of 9th and 10th statndard of Navjeevan Centre. He was not used to being given responsibilities. But he took this one up. He dedicated himself to teach the children. In the meanwhile Rev Kurien engaged with him and helped him to deal with his problems of addiction and failure. Through prayers, fellowship and new sense of responsibility, Roshen was slowly being transformed. Roshen confided with me “It is these children who have changed me, they taught me how to pray, I learnt the love of Jesus observing their life, and therefore I will live for these Children. I will help them in their faith journey.” This was not a momentary decision. Even today, Roshen is the mentor of the boys at the Halfway home of Navjeevan Centre at Vashi. He is a role model and a brother to them. A person who was deemed as a failure and a headache was touched by the Love of God. He was endowed with expectations that he lived up to. This ordinary man did extraordinary things because Rev Kurien used the Grace of Jesus to transform him. The transformed became the transformer. Remember, when people write you off and discard you as a failure, Jesus invests expectations on you, believes in you and transforms you. Are you ready to live up to it? 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati