Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A republic of ideas



The concept of a republic should be seen as the start of a coming together of people in one place, region and a mix of several regions which have been brought together for whatever purpose. India celebrating Republic day should also be seen from the perspective of several people coming together to celebrate the coming together of India as a republic. Several women and men belonging to several regions, caste and class have toiled in many forms and occupations, each and not a few contributing to the growth of this nation.

This Republic day we should look back and look now and applaud all for sacrificing several of the luxuries they could have had, all in the name of keeping the nation going and together. The concept of a republic has two very important characteristics for me. One, it should bring all people in the country together and should not make anyone feel alienated because of their gender, caste, class or occupation. Rather, each one should be respected for being our brother and sister and in the essence of a republic, our family. To call ourselves Indian and wave the Indian flag should be a privilege which should be earned by considering everyone who is living in this country as equal and coming together to offer a space to the under privileged and depressed classes. Disrespecting the flag is not by the way we wave it, where we wave it and raise it or whether we are allowed to hoist it above our house. Rather the privilege of the flag should be a feeling of coming under the comforting presence of an assurance that India and its constitution grants the right to all to have a good life. Anyone who does not follow this spirit is disrespecting the national flag because the flag stands for equality, justice and peace as only that can keep a nation together.

Two, the concept of a republic should not be limited to those who hold a card or an identity proof to prove that they are Indian. Rather it should be extended to all who make India their home. Their attitude and choice hold a higher authority than their identity proof. In this regard the republic we stay in should offer itself as a place for many to come and live and thereby we increase the scope and size of the republic. This is not to entertain political and geographical ambitions which exist way beyond our borders but to open our borders to show that we have grown and progressed as a republic. If we have to increase our security for Republic day and be on the guard always, the celebration which the Republic day has to be becomes a day of perceived threats, violence and a bundle of nerves hoping that all the official functions go well. This then defeats the very purpose of a republic and we become a republic that needs force and military might to remain so instead of using our democratic process and reaching out to many so that others and not we will say that we have become a great nation.

The Republic day also offers us a chance to conduct a social audit whereby we look at what the people of this nation have got and are getting. Are they treated properly, do they know their rights, are they getting justice, can they meet their elected representatives, do people by themselves look out for each other transcending religion, caste and gender or do they come in line to the beats of the drum and the expectations of the anthem?

The writers of the constitution and the erstwhile members of parliament meant us to have a life which would be self-respecting and offer protection to children, women, the poor and the powerless. The constitution is a book of justice whereby preferential rights are given to the have nots. No wonder that there are people who call the constitution holy. Can we come to that understanding on Republic day where we can say no one in this republic will go hungry because it is a sin and against the constitution, no woman or child will be disrespected because it will lead to the state filing a case against the aggressor, and no one will be called outsider or insider because according to our republic all who live here are Indians? The Republic day does involve several speeches and talks on the nation. We should not wait for that but should have our own speech ready for Republic day. This is our speech which says that we will treat anyone on the road or whoever we come across as our own brother and sister, no one will suffer because of lack of facilities, everyone will have access to quality education, and we will fight for the sustenance and continuity of such a republic.

Claim your Republic day, make it your own and tell yourself how you can make a difference in this country by celebrating the Republic day properly and living it every day. This 67th Republic day should not just be to follow traditions but at the same time one need not belittle the good ones as well. Even as various contingents walk past on the Republic day parade it is imperative that we have the same freedom to walk on the streets of this great nation, not being stopped for what we look like or which gender we belong to or what choices we make. Everyone has a right to walk their freedom and in their country this Republic day. Have you exercised yours?



(Picture courtesy www.fullyindia.com)


Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Carol service worship order

"Christmas: Seeking refuge in a home away from home." Dec 6, 2015, Charles Ranson Hall.
Sunday, December 6, 2015, Charles Ranson Hall
(As the choir sings the prayer song a child, a woman faculty member, a male staff member and the principal light the lamp. This is an Indian way of entering the advent filled with peace, love, hope and joy.)

Opening prayer
God of hope, in this Advent of expectation draw us together in unity that our praise and worship might echo in these walls and also through our lives. In this Advent of expectation draw us together in mission, that the hope within might be the song we sing, and the melody of our lives. In this Advent of expectation draw us together in service, that the path we follow might lead us from a stable to a glimpse of eternity. We pray for those away from home, those who have had to leave home and those who have been forced out of their homes. Help us O Lord to come together as a community of believers with one house where we can all congregate and pray. Amen.

Congregational hymn lead by the college choir

Bible reading

Isaiah 2:2-5
Romans 13: 11-14
Luke 2:1-7

College choir song 1
Advent Reflection: Rev. Dr. John Samuel Raj, Principal, UTC

College choir song 2

Prayers for the Christmas season
L: O Emmanuel, we feel your presence whenever we are willing to risk our belongings, our definite lives and our familiar surroundings. Your birth Christ was unfavourable for the decision makers but favourable for the shepherds. In your birth the wise chose to follow the star than follow the King because it was revealed to them that kingship had moved from the palace to the street. This cold evening may realization come at this time of prayer and singing which will make us sweat and feel warm in the assuring presence of God.
C: This is the time for birth, a birth with Christ.

L: O Lord Jesus, we have all moved out from our homes seeking jobs, security, peace and a better future. Nothing is permanent and no one but you is the owner of what we use. We pray with a deep sense of sadness for Chennai and its people. Many of us have stayed there, lived in houses, walked through its streets, passed through and known and still know people from there. Can there be a celebration for us when our friends and family are struggling to live? We come to your presence God because we need the hope of Christmas, the hope of your birth through which we can rise up from any difficulty and hold hands together and praise you.
C: This is the time for birth, a birth with Christ.

L: O God of mercy, bind us together through this service that we may hug each other and embrace one another in a true gesture of what the shepherds and wise humans did on visiting the baby in the street. Has Christ been born in each one of us? Isn’t there a manger and a street in us and in our neighbor? Shouldn’t we bow down to one another and in doing so bow before Christ our Lord. Christ is born in every way we can imagine and in everyone we can imagine. Isn’t this the season of saying “Merry Christmas” because we greet and accept each other because of God’s mercy and care?
C: This is the time for birth, a birth with Christ.

JBF song
Sharing the gifts of Christmas

It’s Christmas and no one can go back without a gift. This is a time to exchange our biggest gift of forgiveness and understanding. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth won’t get houses, food and education for the poor and the needy. Shall we submit our gifts to God and wait for God’s unending gifts of mercy and grace to bless us this season? Shall we forgive each other and give peace to one another because Christ is born in our midst? May God take care of our pain and suffering and may we feel the excitement of the birth of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Naga fellowship song
Kannada fellowship song
Telugu fellowship song


Remember these voices from the manger
Voice 1- While the entire nation is trying to make sense of what tolerance is, there is humanity at its best in Chennai. I can tell this for sure because, I stay in Qatar and my family (wife and 2 kids aged 11 and 7) are in Chennai. With all the floods and problems, I am getting the message from them, "We are safe". In the wake of calamity, Chennai is "One". It has only one religion, "Humanity"; It has only one enemy, "Water"; there is only one aim "Help". And they did it in style. When they were offering help, they didn't ask whether you are "Hindu" or a "Christian" Or a "Muslim". They didn't ask whether you are "Rich" or "Poor". They didn't ask whether you are a "Tamlian", "Malayalee", "Telugu", "Kannadiga" or "North Indian". Only one question they asked; "Do you need any help?"The rich people; my neighbors who never interacted with anybody in the neighborhood in last 4 years; opened the gates of their huge house. The man stood outside and welcomed people to his house. "We will eat whatever we have. We will share whatever we have. You can stay here until the water recedes"; that all he had said.. He accommodated around 35 people in his house. He is a Hindu Brahmin. He provided mat for the Muslims to do Namaz. He allowed Christians to pray in his Pooja room. There were volunteers outside helping people to reach safe places. They used anything and everything as tool; until the army people reached. Once the experts came, they gave the leadership to the more experienced and helped them to help others. My wife told me that, there were group of people going through the streets with neck deep water and asking "Sir / Madam, do you need any help?" in front of every house. They provided whatever help they can and they distributed food and essentials. There were groups providing cellphone batteries for 5 minutes to anybody who want to talk.
I have seen people fight for food when there is a calamity. Even the most modern countries, when there is a calamity, people fight for food. They think only about themselves at that time. But, when the food was distributed in Chennai, it was calm. People stood in queues and they have given food for the people who are not able to stand in queues (elderly, mothers and kids). They brought boats. They made temporary rafts and just went on helping people. On top of all these things, this is what my kids are seeing. This is what they are learning. How to help each other at the time of need. It goes straight into their brain. The images gets implanted there. And then, when there is another calamity, they know what to do.. How to survive.. How to get help and how to help others... This is what I want my kids to learn.. Humanity, without boundaries....
All- Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Voice 2- Ever since she was in kindergarten in the Syrian city of Homs, Ibtihaj has dreamed of becoming an artist. She hoped of one day being able to open her own gallery and showcasing her work to the world.Now 12 years old, Ibtihaj lives in Jordan, one of the more than 3.8 million Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict.
Through her latest creations, proudly displayed on her bedroom walls, it’s clear her experiences have had a big impact on her. “This is a son and his mother praying to God asking him to help Syria,” she says. “And this is an eye crying for its country.”Following a visit from a UK artist to Jordan last year, Ibtihaj is set to see her dream of reaching a global audience come true. She along with other refugees, were involved in an innovative project of recycling old UNHCR tents. They were encouraged to express their feelings through their painting, or to write poetry, or whatever artistic medium came to them, whilst being given broad themes of ‘Hope’, ‘Memories’ and ‘The Impact of War On Families’. The results have been so powerful; the tents are now set to be exhibited in a number of locations across the world. “The goal was to turn these symbols of loss and displacement into beautiful pieces of artwork, in order to raise awareness for the plight of refugees,” said Hannah, a student who was living in Jordan last year. “We played with the idea of ‘fragments’, ‘pieces’ and ‘shattered lives’. Lives fall apart when forcefully expelled from their homes and need to be rebuilt again. The most common image expressed by the refugees however, one that kept reoccurring, was ‘home’, highlighting the longing of many refugees for the conflict to end and to return to their lives.
All- Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Voice 3- I am a dalit woman who is forced to do manual scavenging because I am told that is the only thing I can do. I have lost my sense of smell. I don’t know what is beautiful anymore, my own stench because of scavenging, or the smell of jasmine flowers. I am send to spaces which people conveniently want to forget. I have to clean and carry the smell of others on my head so that others may be clean and beautiful. My Christ cannot exist in richness and privilege simply because I don’t know what that is. It is not about right and wrong and black and white. Rather it is about who we are and what we hope for. I would like to live a dignified life which I believe was what Christ Jesus did. He was also born into the stench of life because the other spaces were taken up. He was also branded a carpenter and was shown his place by the chief priests. But I am told that he did not let that prevent him from becoming who he did. He made his stench his strength and the sweat of his body his attraction, so much that we eat his body and drink his blood. We are one with him and in him, aren’t we? Why wouldn’t you then so much as touch me when my smell is the smell of the manger you now approach in prayer.
All- Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Voice 4- They didn’t give me an apartment because I was from a minority community. People ask me whether I am a terrorist, a fundamentalist, a trouble maker and a meat eater. Is there is a difference in our blood? I am O+. What are you? Does religion change our DNA and blood? Do we enquire about Christ’s blood group? Do we know his family name, was his beard long or short? Will Christ be stopped at an airport because of how he looks, his designation and what he speaks? I also like Christ. He is very dear to me because I feel crucified just the way he was. I also walk in the street and get stared at and abused just as Christ was. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge me by how I look.
All- Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Tamil fellowship song
Malayalam fellowship song
Mizo fellowship song
Hindi fellowship song


Affirmation of faith
We believe in God, the creator and giver of life, who brought all creation to birth, who mothers us and fathers us, protecting, nurturing, and cherishing us. We believe in Jesus Christ: God born among us as a fragile baby, embodying both love and the need for love, and calling us to rest in God as trustingly as a tiny child.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, breathed into us at our birth, always drawing us on to be born again, encouraging, exhorting, comforting, nourishing our growth and inspiring our living. We believe in the reconciliation of the world to God, through Christ. Hunted at birth and humiliated at death, Christ entered our fearful darkness so that we might enter his glorious light and share the life of his resurrection.
And we believe that each new child is a glimpse of the face of God, a sign of the life to come, and a call to live in peace and celebrate living together. Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God's people on earth. Amen.

College Choir song no 3
Offertory hymn lead by the college choir


Commitment prayer
Gracious God, you are the source of all goodness, generosity and love. We thank you for opening the hearts of many to those who are fleeing for their lives. Help us now to open our arms in welcome, and reach out our hands in support of those who have to flee their lands and homes and to those who can’t live in their homes at present because of the crisis of rain and flooding. That the desperate may find new hope, and lives torn apart be restored. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son, Our Lord, who fled persecution at His birth and at His last triumphed over death. Amen.

Closing hymn led by the college choir
Lord’s prayer


Benediction
Home is always sweet. But what is home? Isn’t it the place where we are offered hospitality, where we show hospitality, live together in harmony and seek the good of one another? Christ Jesus showed us how to live in a home away from home and yet attract people to him. Go forth feeling that the spirit of Christmas lives in us. Go to the homes of others and offer yourselves as guests who trust the love of others. Open your homes to others so that the advent may truly be here in the now. Let us forget the small manger and the crib in our houses and make our house and mind into a manger, offered in openness and kindness for those without homes to come, stay, pass by and experience the birth of Christ. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ evident from the stable, the love of God experienced by the shepherds and the wise humans and the grace of the Holy Spirit symbolized through the star be with you all now and through this Christmas season of love, peace and harmony. Amen.
Choir song no. 4

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dedication prayer

Opening prayer
Almighty God, we thank you for making us in your image, and to share in the ordering of your world. Receive the work of our hands in this place, now to be set apart for your glory and honor. We submit ourselves and our wishes before you. May the Holy Spirit abide in us and in the place for dedication and may many benefit through this. In the name of the triune God. Amen.

Bhajan
Bible reading: 2 Samuel 7:25-29

And now, O LORD God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel’; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Thanksgiving
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
C: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
L: God in heaven, source of all love and holiness, it is right to offer you thanks and praise. For today we dedicate to your lasting service this dormitory/multipurpose hall/PA system/photocopying machine. Lord, send your Spirit from heaven to sanctify this place that it may be a sign of your presence among us. Here may this be used for the purpose of God and God’s creation. Here may people find services helpful for them, here may God given blessings be multiplied, here may God’s people come together to glorify God and here may the Kingdom of God be manifested in various ways. Through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit we lift our voices of praise.
C: Blessed be God, our strength and our salvation, now and for ever, Amen.
Blessing
L: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and with the life giving symbol of the cross we bless and dedicate this dormitory/multipurpose hall/PA system/photocopying machine. +++
C: Amen.
L: Ever present God, you have been with us throughout our days like a parent to a child. You lavish gifts on us. As we have gathered to receive another gift may we be reminded of your kindness to us, and to all creation. May we be inspired again to cooperate in your generosity and become gifts of your love to the world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.
L: God has been good to us. This dormitory/multipurpose hall/PA system/photocopying machine is one more sign of God’s kindness. May it remind us we are loved, and called to love. We have been treated generously and are called to treat others with generosity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit I declare ……….. to be set apart for the use of the college, the church and the general public and for making God’s name great in the world.
C: Amen.

Hymn: To God be the glory
To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.

Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.

Closing prayer
L: Almighty God, from times past you have lavished gifts on your people. You even gave of yourself leaving the glories of heaven to walk among us. You have shown your love over and over and so we have experienced your glory in tangible ways. Today, we received this ……………..accepting it as a demonstration of your kindness to us. We affirm that it is yours as we are yours. May who we are and all we have be devoted to your service and given for your glory.
C: Amen.

Benediction
Now to God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Notes from class for diocesan youth

John 14:27 would be apt for the youth. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."
The symbol of the fish in Christianity and the power of two.

Luke 10:1-12- After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’[c] 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

1 Timothy 4:9-15- The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and struggle,[a] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 These are the things you must insist on and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture,[b] to exhorting, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.[c] 15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20- “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,”[e] and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple[f] of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Luke 15:11-32- Then Jesus[a] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with[b] the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[d] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Youth ministry: From doing office work to becoming more faith conscious. Increasing our faith and knowing what our faith is.

Luke 24:13-35
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[f] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
In the same way, youth ministry begins with a presence to the young which engenders the confidence and the hope to ask questions. Attentive listening to the concerns of the young person enables the youth minister to understand more deeply the youth’s needs and stage of growth. At that point, the youth minister is able to respond, sharing with the young person the help, insights, or values that are the fruit of a life rooted in faith. By drawing out of the youth reflections on the action of God in the events of his or her own life, this sharing enables the young person to begin formulating answers in the light of witnessed tradition and Gospel values. The bond created in this relationship is celebrated in the community, most fully in the Eucharistic celebration of the Orthodox community.
If we follow the Emmaus model, youth ministry is the Church’s mission of reaching into the daily lives of modern young people and showing them the presence of God. It is a return to the way Jesus taught, putting ministry before teaching and people over institutions. In this ministry, religious content is a way of life for the person ministering and the young person touched, through a sequential development of faith, dependent on the readiness and need of the adolescent.

Principles of Youth Ministry
The living dynamics of youth ministry, through which these goals are achieved, may best he articulated in several key principles of ministry. These character arid underlie its effectiveness.
I. Youth is a unique time during personal growth.
the teenage years represent the critical period of transit from childhood to adulthood, during which physical, psychological and social growth is more concentrated than at any comparable time span in life. Since the development
of faith is tied to the interpretation of meaning in one’s life and experiences -
the teenage years are an important juncture for the individual’s spiritual development. the youth begins to forge a personal sense of meaning and set of values, and becomes capable of a deeper personal relationship with Christ and responsible Christian action. To help young people as they struggle with this effort, youth ministry must involve the understanding of parents, the guidance and example of peers and significant adults, and the ongoing maturing of the faith community which accepts the responsibility to share in the youth’s search for meaning and a language of faith.

II. Youth ministry is concerned with the total person.
Youth ministers should take seriously their responsibility to help young people grow as total persons, socially, spiritually, culturally, etc. The total young person has many important concerns which must be understood in the context of daily living, including family situations, relationships with peers, academic and extra-curricular involvement, response to religion, and moral value questions. In the life of each young person, different needs express them-
Themselves at various times during the process of maturing, and one of the hallmarks of youth ministry should be sensitivity to the young persons readiness for new steps.

III. Youth ministry is rooted in relationships.
Youth ministry involves first and foremost, not programs, but relationships. Within accepting relationships, young people are enabled to face and accept themselves and others, to clarify their goals and values, and to dare to become the persons they are called to be. Relationships that form youth ministry are those that form community and mediate the grace of Christ, challenging young people to greater growth and openness to God. The relationship of persons in a ministerial situation involves a mutual openness to change and willingness to grow. Both youth and adults are enriched by this bond, in such a way that the faith community is vitalized arid the risen Christ witnessed to.

IV. Youth ministry is a call to community.
God calls youth and adults alike to be members of His people, the Church, to join in pilgrimage to the Father and share insights into the meaning and value of life. As the Body of Christ, the community brings to youth the life-giving presence of Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Absolutely essential to effective youth ministry is the support and lived example of the surrounding faith community, particularly the parish. Without this, youth ministry exists iii a vacuum that cuts short fuller growth arid maturity in faith. Because the young person is involved most fully in the local communities of family, parish and school, youth ministry is most eflectivenly carried out in these settings. Youth ministry serves to support and enhance the basic faith committment of youth in each of these community contexts. Youth ministry also exerts a force for healing and reconciliation in those communities which suffer from the strain of youth’s need to reject and then re-integrate their roots.

V. Youth ministry proceeds as an affirmation of gifts.
The recognition and development of individual gifts and the building of a positive sense of personal worth and ability are an important aspect of the process of youth ministry. To effectively call the young person toward maturity, affirmation must be united to genuine trust of the young person’s integrity and ability. By awakening a young person’s potential and accepting his or her gifts, the community enriches its life and its own ability to minister to others.

VI. True youth ministry duplicates itself.
It is essential that youth ministry evoke in each person the willingness to offer ministry to others. Youth ministry should call youth not only to join programs, but also to join with others in living out tile Church’s mission to share the good news, live in community, and serve others in love and justice.
The interrelated principles out med above serve as a foundation for the concept ot youth mini stry, hut this listing is not necessarily exhaustive. With the maturity of ministry, others will be able to identify additional principles to complement those described here. Love of the neighbor- Bishop Don Helder Camara- “When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish.
Caring for the neighbor is not an add on but the essence of Christianity.

(Section of notes from class taken for the Bangalore diocese youth at the St. Gregorios JSO Church, Hosa Road on October 31, 2015.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dr. Curien Kaniyamparambil Archcorepiscopa: “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live I will not leave you”



The inevitable has happened. A revered priest who completed a century on this earth has passed away or rather passed on to paradise. Everyone knew that one day it had to happen and yet the void, blankness and sadness felt is immeasurable. It is but natural that one who is born has to die but when that person happens to be the Archcorepiscopa it is a bit difficult to accept and one is left bargaining with God to change destiny.

Now that Archcorepiscopa Kaniyamparambil leaves behind memories it is also a time to identity what achen wants from us in the course of his final journey from earth. He was a man of faith and a practical man who gave a lot of importance to relationships. He loved to see us during an engagement, wedding, prayer and then hold our hand, ask about news in our lives and look ahead as if showing that he was making the information received settle down into his well oiled brain. The Archcorepiscopa wanted to be loved, affirmed, respected and accepted. But it was never a one way expectation but rather a required minimal requisite from our part for the countless ways in which he loved, affirmed, respected and accepted us. As we visit to see his mortal remains we can touch any part of the bed to keep the spirit of community which binded us with the Archcorepiscopa to be kept alive.

Kaniyamparambil Archcorepiscopa prayed for several miracles to take place in the lives of his congregation. He used the relics with him to touch people and pray for them. He believed that the body and blood of Christ gave life to the lifeless and brought back the dead to life. Many people are not aware that the Archcorepiscopa went to visit a new born baby who was declared dead at birth in one hospital in Thiruvalla. The Archcorepiscopa undeterred and unfazed by the hopeless situation told the family that he would bless the baby with Holy oil. The baby came to life to the joy of the family. Such incidents are many and lot of people have benefitted from the prayers of the Archcorepiscopa. He would be happy to leave behind that legacy of faith among those who are close to him and know him.

Archcorepiscopa Kaniyamparambil would also like people to maintain peace and harmony in their lives. He was known for having a good relationship with priests and people belonging to various denominations and religions. His close friends were priests from other denominations and religions. He never instigated people to commit violence and take revenge. He was willing to forgive and let go and he will expect the same from us. Perhaps it was his scholarly approach which made him such or it was his pastoral foundation which was responsible. Whatever it was he inspires us to do the same. Finding problems in everything is easy. But finding good in everything is a special calling.

Appachen as many called him out of love considering him as their own grandfather and great grand father used his talents to the maximum. He didn’t believing in allowing our talents to be buried underground and letting them stay there. It is interesting that although the church and many of us consider the Archcorepiscopa as a scholar of the church, he did not do so himself. His works are interesting. No work of his was the best he could ever produce but it was the best he could produce on a particular day. Success for him was measured not on the basis of what we had inside us but what we could produce with meager resources. He understood that he was successful not because there were no other priests in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church but because he took a risk in doing something with whatever less he possessed. He would definitely want us to do the same. He would want us to write with whatever little we possess in the hope that God will transform it into something great and useful for others.

Kaniyamparambil Archcorepiscopa’s life was one which was relentlessly lived in the understanding that each day had a value of its own and yet each day had certain responsibilities to complete. Despite his high stature he kept praying every single day at the appointed time, being also careful to intercede to Mother Mary and several saints. It was his understanding that time would pass only if every single second in the clock arm would tick, which was also our own responsibility in this world. He saw this together with the God given gift to think and plan a sermon, prayer, book or programme. He stayed alive because his mind was more fresh than a youngster, always alert and thinking about various things and permutations in its entirety. He would want us to be thinking beings, looking at the enumerable possibilities of what we can do instead of living resigned to what we assume our fate to be.

When it is time for Elijah to go in 2 Kings 2:1-14, Elisha his disciple says “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Usually this is what we would want someone who has to go say. But here Elijah knew he had to go but Elisha simply could not let go. He finally gets Elijah’s mantle, which interestingly in modern day usage is also responsibility. He wanted to get double the share of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah replies and says that Elisha has asked for a hard thing. Yet if he sees him being taken up he will get it. The mantle of Elijah falls upon Elisha and he uses it to strike the water and say “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” The water parts. This passing away of Archcorepiscopa Curien Kaniyamparambil is not an end but a test of our faith to take up his mantle and see God’s glory being manifested now.

Are we willing to take upon the mantle of Archcorepiscopa Curien Kaniyamparambil? Are we willing to ask “Where is the Lord, the God of Archcorepiscopa Kaniyamparambil?” The blessed man has left behind several disciples and it is our responsibility to rise up to the occasion and work for the church and society. Women and men of the church and all walks of life have been inspired by his life. The Archcorepiscopa knows that it is the time for him to leave as it is decided by God. But can we in our inspirational grief say “As long as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you”? It has been a blessing to know the Archcorepiscopa and I say at this time with all my heart and soul “I will not leave you.”


(The picture was taken on July 23, 2015 with Archcorepiscopa Curien Kaniyamparambil blessing the St. Ignatius JSOC, K.R. Puram, Bangalore with the relic of St. Ignatius Elias III. We bow down before the greatness of this humble father.)

Friday, October 2, 2015

WACC Asia Region meeting Sep 30-Oct 1: Worship order

Violence against women: Violation of Communication rights
Worship order.


Call to worship
For once, let us break free and communicate. Let us shed the inhuman baggage that has prevented us from being one with God and doing God’s will. Many have suffered hopelessness for the simple reason of being different. But aren’t we all different in our own ways? Should we be in conflict just because we are diverse or should we come together under the great umbrella of hope? Come; let us congregate together, to share in this great hope of God. We don’t need to understand it completely, but we need to allow it to express itself in our diverse world.

Opening prayer
God of hope, if we speak, let it be for the fullness of life. If we be silent, let it lead to the benefit of our sisters and brothers. If we walk a mile, let it transform the place we live in. If we sit, let it be a sign against injustice. When we think, let hope transpire. As we write, let words express our desire to engage. In listening, let us try to understand, in touching let us feel the pain and while seeing let us not look away. Our God, our only hope. Amen.

Hymn: Great is thy faithfulness
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

2 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Prayer of confession (All together)
God of goodness, we have not heeded to your call of helping our neighbour and forgiving those who have wronged us. Instead we have instigated hate and revenge. God of compassion, we have ruined life on earth as you have envisaged it, and have sown enmity between different communities, seeking to make one fight against the other. God of mercy, we have turned into demonic beings hunting for opportunities to destroy relationships of love, meaning and sacrifice. You have taught us many things through others. The love and strength of different communities has crushed our ill-meaning plans of aggression. We come to you totally humbled and enriched by the love that you have expressed through others. Have mercy on us and forgive us. Amen.

Absolution
God brings us together even in our diversity. Our expressions may vary but God remains the same, a beacon of hope in our hopelessness. When we go astray, God brings us closer to one another again. God’s unending grace is for all who choose to dream and hope, despite the challenges we face. May God forgive our aberrations and help us to accept, declare and proclaim hope to all. Amen.

Bible reading
Reflection


Affirmation of faith (All together)
We affirm that the creator God created us to live in peace and harmony and to be in dialogue with all. Differences are normal and dialogue is the only way to understand and accept what others are experiencing. Our mandate is to be in constant dialogue and we affirm that the absence of this creates tension and trouble and stands far from what God hopes for.
We affirm that the crucified Lord sought to speak even when remaining silent. Christ’s death on the cross was a reaching out to all who spoke the language of violence and hatred. By preaching Christ we have to also reach out to all within and outside. Our quest for dialogue should be inspired by the cross.
We affirm that the Holy Spirit moves people towards understanding and coming together. In the midst of diversity we understand that the Holy Spirit will move us to stand firm in our commitment to offer hope to the hopeless. Our faith in God transcends all tangible and intangible barriers of discontent from within.
We affirm that there cannot be hope without social justice and that the poor and marginalized have to experience hope first. Hope cannot be for a few but should be for all to feel and experience amidst the diverse contexts of injustice in our world. Hope for a few is no hope at all. Women and men together have to experience hope in its entirety.
We affirm that the communicator God inspires us to be prophetic voices of hope in society. Through strong voices we should accept our call to bring hope and change in our living contexts. The hope of resurrection was visually seen and understood by women who lived in unshakeable hope. They then passed it on to the men who had almost lost it. Amen.

Intercession
God of love, we pray for communities who have been denied the essence and the means to hope. We pray for those who have been marginalized from the main stream of life and whose existence itself is a day to day struggle. We ask your help for dalits, adivasis, tribals and indigenous people all over the world who are fighting for their land, rights and needs. As they lose hope in the system which is supposed to protect them, we plead you to intervene and restore the hope which is rightfully theirs. We pray that men will change patriarchal expressions of manhood and explore and live the feminineness in them which is as much a gift of God. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of equality and respectfulness, we pray for the equality of women in this world. We pray that women may never be turned away and kept inside their homes because of their gender. May women of all castes, classes and religions in this country and world get the justice they yearn for. We pray for those who have experienced and continue to experience violence. We pray especially for the migrants from Syria and other war torn countries who are crossing over to several countries in Europe. The long and arduous journey across dangerous seas and roads always affect children and women most. We pray for your guidance to stop war and violence and find nonviolent solutions. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of nurture and care, we pray for our children. May they receive their right to full access to education, and may they never be forced out of their innocence at an age which is decided by someone else. Give us the insight and the will to keep and not destroy what they should see and experience. May their new thinking and ideas instill a new found hope in us. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of unity, we pray for our world which is diverse and rich in its culture, religion and thought. We pray for those who suffer for believing in their way of life. Let no woman, man or child be discriminated and crucified for choosing their belief or their orientation and how they want to live life in its fullness. May we see hope in ourselves and share this hope with our neighbouring countries and the people of Asia and the world. May women be accepted as they are, not being forced to maintain the status quo of patriarchy but being free to express themselves fully as women, being and living who they are. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

God of knowledge, we pray for the diverse group which has come together for the seminar on the violence against women, a violation of communication rights. Thank you for the deliberations and learning of yesterday. We look forward to another fruitful day of discussions and understanding. May we unlearn the wrongs that we have been committing and relearn and newly learn the life we should live. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

The prayer of hope based on the Lord’s prayer. (All together)
Our hope on earth and heaven, glory to your name. May your true message be proclaimed and followed, in diverse contexts and cultures. Give us the means and opportunities of coming together by way of living communities of faith. Forgive our acts against hope, truth and equality as we forgive those who act against such situations. Lead us not into exclusive and discriminating cultures but make us more inclusive and accepting. For yours are our lives, our existence and our work forever and ever. Amen.

Closing prayer
Information and communication are drastically changing the world we live in. Instead of establishing commonness and solidarity, public communication now tends to reinforce divisions, widen the gap between the rich and the poor, consolidate oppression, and distort reality in order to maintain systems of domination and subject the silenced masses to media manipulation. As we end this worship and gain strength from God, let us take sides with those who have been left out of the main stream. Communication is God’s gift to humanity. Let us understand it in its true sense and be a part of God’s plan for this world. Amen.

Benediction
May God inspire us to come together in the midst of diverse thoughts and cultures. May Jesus Christ empower us in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. May the Holy Spirit guide us in our efforts to understand and spread justice, peace and hope. The blessings of the triune God be with you all now and forever. Amen.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Give me back my religion/church. Ghar wapsi to mera ghar wapas karo! Sermon

Imagine a scenario where people below 50 years of age are moving out of the church. Churches are becoming empty and won’t have many people worshipping in them. We will in all probability think that of two scenarios. One that this is the case of churches in Europe and two that this is the case of churches in India in 2025. But what if we are talking about the present? What if this is already happening in churches in India? Is it true that the church is growing and that more and more people are coming to church or is this some misfounded reality?

According to figures in the U.S. church attendance is coming down. But does that mean that people don’t believe in religion and the church anymore. Recently I was asked in the course of a bible study as to why atheism is on the rise in India? The PEW research figures in the U.S. reveal a different picture. It is not that people are not interested in religion or the church. It is rather that they don’t like religion and church in its present form. They don’t like corruption, scandals, abuse, high handedness and non churchy things that are happening in religious places and churches.

What could be the reason.
a. They are religious but don’t associate with the church anymore. The church is only a social gathering which they would like to skip.
b. Lot of young people are going to new churches because the gospel is not being preached in the mainline churches.
c. People don’t see the church as a place which practices equality, sows seeds of goodness and unifies people. People also don’t want to be judged about their looks, choices and lifestyle.
d. Youngsters are not taken seriously and their views don’t count. People who head teams taking significant decisions are nobody’s in church.
1. Does my religion or spiritual practice move me towards love or away from love towards fear?
2. Does my religion or spiritual practice promote gentleness and kindness?
3. Does my religion or spiritual practice help me feel more at peace with myself?
4. Does my religion or spiritual practice help me dissolve the boundaries of separation and enhance a feeling of Oneness?
5. Does my religion or spiritual practice inspire humility, generosity and wisdom?
How’d you go with those questions? Often we just continue to do the same thing over and over again without really questioning why we do the things we do. Religions can be like this. One of my favourite quotes is from the Dalai Lama:
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
The story of the lost son follows the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Perhaps the usage prodigal son is abusive and wrong.
What are some of the questions that come out of the story of the lost son?
- The usage lost son instead of the prodigal son
- Why did the son leave from the comforts of his father’s son? Did he do something wrong?
- What did he achieve from being away from his father’s house?
- Isn’t losing oneself essential to gain oneself? (The first should be last.)
- What is the role of the elder son? Is he upset with his father? What is the faithfulness that he showed and why did he show it?

Many a time we are not aware of what is happening and what is going on? It is as if we are in a flow.
Once there was a millionaire, who collected live alligators. He kept them in the pool in back of his mansion. The millionaire also had a beautiful daughter who was single. One day he decides to throw a huge party, and during the party he announces, "My dear guests . . . I have a proposition to every man here. I will give one million dollars or my daughter to the man who can swim across this pool full of alligators and emerge alive!"

As soon as he finished his last word, there was the sound of a large splash!! There was one guy in the pool swimming with all he could and screaming out of fear. The crowd cheered him on as he kept stroking as though he was running for his life. Finally, he made it to the other side with only a torn shirt and some minor injuries. The millionaire was impressed.

He said, "My boy that was incredible! Fantastic! I didn't think it could be done! Well I must keep my end of the bargain. Do you want my daughter or the one million dollars?"

The guy says, "Listen, I don't want your money, nor do I want your daughter! I want the person who pushed me in that water!"

1. Lose your church to find it: Ghar wapsi to mera ghar vapas karo!
The lost son did not expect anything while coming back but his father is pretty kind to him. Pastoral care is not something we give to those who have been faithful. Pastoral care is rather a right of every individual who walks into church. The young man almost lost his life. It was when he realized what his life was.
Many philosophers are labeled as non-religious but this may not be true.
According to John D. Caputo in his book The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida:Religion without Religion he talks of Derrida as thus…Still, Derrida says, his mother must have known that "the constancy of God in my life is called by other names," and that even though he does indeed "quite rightly pass for an atheist" with respect to the God of the orthodox faiths, still he has an "absolved, absolutely private language" in which he speaks of God all the time.
Derrida continues “It is this secret that believers have been entrusted with, the secret of the God to come, of an untold and extraordinary future that defies human perception and descriptions, that holds infinite promise for the human race, and that as such, is much better shared in a passionate whisper than trumpeted in triumphant certainty.”
Certainty is much beyond the truth of religion. God and religion cannot be so certain. Maybe for a few but not for everyone. The lost son did not have a definite religion. The elder son thinks he has one. The younger son comes back and in his quiet way tried to claim his religion, his house and his right. It is not a quiet ghar wapsi but a quiet but strong Mera ghar vapas karo!
2. Religion as the lover of truth.
The role of the father in the scene is most interesting. He runs to embrace his son when he draws near. “And when they accuse us of being un-Christian (and they will), we must stand strong and tell them, “You no longer get to own that word. You have used it and abused it and crucified it on crosses of hate, greed, power and control. We are taking our religion back – way back. All the way back to the teachings of Jesus.”
The movie Saath Saath which was released in 1982 and starred Farookh Sheikh and Deepthi Nawal is about a couple who get married because they believe in certain ideals. The husband then gets embroiled in money making and his wife leaves him. He then goes back to his wife and asks her to come back.
In the ending scene when Farooq conveys Deepti his decision to leave the wrong path and join his role model, A.K. Hangal's newspaper, Deepti asks him whether he is doing it just for her sake; Farooq's reply simply touches the heart of the viewer - 'NAHIN, APNE LIYE BHI AUR UN SACHCHAIYON KE LIYE BHI JINHEN HAM DONO NE MILKAR PYAR KIYA THA' (not just for your sake, for own sake also and also for the sake of those truths we had loved together).
What the father does is an ideal thing for the church. It is not just to say that we have to do something for a loved one but to say that we have to do the right thing.
A couple drove several miles down a country road, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument, and neither wanted to concede their position.

As they passed some pigs on the way side, the husband sarcastically asked, "Relatives of yours?"

"Yep," the wife replied, "In-laws."

3. Religion as a start up with God as the capital.
Start up is a word being used a lot these days. Young people are starting companies with only their courage as capital. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Start up CEO’s are like women drinking wine. They sit quietly and chip away. They are not taken seriously by the older generation but they are so very good. (My generation is the “Be quiet generation.”)
Wife says “I love you so much. I don’t know what I would do without you.” Husband asks if it is her or the wine speaking. She replies that it is her speaking to the wine.

People are getting fed up and would like to start over. Over the years, Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, has become a very strong proponent of women's rights, to a point where he has spoken out against the falsehoods and extremism we see within the 'religion' of Christianity today. In 2009, he penned an open letter, severing ties with the mega SBC/Southern Baptist Convention, after being a member of the Convention for 60 years. Carter said the decision was difficult and painful, yet 'unavoidable,' after the Convention leaders chose to take bible verses out of context and claim 'Eve' was responsible to for 'original sin,' and thus all women must be subservient to men.
The younger son has nothing with him. He is coming back doubtful whether he can do anything. But his father is very supportive. He believes in him. The elder brother has been around for a long time and he is upset. But the father sees prospect in his younger son.

Dear exam writers and scholars, all three points from the sermon have something to offer you. Losing yourself is essential to write from scratch and write new, if you love the truth and persist with that, your grades will also at some point of time reflect that and finally don’t just stick on to your preparations. There can always be a surprise round the corner. Be courageous and write like you have nothing to lose. Start up, Write more and write well. Luck and God’s grace always favours the courageous. Amen.

(Preached in the UTC chapel on August 23,2015.)






Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday evening service: Let my people go so that they may worship me; Give me back my religion

Worship order
Opening prayer
Let us worship God by feeling the ever abiding presence of God amongst us. Shall we at this time pray with unceasing fervor that God may accept our ministrations and our prayers. Lord God, full of grace and mercy, we come into your presence for steadying our nerves, guiding our minds and strengthening our hearts. You God have wished our safety, hoped for our success and initiated our recovery. We come Lord Jesus because we have heard and we believe that you will accept us as we are and as we look, with several faults and shortcomings to others but blessed and beautiful in your sight. Help us Holy Spirit to overcome fears and climb the hills before us as if it were small walls. Amen.

Hymn: Standing on the promises of Christ my king (UMH no. 374.)

Thanks giving prayer (Together)
Our God who wants only good for us and out of us, we pray that you sustain the spirit of wellness and goodness inside us. We thank you for the numerous gifts that you have showered upon us and pray that we get the opportunity to use what we possess. Thank you Lord for the knowledge that we have gained and for the friendships we have forged. Our life in its form is your mercy and kindness. Help us to wield our information and knowledge with humbleness and for the use of others and the glory of God. Amen.

Bible reading: St. Luke 15: 11-32
Sermon


Confession (Together)
Lord God, you know our deepest thoughts, perversions, short falls, fears, anxieties, trouble and cover ups. We pray that you allow us the profound privilege to be in your presence with a mind to confess all our sins and humble ourselves before your assuring presence. We are sorry that we haven’t been able to do to the best of our ability and see the cries of help of others living among us. We have judged quickly while forgetting your deep mercies in our own life. We confess that we have a long way to go and that a beginning is essential to turn the tide. Lord God, we come therefore confessing in full and bowing before your pasture of grace. Amen.

Assurance of pardon
The shepherd rejoiced on finding one lost sheep, the woman rejoiced on finding one lost coin and the father rejoiced on seeing the lost son. What a sight it is and what joy God has in seeing us assemble before God. We have all been on our own journeys, trying to find answers to questions and seeking truth in unfamiliar territories. Help us Lord God to find pardon and forgiveness in your merciful presence. God always rejoices in us coming back to God’s presence. In God’s rejoicing we are accepted and forgiven. Amen.

Affirmation of faith (Together)
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Intercession
We pray God for the UTC and its numerous needs. Give strength dear Lord to the principal, faculty, staff and students to carry forward the mission of theological education, pastoral care and human interaction. We ask for your guidance God during the exam week for the smooth conduct of the exams, an atmosphere to write well, perform to one’s optimum and for sustained hope in your grace God. We also ask dear God for travel mercies for those who will travel for their field work at the end of the week and protection and guidance for those who will stay in different parts of India with people to learn from them and bring home the learning. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, thank you that you are with us right now. Your love surpasses all fear. We give you the anxiety we feel and surrender all our worries to you. Clear our mind, calm our hearts, still our Spirit and relax our being that we may always glorify you in everything we write, speak and do. Dear Lord, as we take our exams we thank you that our value is not based on our performance, but on your great love for us. Come into our heart so that we can walk through this time together. Help us not only with this test, but the many tests of life that are sure to come our way. As we take our exams this week, bring back to our mind everything we studied and be gracious with what we have overlooked. Help us to remain focused and calm, confident in the facts and in our ability, and firm in the knowledge that no matter what happens you are there with us. Your peace Lord God surpasses all understanding. We ask for this gift and choose to lean upon you at this time. Lord, come and remind us of your unfailing love. Remind us that you hold us safe, you understand us, and you cherish us. We lay down our fears before you. We leave them at the foot of the cross, for you have overcome the world. We choose to give you all our concerns, worries and fears of failure. We trust that your loving hand will hold us through these exams and lead into a bright future. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
(http://www.lords-prayer-words.com, http://www.salesiansireland.ie, http://www.living-prayers.com)

We pray gracious and merciful God for those who are kept away because of their beliefs and differences. We envisage a church where people can come and be accepted like the lost son. Lord God, let there not be any divisions based on caste, race, colour, class and gender and let everyone be part of the body of Christ, unified for the glory of God. We pray for those who continue to strive hard for India and for the world at large. So many sacrifices are being committed for people to live and enjoy the benefits of technology and innovation. May we come together God to understand one another and undertake our journeys so that we may lose ourselves only to find ourselves. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are sick and are in need of prayer. We pray for Ivan’s father who had a surgery yesterday and is recovering. We pray for those suffering and recovering from cancer, heart ailments, kidney malfunction, eye problems, dengue, viral fever, back pain, sports injuries, knee pain, mental tensions and family issues. Place your hand on them and heal them O God and allow them a quality of life which is good and satisfying. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord’s prayer

Closing hymn: Have thine own way, Lord. UMH 382

Closing prayer and benediction

We thank you Lord God for small mercies and grace that you have always gifted us. We are comforted that you accept us as we are and as you find us. Be with us as we venture out into the world and help us to face various challenges in life. Journey with us Lord in spirit and deed and help us to be your witnesses in what we say and do. May we be able to write exams properly and without fear. May our readiness be complete with your presence and guidance. Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and with our families now and forever more. Amen.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Quiet day/retreat worship order

Opening prayer
With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been. The LORD forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, and protects us from death. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, he provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle. (Psalm 103:1-5) Gracious and merciful God, we congregate again in your presence seeking your guidance for everything that we do. May we come to terms with the difficult times and pain that we have experienced over the last one year. Let this worship be a time to forgive and move on rather than to get stuck in time and be bitter over past experiences. Be with us God as we prepare to take the very difficult step of forgiving others. Amen.
Bhajan

Bible reading

Skit

Sermon

Confession

We seek forgiveness from you God for all the ways in which we have gone against your commandments and wishes. We come to your abode of mercy and ask you to forgive us so that we may move on with our lives and do your will. Triune God, we have done unspeakable and unimaginable things to others because of our own insecurities and misunderstandings. Be with us at this time to reassure us that you are with us when we want to take the difficult step of forgiving others for what they have done to us. May our forgiveness not be conditional but be natural and expressive and from the heart. We confess in all faithfulness and sincerity. Have mercy on us O God. Amen.

Assurance of pardon
God is so merciful and slow to anger. God is loving, caring and understanding. God is always present in our lives, minds and bodies. God always sees and appreciates a confessing heart. The big step to confess from our part is now reciprocated with double the intensity by God who loves us in every way and loves us more. May God forgive your sins and make you wholesome, kind and at peace with yourself. Amen.

Intercession
We pray for the deceased former president of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. May his life be an inspiration to many and may people all over the country who are in mourning be assured by the peace of God which passes all understanding. We hope that his life and thoughts live on and that people sacrifice for the sake of the country and the world transcending class, caste and religion. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We seek honest, just and inclusive approaches by the government and other ruling dispensations. Let decisions be made on the basis of thorough investigations and compassion. May people share what God has given freely so that poverty, hunger and homelessness will be a thing of the past. God shows no partiality and may we also learn to treat everyone the same. May we all work together for the present and future of people in the church and society. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are in need of pastoral care and our time and proximity. We pray that those who are lonely may be visited, those who are hungry may be fed, those who thirsty may be filled, those who are naked may be clothed and those who are sick may be healed. May their problems be ours and may we embrace others into our life and treat them as family. Help us God, son and Holy Spirit to minister to those in need and spare time for those who need our presence, our comforting words and support. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for the environment and all that is in it. May we be able to figure out how to share and live in harmony. We are stewards and care takers. Let us not possess land and resources and hoard food to please our own appetites. Instead let us allow God’s creation to breathe, live and survive. The world is not ours to do as we wish. Instead it is God’s and God has given it to us to take care, to water and to let grow. Let togetherness be brought out by sharing spaces with human beings, animals, trees and every living organism. Let not greed but need determine our actions. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We intercede for the UTC community of children, women and men. Help us God to use this wonderful opportunity to live with and understand people from different cultures. May we share food, stories, history, love and human hood with one another. When one falls let the other support, when one cries let the other cry along, when one feels excluded from a circle let us make wider and newer circles. In all that we do let it be done knowing that we are a small but significant community, experimenting and strengthening faith, belief and ecumenism. Help us God to help ourselves and in the process help one another. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for the sick and those who are in need of healing and help from God. We pray for the bereaved families of those who died in the terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab. We pray for those who are battling cancer, heart problems, back problems, tumors, neurology related issues, dengue, viral fever and other sickness. We also pray for those studying various courses, looking for jobs, running counseling centers, hospitals and palliative care units. May we pray for each other and offer our support by being present in the day to day struggles of people. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Lord’s prayer

Prayer of forgiveness

Triune God we pray that you forgive us for our short comings and give us the strength to forgive those who have hurt us in any way. May we accept those we have to live with and work with and move on, forgetting the past and concentrating on the present and the future. Be with us Holy Spirit as we do what we are uncomfortable to do but which we have to so that we receive inner peace and healing. (Please shake the hand of those next to you and forgive those who you think have done anything against you and say…) “I forgive you in the name of God, Son and Holy Spirit and pray for you and your soul just as I hope you will pray for mine.” Amen.

Hymn

Closing prayer and benediction

Forgiving is not admitting defeat but healing our own inner beings. By forgiving we are becoming stronger and being freed of any bondage that has bound us for long. Go out from here into the world as agents of forgiveness, touching and healing the lives of people you come across. Laugh, celebrate and accept one another in big ways and reflect Christ in what you do. You are healed and you are being sent forth to be healers and people of God. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with us all. Amen

(First term Quiet day worship.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Annual General Meeting worship order

Opening prayer.
God, son and Holy Spirit, thank you for good rest, travel mercies and the opportunity to gather together. Lead us today to submit our thoughts, reasoning and fears before you. You God are our existence, creation and continuity. Our father and mother, our healer and sustainer, bless us today to understand who we are and what we are in association with others. We are your children and wait anxiously for your touch and guidance. We are willing to reform ourselves in new ways which are sometimes unknown and around corners not visible, but nevertheless exciting and necessary. Jesus Christ, new paths are sometimes dangerous and non-existent but with your inspiration we will get the courage to try and create new paths which will offer sustenance for those following. Holy Spirit, fill us with the courage to stand and lead well. Amen.

Bhajan

Bible reading

Reflection

Confession (all together)

Forgive us gracious God for not looking at each other, understanding one another and travelling closer together. We have slipped into known and easy ways and are standing on the reformations and laurels brought about by people gone by. Allow us Christ Jesus to understand our short comings and submit ourselves in prayer before the comforting and assuring presence of God. Reignite Holy Spirit the flame inside us and may we get up first and account for the sins we have committed rather than looking to justifying our sins by identifying the sins of others. Amen.

Assurance of pardon
Is there anything beyond and impossible for God? We are capable of everything by the one who strengthens us. God assures us of forgiveness when we reform ourselves and come into the presence of God with only our shortcomings to talk about. Feel the peace of God while experiencing the pain of accepting our faults. God forgives us, parting with the grace of God which fills us with food for now and for the way. Amen.

Thanksgiving
We give thanks to you God for creating us, reforming us and remolding us. As a communion of believers we thank God for the UTC and the various staff, students, council members and church leaders and laity members of churches who work to take this institution forward on a daily basis. We thank you Creator God for the idea which went into the starting of the UTC. We thank you Jesus for challenging generations of teachers, administrators, staff, students and church leaders who have sacrificed their time, resources and ideas for theological education in India. We thank you Holy Spirit for those who have passed on and passed by into a better place. May we be thankful and grateful for what we have got as a gift and a responsibility from God. Amen.

Affirmation of faith (in unison)
We believe in God the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Almighty; from there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Intercession
We pray for the UTC and its teaching ministry. Gracious God, help the president, principal, secretary, bishops, council members, teachers, staff and students to get together and work hard to express theology that is useful for people in the church to worship God and get close to God, and for those outside the church to feel attracted and welcomed into the church. May the UTC move forward in togetherness and genuine love. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Merciful God, we pray for church leaders, pastors, lay leaders and church members who are involved with church ministry and working for the benefit of the church and society. Grant strength and eternal hope for them and us to strive hard and go ahead with what we are doing so that we are and become faithful co-workers in God’s kingdom. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and let the Holy Spirit guide us in what we plan and do. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Loving God, we urge you to inspire different people in civil society and the grass roots to stand for justice and peace. Allow us to co-ordinate and network with those who stand for the poor, dalits, women and people from several groups who are oppressed. We also pray for people in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Nigeria and other places who are suffering from terrorism and religious fundamentalism. We also pray for migrants trying to cross into parts of Europe. May humans stop killing humans and groups stop resorting to violence to achieve narrow goals. We pray that the love of God influence people and may people live together in harmony. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Creative and sustaining God, initiate in us the sense of creativity so that we may find solutions where there doesn’t seem to be any. Help us search for new partnerships, friendships, relationships and allow churches to function in one accord so that people and the world at large will see the benefit of a unified church. Let us God come together for common good and with the understanding that the cross of Christ will lead us towards working together under the assuring presence of Christ Jesus, not to fight and go to war but to stand for the poor and the downtrodden. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.


Lord’s prayer

Our God in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.


Closing hymn: Great is thy faithfulness

Closing prayer and benediction
Gracious God, we seek your guidance and thoughts on how to go about the deliberations that will follow. Jesus Christ, allow us to emphasize our framework for discussions on children, women and poor in society and the church. Holy Spirit, speak to us and put apt words in our minds that what we say may lead to action which seeks justice for all and especially for the least and the last. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever and may God the triune and eternal reality be with the deliberations of the Annual General Meeting. Amen.

(Prepared for AGM held on August 8, 2015 at ERC, UTC.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Revisiting reformation: Explorations on Religion-State relations Then and Now: Sermon

1 Peter 2:1-5
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I thank the organizers of the International Conference on “Revisiting reformation: Explorations on Religion-State relations Then and Now” for this opportunity to preach in chapel. I would like to title this sermon as “Revisiting the Reformation: A chance to reform our spirituality.”

The reformation was born out of good intentions and a desire to express dissent against some practices of the church in the 16th century. The decision by Luther to disagree and protest was to bring about a new form of spirituality where the priesthood of all would be brought to the forefront and more importance would be given to the scripture. The reformation also made use of political fiefdoms to garner support for the new theological articulations which were being proposed. So indeed Luther and others made use of prevailing situations to make the move of starting the Protestant movement and church.
The 500th year of celebrating the Reformation is coming up in 2017 with the countdown having started in 2008. Each year has had a theme and this year has “Reformation: Art and the bible” as the theme. This is to identify the role that communication and technology played in the reformation. The reformation of the 16th century was helped by the invention of the movable type printing press in the 15th century. This was the new media and the facebook of the 16th century used by Luther and others to kick start and push the reformation. The reformation was also helped by art and paintings which engaged the common human with the idea of the reformation. My first point is
1. Reformation: The formation of social networks and the power of the finger-The idea was loosely the same as today. A post was put up and this was seen by some who then posted it on their own wall and shared it with their own friends who in turn liked it and shared it with others. What Luther wrote in one part of the country reached another part of the country and then was further transported to other places through translations. Luther was a modern day blogger and facebook user who wrote his ideas and used social networking to disseminate those ideas. His idea of priesthood of all also makes use of this power to share and disseminate. What the reformation did was to give the power to read and share to the common person. This was hitherto in the hands of an exclusive club. With the power to read, like and share the people got power in their hands and this power they further distributed. The concept is very close to facebooking today where traditionalists see it as a waste of time and against established norms whereas users see it as a spiritual work of spreading the gospel to hundreds and even thousands of friends. Luther managed to use a technological innovation to elaborate the scope of spirituality to common people and make them feel important and part of evangelization and gospel spreading. The reformation was in this sense made possible by the formation of social networks and the power of using the finger. Then the finger and the hand was used to write, read, turn the page if interested and distribute what was read and written.

The read passage in 1 Peter 2:1-5 calls us to identify ourselves as living stones and built ourselves as spiritual houses to be a holy priesthood. This is indeed a call to understand the liberating aspect of communication and technology instead of being held up in the debate of who can do what and how. God’s communication does not have hierarchy but gives the poorest of the poor the right to communicate. This can be through sign language, exchange of traditional knowledge, reading and exchanging books and using new media. A computer won’t literally give you food three times a day but technology can give you an advantage of writing your own future and changing your destiny of imposed poverty. Literacy in all forms is essential to be part of the social network and use the finger. This is not to impose language supremacy but to come to common languages which can be used and to include everyone in the network.

We conducted a computer literacy programme for elders in the church. Most of them who turned up were above 65 years of age. In two sessions they started using smart phones and started facebook accounts. A 45 year old son of a 72 year old mother came and asked “Pastor, why did you do this to me?” The pastor enquired what happened and the son said that his mother who used to watched TV serials at home sent him a friend request on facebook and is now liking his photos and putting her own photos. The son said “It’s not that she has an opinion about everything. She is now putting that opinion in public and embarrassing me.” The pastor asked him “Why should sons have all the fun?” What the church unknowingly gave the woman was the power of the finger and the power to lead a spiritual house on her own. This is the power of the reformation brought about by innovation. The priesthood of all believers as suggested by Luther should not be seen as only limited to the church but should be seen in the natural realm of people, which is their household. Being part of networks can initiate and strengthen reformation in churches. My second point is
2. Reformation as mission at the doors- The 95 theses of Luther were his explanations against what he thought were corrupt and unacceptable practices in the church. His explanations which were also sent in letter form to church leaders were then printed and distributed among many. The legend of having his 95 theses nailed to a door of a church also brings into discussion the value of the door and the essence of various doors in the form of churches and houses. In the Syrian Orthodox church there are seven ordinations for priesthood. Interestingly the first two, which mean Ulmoyo (the Faithful) and Mawdyono (the Confessor of Faith) are for all the faithful. Mission at the doors would then mean that the official sacraments in church should be substantiated by sacraments at home and the public sphere. So everyone is in that sense ordained to take forward the mission of the church in their own spheres. Symbolic and real acts in church can and should be sustained by real acts outside the church. Mission at the doors invites us to live the gospel when we visit a house or place and are on the outside of the door and to live the gospel when people come to our doors and we happen to be on the inside.

Mission at the doors also seeks an outside involvement in association with others where we reform the areas we live in. Whitefield Rising in the Whitefield area of Bangalore is one such group. Their motto is “Mooh bandh, kaam chalu” meaning “Mouth shut, start the work” or close your mouth and work. They have managed to make clinical and effective interventions with regard to cleaning lakes, solving traffic problems, fixing road potholes, cleaning open drainages and educating people on local body elections and the right to vote. As woman and man, daughter and son, sister and brother, wife and husband and members of various churches we are called to live the gospel in its fullness. By being living stones we should convert and reform ourselves into spiritual houses and a priesthood which offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. This definitely cannot be limited to churches. It has to extend outside the church and its vicinity and for this, all who belong to the church and would want to associate with the church have to minister in their own places of work and stay. Amen.

(Preached in UTC chapel on August 4, 2015.)





Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wedding sermon c(b)lues



A wedding sermon has changed over the years in church. Earlier it would be a very small exhortation in church and the couple would not be directly spoken to at the time. This changed to a small sermon about how we can examine marriage as a Holy sacrament of the church. Today we have a different model being practiced in the church, depending upon the bishops and priests conducting the wedding and the importance given to the sermon as a guideline for marriage not only for the couple getting married but to others who have assembled in church, many already married.

This particular wedding sermon https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=12&v=tgRQmgbWLUA was preached at the St. Mark's Cathedral in Bangalore. In many weddings bishops and priests don't necessarily personally know the couple getting married and so it is difficult to preach to them on a personal level. This can be fixed if the preacher meets the couple and spends some time with them, getting to know them and making them comfortable. This brings about a relationship and a breaking of ice which will reflect in the marriage service and sermon in church.

The wedding sermon should be simple for the couple and people present to understand and at the same time should reflect the theology of the church. It is a difficult task of balancing faith and actual communication of the sermon. A sermon many a time is not about big words but about simple and digestible words and known concepts put in the correct place at the correct time. For this the preacher can make use of known examples from family life, church life, humor, stories and talk directly to the couple.

Weddings in India usually are conducted in a way that very less importance is given to the couple and instead everyone else gets a chance to wear a beautiful dress, eat good food and take pictures. In the case of a wedding sermon, it is the only time that a bishop or priest can talk face to face with the couple and remind them of what a marriage is all about. Direct eye contact with the couple is desirable, looking in between at the family and others present so that they also feel part of the sermon.

The sermon can't be too long and neither can it be too short. A fifteen to a maximum twenty minute sermon is the most one should try. In the process one should watch the face of the couple and the audience to make sure that they are completely listening to the sermon and understand what is being said.

Finally, give two or three points for the wedding couple and the congregation to take away. The points should be short, easy to remember and identifiable. The points for the wedding in this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=12&v=tgRQmgbWLUA were marriage is a Eucharist, marriage is priceless and marriage is high definition. Even if the couple remember one instead of three it is enough. The objective for weddings in the church now is that the sermon should try and set the tone of the wedding. It should speak to, for and about the couple. The prayers are usually not remembered by those present unless it is said slowly and meaningfully. This is where the wedding sermon becomes a take away for the couple, their family and the participants.



Picture courtesy www.vectorstock.com