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FOCUS April 2015

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas

A Publication of Diaspora FOCUS

Contents

Editorial - Worship, Mystery and

Symbols - Page 3

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Metropolitan’s Message - Page 5

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Page 7

Plammoottil V. Cherian, M. Div., PhD -

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Dr. Stanley Jones, Re-collections by granddaughter, Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes - Page 8

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Mar Thoma Worship and St. James Liturgy - Dr. Zac Varghese, London - Page 11

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Peace and Reconciliation – Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam - Page 14

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Bishop George Ninan (1934-2015), Dr. Yesudas M. Athyal, Boston - Page 15

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Rites, Sacraments, and Ceremonials for 21 st Century, Dr. Zac Varghese, London - Page 18

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Prophet of New Humanity in the 20 th Century, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma - Page 22

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Message from Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Thiruvalla - Page 25

FOCUS October 2015 Vol. 3 No: 4 Cover Photo – Worship, Mystery and Symbols, Photo by

Dedication of New Poolatheen, Thiruvalla – Page 28 (Photo courtesy, MTC Facebook Page)

Editorial

Worship, Mystery and Symbols

The reason for selecting worship as the theme for the current issue of the FOCUS is the importance and priority that we ascribe to corporate worship in building a Diaspora faith community to express our spirituality in everyday context. Worship for most Christians is the corporate worship service on Sunday mornings. The timeless command to worship the Lord, our God and creator, is at the heart of our spiritual journey. Worship is offering of thanks, praise, and devotion given to the Triune God. It is a response to the ‘costly grace’ of God manifested through the redemptive sacrificial work of Jesus the Christ; it is a memorial to the intervention of God in history through the work of Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Worship takes many forms in different denominations and in different cultural contexts at different times and days of the week. On Sundays, it could be a Holy Communion Service, matins, evensong, praise and worship, morning or evening prayer, and compline. The word worship means adore, respect, reverence, homage, glorify and so forth. The central elements of worship are adoration, confession, blessing, intercession, creedal affirmations, thanksgiving and dedication. But worship is all the above and much more; it is a reverential, consecrated attitude; it is both personal and corporate commitment to giving thanks to God and glorifying His name; it is a commitment in words for enriching the life of other participants and in our beings. Christian worship includes sacraments; St. Augustine defined sacrament as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us.’ It is clouded in mystery and it is a vehicle of God’s amazing grace, which is made evident to the participants by the use of signs and symbols. Most churches have seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Communion, Ordination, Marriage, and Extreme Unction. There is a mystery associated with the divine presence in worship services, which is difficult to describe, but adds to its beauty and holiness. It is up to the ministrants and participants to contribute to the beauty and holiness of worship services in absolute humility and obedience. Self-centeredness, self- projection, gimmicks, excessive charismatic display or too much outward piety of any kind should not disturb the solemnity of the occasion.

Worship defines the identity of the Church because

Church

is

the

people

of

God

constituted as a

worshipping

community.

This

is

an

inclusive

community with churches and assemblies without walls. The Church is indeed the sign and symbol of the kingdom of God inaugurated through the ‘Christ- event.’ While there are personal moments, spaces and commitments in worship, Christian worship becomes alive and meaningful in the context of community. Therefore, public worship is a bold witnessing statement of a living faith. To experience the spiritual excitement of worship, it is helpful to understand the meaning of religious language, incarnational theology, liturgy, intercessional prayers, signs and symbols. The dynamics of the relationship between the world inside the church and the world in which men and women live their lives are very important in understanding the purpose of worship. This understanding should help us to lead a Eucharistic life in everyday encounters, and this is indeed living the ‘liturgy after the liturgy.’ This is indeed taking the liturgy silently and deliberately into all situations of life; this is indeed taking, thanking, breaking and sharing our life under the unconditional love and grace of God.

Editorial Worship, Mystery and Symbols The reason for selecting worship as the theme for the current

The Gospel message we declare and celebra te in Christian worship is essentially simple. It is a proclamation that ‘God is not dead’, He is still within us and in the community. The atoning sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is for uniting us to the Triune God in holy fellowship. For many Sunday churchgoers the word of Scripture can be expected to come alive in worship services, and the teaching of Scripture retains its central importance

in the reformation theology of the Mar Thoma Church. It is the time and space for handing down the treasures of Christian experience of past centuries to all generations; it should be unpacked, opened, and distributed carefully to men and women and to young and old. Sunday sermon is an integral part of the liturgy it should be seamless and geared to reach everyone in the congregation to enlarge their vision; pulpit should move to pews to reach out and touch people at every level of their understanding. We need to emphasis this and correct the shallowness and dullness of much current preaching to make it relevant and make sense of the eternal. People move away from parishes because of the insufferable dullness and insensitivity of preaching; they go to other places where they can connect and relate. There should be a great effort in teaching the preachers. There are not many born preachers; it is important to work at it, and it is worth investing in it through prayer and careful study to acquire the necessary skills. One important point, carefully presented, is far better than giving traditional three or five-point sermon, which people forget before the preacher finishes his talk. It should not be used as a stick to belittle and reveal the ignorance of the parishioners. Preacher should feel the pulse and have a calming influence.

There is a tension in presenting the Gospel message:

there are those who treat ministry as a form of social work, with a secular agenda; then there are priests who do a job according to a given job description, ticking all the boxes for satisfying annual parish reports. There are also ministers who put the Bible on a pedestal and worship it without really investigating its contents in the context of current realities of their parishes. Turning the original meanings of the Biblical texts into the thought patterns of the present-day hearers should in any way paper over what the text meant at the time, when it was written. A respect and a balance should always be maintained. It is like an archaeological digging, it should be excavated layer by layer carefully, preserving original under the cover of the current understanding. It is not a demolition job, but preserving the timeless truth while adapting to the times. We needed intellectual discipline and humility in appreciating Scripture. In worshipping, we join the founding fathers of the church, saints, and our ancestors and the present generations; it is both ancient and modern; the idea of this continuity is important, we are linked from the very beginning to eternity. We are expected to copy the heavenly worship. The Bible provides models of heavenly worship in Isaiah 6, Revelations 4 and 5.

Unfortunately, many Christians have a superficial view of what worship is; the result is that it has become an

event on a Sunday checklist, one of the things they may or may not do. Many people are not faithfully committed to Sunday worship services; as a result they fail to develop a lifestyle of complete commitment to God. Worship has become a show and just another event, a matter for professional clergy and spectators. The supreme task of the organizers of worship is to enable participants to offer themselves as a ‘living sacrifice.’ In part, this means offering their talents and thoughts.

Every church should have some regular opportunity for its members to talk together about worship for understanding and influencing its nature and shape. Sometimes worship has an order and shape, but it is hidden from people; hymns are announced, lessons are read, liturgy is followed with incomprehensible words and poetical imagery, but how they relate to each other and to the prefabricated sermon is a mystery known only to the preacher and God. People participating in the worship service should contribute by prior private prayers and preparations. Our parents used to fast and pray before receiving the Holy Communion. People participating in worship should have a stake in it and become stakeholders; there should be a partnership between clergy and laity. Congregations should never become indifferent and disconnected observers; in some denominations, people observe the Holy Communion or view it on the television screen, but in the Mar Thoma Church it is for sharing; it is participatory. Preparation and commitment would contribute much to the solemnity and beauty of corporate worship service.

A realistic appreciation of the mysteries and symbols of worship will transform the stale and lifeless routine nature of the occasion into a vibrant sprit-filled divine experience. It is in this mystery, hidden wonder, and miracle we recognize the presence of God at the worship and in the Eucharist. The greatest mystery is the unseen presence of God in our midst when we gather for worship. We need to appreciate the meaning of tearing the curtain from top to bottom at the moment of the death of Jesus on the cross. Let us not pull back the veil, but listen and experience the hidden mysteries in our worship. Do not struggle for meanings; it will be given to a true worshipper, just feel the presence of love of God and His nearness, go with the flow of the grace without resistance of any kind. In our familiarities with the worshipping elements, we take things for granted, and it then becomes a meaningless routine. Mystery is so mething that we feel with reverence, and is not something that we dissect out with the knife of our intellect. A critical and analytical attitude will destroy the mystery. Everything–from the posture at the worship, music and

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FOCUS April 2015

the ancient liturgy– has a mystery. At occasions when our Kauma (adoration) is chanted with humility, piety and reverence that it demands, it has a power to elevate us to the presence of God; we often felt this in the chanting of late Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan and other such amazing servants of God. Moses felt the mystery God in the burning bush; Israel felt the presence of God in the ‘pillar of cloud’ in day times and in the ‘pillar of fire’ in nights during their passage through the desert with Moses. These mysteries and symbols strengthened and guided them in the desert for forty years. St. Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus. For people looking for a logical analysis of every element of every aspect of the mystery should trust that it is in ‘the cloud of unknowing’ that we feel the presence of God; mysteries were hidden in some of the parables that Jesus spoke. “Though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand” (Luke 8:10). Jesus further said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. ……………Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it"(Luke

10:21-24).

Worshipping in ‘Spirit and Truth’ is guaranteed to change our lives by moving us into the hidden realities and the love of God; the hands that hold us are often hidden. We often think we are alone when facing a crisis, but we are not. Our faith is a grace driven and grace-filled faith; mystery is part and parcel of the faith that we hold. The faith-guided actions should be signs and symbols for others to see the presence of God in our lives and the kingdom within. The signs and symbols used in the worship are simple elements from everyday life; these have the power in making us to reflect on the mystery of our faith. The sign of the cross, incense, vestments of the clergy, washing of hands, exchanging the kiss of peace, bread and wine, the four blessings, and the laying on of hands by bishops are expressions to amazing moments of grace that mark our lives. It is up to us to appreciate these and enjoy these moments in worship services.

People who argue for liturgical reformation without due thought and theological understanding are throwing out the baby with the bath water. Every gift offered in worship must be offered with devotion and sensitivity, both towards God and towards other worshippers. Anything offered purely as a novelty for sensual satisfaction becomes a gimmick and is unworthy of worship. Sunday worship is not a theatre or talent show in terms singing, drumming, acting,

speaking or chanting. It is certainly not for self- glorification, but for glorifying our savior and loving God. Anything including body language and dress code which alienates other worshippers threatens meaningful fellowship and achieves opposite of what is intended. However, we should never neglect gifts of people who have great potentials to contribute and energize our worship services. When a parish is open to new possibilities, and is able to welcome contributions from unexpected sources, all sorts of gifts become apparent. It is possible to test these out after traditional worship services during a specially adopted time, such as ‘Our Time and Space.’ It is a time devoted for opening up to share experiences; this then becomes a platform for developing young talents in all walks of life. This is also a helpful offering, and can become part of the worship services in our parishes. We should be aware that all over the world new forms of worship are being evolved. Events like the general assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) yield veritable liturgical resources. It is our task to study them in our contexts and under our traditional moorings. These resources give us a real sense of sharing the experiences of a worldwide worshipping family, which is indeed a reflection of being members of a universal Church. Let us hope and pray also for Eucharistic hospitality between member churches of the WCC.

We are grateful to all the writers who contributed to this issue. We also express our gratitude to all those who visit our online magazine and also forward the links to others. At present we have about 100,000 subscribers to this online magazine, which is first of its kind for any Christian denomination from Kerala.

The Editorial Board

Note: Please remember that we need your constant prayer and support to make our online ministry fruitful for the glory of God. Please send the following URLs of this online magazine to your friends and relatives:

http://www.issuu.com/diasporafocus

http://www.scribd.com/diasporafocus

Disclaimer:

Diaspora FOCUS is a non-profit organization registered in United States, originally formed in late Nineties in London for the Diaspora Marthomites. It is an independent lay-

movement of the Diaspora laity of the Mar Thoma Church; and as such Focus is not an official publication of the Mar Thoma Church. Opinions expressed in any article or statements are of the individuals and are not to be deemed as an endorsement of the view expressed therein by Diaspora FOCUS. Thanks. Contact:

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FOCUS April 2015

Synopsis of Metropolitan’s Pastoral Letters in the ‘Sabha Tharaka’ July, August, & September 2015

July 2015

Synopsis of Metropolitan’s Pastoral Letters in the ‘Sabha Tharaka’ July , August , & September 201

The Mar Thoma Church will be honoring the late MM Thomas by conducting a seminar on August 31 st on his birth centenary. Rev. Dr. Hielke Wolkers, who is the associate secretary of World Council of Churches, will be the main speaker. His PhD was based on the visions and contributions of Dr. M. M. Thomas. He will also be addressing the next Mandalam meeting.

The meditations for the month of July are based on the saints’ days of St. Peter and St. Paul and then we will be remembering St. Thomas. St. Thomas, apostle of India, accepted the resurrection of Jesus Christ only after having personal encounter with the risen Christ. When Jesus revealed himself to Thomas, he said ‘My God and my Lord.’ and thus became the first disciple of Jesus Christ to accept His divinity and Lordship. We have completed more than two thousand years after his arrival in India. He came to a place, which had it is own historical religiosity, but St. Thomas helped us to establish our faith in a risen Christ.

The church, which is rooted deep in the Indian civilization, depended on the national identity and democratic principles to establish itself as a witnessing church. We as a church should be able to move forward without causing any hindrance to witnessing Jesus the Christ. On the 6 th Sunday after Pentecost we are remembering about the qualities we need to have after receiving Holy Spirit. Any person who holds office in the church must keep and maintain transparency and utmost faith in all his or her dealings.

We need to recognize the glory of priesthood through the witnessing of Christ based on the wounds he suffered for us on the cross. We read in Hebrews 5: 7-9, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Each priest must become the owners of a life filled with obedience and submission to Lord. When Apostle Jacob says–acts without faith is void, and when Paul says–by faith we are justified, both these are correlating with each other. God asks us through Micah three things – do justice, be kind, and be humble. When we enter into new Malayalam era, let these words of our Lord may lighten our path and our feet.

August 2015

During the end of June and the first three weeks of July I was able to visit several parishes in the Diocese of North America and Europe. I had also the privilege to visit the Mexico Mission field. The people in that mission field are far below in the standards of education, social and economic sphere. As a result, of that Diocese’s initiative for the overall development of the people in that mission field five students were able to obtain bachelor degree courses in medicine, nursing, engineering, business administration. Those students really deserve our appreciation. I was able to visit the VBS conducted for the students in that mission field by the Diocese. The Spanish women sung a Malayalam song and it was a real experience to hear a Malayalam song from Spanish speaking women. If we are able to obtain the services of an ordained priest who can communicate in Spanish it may be blessing to our services in that mission field. I wish that Diocese might pay attention in getting the services of such a priest. The Diocesan mission activities conducted among the Native Americans also deserve appreciation.

It is a reality that the parishes in Canada and England are not getting that much freedom, which they use to have in the past. It is not an appreciable thing to note that the number of people participating in the family conference conducted by the Diocese is decreasing every year due to the various conferences conducted by the organizations at the Diocesan and regional levels. The construction of the second phase of MTC Dallas, Farmers Branch, is progressing well. It may be possible to dedicate the same by the beginning of next year. The Diocese was able to purchase a piece of land in Houston for building a Diocesan Center in that area. Diocese intends to complete this project with the help of parishes in that region. Canadian Mar Thoma Church was able to purchase a piece of land also and plan for the building has approved by the

general body. I appreciate the Diocese for creating a corpus fund for helping theological students who need help by the decision of the Diocesan Assembly. This may also help those theological students who are pursuing higher studies. During this visit I was also able to participate in the Diocesan Clergy Conference, Diocesan Council, Diocesan Assembly, and Family Conference.

The country received the news with a shock the death of former Indian President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Khalam, who served our country from 2002 – 2007 as 11 th President of India. In each program he participated both in India and outside he was able to give a new vision about the future of humanity. We cannot forget the valuable services rendered by him in various fields. I still remember the occasion I was able to visit him. Mar Thoma Church pays its respect to the memories of that noble soul.

The Church has been entrusted with the responsibility to transform the world. The history of the Christian Church is also an example of this. But it is shameful that Christians often fall into the traps of this world. The US Supreme Court has declared that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 States of America. Some Marthomites also entered into same sex

marriages, and it is a fact that the concerned priests or other responsible people never intimated the matter to the leadership of the Church. These unbiblical instances are examples of repeating the Sodom – Gomorrah culture. We do not need to wonder if someone were to bring a proposal under Clause 113 that Church should allow same sex marriage. Our Church has its own faith and practices and procedures. Marriage is not a covenant between two persons, but it is holy sacrament. We are baptizing the children born to such couples who joined through the holy sacrament and allowing them to enter into full communion of the Church. The Church’s responsibility is not to swim with unbiblical worldviews, and to swim against unbiblical trends with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We begin the meditation for the month of August with the beginning of the 15-day lent. When the angel revealed the human incarnation of God to Virgin Mary, she was really confronting death face to face. As per Jewish religious custom, if a girl who is betrothed became pregnant before the marriage, they stone her to death. In the face of that eventuality, Mary submits herself to the will of God when she said: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." The lent should enable us also to reply in the same way Mary did, in all circumstances of our life also. The second Sunday of August we meditate upon the theme – ‘responsibility is sharing the pain of God.’ Gospel of Jesus Christ is not of prosperity, but it is sharing of God’s pain. When we meditate upon the transfiguration festival, we understand this very well. Jesus was telling the disciples not to stay with him and to enjoy the glory, but go down to the valley and to be part of the pain and to find solutions. During August 9 th Sunday we meditate on the theme – ‘God’s people as the salt and light of the world.’ We add salt to every substance so that it may stay fresh without decaying. Sea remains clean, even though lot of waste is flowing into it, because of its saltiness. We add salt to have taste to our food. We are called to be the salt of the earth so that we may not become unclean due to the waste of this world, at the same time protect the society around also from the waste of this world. When we become the light of the world our society will be filled with the light of justice and love.

Our country is going to celebrate another independence day on August 15 th . Gandhiji’s dream about India was to make India a God’s country. Let us pray that each Independence Day may make us closer to that dream and let us work for it. When we are forgiven from our sins, then only we really enter into our own freedom and that will make us new creatures in Christ. New creation is really the witnesses of Christ. Martin Luther, the reformer said: “I believe in Christ not because someone told me, but because I really experienced him.” Let us live as His witnesses by believing that God is faithful. What Moses had told his people be also our declaration of faith:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Sep. 2015

The first Sunday in September is celebrated as education Sunday. India is also celebrating the birthday of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, respected by the world as a philosopher and

teacher, as teacher’s day. Along with these days we may also need to recognize the qualities of Jesus Christ, the greatest teacher of the world. His method was to make the people who ask questions to him also make them tell Him the answers. When a Levite asked ‘how can attain eternal life’, Jesus replied to him through a parable. Jesus made the Levite who asked Jesus the question ‘Who is my friend’ to give the answer too. When Jesus encountered the Samaritan women she was trying to avoid the realities of her life, Je sus purposely brought her attention to the realities of her life. When people asked Jesus: ‘is it right to pay tax to?’ He replied: ‘pay Cesar what is due to Caesar and God what is due to God.’ It is another example of his style of teaching. A great teacher is one who teaches his disciples by studying them and their situations, which has been accepted by all. If a teacher fails to understand this great philosophy behind teaching s/he will be a failure in his vocation. When a teacher understands the situation of his students and teaches them accordingly, then only s/he becomes a great teacher.

On September 13 th Sunday we are meditating on the theme of women’s role in the God’s liberation. We also celebrate Women’s day on that Sunday. Gospels tell us about the strengthening of the church by women. There were women also in the crowd, which followed Jesus. Jesus gave them prominent places and he also revealed them heavenly truths. It is a historical fact that the importance given to the education of women by Church has influenced our nation also. Our church even started separate girls schools to educate girls is an example of this. Today we are giving equal importance to women in all positions in our church. But in the mattes of worship we follow our precedents.

On September 20 th we celebrate as Senior citizens Sunday. The meditation for that day is ‘Wisdom of the older generation.’ When we respect our elders we also respect their rich experiences. When entrusting His life to His father, Jesus was fulfilling His responsibilities to His mother. Jesus introducing His disciple, John, as a son to His Mom and his Mom as mother to John is an example of respecting our elders. On September 27 th we meditate on the theme ‘Holy Communion as a sacrament.’ It is a sacrament instituted by our Lord to remember every day till His second coming. When Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion he did four important things: 1) he took bread in his hands 2) he praised 3) he broke it 4) gave it. It was a symbolic representation of his body being broken by the world; it is being purified by the hands of God, being united together and finally being distributed. It is the strength of resurrection that we experience during each Holy Communion. That may be reason why Mother Teresa was able to answer when she was asked:

‘How could you serve this many people?’ She answered, ‘it was through the strength she obtained through Holy Communion.’ Let us depend on our resurrected Lord and move forward; Jesus said: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27; ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Mathew 28: 20).

Compiled by Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas (Summary of the pastoral letters appeared in ‘Sabha Tharaka’’ Jan. – Mar. 2015 issues and not a word by word translation)

Worship and its Relevance in Global Culture

Plamm oottil V. Cherian, M. Div., PhD.

My Friend Dr. Zac Varghese of London, UK, has asked me if I would write an article on some aspect of “Worship” for the next issue of FOCUS Online publication. I took the challenge and made some extensive research in the Scriptures before I penned some of m y thoughts. Now I am convinced that it is better to write in general about the worship that we Christians know the roots of, and what constitutes true Biblical worship. The incarnated God in the person of Jesus Christ transforms Christianity from the teachings of the Old Testament (OT).

What is worship?

Worship is an act of religious devotion directed towards a deity, and in the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Almighty God who is variously referred in the OT as Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, or El Elohim. Worship asserts the reality of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God on whom all creations depend for everything from their physical needs to the spiritual nourishment of humanity. The fact that the word worship in its noun and verbal forms (worship, worshiper, worshiped) appears 244 times in the Bible signifies its importance. Worship is both an attitude and a spiritual act. At the very onset I must say without any judgment that the Biblical instruction for “worship” in today’s culture has made it an industry and high-tech show by few denominations having a worship team, leader, artist, worship CDs and glare of brilliant prismatic lights flashed at lightning speed that dazzle your eye.

Our Object of Worship

Worship and its Relevance in Global Culture Plamm oottil V. Cherian, M. Div., PhD. My Friend

The moral laws of worship are inscribed in stone asserting the perpetual obligation of humanity to worship the

Almighty God as the only recipient of our adoration. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me

(Ex. 20:2-3). The second commandment forbids us to worship God with human inventions. "You shall not make unto thee any graven image" (Ex. 20:4). Plainly it forbids making, revering or worshipping any physical or artistic representation of the true God. Apostle Paul was appalled by the idols in Athens when he saw on the a ltar the

inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD,” that resulted first in

a dialogue with the Stoics and the Epicureans, and then a

sermon in which he emphatically affirmed that we are all the offspring of a living God, and that He is known to us in the person of Jesus Christ through whom we have eternity, and that our object of worship shall be Lord God who will judge humanity “By the Man whom he has ordained.” (Acts 17:16-34). Apostle Paul further instructed the Athenians,

"We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold, or silver, or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising" (Acts 17:29; cf. Ps. 115:4-8). God’s moral laws of true worship were given to Israel so that they must not worship false gods named Molech and Baal of the surrounding nations (Lev. 18:6-30; 20:1-5). Tragically Israelites fell victims to false worship since the days of Solomon and followed until the time of the last prophet Malachi. All prophetic books of the Bible instruct against the enticement of idol worship. Any attempt to represent God by human devices is an insult to the Lord. His pronouncement is clear: I am the Lord: that is my name:

and My glory will I not give to another, nor My praise to carved images (Is. 42:8; 44:1-20).

Worship in Old Testament Times

Worship is not a new process developed out of Christianity but it is a matter that lies at the very heart of the Scriptures from beginning to end. Even before any formal worship has begun, we can see an attitude of worship from the offering of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3-5) to the heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation (4: 1-11; 5:1-14). Ironically, Revelation also points out several threats to true worship where it is characterized as the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9; 3:9); worshipping Satan’s throne (Rev. 2:13); idolatry (Rev. 9:20); worship of Angels (Rev. 19:10; 22:8,9) and worshipping the false prophetess Jezebel (Rev.2: 20). The OT worship was grounded in the Covenantal relationship God established with Abraham and his posterity, who were freed from bondage in Egypt. For forty years God trained them in the wilderness and the Valley of Sinai about true worship by staying with them in the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:8- 22). Within the Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies the Ark contained the Book of Covenant, expressing God’s presence with Israel as the eternal God, their protector and provider. So intense was the presence of God’s Shekinah with the Ark that God was described as one enthroned between the cherubim of the Ark. (2 Sam. 6:2; 1 King 19:15; Ps. 80:1)

God’s presence and His glory were with Israelites in a pillar of cloud by the day and a pillar of fire by night; neither the pillar of cloud nor the pillar of fire left its place from the people (Ex. 13:20-22). When the Lord revealed himself to the Israelites, He did so by means of His word and not by physical images to be imitated or embellished. Therefore, he warned them: "Take ye therefore good heed unto

yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure" (Dt. 4:15-16). This presence of OT God was manifested in the NT when God incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, to “dwell among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

Progression of Worship from OT to NT

In Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus told her that God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24). Worship has two parts. 1. Worship is “In spirit.” The Greek word for worship is “proskuneos,” which means to fall or bow down. This means worship is a state or an attitude of our mind or the spirit within us. If our mind is not set straight and righteous before God, our worship is in vain. David realized that “The sacrifices of God are a broken heart, a broken spirit, and a contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17). One cannot worship God without knowing him personally and the entire act of worship must be in humility shown by Christ who “Humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross” (Phil. 2:8). 2. Worship is “in truth.” When we recite in our Sunday worship, “Holy art Thou O God,” it is the truth. Our affirmation of the Nicene Creed during worship is proclamation of the truth of creation of the universe, the power of the Trinity, the redemption and hope of eternity. If we don’t believe in those words our worship is in vain and it is hypocrisy. The Scriptures teach us that “Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17), “Thy law is truth” (Ps. 119:142) and “Thy word is true” (Ps. 119:160). To worship in truth we must understand who God is and must acknowledge what He has done for humanity. The essence of worship is an expression of praise and adoration from the depths of our heart in complete humility.

Worshipping in spirit means it is motivated by our inner being guided by the Holy Spirit and not out of any obligation or duty. Obligatory worship is displeasing to God and hypocritical. Worship without righteousness is an abomination (Amos 5:21-27). One of the best examples of worship where God is pleased or unhappy is seen in the offering made by Cain and Abel. Cain offered it out of obligation and Abel offered it out of admiration and in righteousness. True worship must come from a humble heart. (Ps. 24:3,4; Is.66: 2) True worship acknowledges God as our sustainer and provider, his power and glory in everything we do and see in nature. The most precious form of praise and worship is absolute obedience to God and observance of His Words. We cannot worship God and at the same time ignorant of Him. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, though it was a heart breaking incident, Abraham considered it as worship unto God. (Gen.22). Psalm 95 calls us, “Come, let us worship and bow down.” In Revelation we see the 24 elders bowing down and worshipping the Almighty God (Rev. Ch.4, 5; 11:16). The very definition of worship both in the OT and NT literally means to worship in humility.

The Manner of True Worship

Apostle Paul described the true worship. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect

(Rom.12: 1,2). Paul’s description contains the true elements of worship. First, the motivation to worship and offer thanksgiving to God, which is the mercies of God in creating us as unique species of all creations to have fellowship with God. God has given us everything— unconditional love, grace, everlasting peace, righteousness and eternal life through freedom in Christ. Secondly, Paul explains the manner of worship, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The reference to our bodies means all of the human faculties—our hearts, minds, thoughts and attitude are to be presented to God in worship, just as in a sacrifice the unified body given in a sacrifice. Thirdly, this full surrender in worship must lead us to the renewing of the mind. This means we worship God every time with a newness of mind, body and spirit, free from worldly thoughts, our personal egos and emotions that mask the spirit and truth. We need to set the mind of Christ that cannot be overrun by our emotions (1 Cor. 2:16).

Renewing our minds is through the Word of God, the truth revealing the knowledge of God and His attributes. Every time we worship that must add on to our knowledge of God, although we are incapable of attaining perfection. Hymns have become an integral part of our worship. Apart from the Scriptures, hymns do more to our spiritual devotion, calming our troubled mind uplifting our spirit to God seeking solace and comfort. Music enhances the worship if hymns can touch our heart. Hymns must come from transformed hearts and minds like that of John Newton who wrote the Amazing Grace, or “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” (Augustus M. Toplady); or Jesus Lover of my soul (Charles Wesley) or songs written by our own Kochukunju Upadesi in Kerala such as “Entae Daivum mahathathil Ardhravani jeevikumbol” and Entae Daivum swarggha simhasanam thannil” etc. The hymn Rock of ages was sung at the funeral of William Gladstone in West Minister Abbey, London, England. Prince Albert of England asked it to be sung to him as he lay dying. Songs must come from pious and humble hearts of people who experienced the presence of God in their life.

Christian Worship Rooted in OT Character

The Christian worship has its roots in OT and had Jewish character for the following reasons. 1. Christ was a Jew from Nazareth in Galilee (Mt. 1:1), and the 12 Apostles were all Jewish (Mk. 3:13-13). 2. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was largely a Jewish event (Acts 2:1-5), which was a fulfilment of the OT prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). 3. Most of the three thousand people who were baptized on that day after Peter’s sermon

were largely Jews who were gathered from all over the world to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Pentecost is not a new denomination as some people characterize them, but is a new experience for the renewal of all humanity—inclusive of Jews and Gentiles becoming followers of Christ, and thus the birth of the Christian Church, whose early members were Jewish converts. 4. Until the NT writings were available to the common people Apostles preached, taught and exhorted from the OT (Rom. 15:4-6; 1 Cor. 10:1-13). The author of Hebrews vehemently develops a theme of faith of Patriarchs and Matriarchs in God, the substance of our worship (Heb. 11:

1-40). 5. NT is the fulfilment of the OT, and as Jesus himself declared that He came to fulfil the Laws (Mt. 5:17- 20). Thus Christian worship is a continuous expression of thankfulness to God for redemption of mankind of all generations—past, present, and future.

Our worship retains the Jewish character. The most important change in worship has been that Christians worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath commemorating the day of Christ’s Resurrection (Lk. 24:1). As the church grew in size by the apostolic work became decidedly Gentile in membership, corporate worship started to accommodate large gathering. Worship can be individually or in a congregational setting where we collectively offer our praise, adoration, and thankfulness to God (Ps. 22:22; 35:18). NT churches primarily gathered for breaking the bread or Lord’s Table on Sundays (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) but later Apostles introduced singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16), prayer (1 Tim.2: 1-2), almsgiving (offering) 1 Cor. 16-4) and the reading and teaching of the Old and New Testament as well as apostolic creed (1 Tim. 4:11-13). In fact Apostle Paul specifically instructed the church at Corinth to have an orderly worship with hymn, lesson from the Scriptures, a word of revelation (sermon) by knowledgeable individual, and prayer as elements comprising the order of Christian worship (1 Cor.14: 15-18; 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:7; 2 Tim. 4:2).

This essentially is the apostolic pattern of Christian worship practiced by liturgical churches including, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, The Anglican Church, Malankara Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Mar Thoma Church. Of course, each of the above church has her own method of worship and the Christian liturgy has changed over time, but fundamentally retains the original character of the apostolic nature and order of worship. This is one thing I like about the Mar Thoma Church and often emphasize that our worship is rooted deep in Biblical Theology. Christian worship began to deviate from the Jewish sect by the second century AD because of increasing number of Gentile converts from among the nations of the Fertile Crescent which gradually spread from the Mediterranean coast to the nations of east, west, south and north. We cannot and must not forget the Jewish roots and character of our Christian worship, if we are partakers of the Abrahamic Covenant, and share in the faith of Abraham who looked for a city with strong foundation, whose architect and founder is none other than, God. (Heb.11: 10)

We see a lot of cultural and ethnic diversification of Christian worship everywhere. Whatever culture one ethnic group practices in worship, the aim of our worship must be Christocentric (Christ cantered) leading us to God, the eternal father who saved us through the Cross of Calvary. That must be the hallmark of Christian worship whether you worship in a traditional manner or in a contemporary way. As the generation changes, new pattern evolves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15:1- 35); young and old; men and women and people of all color and nations. Christ is the King, Lord and Savior of humanity whom God spared for us. I conclude this article by a quote from the book Worship Old & New by Robert E. Weber. “A worship that will have staying power is a worship that is firmly grounded in the old, yet aware of and concerned for new ways to respond to the old, old story.” Worship God in spirit and in truth.

References:

  • 1. Holy Bible, The New Scofield, Study Bible (NKJV, 1989).

Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

  • 2. Oesterley, W. O. E (1925). The Jewish Background of Christian

Liturgy. Peter Smith Pub. Inc. ISBN 13:978-0844613290.

  • 3. Webber, R. E. (1994) Worship: Old and New. Zondervan Publishers,

Grand Rapids, MI, USA. Pp. 288. ISBN 13-978-0310479901.

4.Cyberhymnal.http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/o/rockages.htm.

Accessed August 11, 2015.

  • 5. Dale Carnegie (1944) How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (New

York: Simon and Schuster, 154-156.

http://singwithunderstanding.com/wp-

content/uploads/2012/06/hymns-in-the-church.pdf. Accessed August 31, 2015.

  • 6. Dawn, Marva J (1989). Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. William B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA ISBN

0-8028-0457-8

Editor’s Note: Dr. P. V. Cherian received his doctorate in Life sciences from Indiana State University, He was engaged in research and teaching in health sciences at the Medical Schools of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After a lifelong career of fifty years of teaching and research, he retired from Saginaw Valley State University. A Loyal and faithful member of the Mar Thoma Church, he was involved in the formation of the Diocese of North America and Europe and was part of the Administration as the Associate Secretary of the Diocese from 1982- 1990. Additionally he has served in the Diocesan Council,

were largely Jews who were gathered from all over the world to celebrate the Jewish festival

Assembly, the Editorial Board of the Messenger, and member of the Clergy Selection Committee for Diocese of North America. He is much interested in science and theology linking them with world events. He took Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Theological

Seminary, in Indiana, USA

In his retired life he is engaged in

.. strengthening our people in faith in a culture that challenges all moral codes and shifting rapidly into secularism. He is an invited speaker for conferences and conventions and currently writing a book on science and theology. He and his wife live in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, USA with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. drpv.cherian@gmail.com

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Dr. Stanley Jones: Recollection of a Granddaughter

Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes, USA (Part-3 of Four Part Series)

Dr. Stanley Jones: Recollection of a Granddaughter Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes, USA (Part-3 of Four Part Series)

My grandfather was not an organization man, though he had great respect for and loyalty to church organizational system and to his own denomination. He felt free to question any attitudes or practice he felt were wrong or unchristian.

In

1928

he

refused

the

Methodist

episcopacy because her felt he had been called by God to be an evangelist. Even in that, he was far ahead of his time. I cannot thing that such a decision today would cause the consternation it did then. But he helped change people’s preoccupation with marginal issues to concern for the really great issues facing the whole church of Jesus Christ throughout the country and the world. And he helped expand the spiritual consciousness and consciences of Christians everywhere. The price he paid for

being ahead of his time was high, but this did not lessen his conviction about what was right and what was wrong for him under the guidance of God. Only a few close friends and his family knew his hurt.

My grandfather was always an evangelist – and my father often said that E. Stanley Jones was the ablest interpreter of the Gospel for the present day of anyone he had ever heard. For Jones there was no contradiction between being the Old Testament prophet and the New Testament evangelist. The two belong together, as response to the gospel and obedience to the gospel!

Perhaps in the early years,

E Stanley Jones would have

identified himself as a “soul winner” but over the years he broadened his perspective. He became interested in body, mind and spirit – the whole person. He saw the Gospel of Jesus Christ enabling fractured and partial persons to become whole persons.

I think that his most original book was The Way and in that book he enlarged on the idea that the Christian way is written into the texture of life. He pushed Tertullian’s insight that “the soul is natural Christian” to new limits: the whole body, the whole of society is meant to work in a Christian way.” It is life. Jones points out the striking passage in John 1:3: “And without him was not anything made that was made.” There is the stamp of Christ on everything and it is the way life is made to work. And in following Jesus Christ we can set ourselves upon that “WAY.”

He even felt that society – the world was meant to operate in the way that God intended. Such a society is the Kingdom of God…you get the idea.

It may be interesting to look at the relationship between Stanley Jones and Gandhiji. He asked Jones to speak out to the British on behalf of India. Gandhiji’s response to Jones evangelistic efforts to Gandhiji can be summed up in what Gandhiji wrote:

“his heart is open, but it is a matter of the heart.” Here is the story of the triangular relationship among Stanley Jones, and Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Here is the story. My mother tells me of the occasion in Boston when Dr. Martin Luther King,

Jr. was honored by Boston University at a convocation prior to his leaving for Sweden to receive the 1964 Nobel Peace prize. At the reception following, my mother was introduced to Dr. King and my grandfather was mentioned. Dr. King immediately became very serious and said: “Your father was a very important person to me, for it was his book on Mahatma Gandhi that triggered my use of Gandhi’s method of non-violence as a weapon for our own people’s freedom in the United States. ’ He continued, that though he had been very familiar with the writings on Gandhi and had been interested in his method of non-violence for years, still it had not “clicked” with him that it was a vehicle for “use” in the United States. Reading my grandfather’s book on Gandhi may have assisted King with the application of Gandhian principles within a Christian context.

Up until the age of 87, E. STANLEY JONES kept up a rigorous and active life – It is estimated that he preached more than 60,000 sermons – sometimes 5-7 times a day. I heard him

preach that many times a day. I was tired.

He was not. My

grandfather was a highly disciplined person. When in college, he developed the practice of two hours of prayer and meditation daily. Morning and evening he would slip away for his hour of devotion. Because of this pattern he was the despair of hostesses who wanted their guests to enjoy the marvelous conversation of which he was capable. His discipline included filling his every waking hour with reading, writing, counseling in and speaking. He always took his daily exercises – (even 30 pushups)

But in 1971 after a strenuous two months of speaking 154 times in Japan he had a stroke – after some months in rehabilitation hospitals, he asked to return to India. The doctors concurred. By faith and determination he managed to walk once more…up to a mile, and he preached publicly again – some 50 times - despite major speech difficulties. He wrote us in 1972 that he felt that the year for him was the practical application of all that he had been preaching--- the year of using his infirmities. When life said No, God still said Yes and such was the affirmation he made in his last book, The Divine Yes!

3.5 million copies of his books have been sold and they have been translated into 30 languages…All proceeds from his books have gone into Christian projects including the United Christian Ashram. He gave all of his money away for evangelistic and other Christian causes. He was forever helping those in need! (John Wesley once said that Christians should “gain all they can, save all they can and give all they can.” The early Methodists responded to the first two admonitions but balked on the third. E. Stanley Jones practiced all three. He poured out money to help wherever the need was pressing. He literally gave away all that he had - the nearly one million dollars that he earned as royalties on his books. He would often say, “I need enough money for my needs, and where my needs end, another person’s needs begin – and so that money belongs to them…”

He admitted that he was surprised that he was even an author –

He wrote: “Me an author of books? It all seems a mistake, for I

never intended to be an author. need and the urge is upon me.

I simply write

when

I

see

a

Then somehow I must be

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FOCUS April 2015

educated. The secret is in Jesus. He is the Awakener – Awakener of the total person, including the mind. Since I’ve never felt educated I’ve made life and people educate me – a lifelong process. My mind has become a magnet, so I pull from every person, every situation, some information, and some truth to further me.”

Jones tells a related story “I was being interviewed on TV and the interviewer said, “You go throughout the world preaching. What do you have to preach that others do not have….It was a good question….and valid…Just what did I have? The answer was simple and simply given: I have Jesus Christ – the Word become flesh.”

The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – it is different in kind – Religions are our search for man. The gospel is God’s search for us….Religions are the word become word; the gospel is the word become flesh – a fact in the stream of human history. The fact that the Christian faith is written not merely in the scripture but also into the nature of things –that is not only important – it is decisive.

The whole New Testament is written here – the artist has not

imposed Christ on the words but inked the words light or dark

to bring out the figure of Christ. WORD!

Out of the words arise the

educated. The secret is in Jesus. He is the Awakener – Awakener of the total person,

He was a wonderful grandfather and lots of fun – As I was growing up, he spent every Christmas with us and his arrival for the holiday was a time of great anticipation … for he played with us. He particularly loved to swim and watch baseball. He was an excellent athlete. …He had a terrific sense of humor and was a very trusting soul. (Once in Lucknow, a Tonga (or horse cart drives was “converted.” The tonga-wallah explained to Dr. Jones that now that he was converted he needed a horse to be able to be in business for himself. This seems plausible enough so the money was given. What a shock it was to have it announced by English friends that E. Stanley Jones was the owner of a race horse entered in the winger meeting at the Lucknow race track!

I traveled with him as a young adult just out of college to Africa and India - and then in 1972 with my father and brother we took him back to India to live after he suffered a brain stem stroke. As he approached his 89 th birthday, he had made remarkable progress in his battle to learn how to walk again. Moreover he completed his last book, The Divine Yes. Nevertheless, a complete healing was not in store for my grandfather. After completing his book, his mission seemed to be at an end. The final decline was rapid and death came to him in India in January 1973. My father wrote, “When last seen he was walking with God and God took him!”

So now more than 40 years after his death - I find that his books and sermons (many written in the 1930s and 40s) are really not out of date and with few exceptions are entirely relevant to today’s world. (Several of his books have just been reprinted by Cokesbury Press, the United Methodist Publishing House in the United States) … (Just think what he could have done with the internet!!!) He currently has more than 2200 Twitter followers (October 2014)

Recently I read of my grandfather in a book of religious biographies…” Probably no non-Indian contributed more than he to the development of the strong moral and ethical sentiment that characterized Indian nationalist leadership in the later stages of the quest for independence, and in the formulation of the Constitution of India.” The leaders to be in independent India were all old friends of his, and I believe that he did have enormous influence on their thinking and moral concepts.

He foresaw where the great issues would be and spoke to them long before they were recognized…often at great unpopularity and even antagonism and derision to himself. I think that he was something of a prophet and his honors – and he did receive them – were all laid at the feet of Jesus Christ.

I hope that others will look closely at the time he lived in and through, and at his inspired grasp of how to present the living Christ to the entire world.

Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes is currently a psychologist working for U. S government. She is the granddaughter
Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes
is
currently
a
psychologist
working
for
U.
S
government. She is the
granddaughter
of
Dr.
Stanley
Jones. Dr. Mathews-Younes was
initially trained as an occupational
therapist.
She later received her
doctorate
in
Counselling
and
Consulting
Psychology
from
Harvard
University
and
is
a
licensed
psychologist.
Dr.
Mathews-Younes has also
completed a Master’s Degree in
Theological
Studies
at
Wesley
Theological Seminary in
Washington,
D.C.,
as
well
as
a
Doctoral Degree in Ministry from
that same seminary.
Both of her

theology degree theses focused on the life, mission and theology of her late grandfather E. Stanley Jones with whom she travelled extensively through India and Africa. Dr. Mathews-Younes is the President of the E. Stanley Jones Foundation (www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com) and has served as the Vice President of the United Christian Ashram Board, a spiritual retreat organization founded by E. Stanley Jones. Her book, Living Upon The Way: Selected Sermons of E. Stanley Jones on Surrender was published in 2008. Anne can be reached at

amathews1@verizon.net

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Mar Thoma Worship and the St. James Liturgy

Dr. Zac Varghese, London

Worship is the most important and significant activity of the church; it is central to our faith. The great commandment of Jesus says, " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Luke 10:27; Deut. 6:5; Lev.19: 18). Jesus was constantly trying to get people to focus on God above everything else. But when it comes to churches and worship today, so many people want to know what is in it for them; they want worship to be modern, trendy, and appealing to them. What we get out of worship for our ego boosting is of no importance; it is not an occasion for demonstrating our personal piety, spiritual superiority or societal pecking order as demonstrated in the parable of ‘The Pharisee and the Tax Collector’ (Luke18: 9-14). It is what we offer to God ‘as a living sacrifice’ for the wellbeing of others.

It is important to stress that we do not worship for ourselves using our own preferences – that would be making God in our image; we worship God, who is the centre of our existential reality. For if we worship simply for what we will get out of it, we do not allow God to be the Lord of life, rather we are trying to make use of God for our plans and purposes. Our primary purpose in worship is to honour, praise and worship God by placing God first, above all else in our lives. There are many idols that we worship, which include our image and work; most of our work is related to image creation and in the process we become what we possess. Jason A. Varghese of the St. Peter’s MTC New Jersey wrote in the ‘CEF-word for the day mediation’ series (24July 2015) wrote: ‘One of the common themes that our churches face is personal ego becoming a roadblock for corporate worship.’ Therefore, it is indeed a real worldwide problem, and we need to accept the diagnosis and find a remedy. Theethos Thirumeni defined ego as ‘edging God out.’ Mankind has been doing this since the infamous Garden of Eden incident. We shifted our existence from being theocentric to anthropocentric.

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, once observed: “The trouble with the church is that it is too much like the theatre:

the preacher is the actor; the congregation is the audience; and God is the prompter. No, said Kierkegaard: the congregation is the actor; God is the audience; and the

preacher is the prompter.” Worship is not what the ministers do; it is what we do together. This total immersion and participation is very important to recharge our batteries for life outside the church from Monday to Saturday. True worship is when our heart and mind reaches out to God and when God’s spirit reaches out to us simultaneously. We worship God because God desires and deserves our full devotion; we are created for that purpose. St. Vincent DePaul says, “We should spend as much time thanking God for His benefits as we do in asking for them.” It is precisely when we make the focus of worship God – and not ourselves – that we discover God is there for a relationship with us and that God’s presence can be among

us.

Christian worship is originated from the background of the Jewish Temple and Synagogue traditions because first Christians came from the Jewish community and tradition. In the first and early second centuries the liturgy was completely built around the Lord’s Supper or fellowship meal. When Christians could no longer worship in Synagogues as they first had done in the early years, they began gathering in homes or what came to be known as house churches. Presence of the Spirit and speaking in tongues and such spontaneous charismatic expressions were special characteristic of this early worship. Some of the worships were chaotic and troublesome as we read in Paul’s letters. Later in the second century there were developments of special liturgies for giving order, discipline and continuity. Liturgy is the structured order of worship. Prayers included in the liturgy were carefully selected to reinforce writings and teaching of Church Fathers. Liturgies were evolved over the centuries to sustain the faith of the Christian communities and to maintain the continuity from the beginning. These liturgies had two main parts: the first part centred on the Word and the second around communion. And then by the third and fourth centuries the liturgy became much more complex – with long prayers, readings of the Scriptures and established hymns. It is from this background the St. James’ Greek and later West Syrian liturgies evolved. The Mar Thoma Church has used a revised version of the St. James liturgy, and the reformation in 1836 originated from this revision and the use of the revised liturgy.

Mar Thoma Worship and the St. James Liturgy Dr. Zac Varghese, London Worship is the most

Therefore, St. James Liturgy is one of the oldest liturgies of the world and bears the name of our Lord’s brother. As mentioned before, the scriptural basis of the Christian worship and its roots are in the Temple and synagogue worship of the Jewish faith. It begins with the initial greetings, scripture reading, sermon, intercessory prayers, blessings, confession, kiss of peace, thanksgiving; the liturgy is divided into four parts:

The first part is Thooyaba or preparing for the comm union; it is during this period the Old Testament and New Testament lessons are read and the congregation sing hymns.

The second part is vesting of the celebrant and preparing bread and wine. The curtain is closed during Thooyaba and vesting prayers are said. The altar is purified with incense by swinging the censer over the paten and the chalice. The priest begins the Holy Communion by chanting, “Ahron anacha dhoopam pol,” and the curtain opens. Is it not amazing that we remember the incense offered by Aaron and linking with the earliest Israeli tradition of the worship of the journeying people of the desert?

The third part is the ante-communion, it is the worship service of the word, after the invocation, an epistle is read by the lay reader and then the gospel is read. The Nicene Creed is recited before the offertory. Then we have birthday and wedding thanksgiving prayers followed by a sermon. In the old days, those who do not wish to participate in the Holy Communion service used to leave the church at this point; this is because everyone is invited to participate in the Holy Communion and it is not for seeing, but it is for receiving. It is important to remember that the invitation to participate in the holy mysteries is from our Lord Jesus the Christ. Before the fourth part of the Holy Communion, we have open confession and absolution.

The next part is Anamnesis or the remembrance of the salvific history. The communion service is in memory of the last supper of Jesus Christ before the crucifixion. This section is also known as anapohora or Eucharistic service. It has five subdivisions: the first part begins with washing of hands symbolising purification and then prayers for kiss of peace. The second part begins with the first blessing followed by the consecration of bread and wine. The third part is the great intercession followed by second blessing, intercessory prayers and third blessings. After the third blessings the priest prepares to administer communion. Celebrant other priests, if present, take the communion first then after more prayers in the fourth the communion is given to the congregation. The fifth is final prayers, blessings and benediction.

Our liturgy has a method and an order, and it is handed down to us and has enormous significance, we are participating in this great occasion with all the people who participated in this before us, now, and people who would be honouring this commitment in the future. Therefore, it has a past, a present and a future. We should never break this tradition; it is very meaningful and valuable to us. The often repeated prayer in St. James liturgy is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.” - Kurialeisson. It echoes the prayer of the blind man (Lu 18: 38). It is repeated again and again in the hope that it will become a prayer of the mind and the heart.

A devotional understanding of the mysteries and symbols of worship will transform the stale and lifeless routine nature into a vibrant sprit-filled divine experience. It is in this mystery, hidden wonder, and miracle we recognize the presence of God at the worship and in the Eucharist. We need to appreciate the significance of tearing the curtain from top to bottom at the moment of the death Jesus on the cross. Let us not pull back the veil, but listen and experience the hidden mysteries in our worship. Do not search for scientifically verifiable meanings or

theological interpretations, but feel the presence of love of God and His nearness.

In our familiarities with the worshipping elements, we take things for granted and it becomes a meaningless routine. Mystery is something we feel with reverence and is not something that we dissect out with a knife of our intellect. Everything – from the posture at the worship, music and the ancient liturgy– has a mystery. At occasions when our Kauma (adoration) in chanted with humility, piety and reverence that it demands, it has a power to elevate us to the presence of God; we often felt this in the chanting of late Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan and other such amazing servants of God. Israel felt the presence of God in the cloud and in the fire during their passage through the desert with Moses. For people looking for a logical analysis of every element of every aspect of the mystery should trust that it is in ‘the cloud of unknowing’ that we feel the presence of God; mysteries were hidden in some of the parables that Jesus spoke. We are still hovering round to find an answer to the question arose between Jesus and the Samaritan woman: the question was where and how to worship. Are we still searching for our own Jerusalem Temple and Mount Gerizim? What Cardinal Manning said about Judas is very true of our devotion and an understanding about worship: "the sin of Judas consisted in this, which he was not made holy by holiness: that he allowed himself to become familiar with his all-holy Lord." It is the familiarity with worship, but at the same time indifference, which makes it difficult for us to sense and appreciate the holiness of worship. Worship is central to our faith. We need to hang on to the timeless truth and importance of worship, and practice 'liturgy after the liturgy.' We need to use a new compound word for describing our current attitude to worship, which is 'familiar- indifference.' We are familiar with worship, but indifferent.

In St. John’s Gospel we read, ‘The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers that the father seeks’ (John 4:21). This true worship is guaranteed to change our lives by moving us into the presence of God. Our faith is a grace driven and grace-filled faith; mystery is part and parcel of the faith that we hold. The faith-guided actions should be signs and symbols for others to see the presence of God in our lives and the kingdom within; it is indeed the process of becoming God’s letters to the world. The signs and symbols used in the sign of the cross, incense, vestments of the clergy, washing of hand, exchanging kiss of peace, bread and wine, the four blessings and the laying on of hands by the bishop are expressions to amazing moments of grace that mark our lives. We need to empty ourselves to give space for the grace to flow in. It is up to us to appreciate these and enjoy these moments. True pilgrims make lots sacrifices and preparation for their journey and the final act of worship. Such preparations and total commitment are needed for making worship real and significant. There is a Latin saying, ‘Finis est principium’, which means the end is the beginning. The end of our prayerful preparation should be beginning of our worship. We are created for no other end than this, that we should worship God to eternity and join the heavenly host.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Zac Varghese, London, U.K., was the director of Renal and Transplantation Immunology Research of Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London. He has co-authored Medical textbooks and published extensively on Transplantation, Nephrology, Inflammation, and lipid-mediated vascular injury.

Peace and Reconciliation

(A Meditation on the Cross and the Easter Light)

Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam

Global scenario

Symptoms of violence are seen everywhere lack of amity among the nations of the world has contributed economic imbalance, fear of death, violation of environmental rights, social disharmony created by the digital divide, market terrorism, rape of the Mother earth, religious intolerance, denial of the freedom of dissent. In this context, a search for the thread that unites the terrestrial and the celestial is quite legitimate during the Lenten season. That which unites is indeed great when Jesus commented on the faith of the Centurion in the words of acceptance and appreciation as, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Lk.7:

9). The words of wisdom penned by Kipling: “Even in the broken portion of the earth, there is water…The birds of the air do not know the truth of fragmentation. Yet they find harmony in the little reserve.” In an age of the celebration of Death using religious and secular knife, life through death enacted though the saga of the Cross has abiding significance. Whether one likes it or not, I believe that the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross) is the way for all to find acceptance before the Throne of Grace which is decorated with the Jewels of Love and Forgiveness. Someone has rightly remarked that technology has enabled us to hear the voice of the world, but we have little time to hear the voices within ourselves the call to live by the spirituality of religions are the need of the hour. We are called to speak the truth in love by breaking the conspiracy of silence.” In an age of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”(George Orwell). How many of us who hold a placard in our hands are prepared to forgive and forget the vestiges of the past and to show to the world that the power of love is meant to forgive. This is the message of the cross and the Easter day. Any step to forgive is a beginning to live a better life. In any fight between religions on holy sites, and thrones, the causality is not human beings but God, God alone. A misplaced enthusiasm to defend God and his boundary of activity will only add fuel to the fire of discrimination, and marginalization. What the world needs today is men and women who have a passion for doing something beautiful for God on this planet. “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord’, but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven”, said Jesus. (Matt.7: 21)

Blessed are the makers of peace and reconciliation.

I am reminded of the story of a King as told by Fr. Anthony De Mello: A King visited the monasteries of the great Zen Master Lin Chi. He was astonished to learn that there were more than ten thousand monks living there with him. Wanting to know the exact number of the monks, the King

asked: How many disciples do you have? Lin Chi replied:

“Four or five at the very most. “This is the real situation in the Church and in the society at large today. A few only are carrying coals of burning fire in their hearts. They speak aloud and even utter the words of Jesus in the Giri Gita:

“Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.” Remember, it is not the peace lovers, but the peacemakers that are called sons of God. A peacemaker is vulnerable to death as it happened to Jesus on the cross. But death was not the last word for Jesus. “A heroes tomb is the cradle of the people.” (A Mexican proverb) The cross continues to beckon us with the verse of the Negro spiritual, “where you there when they crucified the Lord? “The insights that any generation discovers will be far more powerful than the idea it inherits” (R. L. Shinn).If the Christian message is to speak to contemporary man, it must learn to address him at the point of his strength and bleeding points. A message of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, addressed to all people across any religious divide is the panacea for the ills in the world today. This is what the Church proclaims and celebrates during the Lenten Season.

Peace and Reconciliation (A Meditation on the Cross and the Easter Light) Rev. Dr. M. J.

Photo of Palace of Peace and Reconciliation Kazakhstan

Astana,

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FOCUS April 2015

All that is good belongs to God.

In his book, The Courage to be”, Paul Tillich speaks of three forms of anxiety: Ontic anxiety (anxiety over fate and death); moral anxiety (anxiety over guilt and condemnation); spiritual anxiety (anxiety over emptiness and meaninglessness). It is precisely at this point the gospel of Forgiveness and reconciliation finds its relevance. In the midst of affluence there are points of vacuum in human hearts as well as in our inherited structures. In the book of Revelation, the vision of the New heaven and the New earth, the eternal purpose of God is unequivocally presented as we read in Rev.21: 26 &27: “People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean (will enter it, or anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life what right do have the Christians to bar anyone to enter into the Kingdom of God’s grace.

All that is good belongs to God. In his book, The Courage to be”, Paul Tillich

The Universal Religion of Love as preached by the prophets and religious leaders of old has no walls. God is on the side of all that unities, integrates, heals and makes people whole. All those who work for the liberation of the people are co-workers with God. (Samuel Rayan) Church is only a hymn of praise to God. The prophet Isaiah had the courage to call Cyrus as God’s instrument. He is even called God’s anointed one to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes… (Is.45:1). The mission of the Church is to thank God through hymns and chants so as to enable them to become the fragrance of Christ. The reversal motifs in Mary’s Song of Praise (LK.1: 51ff) speak to the human conscience again and again that “the Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed”

(Ps.103:6).

Are

we

makers

or

breakers

of Peace and

Reconciliation?

 

“God weeps over the world”(Bishop Desmond Tutu). The UN declaration of World Tolerance Day on November 16,each year is indeed the celebration of the meaning of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The time has come before us to ask whether we are breakers or breakers of peace. Do we make the world, “hospitable to peace and justice? Peace on earth-understood in terms of forgiveness

and reconciliation or vice versa is a divine agenda for the whole world. It is not addressed to any religion as such. It is a gospel for the survival of all that breathe! (Ps.150:6) We need men and women who pray and work for peace in the world. “Prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds and he will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord; he will not desist until the Most High visit him and does justice for the righteous and executes judgment.”(Sir.35: 17) The Vedic vision of the comprehension of the Ultimate described as “Let noble thoughts come to me from all quarters” affirms the call of conscience as uttered in all the religious scriptures of the world. The words of wisdom as uttered by the Mystic of the 13 th century, Jalalu Din Rumi, are worth

recalling when we are asked to look beyond the margins: “The lamps are different but light is the same. If you keep looking at the lamp only, you are lost. There arise the number and plurality. Fix your gaze upon the light”. How many precious hours have been wasted in looking at the lamp stand rather than the light? The message of love as forgiveness and peace building is quite visible in the laws of nature too. The lamentation of a tree in our courtyard is quite revealing “You could not have cut me if I had not given you the handle”! ”Have I not given you shade even when you were cutting me down? “When you throw stones at me, I give you mangoes only, not stones!” What a great gesture of forgiveness in God’s world of nature.

The socio-political-religious and ecological scenario of the world has taught us one naked truth. “When we are violent to our enemies and to our environment, we brutalize ourselves” (Arundhati Roy). A call to cultivate a culture of peace is the call of Good Friday and Easter. So we need to speak less of religion and more of spirituality in the life situations of people. A song sang by the children of Nagasaki when they rebuilt the school destroyed by the Atom Bomb must find a place in all

religious hymn books:” Let us build the Northern side with love to block the wind of fate; Let us build the southern side with patience to destroy hatred; Let us build the Eastern side with the daily rising of the ray of faith; Let us build the Western side with the beautiful and enchanting hope; Let its roof be eternity and its floor be humility.”

Editor’s

Notre:

Rev.

Dr.

M.J.

Joseph, M.Th.,

D.

Th,

is

the

All that is good belongs to God. In his book, The Courage to be”, Paul Tillich

former Director of the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Bangalore. He has also served as Professor and Principal, Mar

Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, India. As a former member, Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, he is widely known for his ecumenical and ecological contributions. He has served as Secretary Board of Theological Education, Senate of Serampore College

(University).

He

currently

serves

as

Convener,

Ecological

Commission, of the Mar Thoma Church. Dr. Joseph has also

authored several articles, poems and books available both in

English

and

Malayalam

languages. E-Mail:

drmjjoseph_65@yahoo.co.in.

16 | Page

FOCUS April 2015

Bishop George Ninan (1934 – 2015) Transcending Boundaries in Urban and Rural Contexts Dr. Jesudas Athyal,
Bishop George Ninan (1934 – 2015)
Transcending Boundaries in Urban and Rural Contexts
Dr. Jesudas Athyal, Boston
context. In the condolence message of the Christian
Conference of Asia, General Secretary Dr. Mathews
George Chunakara noted that Ninan enabled the
Asian ecumenical movement to articulate a new
vision of ecumenism that should go beyond the
concept of a narrow sense of mission to a more
inclusive concept of the mission of the church in
local situations and conveyed the essence of the
Gospel as good news to the poor. Ninan’s
contributions to the Ecumenical movement,
especially through CCA, which he served in various
capacities, will be remembered for long.
While George Ninan was many things to many
people, his path-breaking work in the areas of urban
and rural mission in India and at the wider Asian
level, his initiative
in being
a facilitator of relevant
Christian literature and his role in re-defining the
meaning of mission in the diaspora, are most
important. This short article will be confined to
discussing these areas.
Architect of Urban Mission:
The genesis of George Ninan’s life-long concern for
Urban and Rural mission can be traced back to the
small industrial town Alappuzha in Kerala where he
grew up. He confessed later in life that as a young
I first met Rev. George Ninan during the Eighth
Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)
in Seoul, South Korea in June 1985. He was then
already an internationally known ecumenical leader.
His role in building up the Bombay Urban Industrial
League for Development (BUILD), his fierce attack on
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency
and his initiative in building up the Urban and Rural
Mission (URM) in the various Asian countries was
already the legend of the day. I was a mere research
student then, living in Ahmednagar in rural
Maharashtra. With some trepidation, I introduced
myself to this great man and mentioned that on my
way to India, I would be visiting Hong Kong (where
he was living then). His immediate response was:
man he was not a very “spiritual” person and that he
had more Hindu friends than Christian ones when he
was growing up. And yet, even in the hustle and
bustle of the city, it was the quiet Christian witness
of Mr. C. John Mathai that caught his attention. Mr.
Mathai was then in charge of the Christian Institute in
Alappuzha, an institution that worked among both
the well educated in the city and the urban poor.
George Ninan has often confessed that the
unpretentious Christian witness of Mr. Mathai and
his own cousin Rev. A. C. Oommen influenced him
and prepared him for a life-long commitment to
urban and rural mission. There is no doubt that his
upbringing in the secular context of the city played
an important role in his emergence later as a stalwart
of the "secular mission" (in the words of Dr. C. T.
Kurien).
“Why stay in a hotel in Hong Kong? You can stay
with me.” That was George Ninan: despite all his
achievements, what stood out was his character: he
was a genuine human being.
Bishop George Ninan, who passed away on 21 st
June 2015, played an important role in re-defining
the ecumenical movement, especially in the Asian
Later in life, George Ninan’s efforts to define
Christian mission as a positive intervention in the life
of the poor and marginalized in order to organ ize and
conscientize them for meaningful participation in the
life of the society challenged him to work among
industrial workers and slum dwellers in the great
metropolis of Bombay (currently, Mumbai), leading of

course, to the founding of BUILD as an ecumenical response to urban poverty and inequality. BUILD,

established in partnership with the

India (CNI)
India (CNI)
Church of North
Church of North

Bombay Diocese and the other churches

of the city, was considered the collective response of the Christian churches as urbanization and industrialization with their inherent social and economic challenges became characteristics of

modern India. Mr.

J. John,

a

close associate of

Ninan in those days, recalls that BUILD was an innovative work that combined mobilization of urban poor, participatory research on urbanization and the political economy of development, strong advocacy and a reinterpretation of the Scriptures and biblical thinking to justify secular and non-party political

action - all combined

together. There is no doubt

that his leadership in Mumbai and the innovative programs he initiated through working among the slum dwellers in the city were concrete examples of the real meaning of social justice in the context of mission and witness of the church.

As a staff member of the Christian Conference of Asia, Ninan continued his concern for urban mission at the wider Asian level. Carlos Charlie Ocampo, one of his close associates and a past Executive Secretary for International Affairs, Development & Service of CCA noted in his tribute: Ninan “introduced community organizing in the poor slums in Tondo, Manila, inspired by Saul Alinsky and collaborated and trained community Organizers from Roman Catholic and Protestants members of clergy and lay social activists. He was firm and doggedly committed but gentle in his work, which have endeared him to community and church leaders in the Philippines during the dark years of Martial rule in the 70s and 80s.” Ocampo went on to note how Ninan led the Asian delegation at a watershed event that issued a Discipline and Guideline for an Ecumenical Sharing of Resources in the churches and ecumenical aid agencies.

Pastor to Rural Masses:

While George Ninan’s focus from the beginning was on both urban and rural mission, his primary arena till the 1980s was the Urban Industrial Mission (UIM). As the bishop of the CNI Nasik diocese during the 1990s, however, the rural context became his key concern. As the bishop, he lived in the vast rural district of Ahmednagar and traveled extensively within the diocese, on some Sundays attending as many as four worship services. In his address at his installation service, he linked his work to the legacy of pioneering Maharashtrian Christian leaders such as Narayan-Vamen Tilak, Pandita Ramabai and others. He affirmed that they lived out the Gospel in

their very own lives. He also recalled

the recent

history of Christianity in Maharashtra including the

inauguration of the Church of North India in 1970 in Nagpur, a leading city in the state. Despite George Ninan’s own long years of active work in the ecumenical movement in India and at the Asian level, he decided that his work in the Nasik diocese would be primarily pastoral – to be with the rural poor,

especially Dalit people in their sorrow and joy.

 

He noted: “A friend of mine, a former missionary to the diocese of Nagpur, John Gilbert, wrote to me a few days ago; and knowing my over enthusiasm to get things done, he reminded me that "being" is as important as "doing." We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us to offer ourselves to God in such a way that our very being will be a testimony and will reflect God’s righteousness more than what we attempt to do. The members of the Nasik Diocese are called to surrender their lives as a living sacrifice to God so that He will use us as a community placed in rural Maharashtra to serve the poor, the dalits [lowest caste], the oppressed and the marginalized people around us.” (George Ninan’s address at the service where he was installed as the bishop).

When Bishop Ninan and his wife Rachel left the diocese five years later, they left behind the legacy of a lifetime. As Rev. Milind Sojwal, a native of Maharashtra and currently Episcopal priest in the United States noted: “I remember going to the diocese of Nasik a couple of years ago. The dramatic difference this amazing man of God made in the lives of the poorest of the poor is an amazing testament to Christian witness. I visited remote areas of the diocese and he is revered there because he took time to be present to them.” In losing Bishop Ninan, we have lost a powerful champion of the poor. He was the voice of the urban and rural poor. As Metropolitan Geevarghese Coorilose put it, with Ninan’s passing, “we have lost one of the very few remaining people's bishops in India”.

Facilitator of Christian Media

George Ninan was a great facilitator. He never claimed to be an academic theologian or a professional writer; but he facilitated the emergence of alternative voices in theologizing, and he initiated the evolution of relevant Christian literature. The role he played in the emergence of alternatives forms of Christian media is especially important. Guardian Weekly, an independent Christian publication edited by M. M. Thomas and others was an organ of free and critical thinking and served the Indian church and the ecumenical movement in the 1960s and 70s. For a number of reasons, Guardian discontinued

publication during the Emergency perio d and the need for an independent Christian newspaper was strongly felt in several quarters. In response to this situation, Dr. George Ninan along with friends such as Dr. George Mathew, Prof. G. R. Karat and others, initiated the process to found a fortnightly paper of current affairs with the name, People’s Reporter. There is no doubt that People’s Reporter today is one of the most respected ecumenical journals in Asia and has had an unparalleled impact on the churches and the ecumenical movement. Ninan followed closely the work of the paper and contributed richly to the process of critical and serious thinking in Christian mission, ecumenical movement and social action.

When Bishop Ninan moved to the United States, he found himself in a totally different context but his enthusiasm and commitment to be of service to the church and society was not diminished. In North America, the situation of the migrant Indian Christian community was of particular concern for him. Realizing the need for a trans-denominational ecumenical family magazine that addressed the concerns of the migrants at a deeper level, he led a team effort to found The Meeting Point, a monthly magazine. It was his deep concern that TMP should be an open endeavor that would encourage the people of Indian origin in the diaspora to come together, share concerns and be involved in the creative work of rebuilding the church and social structures. Bishop Ninan was, however, also a pragmatic. He soon realized the limitations in sustaining a printed magazine in the Western world in the twenty first century. During his last few months, he was exploring the possibility of bringing out The Meeting Point as an online publication. He has now left that unfinished task for us to carry on.

Life in the Diaspora:

The last chapter of George Ninan’s life was lived in the context of North America. Life in the West proved vastly different from his work so far but his innate ability to raise prophetic challenges in every situation remained a constant factor. He came to the United States at the turn of the century when the diaspora communities of Indian churches were taking root there. In a way, he was a part of that process and provided pastoral care by addressing not only the spiritual needs of the people but also their longing for the culture and values of a motherland far away. And yet, with his speeches and writings, he urged the Indian Christians in America to shed their parochial worldview and enable their children to be full-fledged citizens of their new

homeland. He was concerned about the fact that the Indian Christian Community in USA, by and large, stick together and tend to lean back on the past. As he put it, “The Indian Church showed to the world Ecumenical possibilities several decades ago in the bold and historical formation of the Church of South India and the Church of North India. But having received only very little encouragement by partner denominations here, coupled with the self- interest of the leadership of the Indian Church, a number of immigrant Christians especially from the Church of South India… ended up in fundamentalist camps and become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.” (“Random Reflections”, The Meeting Point, September 2012). He believed that it was time for the Indo-American immigrant Christians to lean forward, become an integral part of the context and make their contributions to the society at large. As Professor Rachel McDermott noted, “To me, Bishop Ninan was a marvelous example of someone who did not wish to "ghettoize" Indian Christians resident in the US but desired and strove to meld/merge the two, in his own congregation. He spoke to me of the challenges of this, but felt that separation was not the answer.”

While Ninan believed that the Indian Christian community in the United States should become an integral part of the American church and society, he warned the Indians in the diaspora against conforming to the consumerist and individualist culture of the West. He affirmed the need for prophetic voices that will be concerned about the poor and the needy in the land. As he put it, “The American churches seem to be dominated by the culture of individualism and are mostly involved in paternalistic charitable work. The challenge to deal with structural and systemic changes to allow the marginalized sections of the society to sit at the table and enjoy equal status and benefits with dignity seems to evade them.” (Random Reflections, October 2012). Bishop George Ninan’s self- understanding of Christian mission can be summed up in his own words: “To be a disciple of Jesus is a daring activity, a process of swimming against the current, a willingness to be part of God’s creative work and boldness to take risk”.

publication during the Emergency perio d and the need for an independent Christian newspaper was strongly

Editor’s Note: Dr. Jesudas M. Athyal is a Research Fellow at the Boston University School of Theology. He is the Editor of Religion in Southeast Asia: An Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara:

ABC-CLIO, 2015) and, The Indian Presence in the Ecumenical Movement in the Twentieth Century (Geneva:

WCC, 2014). He had served as the Associate Editor of Oxford Encyclopedia of South Asian Christianity .

Rites, Sacraments, and Ceremonials for the 21 st Century

Dr. Zac Varghese, London

[This paper was previously published in the Sabha Tharaka and also in the Mar Thoma Messenger– (Tharaka Vol 98: No.8, 1990, 17-18). Since liturgical revision is a continuous demand from our laity as expressed in the 33 rd Mar Thoma Family conference in the UK in 2015, it is worth revisiting this theme. My thoughts have not changed over the last 25 years on this issue.]

“Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!”

“He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust. Put off they holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!”

“Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense! What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained? Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.” So says Tagore in Gitanjali.

This is what Huxley had to say about seeking God in Worship:

“Theoretically any ritual or sacraments are as good any other ritual or sacrament provided always that the object symbolized be, in fact, some aspect of Divine

Reality and that the relation between the symbol and

the fact be clearly defined……

Human experience

.. can be thought as effectively in Chinese as in English or French. But in practice, Chinese is the best language for those brought up in China, English for those brought up in England, and French for those brought up in France………… For persons who have been brought up to think of God by means of one set of symbols, it is very hard to think of Him in terms of others, and, in their eyes, unhallowed sets of words, ceremonies and images.”

Both Tagore and Huxley had captured the essence of seeking God in worship. Worship is not only a basic human instinct, it is a basic human need, bringing life to God and transforming life in God. There is a working definition of worship, which is giving God worth or respect. But, surely worship is much more dynamic than that. Ask most young people what they think of our church services and they will tell you bluntly, ’boring’. Many of those who have sought God

in

worship

have

failed

to

find

God

because

the

worship has been inappropriate or irrelevant.

Rites, Sacraments, and Ceremonials for the 21 Century Dr. Zac Varghese, London [This paper was previously

There is a village church struggling to find its way in the charismatic expression of faith and speaking in tongues, thinking that good worship must be ‘in the Spirit’ or ‘Spirit-led’.

There is the city church with

its ‘Revd Dr. Vicar’

struggling to cope with Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita and interfaith dialogue with a congregation, which in the rest of its life, Monday to Saturday, has no use for such scholarly concepts. Such worship is surely inappropriate.

Then there is the worship, which is irrelevant to our experience and our world. The prophet Amos, in the indictment of Israelites’ worship, was not telling his people to stop worshipping but to start worship relevantly, taking seriously the problems of what was then a divided society. So what is the link between our Sunday worship and those starving millions in Ethiopia? What is the link between our worship and those in Kashmir valley? What is the link between our worship and those in our country with no hope of a job

20 | Page

FOCUS April 2015

or who cannot provide for their loved ones? Worship which does not integrate our needs or intimacy with God with exposure to His demands to do justice and love righteousness is worship, which Amos spurned as blasphemous. But that disintegration – between Sunday worship and the rest of the life out there – happens also in a more personal way. How often have you needed to come to church to cry with fellow Christians and the atmosphere simply ha s not allowed it? Or perhaps you wanted to celebrate your Gold Medal and you have not felt allowed to let go. And you have wondered, ‘Where is God in my suffering and in my excitement if I cannot bring what I am feeling into the worship service?’

People go to church in an attempt to make sense of their experience of being human, to be with God, to be with fellow Christians, to be with themselves, to prepare for marriage, birth and death. When these become possible within a loving and caring Christian community, worship becomes powerful and meaningful.

During the 16 th century in England, there had been a great dissatisfaction with the Anglican liturgy, a strong desire to reform it. Anglicans are grateful Thomas Cranmer for giving them a ‘Common Prayer Book’, in which services were given a fixed and unvarying frame work, which is the basis of all liturgical stability, combined with enough variety to avoid monotony. Cranmer’s work on the liturgy of the Church of England has given them, as he wished, a Communion Service which is ‘done by the priest and the people together’ and where both consecrated bread and wine are given and received. Before Cranmer, the priest had performed the Service virtually out of sight and hearing of the congregation. Cranmer succeeded in simplifying the Latin Services of the medieval church and produced a liturgy for the age in which he lived. His aim was that every part of the public worship should be in an understandable form so that people could be enlightened.

John Fenwick writing about ‘worship in the Spirit’ made the following observation: “Liturgy, after all, is one of the marks of the continuity of the church, but we can never go back and recreate a past age. This is as true for the charismatic who wishes to recreate what he imagines to be worship of the church of Corinth of AD 50 (without, of course, its problems) as it was for the former generations of the Alcuian Club who wish to recreate what they imagined to be the worship of 1549. God calls His people on, in continuity with the past. This has rather disturbing implications that those things that were once very important cease to be so or are important in a different way.”

We, as Mar Thoma Christians also cannot live in the past. We also should move on. The young people in our church have been signaling for a meaningful liturgy and it is necessary to respond to their demand.

Since our worship has been sterile and dull young people have looked elsewhere to worship. If the traditional church does not provide an adequate focus, others will be substituted. Many traditional Christians in the West have joined ‘House churches’ because they found the style of worship in their parish churches too rigid and sterile. Another solution is to find focus for worship in a close relationship. It may be fine to see hints of God’s presence in the natural world; it is fine to discover something of this in human relationship. But there is always the danger of confusing the creature with the creator, of turning the icon into an idol. C. S. Lewis wrote, “These things are not the things itself. They are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are in a multiplicity of ways preventing the young people of our church to understand and enjoy our rich liturgy. It may be that we ourselves do not understand it to pass it on. Once again those who understand it have a responsibility as stewards of our traditions, and it is undoubtedly their duty to bring in necessary reforms to make it meaningful for everyone in the church.

How, then, do we find a way through? It seems we need a worship, which enables us to get in touch with the depths of God and the depths of human experience. We also need discipline in worship, which protects us from being overwhelmed by those depths and intensity. It is this church discipline, which prevented the Early Church from being overwhelmed. Alongside the spiritual freedom came discipline – discipline of belonging to a community, discipline of attendance at the church, discipline of teaching – ensuring that the focus of worship was suffering crucified Christ who had risen and glorified.

or who cannot provide for their loved ones? Worship which does not integrate our needs or

Editor’s

Note:

Dr.

Zac

Varghese,

London, U.K., was the director of Renal

& Transplantation Immunology Research of Royal Free Hospital and

Medical School in London. He has co -

authored

Medical

textbooks

and

published extensively on

Transplantation,

Nephrology,

Inflammation,

and

lipid-mediated

vascular injury. He is an Emeritus Professor and continues to be a supervisor for doctoral studies even after his retirement. He is also a prolific writer on religious and ecumenical issues; he continues to work relentlessly for the ‘common good’ of the worldwide Mar Thoma Diaspora communities.

Dr. M. M. Thomas: Prophet of New Humanity in the Twentieth Century

Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan , Thiruvalla

May 15, 2015 marked the birth centenary of Dr. M.M. Thomas, the renowned theologian, social thinker, prophet, and practitioner of new humanity. Dr. M.M. Thomas was India’s precious gift to the world in the twentieth century. He presented varied and new visions in theology and was a strong spokesperson of the ecumenical movement and an exemplary humanitarian. As one whose life embodied his message, MMT began his church life as the first General Secretary of the Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam in the early 1930s. As a visionary par excellence, he was a true model for the youth. He gave Yuvajana Sakhyam a visionary working model, the basis of which was a theology with deep-rooted social commitment. In the 1940s, when interpretations of political and independence ide ologies made an impact on college campuses, Dr. M.M. Thomas had a unique role in forming a distinctive stream of thought. It is worth noting the role of U.C. College, Aluva, in moulding great people with visionary background and presenting them to the society. It had its influence on Dr. M.M. Thomas as well. Born on May 15, 1916 as the son of Madathipparambil M.M. Mammen and Mariamma of Kozhencherry, and growing up in the spiritual, social, and educational milieu of Kerala, spreading wings across the large horizon of universal humanist philosophy, yet being an iconic figure of ideals and humble lifestyle, he could reflect the glorious light of social liberation thought that universally emerged within the Western-Eastern philosophies.

In world history, the twentieth century is considered an era of change. National consciousnesses, progress of science, impact of education, commitment to value- based democracy, and new trends in communication, all have contributed to change in all aspects. In the early years of the last century, faith and hope in the imminent Kingdom of God was clear and active in the hearts of people. But the II World War shattered those dreams. Even though many nations became independent, they later had fallen prey to dictatorship and military rule. Despite the realization of Gandhiji’s dream for an independent India, his dream of a new India where the oppressed, the exploited, the voiceless, and the marginalized will enter the mainstream of independent India and make a Ramarajya remained summarily elusive. Elsewhere in the world as well, there was a pervading feeling of hopelessness, frustration, and insecurity amid questions of what needs to be done. It is in this global context and especially from the ashes of the tragic

events of the II World War there emerged a Theology of Resurrection like a Phoenix bird fluttering its wings of hope. The emergence of this stream of thought in theology provided a Christocentric Theology of Liberation to the Christian Church, with Dr. M.M. Thomas being its leading prophet, spokesperson, and practitioner. This thought pattern spread across the world in the form of Liberation Theology. In the words of a South American theologian, whose thought was captured when he read and reflected on Psalm 145: 9- 10,"The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you" (NRSV). This resulted in the development of a theology based on the Creator of a Created order. The influence of both Manganam Christhavashram and Students Christian Movement inspired Dr. M.M. Thomas to creatively respond to Liberation Theology.

The words and deeds of Dr. M.M. Thomas were a reminder that it is the dharma of the church to stand in solidarity with those who suffer pain, are oppressed, exploited, and marginalized, and also to act responsibly taking the stance for righteousness in political and secular spheres. He was careful to form a model for Christian witness in India by bringing about the harmony of Christian dharma and Indian heritage. The Acknowledged Christ of Indian Renaissance (CLS Madras: 1970), The Secular Ideologies of India and Secular Meaning of Christ (CLS Madras: 1976), and Bhagavad Gita: A Christian Appreciation (Malayalam, CLS Madras: 1987), are his books that laid the foundations of Indian Christian Theology.

With firm roots on Indian soil, Dr. M.M. Thomas was instrumental in sowing the seed for the emergence of a post-colonial theology by bringing the subaltern voices of the marginalized in society to the purview of philosophical discussion. The visions and actions of Dr. Thomas also had a great impact on the approach of the church towards providing space for those who lacked a living space. For example, South Travancore missionary Vedanthachari was a person who worked within a framework of his own. After his death his followers were stranded as sheep without a shepherd. Those churches and fellowships in the area were unwilling to receive them. Even though they approached the Mar Thoma priest in Trivandrum, it remains a fact that even the Mar Thoma Church turned a cold shoulder to their needs. However, in those days, Dr. M.M. Thomas, Dr. K.K. George and friends who were then students at the University

College, Trivandrum, ventured to visit those flocks without a shepherd and catered to their spiritual growth. This is how the South Travancore mission fields of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association got established and later parishes formed.

The theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas is that of a new humanity. The foundational principle of post-colonial philosophy, which swept over Europe and third world nations was new humanity. In the discipline of theology, it assumed the form of Liberation Theology, Black Theology, Dalit Theology, or Feminist thought. Dr. Thomas played an important role in evolving this vision of new humanity as the form of witness for the Indian Church.

Dr. Thomas sojourned through the path of Reformation in the Mar Thoma Church. Mar Thoma Church has a heritage of resistance against the Portuguese invasion and the influx of foreign liturgical disputes. The reformation ideals of the church influenced Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Dr. M.M. Thomas, Mr. T.M. Varghese, Adv. K.T. Thomas and others in taking a firm stance in the struggles against the move towards Independent Travancore at the time of independence and later against the state of Emergency in the seventies.

Dr. Thomas's views about the church, and his creative criticisms gave a sense of consciousness to the Christian churches in India. His use of terms like Open Church, Secular Koinonia, gave more clarity and content to his ecclesiology. Dr. Thomas explains the plausibility of the witness of an open church in his book on the reformation of Abraham Malpan. In the contemporary social, economic, and political setting where the rights of the minorities are eclipsed and the process of marginalization of the weak accelerated, the ecclesial theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas becomes all the more pertinent.

Dr. M.M. Thomas is the gift of the Mar Thoma Church to the world ecumenical movement. His election as Moderator at the Nairobi Assembly was a great endorsement for his vision and personality. The

Christocentric

theology

of

Karl

Barth,

Reinhold

Niebuhr, and Hendrik Kraemer helped form his

ecumenical social thinking and missionary outlook. Jürgen Moltmann was his contemporary and both of

them

benefited each other in streamlining their

theological discourse.

Memories and visions of Dr. Thomas who declared that the ecumenical vision of the Mar Thoma Church involves universal brotherhood and solidarity with the

weak, will always remain a source of inspiration not only to the Mar Thoma Church but the global Christian Church as well. He could not serve as a priest in the church though he had wished to become one in yester years. However, he did more service than any priest by his active presence in the ecumenical endeavours of the church and by his lucid contributions to the understanding of theology.

The priestly vision of the Mar Thoma Church is open, broad, and democratic. It is the tradition of the Mar Thoma Church to give ample role to the laity and to encourage their diversified ministries. Dr. Thomas' presence and suggestions in the committee for selecting ministerial candidates in the church were greatly honoured. His contributions towards upholding the legacy of the Mar Thoma Church in the ecumenical realm will always be appreciated. His contributions in the ecumenical arena of CISRS and WCC were honoured by all. Dr. Thomas's life partner Mrs. Pennamma, his sister Mrs. Sosamma, and her husband Mr. A. K. Thampy complemented and enriched his visions and actions, together holding to ethical integrity. Dr. Thomas had an impact on the perspectives of Dr. T.V. Philip and Dr. T. K. Thomas. Dr. Thomas passed away on December 3, 1996. His death is an irreparable loss to the church and society. Society must continue to discuss his thoughts and standpoint. Such continuing thought processes and discussions would make an appropriate tribute to his legacy during the birth centenary celebrations. As prophets of new humanity, let us march together in the divine plan to create a new church, a new humanity, and a new world.

May the birth centenary commemoration of Dr. M.M. Thomas make the dream of the Book of Revelation of the apostle St. John that 'I have seen the new heavens and the new earth,' a real experience giving us all a new vision and sense of direction.

College, Trivandrum, ventured to visit those flocks without a shepherd and catered to their spiritual growth.

Editor’s Note: We are humbled and honoured to publish the article about late Dr. M. M. Thomas written by our beloved Metropolitan Joseph Mar Thoma, the 21 st Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church. Thirumeni belongs to the Palakunnathu family in Maramon from where the church had four Mar Thoma in the past including the reformation leader Palakunnathu Abraham M alpan.

History Mar Thoma Church Poolatheen at Thiruvalla

The Syrian Seminary at Kottayam (Orthodox Seminary) was the official residence of the Malankara Metropolitans in the past. Our Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasius stayed at the Syrian Seminary, Kottayam followed by his successor Thomas Mar Athanasius. After the Royal Court verdict in 1889, the Malankara Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius shifted his official residence to the Maramon Church, his own parish, where the reformation began at the leadership of Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. While his successor Titus I

History Mar Thoma Church Poolatheen at Thiruvalla The Syrian Seminary at Kottayam (Orthodox Seminary) was the

Poolatheen (1919)

Metropolitan was residing in the upper room of the church, the building collapsed in the year 1905. But His grace escaped miraculously and eventually shifted his residence to the thatched old building of the Syrian Christian Seminary at Thiruvalla. In the year 1908 a

Poolatheen (1968)

few fanatics set fire the building where the
few
fanatics
set
fire
the
building
where
the

Metropolitan resided, whereas His Grace was with miraculously rescued from there. Titus II Metropolitan is the architect and builder of the Old

Poolatheen, which was built in 1919 as a memorial to his predecessor. Metropolitans Titus II, Dr. Abraham Mar Thoma and his successor Metropolitan Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma resided there. It was a dire need for the Church to build a new Poolatheen when the number of Bishops increased to five. Its construction started in November 14, 1965, and was dedicated on May 14, 1968. Four Metropolitans, Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma, Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma, Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma and Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma resided there. After 45 years of using the building as the official residence of Metropolitans, it became an increasingly felt need to construct a new official residence for the Metropolitan of the worldwide Mar Thoma Church. Joseph Mar Thoma took the leadership for building the New Poolatheen with approval from Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam. On August 15, 2013, Metropolitan Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma laid the foundation stone. The construction work lasted about two years and the Church wholeheartedly and generously joined in the noble endeavour.

History Mar Thoma Church Poolatheen at Thiruvalla The Syrian Seminary at Kottayam (Orthodox Seminary) was the

New Poolatheen (2015)

The dedication of the New Poolatheen was held on Sep. 1, 2015 by His Grace Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan in the presence of Bishops of Mar Thoma Church and form sister Churches.

The strong leadership of the present Metropolitan, Joseph Mar Thoma, and the wholehearted support of the faithful believers of the Church was behind the dream of a new Poolatheen came into a reality. FOCUS congratulates Joseph Mar Thoma and all those who worked to make it a reality and as a beautiful historical landmark for future generations of Mar Thoma Church. May it enable us to continue the faith journey of the Church under the grace of our Triune God.

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FOCUS April 2015