Saturday, January 3, 2009

Karl Barth on Incarnation

Karl Barth was a complicated German Theologian whose work in Christian dogmatics is widely known as the most important theological treatises of the last 250 years. When lecturing at Princeton University in 1962 a student asked him. “Dr. Barth, What is the most profound thing you have ever heard?”

As he thought for a moment. Sometimes the most simplest thing expressed. The meaning is really quite simple. Have you ever heard the word “Incarnation?” Or that Jesus is “God Incarnation?” source

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chasing the wind.- a sermon by The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells how he tried all the things which in his time were thought to be fulfilling. One by one he dismisses his experience with a phrase that runs like a thread through the whole book and that was like chasing the wind.

Most of us can identify with much of what he wrote. I can. Change the names, dates, and places and it's our story too. We all spent more time than we would like to admit chasing things that we thought we wanted and avoiding things we thought we did not need. And so much of it turned out to be like chasing the wind or worse.

Can we find a way to get loose from the things that we have chased and caught which have made us miss the main meaning of life? Can we find courage and strength to turn and face the things from which we have been running? Is there a way to re-direct our energy from running to waiting? It won't be easy, but it is possible, and, trust me, it is worth the effort.  more

That's what I want to talk about today. It appears that the writer of Ecclesiastes came slowly and painfully to the saving insight with which he ends his story. We can hear his disappointment at the end of each frustrating experience. We can sense the emotional and spiritual woundedness each time some grand experiment left him feeling empty. Yet he was persistent and stubborn. He tried it all! All of us who have lived very long understand that. We have been there. Some of us are still there. Insight tends to come slowly. Very few people get to see a blinding light on the road to Damascus. We keep on trying the same things over and over, hoping to get a different result until finally it dawns on us that we have been looking for meaning in all the wrong places-chasing the wind.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Footprints

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. ``Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.''

The Lord replied, ``My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.''

                                                                                                                           Anonymous

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two Cups of Kiddush - Freedom and Compaasion - Passover


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For generations and generations, our ancestors have gathered to recite this sage. Over time, what began probably as just a liturgical recitation developed into an elaborate banquet, styled on a Roman symposium, with a prescribed order – in Hebrew, seder – of rituals and readings. As this event became more elaborate, a special guidebook – known as the haggadah, or “retelling” – was developed to lead people through the re-enactment of this saga. 
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Kiddush – The First Cup of Wine 
The Cup of Freedom 


Thousands of years ago, according to the legend of our people, our ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt. In bitterness and in hardship they struggled to please their masters and win the precious opportunity of mere survival. Many died from the heat of work; others perished from the cold of despair. 

The wine of Passover is the wine of joy, the wine of love, the wine of celebration, the wine of freedom: 

Freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression 
Freedom from hunger and freedom from want 
Freedom from hatred and freedom from fear 
Freedom to think and freedom to speak 
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn 
Freedom to love and freedom to share 
Freedom to hope and freedom to rejoice 
Soon, now, in our days, and forever. 


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Kiddush – The Second Cup of Wine 
The Cup of Compassion
 

No one of us can survive alone. We must all learn to live together. Humanity is born of shared need and shared danger. 

Passover celebrates freedom, the will to live, and the solidarity and strength of community. 

(Drink the second cup of wine.)

Exodus 12:38 - The Mixed Multitude



 The Mixed Multitude

by Charles Whitaker
Forerunner, September-October 1996

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Exodus 12:38 tells us the "mixed multitude went up with" the children of Israel. These folk fell in step with God's army as it marched out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. For how long? Their presence during the quail incident, cited above, indicates that these peoples were still with the Israelites at least one year after the firstPassover. That means that the mixed multitude was present at Mount Sinai, some fifty days after the Red Sea crossing. This means they were present at the giving of the Law!
Whoever they were, the peoples of the mixed multitude were much more than just witnesses of God's strength. Even the unbelieving Egyptians witnessed that! The mixed multitude partook of God's grace, experienced it with the children of Israel. Whoever they were, these people were fellow-travelers with Israel for a time, experiencing with them the power of God as He pulled them "out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 4:20; see also I Kings 8:51Jeremiah 11:4).
Both Israel and the mixed multitude experienced His might as He destroyed the most powerful nation on earth at that time. They both experienced deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. They both experienced the shaking of Sinai as God thundered the Ten Commandments. They both ate the manna and drank water from the Rock! They both were baptized in the Red Sea (see I Corinthians 10:1-4).
The folk God calls the "mixed multitude" were partakers with Israel! But who were they?
What's in a Name?
The general term God uses to describe these folk tells us they were mixed, and they were many. Apparently not part of a single "family grown great," as the Moabites or Canaanites were, they bear no family or national appellation. Yet, as vague as the termmixed multitude appearsa careful analysis yields an abundance of information.
Multitude. The Hebrew word for multitude is rab meaning "great," "many," or "large." Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words claims that rab, whether referring to people or things, "represents plurality in numbers or amount." In Exodus 5:5: Pharaoh, speaking to Moses and Aaron, alludes to the population of Israel by calling them rab, "many." So, the mixed multitude was large, perhaps consisting of thousands or millions of individuals.
Mixed. The Hebrew word translated mixedgehrev, appears only 11 times in God's Word. Twice the translators rendered gehrev as mixed (Exodus 12:38;Nehemiah 13:3). In its other nine appearances, however, we get the strongest indication of its meaning. All nine of these instances are inLeviticus 13:48-59, where God gives Moses and Aaron His law concerning leprosy.
Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool, whether in leather or in anything made of leather.
Both mixed of Exodus 12:38 and woof of Leviticus 13:48 are translations of gehrev.
But how different are the subjects of Exodus 12 and Leviticus 13! The former text concerns the Exodus, the seminal historic event of national Israel. The latter deals with a law concerning leprosy. What could mixed and woof have in common?
Answering that question requires that we look first at woof in the context of its sister word, warpWarp and woof are weaving terms:
Warp refers to the lengthwise threads in a woven article; they are the threads that hang down in a loom, running parallel to the bolt of cloth being created.
Woof (also called the filling) refers to the threads that crisscross the warp, running at right angles—perpendicular—to them; they interlace among the warp, over and under, over and under.
By extension, woof has come to mean "a basic or essential element or material," according to the dictionary. Clearly, both warp and woof are important to the integrity and strength of a garment. A bolt of cloth lacking either warp or woof simply will not "hang together." The warp and the woof complement each other. Properly united, they form a strong fabric, for example, a carpet, which can take the rough-and-tumble wear of years.
Weaving a Coat of Many Colors
The connection between woof of Leviticus 13 and mixed of Exodus 12 now becomes clear. In Leviticus 13, gehrev refers to the woof or filler of a woven cloth: in Exodus 12,gehrev refers to people. God is speaking by way of analogy. He develops that comparison in Exodus 12:48-49:
And when a stranger sojourns with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who sojourns among you.
In Exodus 12:37-38, God hints at a dualism which verses 47-48 develop. In doing so, He answers at least two important questions for us:
If the mixed multitude is the folk of the woof, what people make up the warp?Exodus 12:37-39 mention two groups of people—Israelite and the mixed multitude marching out of Egypt. Verses 47-48 establish that dualism as a dichotomy, a clear, distinct division. There is "a great gulf fixed" between Gentile and Israelite that only circumcision can bridge.
Thus, metaphorically, God expresses the Israelite-Gentile dualism as the warp and the woof. The Gentile is the woof, the gehrev that marched out of Egypt with the children of Israel. The Israelite is the warp.
What is the relationship of the peoples of the woof to those of the warp? We saw earlier that the defining characteristic of the warp-woof relationship is unity: A woven cloth is useless without both warp and woof. It is a relationship of interdependence. The warp-woof metaphor of Exodus 12 stresses the union of peoples. In fact, the relationship appears almost symbiotic, an "intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship."
The very same chapter records the first Passover, introduces us to the mixed multitudeand outlines the condition under which God would accept Israelite and Gentile. God required physical circumcision for both. Through circumcision, the Gentile can take the Passover and become completely united under "one law" with the Israelite (Exodus 12:49). Warp and woof together make one fabric. Israelite and Gentile together make one nation under God. They become one physical nation under one constitution—God's Law.
God uses the warp-woof metaphor behind the word mixed to illustrate an important principle: He can turn a dichotomy into a union. Figuratively, He can weave diverse threads, running crosswise to each other, into a single, strong fabric. This metaphor from weaving describes how He works with His people.  read it all 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sermon : Salt and Light


INTRODUCTION

A pinch of salt, a glimmer of light...little things like a coin, a sheep or a handful of disciples. Jesus had a way of taking what seemed small and insignificant and calling on them to transform the world.[1]

One reason we love these verses is that there is no "must," or "should," or "ought," here. Jesus does not say, "You must be the salt of the earth," or "you ought to be the light of the world," He simply pays us a great compliment by saying, "You are the salt of the earth." He speaks the hopeful, encouraging word, "You are the light of the world."

Because light comes up so often as a metaphor and symbol in the Bible, and because we have so much to do in our service today, I will concentrate only on the salt image this morning.

Salt, sodium chloride, NaCl, cannot lose its saltiness. As often is the case in the parables, there is a subtle, hidden meaning in what looks at first glance like an obvious truth. "If the salt hath lost its taste..." But it can't. It's a staple compound (as Clark Riley verifies) and can't lose its taste. Jesus, who surely knew far more than Clark Riley and John Roberts, knew that.  more 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pope decries idols of Modern World: Money, Power , Knowledge


Pope in Paris condemns love of money, power

PARIS (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned unbridled "pagan" passion for power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague Saturday as he led more than a quarter of a million Catholics in an outdoor Mass in Paris.
Benedict was making his first visit as pontiff to the French capital, renowned for its luxury goods, fashion sense and cultural riches.
"Has not our modern world created its own idols?" Benedict said in his homily, and wondered aloud whether people have "imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity?"
"This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask," the pontiff said.
The 260,000 or so people who gathered on the lawns of the Esplanade des Invalides displayed a joyful outpouring of faith for this traditionally Roman Catholic country, which has witnessed a sharp decline in churchgoing in recent years.
Benedict has continued with a campaign started by his predecessor, John Paul II, who worried that the affluent West was turning consumerism into a kind of religion and ignoring its Christian roots of spiritual values.
Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried "insatiable greed" and said "the love of money is the root of all evil."
"Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?" the pope asked.
Benedict blasted modern society's thirst for these new "pagan" idols as a "scandal, a real plague."
The pope urged the faithful to "shun the worship of idols. Do not tire of doing good!'"
Listeners welcomed his words.
"It was a vivid call to order about what is essential in life," said Herve Tarcier, a 49-year-old engineer who volunteered at the Mass. "This was exactly the message our society needs."
Jacqueline Dudek, a 76-year-old great-grandmother from Paris, said she was glad much of France's political elite was there to hear the anti-materialism homily.
"They have plenty of things to learn," she said.
The late-morning Mass ended peacefully, with followers pressing for a chance to touch the pontiff's robes or clutch his hand as he left the field. Security officers surrounded the pope, and about a dozen sharpshooters watched over the crowd from the roof of a stately 19th century building overlooking the Esplanade.
It was Benedict's only public appearance Saturday before he flies to Lourdes on a pilgrimage to the shrine there, which draws millions of pilgrims each year, many of them hoping for miracle cures of physical or psychic ills.
Tens of thousands of faithful, many of them young people, had camped overnight on the Parisian field after hearing greetings from the pope Friday night as he left a prayer service in Notre Dame.
On Friday, Benedict told young people they shouldn't fear spreading their faith in a society where secularism is entrenched and Islam is growing.
While most French are Catholic at least by tradition — if not in practice — the old yarn is that most go to church three times in their life: at their baptism, wedding and funeral.
France also has a fervent belief that faith and the state should be kept strictly separate.
Benedict and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held talks on Friday, spoke publicly of the contribution religion can make to forging an ethical society.
"They say that Catholics in France are fewer and fewer, and less devoted. But you can see here that is not true," said Robert Pavilla, a 58-year-old school groundskeeper, gesturing toward the throngs of people Saturday on the Paris esplanade.
Later in the day, France's rail authority said a train carrying 350 pilgrims to see the pope at Lourdes hit a truck at a railroad crossing near Toulouse, lightly injuring the truck driver. No other injuries were reported.
Associated Press writers Frances D'Emilio and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.  Link

LifeLine: Articles of faith and Spirituality: Valson Thampu - Mother Teresa shows the way: Faith in scepticism

LifeLine: Articles of faith and Spirituality: Valson Thampu - Mother Teresa shows the way: Faith in scepticism

Monday, July 21, 2008

Abraham Mar Paulose: Children the priority


Abraham Mar Paulose celebrated Holy Communion at the Annanagar Mar Thoma Church yesterday, Sunday 20th July. It was his first visit to the parish after his consecration as a bishop in 2005. As the youngest bishop of the Church, he expressed his concern for the place of children in the Church. He lamented that it has been the Sunday School which is often canceled when a special function happens in a Church. As the General Secretary of the Mar Thoma Sunday School Samajam, then priest Rev. Dr. K U. Abraham, he has made significant contributions to the children's ministry. The Children's Maramon which he organized in 2005 became a land mark in the history of the Sunday school, which attracted almost a lakh of children. In his sermon he challenged the members to go beyond the traditional concepts of ministry. He pointed out that the programmes and projects of the Church are not the ministry. Those are only some expressions of the ministry of love. The meaning and success of a project is not how effieciently it was executed, but with what purpose and concern it was organized. He has also referred to the recent tension between the church and state in Kerala. The churches need to rethink its mission and ministerial function in the light of the criticisms raised against the schools and colleges run by them. Accumulating and preserving power and property are not the mission of the Church, rather risking them for the sake of Christ. Bishop is a well groomed speaker, who has been trained by the Balajana Sakhyam, the most influential secular organization for children in Kerala. Also he was actively involved in student union activities at the university level, now having very high ranking politicians of Kerala as his friends. Even as a bishop he boldly expresses his opinion on the political and social issues in society. His leadership qualities will certainly help the church in the contemporary period to give effective leadership in the ecumenical circles. We wish him all the best in his new endeavors to make the Church meaningful and effective.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sermonette: Sermon on the Mount : Earth Quake Resistant Foundation

Sermonette: Sermon on the Mount : Earth Quake Resistant Foundation

Sermon on the Mount : Earth Quake Resistant Foundation

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In concluding the Sermon on the Mount Mathew records that Jesus has said: Any one who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock ... (Matt.: 7:24-27). I have preached on this verse several times. All those sermons were focused on the necessity of unchanging foundation. That has been the way it was interpreted in the Annangar church by Dr. K.M. Thomas, of Kozhikode today. Dr. Thomas is brother in law of Mr. James Abraham (Saji) our choir member) who visited the Church for the promotion of the ministry of the Gideons International. Gideon ministry will place Bibles in Public places in your name for the money you contribute. The parishioners generously responded to his appeal. People are in search of reliable and strong foundation. However, these days I am being challenged by the schools of non foundationalism and post foundationalism. The argument of the non foundationalism is that there are no reliable foundations. There are only shifting foundations and we cannot take any absolute position. Postfoundationalist position warns us of the danger of falling into the foundationalist ghettoism, taking something to be a foundation when such a thing is not there. Unless we read in between the lines of Jesus' sermon we may fall into two dangers: First, building our life on false premises, thinking that it is the foundation that Jesus spoke about as it has been happening in the recent text book controversy in Kerala. Second is endangering our freedom to change since change is the only constant reality in the world.

How to find out what does it mean by rockfoundation in Jesus' words? The Jewish people have been bringing up their children strictly on the word of God. They strongly believed that what they teach are right because all their teachings were based on the words of Torah, the Mosaic Law, the words given by God to Moses. They believed that therefore they cannot be wrong; there is no foundations stronger than their Torah for that matter. Jesus did not accept this interpretation. All his efforts were to challenge the edifice the Jews had built upon the Law, not because that they are built on shifting sands but rather that they are built on false premises, thinking that they are absolutes. All religions find their founding documents authoritative and absolute. It gives them security and sense of purpose. Without them people find them helpless, with out any direction in life. Therefore they are even willing to die for the protection of them. Christians, Muslim, Hindus, without any exception would die for their sacred Scriptures, ground of their faith, since they think that this is the basic minimum that they should do with their life. Without this foundation, no life.

The whole Sermon on the Mount is a challenge to change such traditionally considered absolute foundations based on the interpretation of the scripture. Jesus is asking them to search for new foundation in his words. The strong foundations of faith which the Jews had only led them away from God, to look to themselves and idealize their standpoints. The rock upon which the Jews built their religion had been working well, shaping their community, economics, faith for more than 1500 years. Jesus has been asking them to build their houses on his words that point to the , the fulfillment of the law, the purpose of God for Creation. The Law is fulfilled not in rediscovering the Mosaic injunctions of the past but in search of its present and future fulfillment.

Rocks, rigid, stern foundations are not as safe as we used to think as the modern geology teaches us. Every year, earthquakes, breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth's surface, take the lives of thousands of people and destroys houses, causes tsunamis. We need to rethink the mode of our structural designing to resist earthquake forces. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the earth as they move slowly over, under, and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together and the plates break free causing the ground to shake.

Conventional earthquake resistant design of buildings depends upon providing the buildings with strength, stiffness and inelastic deformation capacity. New structural engineering introduces the concept of base isolation where buildings rest on frictionless rollers. When the ground shakes, the rollers freely roll, but the building above does not move. Thus, no force is transferred to the building due to the shaking of the ground; simply, the building does not experience the earthquake. The base-isolators are flexible pads. Another way is to install Seismic Dampers in place of structural elements, such as diagonal braces which act like the hydraulic shock absorbers. These modern technology provide more stability to buildings rather than inflexible rock foundation.

Jesus is asking us to build our lives on his words which challenge the absolutist categories and conventional wisdom which go over thousands of years. Jesus words act like contemporary flexible pads and base rollers absorbs better the tremors that destroy the house. Jesus' point is that no one would build a house on the sand if one knows that. In Palestine water will rise in wadis perhaps after several years. When some one builds a house one will not be knowing that the foundation cannot uphold the building. Don't try to defend the conventional knowledge as if they were eternal truths but be ready to go beyond. In Postmodernist thinking foundational truths are linguistic constructs, interpretations. So Jesus interpretation, the Words of Jesus, is the true foundation, not settling down by the present foundation. Search for the words of future from Jesus in order to find true stability for our life.

The present text book controversy in Kerala illustrates how people are upset when the conventional foundations are threatened. They are afraid that if the children are exposed to the wind and rain in the world their faith would drift away. Jesus' point is not to blame the rain and wind, which the people are now trying to do. Let the children get the right to decide, rather than we bidding them to grow in our own ignorant and false foundations.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Three Sermons

Today I happened to hear three sermons. One in the Annanagar Mar Thoma Church by Rev. Joseph Chacko and another by Mr.Y. Biju, Thiruvalluvar Hostel secretary and BD student of Gurukul, in the house of one of the neighbours of Gurukul, Dr. P.K. Joy. The third one was in Gurukul Chapel by Dr. Adella Paul.

What interested me in Joseph Chacko Achen's sermon has been the unusual introduction to the sermon, narrating the spirituality of the Hindu pilgrims who go to Sabarimala. He explained the significance of the "Irumudikkettu" which the pilgrims carry when they go to the mountain shrine of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala. Irumudikkettu is a two pronged head gear in which the swamis (the devotees) carry coconut, ghee and other pooja (worship)materials. They will break the coconuts before Lord Ayyappa and ghee will be poured upon the idol. The significance of the Irumudikkettu, as it has been explained to Achen by one senior Hindu swami, is that the two bundles the pilgrims caary on their head are of different sizes, one is big and another is small. The big bundle represents the sins of people (of course the concept of sin is quite different from the Christian teachings, and for them it is more or less actions of ignorance, agnana, rather than deliberate defying of God's will). The samll one represents the punya (virutous acts of people). The pilgrims take both to the Lord Ayyapaa and offer them and come back as new persons carrying back only the prasadam (sweets blessed by Ayyappa), in order to start a new chapter of life with God. I found the interpretation very meaningful and significant to the spiritual life of Christians. I would write later about another story which is told by Achen to explain the silly character of St. Peter.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Liberative Praxis - A Sermon by Dn. Aby Paul M.

Liberative Praxis - A Sermon by Dn. Aby Paul M.
On Wednesday 25th June, Dn. Aby Paul, M.led the first evaluatory worship and sermon for this academic year (2008-9) in Gurukul Chapel. The worship has been an ecumenical blend, songs and prayers taken from different Indian languages and ecumenical orders of worship as well as from his own traditional Syriac liturgy. Aby belongs to the Antiochean wing of the Orthodox Church in India which considers the Patriarch of Antioch as the head of the Church. Both in his worship and sermon he incorporated the ecumenical spirit and bold theological vision of Gurukul together with his Syriac tradition. Traditional Syrian liturgical emblems and Indian Bhajans were profusely used. He titled his sermon, "Liberative praxis: A Mission imperative." It was based on the Lukan text of the healing the crippled woman on a Sabbath in the Synagogue (Luke 13:10-17). Dn. Abey began the sermon by narrating his personal experience in a Church in North India. A local Christian woman came to one of the Syrian Orthodox congregations there to receive Holy Communion. However, the Presbyter would not give her communion because she did not belong to a denomination which has got intercommunion relationship with the Orthodox Church. This incident disturbed him and there started his theological journey in search of the liberative nature of the gospel of Christ and attempts to overcome the denominational barriers imposed on the praxis of the Gospel. He said he would not disown his tradition but would try to make it more liberative. Those who observed Aby all through his years in Gurukul would testify that he has been a conscientious student contributing his best to the ecumenical character of Gurukul. He has been quite active in the various programmes of Gurukul promoting Dalit and gender liberation. He is one who got selected to study in Jerusalem on an exposure programme for three months. He would certainly be an asset to any ecumenical community and certainly to the Indian Christian ecumenical movement.