UTC Retreat Feb. 25-26, 2020
Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan
First Address at 8.30 pm on 25th.
Ps. 19:14. The words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Let Your Spirit of Truth lead us to all Truth. Amen
Respected Principal, Teachers, Students, Administrative, Library and Service staff, family members and UTC family in general
I am truly honored by having invited to lead this quiet day retreat at my old school. I thank the worship committee, the principal and all of you for this invitation. Of course, this is not the first time I am given such an honor. I was the main speaker at the youth meet during the valedictory function of the centenary celebrations and also the preacher at the concluding worship. I also was invited to present a paper at an Alumni Refresher Course Sessions few years back. What more than these an alumnus of this prestigious school can expect? I am truly honored by my school where my theological understanding was formulated. Thank you once again.
I may have to warn you, I am not a student of systematic theology in its strict sense. I try to look around, see my world and say to God and fellow beings, as Isaiah said, ‘I am a person with unclean lips living among people of unclear lips’ (Isa. 6:1). I see the present and tries to understand and address it. To me, theology has to be helping us to see the situation in the world, study it without prejudice and address it as a disciple of Christ. I warn you, I am a controversial person!
We are today considering Jeremiah 1:1-12 to address our world today.
In my presentation I will be moving in a zig zag style, please bear with me.
Let us look around and see!
Baro Nisa in Delhi, quit her job to join the protest against CAA-NRC-NPR to be a fulltime participant. Ladies of Shaheen Bagh with their children have been on the street since 15th of December 2019. They are common folks, but looked around and saw what the top brass in Indian politics have been doing in the parliament with the obscene majority people gave them (just this morning, Feb. 25, 2020, another protest front has been opened by, women again, in North East Delhi). They saw news about girls and women being sexually assaulted, killed, and burned to death after brutal rape. They saw price of commodities and provisions for kitchen go rocket high. They saw what the police was doing to the students and teachers of JNU and other universities around the country. They saw a major religious community deprived of their rights that Article 14 of Indian constitution offered. Some hundred thousand of them gathered on the street and chanted repeatedly the National Antham on January 26th 2020, in sub-zero temperature weather which I see with dismay. They shouted against all tendencies that divided Indians in to religious minorities and majorities. A girl, by name, Ayesha Renna pointed her finger against a police officer who was trying to beat up a fellow student in Delhi (I saw it with pride and posted it on my Facebook page with a note, “Symbol of Feminine Power”). She in a welcome meeting in Kerala, the other day, told the audience “Leave aside your fear and stand up on your feet”. Two women standing in the balcony of their apartment on the third floor of the building saw the home minister of India on the street asking for vote. They went inside, made a poster saying “Shame, No CAA – NRC” etc. with their bedsheet and hung it outside their balcony for him to see as a symbol of their protest. Rohit Vemula wrote in his diary “Do you surrender your identity and pride for a number or vote”. When these people saw what was happening around them, heard the voice of God asking them to come out and shout ‘pull down this unjust system and rebuild a secular free India’. My question this evening to you would be, have you seen any of these? If yes, what then, did God tell you, “you have seen well”?
Students of various universities in India saw these and came out of their class rooms and campuses to be beaten up by police while they continued to shout “Azadi (freedom), No CAA, No NRC”. I would think this is what is expected of a Christian and the Church as a whole in this world of injustice and divisive tendencies, look around and see what is happening around us, then shout ‘pull down and rebuild’.
Let me go for a historical survey now!
Benito Amilcar Andrea Mussolini (29 Jly. 1883-28 April 1943) was in the Allied army until he was relieved after was wounded in 1917. He denounced his Italian Socialist Party membership and started advocating for revolutionary nationalism. In March 1919, Mussolini formed the Italian Fascist Party, galvanising the support of many unemployed war veterans. He organised them into armed squads known as “Black Shirts”, who terrorised their political opponents. In 1921, the Fascist Party joined the coalition government in Italy.
In October 1922 after the “March on Rome”, Mussolini became the Prime Minister of Italy. He started creating a totalitarian fascist regime in Italy and banned all political parties. Mussolini believed in one party totalitarian rule in the country with its marks on its politics and economy. Fascist regimes by nature value nationalism and militarization and frequently build nationalist fervour around a concept of shared racial or ethnic superiority. He was killed in 1943. Mussolini's Fascist regime inspired Adolf Hitler in Germany.
It was in 1919 workers party was formed in Germany after the World War I. Germany had to face a humiliating defeat in the war and it was a blow to the German pride. Naturally they had to look for scapegoats and they found two, the Jews and the communists. The communists withdrew from the war half way through and the Jews gave a reason for the failure saying the “Spring Offensive” was the reason for defeat. According to the party that was a “gross Luge” or “big lie”. It is translated as, ‘use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone could have impudence to distort the truth so infamously’. This term was first used by Adolf Hitler while dictating his book “Mein Calf” (My Struggle) while he served his time in jail in 1925. Later his minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels popularised the term. It is an irony that Goebbels later became a synonym for ‘big lie’.
In 1921 Adolf Hitler became the leader of the party. The party was renamed as Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI) in the same year. Hitler became the chancellor of Germany in 1933. One of the first decisions he made was to establish concentration camps in the entire country starting with one in Dachau. Artists, intellectuals, nomads, handicapped, homosexuals, all were caught and were locked up in them. Jews and Communists were particularly rounded up to be confined. Jews were used as shield in warfronts in second world war. A total of about 6 million Jews were killed in 21 countries during the period. In German territory alone about 150 thousand.
Mussolini inspired not only Hitler but also those hard-core Hindu leaders of India. With this inspiration Keshav Baliram Hedgewar formed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on September 27th of 1925. The publicly declared goal of RSS was character formation which can be achieved through physical training. It reached out in to the public through aligned groups. With over 70,000 daily shakhas (training camps), around 4,000 full time pracharaks (cadre) and three dozen organisations working in every sphere of society, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has emerged as the largest voluntary movement in the world today. It was M S Golwalkar who made RSS a Pan-India organization. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s (who is commonly known as 'Swatantryaveer), book “Hindutva” is the bible of the organization. It talks about how the British rule humiliates the pride of Hinduism. He believed that, it happens because of the disunity of Hindus. He also opposed the Khilafat -Swaraj movement of Gandhiji (that supported the Ottoman rule in Turkey - 1919-1924). RSS believed that the British and Muslims are to be hated to the core and all the three, the British, Muslim and Christians are all “foreign communities”
M S Golwalker took up the leadership of RSS in 1940 and initiated a campaign to “protect the religion and culture” of Hindutva. His book “We or Our Nationhood Defined” became the text book of RSS principles.
To him Rashtra and Nation are synonymous. Religion, territory, race, language and culture are the basic ingredients of the Rashtra (“… the nation concept comprises the five constituent ideas- country, race, religion, culture and language” - p.28). “Religion, in its essence is that which by regulating society in all its functions, makes room for all individual idiosyncrasies, and provides suitable ways and means for all sorts of mental frames to adopt and evolve, and which at the same time raises the whole society as such, from the material, through the moral to the spiritual plane” (p.23)
“Every race, living in its own country evolves a language of its own, reflecting its culture, its religion, its history and traditions” (26) and that language has to be Sanskrit (p.43).
He says, “We repeat, in Hindustan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation-satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world. Consequently, only those movements are truly ‘National’ that aims at re-building, re-vitalizing and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation. Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and nation next to their heart. They are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. All others are either traitors and enemies to the national cause, or to take a charitable view, idiots” (p.44).
He continues, “At the outset we must bear in mind that so far as ‘nation’ is concerned, all those, who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea, can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National Race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners, who may be either friendly or inimical to the nation” (p.46).
“Emigrants have to get themselves naturally assimilated in the principal mass population, the National Race by adopting its culture and language and sharing in its aspirations, by losing all consciousness of their separate existence, forgetting their foreign origin. If they do not do so, they live merely as out siders, bound by all the codes and conventions of the Nation, at the sufferance of the Nation and deserving of no special protection, far less any privilege or rights. There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race that is the only sound view on the minorities problem” (p. 47).
These are established positions of the RSS which will be worked out through its political power limb, the BJP.
In short, to RSS, the Nation India is, where Manusmruthi becomes the fundamental principle that guides the policies of, where the language shall be Sanskrit, where a saffron coloured flag becomes the national flag. Everything and everyone else shall be foreign and a foreigner.
After the reign on Solomon, Rehoboam his son was to become the king. But the tax burden Solomon had levied on the people, had become too much for people to bear. So, they wanted a change in the style of administration in the nation. The leaders of the tribes came to Rehoboam Solomon’s son and asked him about his policies as the king of Israel. He was not a very wise person neither were his advisors. So, Rehoboam replied that he would make the burden of the people even heavier. That initiated a split in the nation. Ten of them went to North and two to South. Though God initially approved it (1Kings 12:15), the kind of worship established in the North was too much for God to bear as they established different kind of worship and the kind of symbols established were not to the traditional standards set earlier in Jerusalem (1Kings 12:30 ff.; 14:7 ff.). Not only Israel but Judah also had to take heavy toll due to the split. As we all know, this situation continued till Josiah (641/640 to 610/609 BCE) came to the throne in Jerusalem. But by that time both Israel and Judah had suffered a lot in the hands of Assyrians. Israel, the Northern nation, was not any more an independent nation. Judah survived total destruction, but had to pay heavy tribute to survive. Josiah became king at the age of eight. He was inclined to initiate major reforms in the country. The first reform Josiah undertook was repair of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem 18 years after he was enthroned (2 Kings 22. The Book of Chronicles says Josiah began reforms at the age of 16 which means 8 years after his enthronement with a personal religious awakening, and a purification of all the land from idolatry as reported in 2 Chr. 34). This helped him find the Law of the Lord buried under the debris in the temple. His reforms were extended to North (Israel) too. God called prophet Jeremiah (ministry from 626 to 570) to say to Jerusalem that they had sinned against the Lord. Yes, the prophet was called to “See, to Pull Down, to Build Up and Plant” (Jer. 1:10). Though we do not have any evidence to say that Josiah heard Jeremiah’s words, what he did was in response to his initial words who started his ministry at the thirteenth year of king Josiah (if that was the case, the statement of the Book of Kings would be more accurate than that of the Book of Chronicles which suggests Josiah began the reforms at the age of 16). It is stated in both records that the inspiration came from the words of the Book of Law. But the king’s attempt to cleanse and repair the temple began before they found the Book of the Law. Josiah undertook the mission well enough. He pulled down the abomination from both Judah and Israel and rebuilt the community by renovating the temple and once again observing the Passover as one people with both the North and the South in Jerusalem.
Now our nation India, of which we all are proud to be citizens of, is divided by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists and greedy and corrupt regional political leaders, regional parties, state administration and the corporates. It is a call for us to re-establish a just and righteous nation where we can worship God who “created everything seen and unseen” and Adam (human race – without any class distinction, stratification and segregation) in Truth and Spirit and not disturbed by unholy alliances that divide people. This is our challenge today as proud Indians.
Let me remind you of what I said in the outset about those people “who Saw” and responded. The blood of Abel cried out to God. The unjust and oppressive situation emerging in and around us cries out to God to pull this down so that something good and better can be built and planted. He is looking out to His prophets and disciples today and asking them, daughter, son, what do you see? Will God be able to say, “you have seen well”? Will we tell Him about what we see around us. This is our meditation this evening. God help us see what we should see.
Second Address (February 26th 8.30 am)
Good Morning my friends!
Yesterday I was on my desk in my room at the Ecumenical Research Centre giving final touch to my presentations. A butterfly was flying around in the room (I am not sure how it got inside) and God asked me “What do you see”? I said, “a butterfly”. God said, “you indeed saw it right”. God again asked me, “so what you see”? I replied, “I see God’s promise of a better and beautiful tomorrow”. God said again, “You saw it right”. My question this morning to you my friends, ‘what do you see’? Corona virus death toll in China rises to 2700, number of infected ones is further up at eighty thousand. It is spreading to other countries. Again, the question would be, “what do you see”?
I have already mentioned about the origin and development of the three fundamentalist political systems that emerged during the 1920s. The one originated in India was the RSS. Everyone knows that B J P is a child of RSS.
After consultation with M. S Golwalkar of the RSS, Syama Prakash Mukherjee (6th July 1901 – June 23rd 1953) founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh on 21st October 1951 in Delhi. After the declaration of the State of Emergency in India (1977-80) by the then Prime Minister Ms. Indira Gandhi, the Jana Sangh merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party. It defeated the incumbent Congress party in the 1977 general elections. After three years in power, the Janata party dissolved in 1980 with the members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh reconvening to form the BJP on April 6, 1980. Although initially unsuccessful, winning only two seats in the 1984 Parliament general elections, it grew in strength on the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Following victories in several state elections and better performances in national elections, the BJP became the largest party in the parliament in 1996; however, it lacked a majority in the lower house of Parliament, and the government lasted only 13 days.
The official ideology of the BJP is integral humanism, copied from Deendayal Upadhyaya who spoke about it as early as 1965. The party expresses a commitment to Hindutva as the RSS does, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu Nationalist positions. The BJP advocates social conservatism and a foreign policy centered on nationalist principles which the RSS upholds. So, we may very well say that BJP is the political wing of RSS.
Let me come to the current situation in our country once again. The BJP government, led by Sri. Narendra Modi, with Amit Shah as the home minister, presented a bill in both houses of the Parliament, got it passed and was declared law of the land on 2020 January 10th. This is what is called Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA). This act amended the 1955 Act of Citizenship (of course it was amended several times in the past). The current bill brings down the period from 12 years to 5 (on or before December 31st 2014) for refugees of Hindu, Sikh, Buddha, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to apply for citizenship in India without being subjected to Indian Foreigners act of 1946.
Two key issues are involved in this: why only three countries are included and why a major religion is excluded against the prescription in Article 14 of Indian constitution? This is where the hidden agenda of RSS comes out clear and transparent though not spoken publicly. It is alleged that out of 19 lakh names that were thrown out in Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) ordered by the Supreme Court of India, 12-14 lakhs are Hindus and the government is committed to grant them citizenship in Assam against the Article 371 of Indian constitution. The government has already abolished Article 370 in Kashmir. This will make North East Indian states lose their special privileges to keep their culture and language undiluted. Let me give some data on the NRC conducted in Assam that ended on August 31st, 2019. Some 55000 employees were engaged in the data collection for about ten years and 133.92 crores of Rupees had to be spent for a population of just 3.55 crores and 19 lakhs of people which is 13% of total population of the state was thrown out of the register to be put in detention camps. Just imagine how much would be the total time, human resource, energy and money to be spent on NRC in the whole country! If this plan of the central government comes through, the country will plunge into very serious socio-political-economic crisis and a good percentage of our residents will have to be put in detention camps not having any document to prove that their grandparents were born and lived in India.
Again, this is against the basic tenets of Indian constitution that no discrimination shall be there based on religion, cast, creed or language. Further they want to take National Register of Citizens (NRC) and put those failed to be included in the list in detention camps before they were thrown out of the country (if you find any similarity anywhere in the world any time in history, it is not intentional but only co-incidental!). Now the national administration says not NRC but National Population Register (NPR with many of the question in NRC) is what they are planning for. I am not going into details of the matter as all of you should be well aware of the details of the issues involved.
It is also alleged that this new bill and amendment was to divert the attention of the public from the nation’s ailing financial situation.
What I wanted to say is, this bill certainly is aiming at putting in the practice the Hindutva objectives of RSS as detailed in Golwalker’s book.
This is the current situation we are to take as a challenge in our mother country. Pull down this unjust, discriminative attitude of the present political leaders of the country and reestablish our nation which is to be secular, democratic, socialist, multi-cultural, multi-religious and diverse in all respects, but still one nation.
A young person from the priestly family of Benjamin tribe in Judea, who probably hoped to become a priest like his ancestors, but was called by God to be His mouthpiece. He tried to excuse himself but, God was determined. So, he was called and sent out by the Lord to “See, to Pull Down, to Build and Plant”. My question would be, what made him what he became? Our text in Jeremiah Ch.1 says Yahweh called him. This is a tricky thing. How does God call a person? Old testament talks about dreams, angles, messengers and like in the case of Amos something people saw accidently that delivered a message from God.
I am so fascinated by the way Amos, the prophet, addressed Amaziah the priest in the North. What he saw was not what he saw with his eyes. He went beyond what he saw in front. To me it was the world he lived in helped him go beyond. He saw what others failed to see and it made him concerned and that concern helped him see and hear what many did not see or hear, but what God wanted him to see and hear.
Jeremiah, as you may already know, lived and prophesied during the time of kings Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (627-587 BCE). But he was more active from 609 BCE when Jehoiakim became king until he was taken to Egypt. The book speaks about “nation under massive assault and a people whose lives were wrecked with pain” (Abington). Babylonians came to the country and attacked it three times (597, 587 and 582). This resulted in shattering of Judah’s social, religious and political orders to leave survivors beaten and disillusioned. The temple and the palace were burned down, city walls were pulled down, leading members of the community taken away to Babylon. Several escaped to Egypt and they took the prophet also with them.
Judah’s unfaithfulness to God and mistreatment of the poor were seen by Jeremiah as the reason for it being pulled down. The prophet did not see exile as the end of history, rather as something which would open the possibility to rebuild a new community.
After a long period of Assyrian dominance king Josiah brought Judah back to its fame (640-609). He was able to bring the split-away Northern people to worship in Jerusalem and restore “the Book of the Law”.
To Golwalkar a nation has to have only one religion, one Nation (state), one language, one race and one culture. What he had in mind about Hinduism is not Hinduism but Brahminism because what they define Hinduism is not a pluralistic but a homogenous community. Religion is considered by him as the main constituent element in a nation. A state has to become a nation. In such a nation the presence of minorities run the risk of Hindu nationalism being shattered. He believed that British and Islam are encroachers. To him, the post-world war time was the situation when minorities were added to nations.
Oxford dictionary declared the international word of the year 2016 to be “Post Truth”. The phrase became popular only in 2016 even though we could see traces of the idea in the writings of Friederich Niectzsche (1844-1900), Max Weber (Maxmillian Karl Emil Weber 1864-1920) and later Hanna Arendt (1906-1975). Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Post truth’ as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
It was claimed by our prime minister when he announced the demonetization on Nov. 8th, 2016 that it will increase savings, will control financing terrorists, help unearth black money, reduce interest rates, boost cashless economy and many more advantages. But what have we seen? Total chaos in the financial sector, people dying on the street waiting on long lines for hours to withdraw their deposits, devaluation of Indian currency and the country plunging in to serious financial crisis which is present even today. Most of the demonetized currency came back in to the reserve bank, terrorism still continuing, suffering of small-scale vendors escalated. It was a folly propaganda with a different purpose. It certainly helped designated people. The “Economic Times” on November 11th, 2016, reported that, it is alleged that Bengal state unit office of BJP got one crore rupees in deposit in the form of thousand and five hundred rupee notes hours before the demonetization was announced.
Then came GST (Goods and Services Tax) claiming that it will ease the taxation procedures, will bring in more revenue to the government, state governments will get 17% out of the total tax revenue, will boost small scale business etc. etc. But now what is the result? The central government has lost so much tax income. Not a single rupee has been given to the state governments as share of GST yet. Now the central finance ministry has called a meeting to reduce the percentage of states’ share. It has definite negative impact on real estate business.
Now CAA to help minority communities in the neighboring countries!!! But what are we looking at? Out of three only two are our neighboring countries (Afghanistan is not sharing any territory with India). Several direct territory sharing countries are omitted from the list. A major minority community is omitted. PM says since 2014 the government never ever thought about NRC or NPR. But the home minister announced in the parliament several times about it. PM also said there will not be any detention camps. But on 2019 April 22nd the central home ministry had asked the state governments to set up enough centers to house those who will be thrown out of the citizen’s register. Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi testifies that there are six of them established in his state during his term. Prime Minister in Assam announced that article 371 will not be revoked in NE Indian states. He had already revoked article 370 in Kashmir. Everyone knows that the CAA primarily hopes to give citizenship to those 12 to 14 lakhs of Hindus in Assamout of a total of 19 lakh thrown out from citizen’s register in Assam and it will make Article 371 ineffective in practice in NE India states.
This indeed is ‘post – truth’ era in India. This has to be pulled down. We need to proclaim freedom on the streets, we need to shout Azadi in our gatherings, we need to declare a year of Jubilee to those who are made slaves and foreigners, Dalits, tribals, Muslims, Adivasis and to every one they try to exclude from this free democratic country.
We Christians who find comfort (Amos 6:1) in the fact that we are also listed in the Act as eligible to be granted citizenship, sooner or later will find ourselves in the list of those to be excluded because, as I said earlier, our forefathers never cared to keep their birth certificates from a government official. Think of what happened in Khandamal in Odisha state during 2007-‘8 period (I visited that place a couple of month after the incident) where fifty thousand Christians were chased out in to the forest by burning their houses and killing about 200 people. What all other atrocities they did to them, I don’t have to explain.
It is time for us to pull down and rebuild our nation. Talk to the political leaders, talk to the people. Tell them this is not the India of Mahatma but is of Nathram Godse that our leaders a trying to create. The Church has to rise up, not for its own rights, but for the rights of every Indian, of every other religion, of every other race, language and community. This is our ministry of preference today, the ministry of Jeremiah!
Jeremiah was asked not only to pull down, but to build and plant too. After those painful days of exile in Babylon God brought them back to Judah. It was not one of those Israelite leaders God chose to liberate them. It rather was the king of Persia, Cyrus, who helped them come back. For that God had to bring in Cyrus to pull down Babylon which was used by God to pull down the unfaithfulness of the children of Abraham, who were also liberated from Egypt for no better reason but for His love. God wanted Abraham and his descendants to be a blessing to peoples (Gen. 12). God said, “khoh emar Yahweh l’m’shiho l’kores, (“Thus says the Lord to Cyrus the anointed” - Isa. 45:1). We may remember that they had sung Psalm 137 which said, “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” (which was later beautifully sung by the music troop BoneyM). But later God helped them sing “the Lord is my liberator…’ (Ps 18:2). That’s why Isaiah said, “Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord…” (40:1), and ‘prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness’ (40:3). I say it again, it was not any one from among the leaders of the Israelite community through whom God worked out liberation of His people.
Look at the present scenario, it is not the top brass in the Church or denominations who claims to have experienced liberation in Christ, in the forefront of the anti CAA struggle. It is the common folks, students, young girls, and boys, they are the ones who came forward to say “Azadi, No to CAA and NRC”.
Of course, I am not forgetting the statements released by NCCI and Evangelical Fellowship of India against the central government of India’s policy of dividing the nation on the basis of religion. These are just statements, no active participation. At the same time, I also saw a statement from the vice chairman of national Minorities Commission, a Christian from Kerala who said, “CAA is good for Christians”.
This country has its spirit granted by our Lord who made heaven and earth. I say this not because Donald Trump said that this country is a great one. He wanted to please us to sell helicopters that costs 21,629 crores and to sell medical equipment. He also wanted IOC-Exon treaty that benefits his country. And what India got in return in the deal, zero (we should also see his double standard in declaring India a non-developing country for trade benefits anymore just before his visit which will result in them making big trade benefits and which will deprive us of any custom duty benefit). He said in one of his speeches during the visit that Indian Muslims are growing in number. My question would be, what then in the world Christians and Hindus are getting married for? Its for other reasons to that I say this country has the spirit of God. It’s all about what this country is standing for and what is expressed in its constitution. This country echoed the words of Moses who was asked by God to say, “Let my people go” (Ex. 9:1) at the British colonizers. Again, because Christ’s approach to people was copied in to its constitution to have a democratic, all inclusive, non- discriminative and secular nation. Christ on his part embraced, those outcasts in his own community like, fisherfolks, tax collectors, Samaritan, sinners, women, children and even people like Nikodemus, one among the top brass in the community, without any discrimination during His earthly ministry. I am sure this country will come out of this. I have an example for that. After the second term of Prime Minister Adal Bihari Vajpayee, when he came out in public asking for vote, the slogan was “India Shining” in 2004. But BJP lost miserably. I wrote a note on a Christian periodical “New Vision” saying, “India has a positive spirit which primarily is secular and all - inclusive and that is why this fundamentalist approach of BJP was rejected by Indian voters”. This was further commented by Indian Express daily, Kochi. Yes, I do believe, this Pharaoh will be removed in Red Sea. I see the signs of it in Maharashtra, in Jharkhand and now in Delhi.
Jesus responded to his religious leaders who questioned His kind of journey to the temple saying, “if they don’t, the stones will do it” (Luke 19:40). Bonhoeffer said, “the Church is Church only when it exists for others”. Unfortunately, we hold up the cross of Emperor Constantine and not of Jesus Christ. Christ’s cross is even today hidden and in oblivion. We carry the cross that proclaims “you die for me” as Constantine who carried the cross in war to enlarge his territory. Christ’s cross proclaims, “I die for you” (Mark 10:45).
God will certainly bring out good news, as He showed me through the butterfly in my room this morning, He will build and Plant as He said to Jeremiah. Bishop Paulose Mar Paulose from Thrissur said once, “The question is not whether change happens or not, rather the question is, whether the Church was there in bringing the change as a tool in the hands of God”. I get so emotionally charged when I read Jesus’s question at the garden of Gethsemane saying, “Could you not keep awake with me even for an hour” (Matthew 26:40). He had asked them before He went to pray saying, “My soul is so sorrowful even to death; remain here and keep awake with me” (Matthew 26:38). We cannot say oh, He asked that only to Peter and the sons of Zebedee. No, it was to each one of us that He asked. Jesus always referred to himself as “Son of man” even when Peter called Him “Son of the living God” (Matthew 16). It puts us in to a vigilant mood to be watchful against the suffering of children of God.
Not a single Christian can ever be happy and content when her or his neighbour’s rights are not protected. It is not a fight because a particular community is excluded, it is not a fight because the cultural heritage of a people is encroached, it is a fight because it fundamentally questions the very existence of the citizens of this great country that God granted us to live and worship freely. It is because it questions the right to be a human being of self-esteem and dignity and not to be sent to detention camps and then to Indian Ocean to be drowned simply because our great grandfather did not have a birth certificate from this RSS government.
The question is, will you see what God wants you to see, and will you participate with Him pull down this unjust, undemocratic, discriminative, divisive regime and to build and plant a nation where everyone, like in the American comedy show “Cheers” title song would say, “sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name and they are always glad you came”. O God! help me be part of this struggle like Jeremiah. It is a “costly Discipleship” like the one Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to live and die. We may not or may not die, but first live a life of a Christian Disciple, look around, see, respond, help God pull down and participate with Him build up. That was the mission of Jeremiah, that is our mission today. God bless us. Amen
Sermon at Community Worship (February 26th 4. 30 pm)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive him approval. For he is God’s servant for your good.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides! You say, if anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath. You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, if anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath. You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices, mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, if we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So, you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! You snake, you brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore, I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.
The Principal, Teachers, staff, students, UTC community and friends! Good Afternoon!
When I stand here, ocean waves of nostalgic memories fill and overflow my heart. I have stood on this podium and at this pulpit several times in the past. That
was more than three decades back (1977 to 84). When I used to stand here those days, except for a couple of occasions, people would be sitting on various corners of the chapel closely watching me deliver the message to find some point to be
raised in the following sermon criticism class. It certainly helped me in my
ministry a lot.
I am very much indebted to this college for my theological orientation and
personality making. Yes, I must proudly say, this institution made me what I am now as a preacher, a passionate student of Old Testament, a socialist, an
activist and of course a clergyman.
Friends, here is where I learned to challenge critically everything I may confront, no matter how authentic it may claim to be of itself. As you all know that includes the Scripture both of the Jews and of Christians.
Of course, I believe, the Bible contains the Word of God. But I have to find it out among those personal testimonies, cultural traits, mythological symbols and many other ways the human writers, editors and compilers brought that Word of God to life in written form.
So, I read the passages in the Bible, especially those from the epistles, with much more care. When I do that, I come across several issues.
Now I wish to talk about what issue I have with Paul. He says in Romans 13:1-2 to be submissive or obedient to rulers of the world. His reason to say that is, they are instituted by God. We have similar passages in Eph. 5:22-24 where he asked wives to obey their husbands, who are like the Lord to the Church. In Eph. 6:1, and Col 3:20 he is asking the children to obey their parents. In Eph. 6:5 and Col. 3:22 he asks the servants to obey their masters. In all these Paul is bringing in ‘obedience’ as a cardinal character in the life of Christians. In other words, he is creating a stratified system in the society with those who would be controlling and those who would be obedient. Of course, he was a person of the time. But when I see the passage in Matthew I quoted, I get a different picture. Also when I see the reply of Jesus to the Pharisees who asked about divorce, I get a different message than that of Paul. Jesus said, husband and wife are not two but one (Matthew 19:5, 6). I don’t see any discrimination or stratification between. Of course, I also hear Paul saying “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).
Now I must say, I have problem with the word ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’. Of course, Jesus had asked the people to listen to what the Scribes and Pharisees say as they are seated on the throne of Moses (Matt. 23:1 ff.). But in the rest of the whole chapter we see him criticising the leaders and rulers of the community very harshly and he never wanted people to follow their ways.
My point is, if there is an unjust and oppressive regime in the religion or society or anywhere else, it will not be right on the part of any one to obey them and be submissive to them simply assuming that they were ordained by God. I would not think for a moment that God would ever approve the ways of such unjust and inhuman authorities. It will not be right on our part to assume that such rulers are ordained by God and their authority comes from God as Paul would suggest. In such situation I would say, we will have to stand up and tell them, you are wrong. This is what John the Baptist taught us to do. He shouted at Herod the governor saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife as your wife” (Mark 6:18). Of course, he lost his head for that.
This is the reason I have issue with Paul when he talks about obedience. To me obedience comes from fear or compulsion at least in the present socio-political world. To me participation is the right attitude.
When I address the Sunday school Children of my diocese either in the parishes or in general in the diocese, I tell them “don’t you ever obey your parents”. The children will be very happy as it comes from a bishop. But the parents who are waiting to take the kids home will be much disappoint in me, thinking that, with that advice, I am spoiling and misguiding the children. Then I would continue, “but children, I want you to participate with your parents and siblings in everything to make your home a truly Christian home with lot of love, caring and peace”.
This is where I turn to the author of a wonderful book, “Costly Discipleship”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Discipleship is not an offer that man can make to Christ, rather it is an offer and invitation Christ makes to you”. Of course, it is a costly thing. It may cost you your position, your friendship, your comfort zone and even your life. So, if you claim that you are a Christian or a disciple of Christ, you will not without considering the content of the ordinances of the ruler, submit to him or her, whoever it may be.
Jesus, on His part, calls us to participate with him. Participate with Him in his plan to make the world the Kingdom of the Father. Jesus on His part in participation with His Father who wanted to save His creation from estrangement, participated with our lives right from birth. He went through every stage in the life of a human, though was the Incarnate Word of God. He went through suffering and death which are realities of this physical world for humans and he invites us to participate with him in his resurrection.
This is what we want in our world: participation. I get so upset when I hear people say, ‘I don’t care’ or ‘who cares’. A world where people would not care for each other will never survive but will perish. A ruler who asks for obedience is not a caring person and with him or her we cannot participate in any thing he or she may do or asks us to do. A not caring nature is the product of absolutist and monopoly attitude. This is not the kind of world God created.
If someone is trying to make a world where there will be just one religion, one opinion, one language or one race, that will be a dying community.
I was watching with so much joy, the garden Ms. Somi Zuala (UTC Registar’s wife) created. I have never seen so many varieties of Christmas flower in my life. I found it so beautiful with not just one colour, but several colours. That plurality makes it truly amazing. This is how God created this universe. “Each according to its kind” and not everything of the same kind. We have the same Paul who talks about the diversity in gifts and ways in 1 Corinthians 12. He says “for one spirit are we all baptized in to one body. Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bonded or free; and have been all made to drink in to one Spirit (13).
Gustavo Guttarez would say, we must remember that every moment and every situation challenges us to action and participation beyond anything and everything that may separate us. Yes, beyond every boundary. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and we must behave as a neighbour to others who ever it may be and how different he or she may be. Guttarez continues, “Christians cannot forgo their responsibility to say a prophetic word about unjust economic conditions”. I would add, unjust political and social conditions.
I have not been talking so much about God or Jesus Christ in my two meditations. The very fact that Jesus became Incarnate tells us that God doesn’t care much about Himself, whereas He care so much about His creation and we humans included. He lived and participated in our lives. So, I think our way of doing things should be putting the world and particularly humans in the centre of our talk.
Matthew 7:21 tells me that I need not behave like a worker in a political party, who walks after his leader calling him every other minute leader, leader, leader, go after Jesus calling master, master. I just need to be what I am, doing the will of God which is to believe in the one whom He sent (John 6:40). Then the question is, how do I believe in the one sent by the Father. He said, Love your neighbour (Mark 21:31); and, Love one another as He loved us (John 15:17). To love my neighbour, I will have to see him on the road, wounded, naked, abandoned, hungry and attacked. This is why I talk about politics which leaves people attacked, wounded and left on the road for death.
Jesus said, “I shall be with where two or three are gathered together in My name” (Matt. 18:20). It is not a mathematical figure He was talking about. It is an issue about where people are, and what way people’s fellowship is growing without any discrimination, but as one liturgical community steadily growing in number and quality. I do not believe that growing in number has to be growing number in a particular denomination or organized Church, but in participation in the struggle of creation to make a better tomorrow. When I say quality, I mean, the quality of mutual love, respect, caring and establishment of peace and justice.
So here is our mission whether in Politics, about I talked at length or in social life which includes Church/ religious life, what is required of me is to see the situation where humans and the created world at large is and participate without any reservation and without caring for individual safety and self-protection to make it good, better and the best.
Jeremiah was called not only to pull down, but to build up and plant. Pulling down is the first step of building and planting which was already there. As I said earlier, God pulled down the Babylonian Empire to build Israel again. If Jeremiah had obeyed the Assyrian or Egyptian authority, he would not have seen what God asked him to see and what God asked him to say. If second Isiah had obeyed the Babylonian Empire, he would have never said, “Prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness” (Isa. 40:3). If we had obeyed the British queen, we would have never been a free country. If we obey Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Amit Shaw, we would never be in a free, democratic country. So, I have issue with Paul when he says, “Be subject to or obedient to the governing authorities because there is no authority except from God”. I know this authority of our prime minister and home minister is not from God. So, I reserve my right to protest and say no to CAA, No to NRC, No to NPR which are discriminatory and divisive. God is a God of unity and as He is though three, One God, the Almighty. I worship Him and participate with Him in making this world even more beautiful with plurality and variety. I follow Jeremiah to say, ‘I will pull down and will build up and plant’ for a better tomorrow for God’s creation starting with my country India. Amen