Thought for the day
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah, Presbyter, CSI Karnataka Central Diocese, gives a meditation on "JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS" Safeguarding from Victimisation.]
Lenten Meditations- Day 11 (for 18th March 2019)
"JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS" Safeguarding from Victimization
Selected Texts: John 18:3-9 | Matt 26:47-49 | Mk 14:43-46 | Lk 22:47-48 | Job 7:20 | Acts 9:4.
Introduction Biblical and liturgical sources have identified Judas as the betrayer. Luke 22:3 records, ‘then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve’. In Matthew 26:50, Jesus identifies Judas as a friend and asks him to do what he was called for. In Mark 14:21, Jesus says ‘it would be better for that one not to have been born’. Knowingly or unknowingly, history of Christianity records Judas as the betrayer. Matt 27:3-4 is considered for our reflection. Judas deeply regrets and comes back to the religious authorities seeking Jesus’ release. Judas understands Jesus’ victimisation as innocent suffering in the experience of repentance and being in awareness of the powers that demean and scorn life. These verses also connote Judas’ unawareness and the manipulating skills of the power that was in concern plotting against Jesus’ victimhood. Judas’ plight was completely rejected hence as a person, Judas was dejected, thereafter he committed suicide.
Firstly, the ethic and the zeal of the Bible that eliminate the possibilities of victimisation are crucial while understanding and meditating on the biblical stories. Biblical text subverts the very notion of victimisation; hence the classical story of Jesus’ betrayal is to be re-looked from the victim’s point of view. The powers that contributed to violence are to be held as the cause for the brutal death of both Jesus and Judas. The nuance in the story is the innocence of the commoner’s resistance on one hand and the manipulating abilities of the powers in control on the other hand. Judas’ reaching out the authorities in pinning down Jesus could have been Judas’ notion of freedom while the authority capitalises on the occasions and expels the very idea of the authority being held as responsible for Jesus’ death. Biblical narratives thrive on the concepts like; forgiveness, mercy and abundance of reconciliation, Hence, the classical story that victimises and continues victimisations must be re-looked from Judas’ efforts to repentance. And the narrative is to be re-read knowing the capacities of the dominant to manipulations and fraudulence that contribute to the sufferings of the innocent. In this case, we can see both Jesus and Judas as victims of the dominant’s despotic ploy.
The notion of nationhood in India is built on the idea of caste. We are confronted by caste empires that are built in such a way that the weak and the vulnerable are pitted against each other. Caste on many grounds is to divide the already divided community through various aspects that influence life today like- region, language, class, faith, and gender. It is of foremost importance to understand the process of victimisation in the country. As true followers of Christ, our primary task is to reflect the passion narratives from Jesus’ over all message of God’s Justice that breaks the shackles of nomenclature of nailing the innocent while the war lords of the world are let free to further their violent ways of life.
Secondly, Betrayal is a virtue that the dominant, feudal, the coward kings and the brutal rulers of the world expect from their subjects, slaves and dependable communities. James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist identifies betrayal as a Jewish religious necessity that inspires a person to depend upon the creator for help and providence while the created order is a subject to the same. However, in the passion narratives we see how betrayal is privileged in the wider story of the creator’s history of liberation, the betrayal that contribute to the wellness of the entire creation. To betray the dominant is the subtle moral etiquette that we are to see to understand the deeper significance of Judas in the story. The story of Jesus and Judas is also a story of friendship that dares to play against all odds of the religious bigotry and fascist empires.
As communities of Christ, we are to risk not only our lives but our ideals, our thinking patterns and our traditional dehumanising faith claims. In a context where the mass media and our popular culture understands predominantly the Dalit and the Tribal people as the perpetrators of violence, poor people as “bad”, the dark looking men and women as “ugly”, unconventional men and women as “morally” corrupt and so on. Now in the story of Jesus and Judas, we need to move towards a paradigm that dares to think Christ. Noted holocaust survivor, Ellie Wiesel said, ‘opposite to love isn’t hate, but indifference’. Indifference keeps us away from love; from imitating Christ. Hence, indifference to Judas in the story has kept us in the enclave of victimising. Let this time of lent give us the courage to dare to think in the spirit of Christ. May we be empowered to save victims from being victimised due to their vulnerability.
Hymn: God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm. His purpose will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Author: William Cowper/k. Jason French.
Prayer O gracious God, our courage and strength, we pray to you to bestow in us a passion to think differently, to eliminate the spirit of indifference in us. We have failed utterly in understanding the deeper significance of your love and justice. Help us Lord in and through the story of Jesus and Judas to learn to recognise the organised crimes of the powers of this world. Inspire us in the spirit of Christ, for the sake of Christ. Amen.
Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah,
Presbyter, CSI Karnataka Central Diocese.
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept.- Day 10 "Trials and Trust
Lenten Meditations- Day 10 (for 16th March 2019)
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. K. Jason, Presbyter from the Krishna-Godavari Diocese of the Church of South India, gives a meditation on "Trials and Trust."]
"Trials and Trust"
Selected Texts: Mark 14: 32-42 | Luke 22: 39- 46]
Introduction: Lenten Season is a time to focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died, and thus paid for our sins, we have life. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise and enjoy heaven forever.
C.S. Lewis quotes, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” So there is a place and there is a purpose and there is a perspective of suffering we need to face. The trials we face in this world can turn into challenges through trust.
1. The determination to Depend on God:
(Job 1:13-22): The first two chapters of Job are the part of the story that is probably most familiar to people today. Job is a righteous man who suffers greatly and displays amazing piety. The prelude to the book of Job sets up the meditation on suffering that follows it and the evidence of a folk tale known in ancient Israel about a righteous man named Job, a man "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (1:1b).
Job responds to his suffering twice in the prologue. The first time, after he lost his wealth and his children, he frames his suffering in the images of birth and death: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). After he is afflicted by boils, and challenged by his wife to “Curse God and die,” Job responds somewhat more uncertainly, but still with piety: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” (2:10). These statements of Job can be read in different ways. Firstly we can see them as over pious. Secondly, we can hold them up as the sole examples of Job’s faith and patience.
We would hold up these responses as the only proper way to respond to suffering, it must be said that these statements are not Job’s last word and that what follows them, Job’s long and anguished lament, is also faithful. Praise and lament are two sides of the same coin. In both trials and trusts, we cling to God, even when we don't understand God. In both trials and trusts, we believe that our lives are inextricably bound up with God’s life. In both trials and trusts, we acknowledge that God is God and we are not.
When we depend on God with trust in our sufferings we will be strengthened. That strength will make us take effort and work out to face the challenges and sufferings. It will make us a matured personality.
2. Diligence to Develop as Matured:
(James 1:1-13): Vv. 2-3: The Christians, James was addressing, were facing trials of many kinds. These trials were not severe persecution but rather low-level persecution such as social rejection and economic boycotts. This was happening simply because they were Christians. Although the trials were painful, James calls the believers to rejoice, not because the pain is pleasant but because they should have a perspective which looks beyond the present life in eternal reward. The pure joy is not in present happiness but joy in anticipation of God’s future. The reason they could rejoice is that this testing of their faith would produce perseverance or patience.
Vs, 12-13: Vs 12 picks up the theme of the trial from Vs 2-4 and adds a new dimension to the happiness of the man who endures: He will receive the crown of life.
Vs 4: Perseverance itself has an effect. It is like holding a fine steel sword blade in the fire until it is thoroughly tempered. In this case, the sword is the believer, the fire is testing and the ‘tempering’ is that the believer becomes mature and complete, not lacking anything. Maturity is produced by holding fast to the faith and Christian virtue while in the fire of persecution.
This maturity will be helpful not to take any decision by ourselves to change the situation or suffering. Rather it will make us question or examine the suffering to disclose God’s will or plan.
3. Debrief to Disclose God’s Plan:
(Mark 14:32-42): Jewish history is filled with stories of heroic martyrdom. By contrast, Mark 14:32-42 renders with harsh clarity this critical hour (14:35, 37, 41 also 13:32) in Jesus’ faith -- “distressed and agitated,” “deeply grieved” (14:33-34), reminders of earlier stories that presented distressed humanity’s need for faith. Gethsemane is a rehearsal for Golgotha, where, wretched and isolated, Jesus cries out to an intimate yet distant “Abba, Father” (14:36).
Three times Jesus returns to a waiting trio. Each time he finds them asleep when they ought to have been watchful in “the time of trial” (14:37-38a; cf. 13:33-37). An eager spirit, which Peter has expressed (14:29), is no match for human frailty (“flesh”), starved of prayer (14:38b). On his final return, Jesus announces that “the hour” has arrived for the Son of Man’s ultimate betrayal (14:41-42). Another omen of Golgotha: in the persons of Peter, James, and John, the Twelve have begun falling away from their teacher, just as he foretold (14:27; cf. 14:50-52).
At Gethsemane, he demonstrated the disciple’s appropriate response to suffering: faith, expressed in prayer, which penetrates anguish. As obedient as he was beloved, Jesus was the complete servant of God’s will (Mark 14:36), which all his disciples proved themselves incapable of obeying. Jesus became the little child able to enter the kingdom. Only by doing so he could make his life whole, and ours as well (8:34-38). Jesus trusts the will of God the Father and could change the trials into justice, love and peace.
Disclosing God’s plan will lead us to change the trials and challenges to explore justice love and peace in our life and the life of others.
Conclusion: When suffering rears its ugly head, lean on God who loves us. Lean on the God who has rescued us. Bear the cross with a patient, trust knowing with certainty that God actually has our best eternal interests in mind with that suffering and will bring us out of it, likely in this life, but ultimately in the perfection of eternal life. In this life, the Lord may give and he may take away. But today and always, may the name of the Lord be blessed! Amen.
(What a Friend we have in Jesus)
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
God of Trust! In the perfection of life that you have bestowed us, we fall into many trials and temptations. The suffering, death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ revealed Trust and Hope for us to elevate from our fallen state in Justice and harmony. Let the suffering and death of Jesus Christ teach us to depend, to develop maturity and know the plans of the one, God, who lives and reigns with us forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. K. Jason
Presbyter, Krishna-Godavari Diocese.
All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) is in the process of preparing a road map for congregations for an Economy of life and ecological justice. For that they convened a meeting of the departmental heads on 15th March 2019, at AACC headquarters in Nairobi. AACC is an ecumenical fellowship that represents more than 120 million African Christians in 173 national churches and regional Christian councils. Dr.Mathew Koshy Punnackad, Hon. Director of the CSI Synod departmental ecological concerns addressed the meeting. Bishop Arnold Temple, President of AACC, Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki, General Secretary of AACC, Ms.Agnes Aboum, Moderator of the central committee of WCC and Ms. Athena Peralta also addressed the gathering. The participants appreciated the ecological activities of CSI.
Prof.Dr.Mathew Koshy Punnackad
Hon.Director of CSI Synod Ecological Concerns
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept.- Day 9 "New Commandment: Love in the Context of Hatred and Intolerance"
Lenten Meditations- Day 9 (for 15th March 2019)
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Sunil Raj Philip, the Director of the Communication Department of the Church of South India Synod, gives a meditation on "The institution of the Lord’s Supper: Leading to the Alternative Community".]
New Commandment: Love in the Context of Hatred and Intolerance
Texts: John 13:31-38 | Lev. 19: 15-18 | 1 John 4: 4-11
John chapters 13-17 are called the farewell speech of Jesus. Knowing that his time of leaving has come, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples and empowers them. He explains his mission and the challenges for his disciples. He concludes the speech with an intercessory prayer, where he prays for himself, his disciples and for the people who follow him.
John 11 and 12 sets the scene. Jesus was becoming famous and a multitude of people followed him. Some followed him for his miracles, some for his words of wisdom which came from God and some followed him hoping that he will be the future leader of their nation. After the raising of Lazarus, the number of followers of Jesus grew rapidly. The festival season in Jerusalem and Jesus’ availability in Bethany and in Jerusalem helped the followers to gather in one place which led to the procession of Jesus, which is mentioned as the ‘Triumphal Entry’ which the church celebrates as ‘Palm Sunday.’
Among the followers were officials (Jn12:42), Greeks (Jn:20ff) and people who saw Jesus raising Lazarus(Jn 11:45). All was not good for Jesus. The opposition was also rising. The social change happening in the nation and the words of Jesus challenging the religious practices and authority of the local temple administration made the people in power to hate Jesus. They wanted Jesus dead! They conspired against Jesus and thought they are taking a decision which is good for their religion and their nation Jn 11: 47-53.
It is in this context Jesus teaches his disciples to be servants/slaves setting an example of washing the feet of his disciples and wiping them. He goes on to give them the ‘new commandment – love one another as I have loved you’ Jn13. 34. He teaches his disciples to love the people who hate you. It is important to note that this saying follows the incident of Jesus revealing his betrayer and Judas leaving the last supper. Obviously, there is a sense of hatred in the mind of Judas against Jesus and much more sense of hatred among the disciples against Judas and against the local temple authorities.
When Jesus was asked to give the greatest commandment, Jesus gave two commandments which we read in Mt.22: 34-40. To put it in simple words: Love God and love your neighbour. Disciples and others might have been surprised about the second commandment which has its origins in the Leviticus (Lev 19:18). Paul gives an explanation that in the commandment to love your neighbour, all the other commandments are inherent. (read Rom 13: 8-10). The unit of love mentioned in Leviticus and in the synoptic gospels which are quoted in many other places are human love; Love of a person towards another person.
Jesus in John 13.34 sets the standards high, now in a context of hatred and intolerance, the disciples of Jesus need to love ‘like Jesus’ – show the divine love: The divine love which gives one’s life for others. The explanation for the model of love and the divine nature which needs to be inculcated in the lives’ of the followers and the disciples of Jesus are well explained in 1John 4:7ff.
To summarise: The new commandment given to his disciples in the context of hatred, intolerance and conspiracy to kill was to LOVE as Jesus loved you. It is the time to show a sacrificial love- sacrificing everything you have even your life. Jesus did not just teach his disciples, he went on to show them as a model of new love even unto death.
In the World, Then and Now
Persecution of the followers of Christ and proclaimers of justice, people who are hated for their colour, gender, culture, age and sexual orientation are not new. Apostles of Jesus, missionaries and medical social workers fall victims to hate crimes. St. Thomas the Apostle, Jesuit missionary John Britto and Missionary to the Lepers – Graham Staines are some examples of people who were hated and lost their lives in India.
In western countries, even today hate crimes against coloured people, people with a turban, parka-clad Muslim women; children who speak other languages are common. In our times we see hate crimes against non-Hindus, people who do not speak Hindi, women, transgender persons, disabled, poor, refugees and Dalits in our own country. Diabolic hate crimes happening today are called ‘ honour killings’ In recent times two sensational cases of honour killings happened in Tamilnadu. A Dalit young man was hacked to death in broad daylight at Udumalpet. He fell in love with a girl from a dominant caste and the girl’s relatives were against it because ‘their honour was at stake’ the young couple got married and this made the girl’s relatives angry and this resulted in the murder of the young man. A similar incident happened in Namakkal. In this case, the as per media reports the young man was kidnapped and murdered and his body was thrown on the railway tracks. The reasons for such behaviour are crystal clear. People who think they are superior hate the people from a different caste and they cannot tolerate anything that happens against their assumptions and thinking.
What can heal such incidents? It is a difficult situation here. It is not easy to think about forgiveness and love! Jesus’ prayer from the cross is a classic example to understand the event in a deeper sense. Jesus prayed – ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. It is not that the tormentors do not know the pain and suffering of Jesus, but they do not know the implication of their actions and to whom they are doing it too. Likewise, when people exhibit their hate and intolerance the reality is that they do not know to whom they are doing it to and what will be the implication of their actions in the long run. Gladys Staines was able to forgive and show to the world that it is possible to be a model of Jesus because she did not see the event where her husband and their children were burnt alive only but she realised that the persecutors lost an angel of God and a social worker who lived for them – the implications were too deep than the actual event.
Love Divine All Excelling
Loving Lord, we live in a world of hate and intolerance. We are persecuted. They are doing more to us than what we can carry. Help us to understand and keep your new love commandment. AMEN.
Rev. A. Suresh Kumar
CSI Trichy-Tanjore Diocese
Nairobi: Dr Mathew Koshy Punnackad, the Hon. Director of the Church of South India’s (CSI) Department of Ecological Concerns shared “stories of commitment and hope from India, inspiring us with the breadth of the response to climate change in the Church of South India”, in the first day of the UN Environment Assembly from March 11th to March 15th, 2019 and the Sustainable Innovation Expo. Over 100 delegates are registered from faith organisations in the faith for Earth session. The UN extended the invitation to the Church of South India, through the World Council of Churches considering the credible work in promoting sustainable development. It is notable that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC) have honoured the ecological contributions and long term commitment of CSI in protecting the life in this planet by giving an award on 3rd November 2009. The award was given by Dr. Baan Ki Moon, Secretary General of UN in presence of Prince Philip in a function organized at Windsor Castle, London.
Over 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives gathered in Nairobi for a meeting of the world’s top body on the environment, where they will take decisions that move global societies to a more sustainable path under the theme Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.
It is the biggest gathering in the Assembly’s short history, with attendance almost double the last event in December 2017. Prominent world leaders will attend, including the Presidents of France and Kenya, Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta, and CEOs from major corporations.
Bold decisions and outcomes are expected as the delegates negotiate late into the night over five days. Resolutions are on the table to push harder for sustainable consumption and production patterns, commit to the protection of the marine environment from plastic pollution, reduce food waste, and advance technological innovation that combats climate change, and reduces resource use and biodiversity loss.
The Assembly’s status as the only UN body outside the General Assembly where all member states convene, and its power to bring together all sectors, means that the global environmental agenda is defined here. Decisions have a profound impact on the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as paving the way towards the UN Climate Change Summit 2019 and impacting the overall UN agenda.
Ahead of the meeting, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director, Joyce Msuya, appealed to nations to step up and start delivering real change.
“Time is running short. We are past pledging and politicking. We are past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society, as the majority of us know it and enjoy it today,” she wrote in a policy letter.
As delegates come to Nairobi for the Assembly, UN Environment is deeply saddened by the news of the Ethiopian Airlines accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected. We are following developments closely.
A UN Environment background report for the Assembly, which serves as a basis for defining problems and laying out new action areas, makes a strong case for urgent action. The report puts the value of lost ecosystem services between 1995 and 2011 at $4 trillion to $20 trillion; shows how agricultural practices are putting increasing pressure on the environment, costing an estimated $3 trillion per year, and estimates pollution-related costs at $4.6 trillion annually.
“As never before, the time to act is now,” said President of the UN Environment Assembly and Minister of Environment of Estonia, Siim Kiisler. “We know we can build more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive societies with sustainable consumption and production patterns that address our environmental challenges and leave no one behind. But we will need to create the enabling conditions for this to happen. And we will need to do things differently.”
The Assembly will also see new research launched by UN Environment, including the latest edition of the world’s only comprehensive global scan of the environment: Global Environment Outlook 6, which was produced by 252 scientists and experts from over 70 countries. The International Resource Panel’s Global Resources Outlook, meanwhile, takes stock of material extraction, including the future outlook and recommendations on how to use natural resources more sustainably.
“It’s clear that we need to transform the way our economies work, and the way we value the things that we consume,” said Msuya. “The goal is to break the link between growth and increased resource use, and end our throwaway culture.”
The Assembly is not just about the resolutions and science. Side events and exhibits provide the opportunity for attendees to form partnerships and make deals that benefit people and the environment.
The Sustainable Innovation Expo acts as an innovation hub, with over 40 environmental technologies and innovations on display.
The One Planet Summit – co-organized by the governments of France and Kenya, and the World Bank – is also being held around the edges of the Assembly, focusing on Africa’s environmental challenges.
The UN Science-Policy-Business Forum, convened in advance of the UN Environment Assembly, launched initiatives on using big data, machine learning, and green technology startups, to solve major environmental problems.