Friday, February 12, 2016

Better parenting as a way to lent


Taking a session for the youth during a conference does not just give an opportunity for interacting and learning from youngsters but is also a time of talking to parents. The discussions range from advice on what to tell the youth (their kid/s included), tips on parenting, tensions they face and just how difficult it is these days to be a parent. One villain which pops out a lot as a reason for children not listening is the media.

Television, internet and mobile phones seem to be top on any parents list of instruments which are misleading children today. The discussion then usually veers towards how to control the television and computer and what safeguards or complete ban of mobile phones should be followed. Any priest who preaches a lent which should avoid television, internet and mobile phones is appreciated and hailed by parents as a savior and the conversation at home will be “Did you listen to the pastor’s sermon?” The son or daughter will usually grunt “hmm” and leave it at that.

The parents will go back to church and catch hold of the pastor and ask “what is wrong with my son/daughter?” This being lent, the question is valid to the point that we can always question the existence of whatever including us, them, and it. But is it a valid question to ask during lent? Do we actually think there is something wrong with our children and it needs to be fixed?

This leads us into understanding lent in its essence. The Lenten prayers make us pray “When the body abstains from food the spirit should abstain from evil, for the spirit and body should observe lent together. Fasting from food is fruitless if we do not abstain from evil thoughts.” It is easy to put the blame on someone or something. Technology is a very convenient punching bag for everyone and thus come the questions on television, computer, internet and mobile phones. But what is the inherent evil? Is it us or is it technology?

Lent gives us time to sit back and think. Have we been good parents, a good father and a good mother? Or have we not taken the effort to understand our child/children? Being a parent is after all a life time effort and there is no successful parent as success can never be measured easily. What can be done is an effort to understand our children, the language they speak and the culture they live in. Listening to what they have to say and knowing that spending time with them is much more than buying them something to bury our guilt is an important learning for us during lent.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Love is primarily the foundation of a happy household and love of God has to be a family effort initiated by the parent in all spheres of life. This is substantiated by a right living and a sincerity in the household as is mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5 “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” Unless parents become sincere in their faith and practice how can one imagine children to be so? If the talk in the house is about the shortcoming of another person, won’t the child also grow up with the same framework to blame and talk ill of someone even when that is not what is expected?

Jommer Medina points out three important points that parents need to understand about their children. Educating children is their right and not a special favour, children are thinking individuals and children are not accessories.

It is important during the lent season of articulation and meditation to accept that we are not doing a favour to children by educating them. Rather it is our responsibility. It is not that children don’t have to be thankful for that but parents can’t treat their children with an attitude of less respect and the line that “I am doing everything for you” while spending very little time with them. Children unlike what we think can take decisions on their own. They know at a very young age itself when they are hungry and what colour clothes they would like to wear. Later they also know which subject they would like to choose, what career they would like and when they would like to get married. It could be that parents think that their children will always be a child even when they grow up. Being parents does not mean we get the right to flaunt around our children before others and use them to increase our status in society and appear smart before others. This will put pressure on them as they have to fulfill our expectations. Contrary to this children will have their own dreams and that may not involve following our footsteps but could be something totally different. A doctor’s child need not grow up to be a doctor as an army person’s child need not get into the army.

Calling a spade a spade is also important as giving false promises and misrepresenting facts are not a healthy way of keeping relationships. Women fighting gender violence have argued that parents need to have the same rules for their son and daughter as this will bring about a better culture. Having separate timings and making the son feel that he can get away with insulting and abusing a girl whereas the daughter is always supposed to stay within the limits of culture is having a double face for everything and this will lead to children rebelling against the system in the house.

The understanding of lent is not to change others. It is always to change us. Trying to be an understanding parent is a very good Lenten decision to take. In our usual thinking pattern we will put all the blame on technology, children, our partner, children's peers and everything but us. During lent we can take the hard decision to identify that our children are the way they are because they want to and because of the influence we have on them. If we use the Lenten prerogative to listen and identify we can easily get it that as parents a lot of changes have to be brought into our life style. We can make a world of difference to our life and through that to the next generation by practicing what we preach instead of burdening our children with expectations even we won’t be able to fulfill.

The elephant who thought that the young elephant would prove itself only if it could fly never thought that the elephant itself could not fly. This is the beauty of lent. We can work on each element of our character and become a person who understands others better than asking them to understand us. It is to say that we can use the time during lent to be a better parent and if we are still in the mold of a traditional parent then maybe we can stop being one!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Quiet day third session worship order

Opening prayer
Open the doors of mercy to us O God, as we come broken and dejected into your presence. Our rejected selves are always looking for mercy from you. We come naked to be clothed by your mercy, we come dressed to be stripped into being merciful. We are all sinners and yet there is the great possibility of being mercy givers. Help us God to rid ourselves of all that prevents us to love and become God bearers not by being holy but by being merciful. Amen.

Thanksgiving (Together)
Let us give thanks to God for having being created as we are, with all the gifts and creativity we have received. We thank you merciful God for our parents and siblings, our family members, partner, friends, colleagues, co-participants and all those who have put in small pieces of our puzzle so that we can live a smooth life. Every second dear God is a gift. We are thankful to you God for giving us this moment. Amen.

Confession (In unison)
We confess our shortcomings of looking back and looking beyond O God our creator and in the process forgetting the moment. We have rejected what we can do in the moment and have instead got stuck in the past and are fearful of our future. Forgive our sins of silence, ignorance, hurting others, being insensitive, defensive and using our temporary positions to hurt others. Amen.

Absolution
Forgiving and receiving forgiveness is the most exciting and soothing experience one can have. God forgives us and in it God is pleased and happy. By being absolved of our sins we become free to move on and work for the benefit of God’s creation, more effective and more involved than before. May God forgive us all. Amen.

Intercession
We pray gracious God for all those who are confused about their self. What is confusion for us is only the path chosen by them. May people choose the land they want to stay in, the occupation they want to do, the preferences they have, the food they want to eat and the life style they want to have. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray merciful God that all forms of violence are shunned in society and that people may never take recourse in violence as a solution to a perceived problem. May mob violence, genocide, hate crimes, state violence, war and struggles involving loss to innocent lives come to an end. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray loving God for preparation and patience to start the lent in the hope that we will experience the life and passion of Christ and be led to the experience of resurrection. May lent mean not just diet restrictions but whole hearted change of heart to accept each other as they are and as they want to be. May lent be a time to change ourselves and not others. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for the retreat leader, for those who are attending the Quiet day retreat and those who haven’t been able to make it due to various reasons. May the soothing and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit be with us and guide us to being in fellowship with one another and may we be strengthened to do God’s work in whichever way we can. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Let us pray for our personal needs………….Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

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.

Closing hymn

Lord’s prayer
Our God, who art 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 have forgiven those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Closing prayer
Violence and taking life is never a solution to anything. Let us pray that we never use violence of any form, through words, actions and inactions. May the love of Christ who overturned the violence of society and religion be with us. Be assured that those who leave violence will never die but always be alive just as Christ showed us. 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 more. Amen.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quiet Day second session worship order

Opening prayer
Gracious God, we come into your presence thankful for the rest, restoration, renewal and revival you have offered to us. As we start a new day give us the mind and the patience to prepare ourselves to retreat and offer ourselves for realizing where we stand and where we need to go in relation with our life and our relationship with God. Open our hearts merciful God to new thoughts and creative expressions which will help our spiritual forming and nurture. Amen.

Bhajan
Bible reading
Sermon


Confession (All together)
Understanding God who knows every step we take and yet gives us the freedom to be ourselves in every way and manner, help us to realize the Godly and ungodly acts around us. We accept our inability and our inconsistency in understanding what God and belief are. We have based our faith on a powerful God forgetting that Jesus underwent the struggle of being human even while he was divine. Forgiving God we tag along with Christ on the cross in disbelief knowing that it will lead us to true belief. Amen.

Absolution
The cross is the symbol of violence and the symbol of peace. It is the chance of retribution and that of reconciliation. The right of one is the wrong of another. God always offers a way where there seems to be none anywhere. May God who felt powerless and confused on the cross in God’s effort to understand human suffering forgive our efforts directed towards capturing power, holding on to it at any cost and causing hurt to others in the process. Amen.

Intercession
We pray powerless God who chose to be powerless and confused for the sake of humanity and showed us true love is when we give up our power and our positions. Help us to give up power in churches and instead to form communities of love, sacrifice, caring and understanding. We pray for churches which are undergoing turmoil based on arguments on basic fundamental human rights and governance. We are very well part of such churches and we seek your guidance our friend God to do good and dispel harm in our communities of faith. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for Lance Naik Hanamanthappa who was rescued six days after being buried alive in the Siachen glacier. We pray for his family who are undergoing mixed feelings and are confused to the core on the happenings. We hope that you help him recover and come back to a life to be lived with his family and friends. We also pray for peace on our borders with Pakistan and China and friendly relations with Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Nepal. May we stop trying to become a super power and rather be a super peer concerned about the good will of our neighbours just as we are about our citizens. Lord in our mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for gender justice in India and the world. It is after all based on the concept of patriarchy which is associated with power and conquest. May this wrong notion of power end and bring about a life based on Christ on the cross where we are shown the vulnerability, the powerlessness, the love and the sacrifice of God. May we as a church come together to speak against gender violence and bring about equal participation in church and society. Power and might can never be a criteria for the church and for living a harmonious life. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for those affected by the Zika virus and various diseases all over the world. We realize that these are the result of our wish to conquer the world and markets. Pharmaceutical companies, media, governments and middle men come together to make sure that people are always dependent on vaccines, medicines and money to escape all forms of viruses. May Christ on the cross be a model for a more sustainable and ecofriendly living which gives space for all forms of creation to exist side by side not based on power but on powerlessness. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are still in abject poverty because of wrong government policies and decisions. It is a sin that people on earth are dying of hunger and there is no justification for this. We pray that governments and dispensations encouraging war to capture power will turn around and encourage peace because we can’t capture one another as everything belongs to God, who by God’s own decision chose to give up everything. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for the UTC community. Help us O God to prepare ourselves to accept each other, live with one another knowing that those who want to be first have to be last and those who want to be served, have to serve. May we this day and in the days to come accept each other whole heartedly and work as sisters and brothers with the model of Christ on the cross as our inspiration. We pray for those who are sick, recovering from ailments, undergoing stress, trying to overcome fears and putting in their best in studies and their life on this campus. May we hold hands and live as one despite coming from different backgrounds and churches. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Affirmation of faith (In unison standing)
We believe in God, the powerless initiator who
created heaven and earth.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the compassionate Holy Spirit,
born of the ever sacrificing Virgin Mary,
suffered under the powerful Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the powerless dead.
On the third day he rose again without power;
he ascended into heaven because he lowered himself,
is seated at the right hand of God,
and will come again to assemble the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the one powerless church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Closing hymn- On a Hill Far Away (The Old rugged cross)

Lord’s prayer
Our God, who art 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 have forgiven those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Closing prayer and benediction
How nice it is to put off all burdens and pressures from our shoulders. The pressure of administration, church work, studies, research, teaching, living and praying need not be done alone but can be a collective effort. How good it is to know that even Christ was confused even up till the cross. Go in peace, knowing that we know nothing and yet that is something. We cannot have everything in life but through God we share the gift of something which will be our everything this day and in the days to come. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with us now and forever more. Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Quiet Day first session worship order

Order of worship
Opening prayer
God is in our midst. Shall we forget about our bothersome thoughts and burdens and concentrate on the presence of God, our friend and companion in happiness and in sadness. We thank you Lord for giving us the opportunity to come together for a quiet time of reflection. Instigate and challenge us we pray to realize the truth of the gospel and live in hope and joy. Amen.

Bhajan
Bible reading
Skit
Sermon
Confession

How far we have come away from you dear God? How close can we get? We have concentrated on scandals of popular culture and have forgotten the scandal of all time, the scandal of the cross. This is a scandal for a rich and self-consuming culture but a reality and joy for us that rejection by humans is acceptance by God. We come to your presence gracious God offering ourselves in humble state mindful of our short comings and sins. Forgive us and give us the strength to move on. Amen.

Absolution
A confessing heart is worth an entire life time’s wait, an understanding mind is the work of decades of humility, the grace of God is possible through the realization of a moment that what was done was wrong. May God pardon us all and may we go in peace to prepare ourselves to accept each other and work together. Amen.

Intercession
We pray that acts of violence and gross injustice are not repeated but that we come to understand each other and live in this world and country as one. None of us own what we inhabit but it all belongs to God the creator. We pray that acts of intolerance as was seen in Bangalore last week are not repeated and pray for the Tanzanian student who was affected by the mob attack on her. May her recovery be speedy through our bold and sure acts of assurance as by our strong prayer for her. Help us to live together as the present and future of the world is in living together and in harmony. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for Rohit Vemula and for his bereaved family, friends and comrades. We hope that his death does not settle down and go for nothing but will rather lead to people stopping caste and racial violence and will work in the interest of the poor and down trodden. May we see Christ in each other and may we understand the scandal of the cross from the perspective of those who suffer and find it difficult to make ends meet. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for the one million refugees and migrants who crossed over to Europe in 2015. We pray for Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Serbia and Ukraine from where they are migrating. May war and violence end and may people be able to go back to their homes and land. We also pray for the countries hosting them and accepting them, to find the ways to fight internal problems of anti-refugee movements and nationalism related threats and help in this massive movement to help each other and offer houses to one another just as Christ would have done. It may be a scandal to others but it is what has to be done. We pray that repressive regimes will accept proposals of peace and joint administration and stop killing innocent people. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for free education, food, shelter, and jobs for the unreached in India. Even as we enjoy food we pray that right to food, right to education and right to a job become fundamental guarantees to all residents of this nation. This may sound scandalous to many but reservation is only a social corrective where the downtrodden will get a chance to feel the same as everyone else. We pray that community specific jobs are done away with and people can choose the job they want and every job will have its own dignity. May tables not be reserved for the rich and the famous but be open equally for all. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for those assembled here and for the UTC community, its well-wishers, friends and all those who have stepped into the campus and have had some association with this college and campus. Gracious God have mercy on us and allow us to enter the preparation of understanding your sacrifice and passion for us. May we forgive each other and seek forgiveness from one another. We submit our own wishes and needs and put forward our fears and sorrows. Fill each one of us with your mercy loving God. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Affirmation of faith
We believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
We believe 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, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living 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.


Lord’s prayer
Our God, who art 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 have forgiven those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Closing prayer and benediction
We have seen a scandal, we were part of a scandal, and we are because of a scandal! May the divine scandal of Christ Jesus be with us and strengthen us to teach, preach and practice the gospel as assurance for many, acceptance of all and liberation of the poor. May God be with us all. Go in peace and go in assurance of God’s presence with us. 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 more. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Five reasons to observe lent


Another Lenten season has started and the same question arises. Why should I observe lent? What can inspire me to undergo the experience of lent? What kinds of lent are available. Here are five reasons for us to observe lent.

1. Having control of our mind. Why would Jesus have fasted for forty days? What did he do after he fasted for forty days? It does appear that Jesus was preparing for his ministry. It is said that human beings use hardly 10% of the capacity of their God given brain. Why aren’t they able to use the rest? It is primarily because they are doing things which they don’t need and in the process are also not being able to concentrate on the work at hand. Humans are also mighty bothered about what others are thinking and what is good and bad in their culture. This prevents us from using God’s greatest gift to human kind and that is our own mind. Lent is a time of taking control of our lives. It is to tell ourselves that there is a lot of good we can do for others and ourselves.
It is not to use our mind to control the minds of others but to use our mind to do good that we never thought was possible of us. It is to say that we usually give up on a struggle or don’t do something because we think that we are not capable of it. We end up not helping people not because we don’t want to but because we think we don’t have it in us. Lent gives us a great opportunity to use God’s grace through our body and make it count for someone else.

2. Forgiving is good for the mind. Forgiving others for any seeming bad they have committed against us is very good for us. Anger prevents us from forgiving and anger leads us to the next kick of getting into a fight with someone and this cycle never ends. This will lead to tensions in life and we will be very unsatisfied. Forgiving is not a prerequisite for lent which turns out to be a condition but it is something we should do out of our own free will so that it will lead to a better society.

Imagine a scenario of road rage which can be avoided with a simple smile and a better choice of words. But somehow it is not possible for us and we end up getting into a fight with someone over a matter which we later realize is not so important after all. Forgiving is never an act of weakness but an act of strength. It is not to say that we are giving up but to say that we have read any given situation better than the other person. It is a mature act of tolerance which will not make us weak but will make us strong because our mind is not obsessed with the anger we have for someone else but has already moved on.

3. Eating to share. Our culture is so obsessed with food that we are left eating all the time. It is as though we live to eat and eating is the only thing on our mind. Living to eat suggests that food is everything and all for us. This brings about a gorging on food and hoarding of food because lack of food will make us very unsettled and unsatisfied. Sharing the resources on mother earth is to truly believe that there is enough for all. Food shows, marts, restaurants, competitions, cookery books and choreographed pictures only make us more conscious and bothered about food and makes us personalize it to the extent of having it always. Lent helps to break this cycle of eating. It is not wrong to eat and Christ himself acknowledges that he and his disciples ate happily. But that was a community fellowship and not a culture of living to eat.

Eating to share means to look at whether others have eaten their share before we gorge on our own food. Is it enough to pray for the poor and the hungry or is it important to know that during lent and afterwards we should understand that what we are eating is also meant for someone else? There is enough food for everyone in this world. If that is the case why is more than half the population in India eating less than three times a day while doctors advise those who can afford a separate food regime to eat several times a day to avoid diabetes and other lifestyle diseases? Lent should be this understanding that we can eat less and reach out to those who don’t have anything to eat. This can be on several fronts. Some can donate to a home for the destitute where they are looking for a donation to cook the next meal, others can go to the streets and help many sleeping on the streets with nothing to eat, the church can start a food bank, while others still can identify a few people or at least one person they can employ and through that wipe out the hunger of an entire family.

4. Cleansing our thoughts. Lent is a time when we clean our system by eating slow, eating little and eating correct. It is not about purity and pollution but about cleansing our thoughts by having a light body and in a way to feel more energetic to do more. Slowing down helps us to think about family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and others we see every day. It is to say that we can change the way we think.

This can help us in to engage with evils like gender discrimination, caste violence and class differentiation to name a few. It is to think with a clear mind and think better and realize that we are doing wrong to many people around us. It is to rise above the usual and offer our dining table to eat for the person who helps with chores at home, to give them a salary hike instead of spending it on something in the super market which we don’t even need. It is also to trust communities who we work with and who work for us and treat them like our own instead of having these differences based on colour and gender. Lent can definitely help this way.

5. Preparing for bad times. We are faced with a lot of ecological problems these days. Global warming is on the rise and that is already making a change to the earth and to various countries. Wars and genocide come up quickly and so swiftly that the population of the land is not ready for it. Natural disasters like the one which happened in Tamil Nadu remind us that we need to be ready for any eventuality. This being the case lent becomes a time to prepare for worse times. It is to live and eat on the most minimum and thereby prepare ourselves for any eventuality that could arise at any time. We realized with many natural disasters over the past few years that we have no idea how to survive if something happens and we have to depend a lot on divine intervention and government help.

Lent prepares us for any catch-22 situation and hardens us and strengthens us to face any eventuality. It is to work and think with the most meager of resources available so that we will survive an earth quake, a flood or any other disaster because we have already gone through a very humbling and difficult experience. Children and the aged can also be prepared. This is also where other kinds of Lenten forms help. Carbon fasting, abstaining from social media, mobile phones, television and other forms of the media teach us how to contact someone with very little technology, remember phone numbers and addresses, and walk for kilometers together when there is no other form of transport. Lent helps us with all of this.

Lent has changed over the years and yet there are so many things which remain the same. What has changed is that we can use lent to work on the different changes in our life which have happened over the past few years. Lent is so unique and a game changer and life enhancer for all. Try it. You will come out smarter and happier.


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.)