Anda di halaman 1dari 30

1

| P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

FOCUS October 2018 Vol. 6 No: 4

Priesthood and Ministry, Revd Dr. Valson


Thampu, Trivandrum – Page 13

Cover Photo: Vettathu Digital, Thiruvalla,


Episcopal Silver Jubilarian Bishops
A Publication of Diaspora FOCUS

The Other Side of the Faith, Lal Varghese, Esq.,


Dallas – Page 18

Editorial, Those to have ears to hear…….,


Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum - Page 3
St. Paul’s Understanding of His Ministerial
Offices, Revd Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam – Page 20

Ministry Diaconic or Hierarchic, Revd Dr. K. V.


Mathew, Kottayam – Page 6
Priesthood and Ministry: A Divine Calling
Plammoottil V. Cherian, Chicago – Page 22

Faith Seeking Alternatives: Musings on the


The Need for a New Vision is Real and Pressing,
Theology of Mar Chrysostom, Dr. George Zachariah – Page 7
Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum – Page 26

Priesthood and Ministry – Are They Mutually Exclusive?


Rehabilitation of the Noble Word ‘Pastor’
- Revd Dr. Martin Alphonse, Portland - Page 28
Dr. Zac Varghese, London– Page 9
2 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

This view, I know, could shock a majority of Indian Christians.
EDITORIAL We are trained to be uncritically loyal to our particular churches
and to accept whatever we are told by priests as the Gospel
THOSE WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR . . . truth. We think of priests and bishops as God’s deputies upon
the earth and we accord limitless respect to them. We associate
It is appropriate that at this time we stop and take a simple, bishops with authority; not love or compassion, though they
objective view, to the extent possible, of where priesthood may well be affectionate and compassionate. A bishop’s ring is
stands at the present time. Many events reported from Kerala more important for us than his heart.
are deeply disturbing. What is even more worrisome is that
people of the faith, in many instances, are not receiving the But what we never do, and which needs to be done here on, is
spiritual guidance and nourishment they so desperately need. to examine the level and quality of spiritual nurture that happens
They are, in the words of Jesus, like sheep without a shepherd. in congregations. You shall know a tree, said Jesus, by its fruits.
What are the spiritual fruits that we may expect legitimately from
FOCUS does not push any particular theological or doctrinal priestly ministry? Or has the sacerdotal ministry become like the
school. It is free from denominational biases and blindness fig tree to which Jesus turned in hunger, on his way to
when it comes to encountering the truth. FOCUS is guided Jerusalem, and was deeply, bitterly disappointed?
singularly by the sovereign authority of Jesus Christ and the
light afforded by the Word of God to which we endeavour to It is high time that the laity developed a biblically sound idea of
stay faithful. We believe that denominations came up within what ordained ministry needs to be. For centuries priests have
specific contexts and with good intentions. But we also believe told the laity what they need to be. It is high time this one-sided
that every entity existing in time is liable to decay and that there harangue is modified and the other side of the equation is also
come critical moments in their journey through history when rendered visible and audible.
they need introspection and radical regeneration. The institution
and practice of priesthood seem to have reached such a stage. It is all the more so because today many of the members of a
congregation could well be superior to the priest in general
FOCUS has endeavoured to promote a culture of thinking and awareness, practical wisdom, and even in the understanding of
seeking, in faithful adherence to the teaching of Jesus that we the Word. Most priests survive because they stand, physically,
must seek and find the truth ourselves (Mt. 7: 7). It is this six feet above contradiction, thanks to the elevation of pulpits.
discipline of seeking that preserves the dynamic vitality of a In this the habituated intellectual passivity of the congregation
faith. When the spirit of seeking becomes dormant, a religion on Sundays during hours of worship serves as the religious
sinks into spiritual apathy and decay. The contents of the bulletproof module of protection. Why can’t the ministry of the
present issue of FOCUS are aimed at facilitating free and Word be re-cast as a dialogue? Why should the audience be
responsible thinking on priesthood. It is requested that its necessarily passive receptacles? Why shouldn’t sermons be
contents are read in that spirit. If Jesus is our Lord, and if he is made more contextually relevant? Why shouldn’t the Word
the light of the world, we must have, surely, the courage to look become flesh again and again through the ministry of the Word?
reality in the face, without fear or favour.
You may not agree with Max Weber’s arguments in all details.
The readers of FOCUS would be familiar with Max Weber’s But you can’t disagree with his analysis in one respect:
views on the implications of the rise, in his words, of the priestly regarding the supreme authority of priests and bishops. This, in
class. For the sake of the few who might not be, here is a itself, is not a problem. The problem is that this cripples the
miniscule summary of the relevant section in the Sociology of laity, and makes most of them like the paralytic in the 2 chapter nd

Religion (1920). of the Gospel According to St. Mark, who has to be carried on
his pallet by others. If the model of priestly ministry is such that
Every religion begins with a spiritual ferment. It is distinguished, it hinders the laity from growing up towards spiritual self-
at this stage, by a universal outlook and the focus is entirely on reliance it should be deemed contrary to the will of God and the
ideals and deep insights of eternal validity. This attracts people, vision of the Word.
and a community of worshippers forms itself around it. This
paves the way for the emergence of the priestly class. In no time I have asked many fellow Christians, who seemed eager to
they take control of the three pillars of that religion -the study the Word regularly, why they could not form Bible study
scripture, the sacraments and the dogmas. They arrogate to groups on their own. The responses I encountered invariably
themselves the exclusive right to interpret or practice every were, “How can a Bible study group exist without a priest?” If
aspect of religion. This goes on for a long time, breeding in due that is the impact of priesthood on a congregation, then it is, I
course a host of superstitions and aberrations. This provokes dare say, a hindrance and a spiritual aberration. A priest is not a
the lay intellectual elite, who arrives on the scene a bit too late. monopolist. He is under the insight of St. Peter that the
But they do all they can to cleanse the Augean stable of believers together constitute a ‘royal priesthood’ and a ‘sacred
accumulated irrelevances. According to Weber, this is the stage nation’. The function of priests is to liberate ministries among
at which Christianity is in the modern age. the laity and to strengthen them in pursuing the same. They are
not to stand above the rest like banyan trees that choke other
The heart of Weber’s argument is that the rise of the priestly trees and plants within the radius of their foliage.
class is a phenomenon that signals the compromise and
corruption that overtake a religion. The religion concerned To me the logic for the emergence and relevance of priesthood
suffers distortions, inflicted on it by the priestly class in order to is to be found in Genesis 2: 15. In God’s plan for our species,
buttress their control and authority, unmindful both of biblical we are required to be a caring species. The spirit of caring is the
norms and the lived realities of believers. very essence of humanity. It is the essence, certainly, of

3 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

spirituality. In the vision of Genesis, our duty to care was to The quintessence of the ministry of Jesus, which is meant
cover every aspect and form of life. Adam was put in the centre continued through priests, was the caring spirit. Compassion is
of the Garden to ‘till the land and to take care of the garden”. its emotional reservoir. A servant does not need to be
That is to say, a caring spirit must guide tilling. “Tilling’ in this compassionate. He only needs to discharge certain functions
context symbolizes all of human activities and relationships. It is and obligations. His personal stature and vision are irrelevant. It
an all-comprehensive metaphor embracing all human could even be suspect in contexts. He can go about his tasks in
endeavours. a routine, mechanical fashion, so long as he does not swerve
from the lines drawn. There is no way the authenticity of a
In the biblical view, sin kills this spirit of caring. It substitutes priest’s ministry can be checked and found out except by
caring with killing. That is why the fratricide of Cain killing Abel is looking at the members of the congregation. Are they growing
recorded in the Bible. All of human suffering, the multitudinous up in spirit and in maturity? Are they getting better equipped to
cruelties and aberrations, stem from this one disability: our live meaningfully and fruitfully?
incapacity to care. Mothers are divine because they are the
embodiment of the caring spirit. Cultures blinded us in this In terms of the Genesis vision, the presence of the caring spirit
respect. We have been conditioned to honour soldiers who kill, has to be ascertained by its fruitfulness. Adam’s caring
above mothers who give birth to life and nurture it. This is a relationship with the Garden was to be authenticated by the
diabolic aberration. The Judaic religious establishment became improvements in the Garden and beyond. In my extensive
a death-dealing agency because it rejected the caring spirit. The experiences and exposures to diverse churches and
Crucifixion of Jesus is a direct result of it. Even today a majority denominations, most of them are depressingly routinised and
of people believe their gods can save only with their excessive dormant. The ferment of a people growing up in the spirit is
and inhuman cruelty! missing from them. Rather, believers are getting more and more
emaciated. You may dismiss this as cynicism on my part, but
can do so only if you shut your eyes willfully against ubiquitous
symptoms of congregational and individual drift.

A priest is meant to be, like Jesus, a servant. But whose servant


is the question? Is s/he the servant of a bishop or a church or
of the rich people in congregations? A priest is a servant, first
and foremost, of God. To serve God is to become a king: the
king of love. This love is the greatest power on earth. It is also
the secret of spiritual authority. But the question to ask, if we
dare, is if priests are free to obey God? Even if they are free, if
they wish to?

In most congregations that I am familiar with, priests are caught


between two hostile blocks. Instincts of survival, and
calculations of profit and loss, make a priest align himself with
the more powerful of the two blocks. That signals the death of
his spiritual life and pastoral ministry. A priest who is a hostage
to a political faction in a congregation is a bankrupt
phenomenon.

Priests tend to do so not only because of their own inherent


inadequacies but also because they do not get assured,
unbiased support from bishops. The harsh reality is that
bishops, barring exceptions, take the side of the rich and the
mighty. Priests are, in comparison, commodities that can be
controlled or taken for granted. They have no option. They will
stay on, despite hurts and humiliations. It is lack of option, not
work satisfaction, which keeps many priests docile and loyal.
It is against this background that spiritual traditions emerged.
And priesthood, being a byproduct of it, needs, surely, to be In the early years of my ordained ministry, I used to think of the
animated by the spirit of caring. That, I believe, is the reason church as the Kingdom of God manifest on earth. I do so no
‘pastoral care’ is the primary expectation we have of priests. more. I have seen and heard far too much. I cannot but recall an
experience of mine that goes back to 1982. On the eve of my
So far, it is so good. But now there is a problem, which needs to ordination, I called on the Delhi bishop (CNI) -the only godly
be reckoned. The scope of ‘caring’ is either not understood or is bishop I have known in North India- and told him I was keen to
misunderstood. In a state of spiritual illiteracy, ‘caring’ gets join church service full time. I was ready to resign from my
equated with ‘serving’; and that too, serving with intent to keep teaching position in St. Stephen’s. “That”, said this venerable
people pleased. So, a priest becomes a contradiction. He is man, “would be a mistake. The church is not the right place for
assumed to be an authority in respect of the three pillars of an academic like you. Moreover, we don’t have anyone else
religion. But he is also something of a man-pleaser, a glorified who can work in the context of Delhi University.”
servant in relation to the laity, and a mere servant in relation to
episcopal authorities.

4 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

I also recall a conversation with the late Athanasius Thirumeni, is envisaged by Jesus. Freedom is to the Kingdom of God what
when he was the bishop of the Ranni diocese. He was greatly slavery is to the kingdom of man-the working principle.
appreciative of my work and entertained an exaggerated Wherever man feels oppressed, coerced, used like chattel, he is
impression of my worth as a preacher. So, I used to be a regular entrapped in the latter, even if it flies the banner of the former.
preacher at the diocesan conventions there. In the course of
one of my visits, we were having a meal at the aramana. In the Money is, historically, the principle of un-freedom. It is using
conversation that spiced the meal he said- money that freedom is bought and sold in the market. Money
and prostitution go hand-in-hand. ‘Prostitution’ is a metaphor.
“Church is not what seems from the outside. It is not a place Judas Iscariot was a disciple who was, inwardly, a prostitute. All
suitable for a person like you to enter.” (Achaneppoley oralku who serve Mammon are de facto prostitutes; for they sell their
praveshikkan pattiyathalla.) freedom to be authentic for a mess of pottage. This is
reprehensible in all walks of life; but most of all in priesthood.
I worked all my adult life in the North. The cassock has become
a despised symbol in most places there. The image of the “Do you have,” I have asked myself umpteen times, “the
Christian community is lamentable. The plight of most Christians courage and strength to be a priest who is free to serve Jesus
in the Hindi belt is a cause for worry. Pastoral ministry is at its Christ through thick and thin? You are economically free and do
lowest ebb in these places. The number of bishops in CNI not need to fear anyone’s caprice; for your bread and butter
against whom extreme actions had to be initiated for does not depend on the whims and fancies of some church
unimaginable crimes and aberrations in the last decade is oligarchs here or there?”
alarmingly high. For every bishop or priest caught, many more
go unnoticed. But do you dare? Each time I have interrogated myself I have
shuddered. In my extensive and (seemingly) illustrious career as
All these add up. And image of the community today lies in a preacher - crisscrossing continents- I have never been free to
ruins. Unmindful of all this, we go ballistic on Article 25 and preach the truth of the Word as it should have been. I was
claim the right to propagate the faith. What faith? Whose faith? afraid, irrationally afraid. Partly it was a mistaken sense of
Who will propagate it? What is our credibility? Why should courtesy. Is it right to upset the apple carts of those who have
anyone tolerate us? so graciously invited me? Also, is it right for me, as an itinerant
preacher, who is wafted here and there by random invitations,
Hence it is that we tend to focus almost entirely on tribal belts of to descend on a people, plunge them into spiritual turmoil
human helplessness and destitution. This, I cannot resist the (manthan, as the Hindus would say) and scoot?
thought, is driven not only by our compassion for the would-be
beneficiaries, but also by the comparative ease with which they The net reality is that I did not preach the Word as it deserved to
can be influenced for the reason that they do not know us. If be preached, in its fullness; even to the fullness of what I knew
so, it is not far from practicing a fraud on them. to be the truth, which was a measly little anyway, and nothing
less than the whole Word is the Word.
Preach to the nations, Jesus said. But be the salt of the earth
and the light of the world. Let your light shine in the world. But if I failed in my duty to preach the Word; even though I was,
your light turns into darkness how terrible will that darkness be? among all priests, under the least pressure to compromise the
message. I confess this as a case study, in case you are
For far too long we have taken everything for granted. We have interested, on the plight of priests and the status of priesthood
gone by (in the Anglican lingo) the bells, smells, and yells of in our midst. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!
ritualistic Christianity and forgotten, in the process, that it is an
incarnation of God’s love for the world (Jn. 3: 16). Jesus is the Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum
King, not of the Jews or of the Christians. He is the King of Life. Member, FOCUS Editorial Board
And priests are meant to be his disciples, not mere servants on
the payrolls of churches. I am personally convinced that we http://www.issuu.com/diasporafocus
must shift, without any delay, to tent-making ministries after the http://www.scribd.com/diasporafocus
fashion of St. Paul. Full-time church employment appears to
have, for all practical purposes, failed the Kingdom of God.
Disclaimer: Diaspora FOCUS is a non-profit organization
Priests must work and earn their keep in the secular world and
registered in United States, originally formed in late Nineties in
serve God in the fullness of their hard-earned freedom, if they
London for the Diaspora Marthomites. Now it is an independent
have a genuine sense of divine calling. I am convinced that so
lay-movement of the Diaspora laity of the Syrian Christians; and
long as money is involved in the ministry, one way or another,
as such Focus is not an official publication of any
priesthood will stand on precarious grounds. It will never come
denominations. It is an ecumenical journal to focus attention
into its own. The golden rule for the ministry is, “Freely you have
more sharply on issues to help churches and other faith
received, freely give.”
communities to examine their own commitment to loving their
The Bible bears witness that freedom is the medium of true neighbors and God, justice, and peace. Opinions expressed in
worship, or worship in spirit and in truth. That was the good any article or statements are of the individuals and are not to be
news that liberated and rehabilitated the woman of Samaria (Jn. deemed as an endorsement of the view expressed therein by
4) sunk deep into man-inflicted degradation. It is the message Diaspora FOCUS. Thanks.
that we need to heed. We -the priests and the laity- cannot Web Site: www.facebook.com/groups/mtfocus
worship God in spirit and in truth, if we are not free, as freedom E-Mail: mtfocusgroup@gmail.com

5 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Ministry: Diaconic or Hierarchic?
Revd Dr. K. V. Mathew, Kottayam*

Once the disciples of Jesus asked him a question - “Who was et al. Deacon [servant] was reduced to the last grade, and the
the greatest - first among them?” Jesus responded: “He who people were expected to serve the higher echelons who in turn
wishes to be great, shall be the servant – diaconos; He who forgot that they were servants too. Jesus’ ministry of the
wants to be first, shall be the slave – doulos” Jesus continued: servant-slave in the way of the cross was gradually left in the
“Just as the son of man, a fully human, came not to be served backyard.
but to serve by spending his whole life for the sake of others
{Mark 10:43-45} We also see titles like ‘Servant of the Servants of Christ’
attributed to the Pope, the pontiff of the Roman Catholic
Early Church Church. In the political scenario, particularly in the democratic
system, this meaningful term ‘minister’ is used for the chief
In the apostolic and sub apostolic period, we find apostles, representatives of the people. These are signs of hope.
prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers serving the
Christian community as ministers [diaconia] to equip the Impact of other religions
believers for the wider ministry in the world. [Ephesians 4:11-13]
We also note the presence of presbyters – Kassissa, Women Since Christ movement crossed the Jewish border, people of
Leaders – Kashishta and Deacons – Shemshana. Presbyters other faiths rushed to join the Church. To accommodate and to
serve as episcopa presiding the community worship [1 Timothy: make them feel at home, Christian hierarchy was willing to re-
3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9] Early church was considered to be the interpret Christian faith in gentile idioms and welcome their faith
household of God where men, women and children were built practices into the Church. For e.g. The concept of incarnation,
together as God’s family. All were given due respect and shared Mary-Mother of God, Last Supper as Christ’s Sacrifice to God,
in the ministry of the church. [cf 1Timothy: 5:1-10, Ephesians atornement theories, Priests as Mediators, Belief in eternal hell,
2:19-22] idols, icons in the church etc. As a result, people were denied
direct access to God. Their freedom to believe in God as guided
But in any of these ministerial orders we do not find priests. by the divine spirit was curtailed by the priest. Thus the
Why didn’t Jesus call a priest to be an apostle? Perhaps from movement of Christ in the world was institutionalized and the
experience with Jewish priests and high priests, Jesus would chosen people became a frozen community like any other
have surmised what would happen to his own mission had he religion thriving on rituals and practices conducted by priestly
included them among the disciples. Priest represents an class at the helm.
authoritarian, dominating, powerful class of hierarchy ruling over
the believers exercising their priest craft and using the people Why these Reflections?
for their class interest.
Early 19 century saw a social movement in the spirit of
th

Jesus warned his followers of the dangers of hierarchical lording renaissance in Kerala. In the Christian Church Metropolitan,
over his community. He initiated a lay people’s movement Clergy and Almaya were awakened by the open Word of God
where his followers were the members of the household of God and revived the ministry of the Church. The late Abraham Mar
regarding one another as brothers and sisters. [cf Matthew 23:9, Thoma Metropolitan [1917-47] made a call to the Almaya to be
Hebrews 2:17, 1 Peter 5:1] It was the beginning of the Messianic volunteers in the ministry of Christ. Reform Movement impacted
movement to transform the world into a new humanity without the entire society of that time and continues to bear fruit through
religious borders. When the movement got out of the Jewish the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India and abroad.
boundaries, the people of the world transformed it into
Christianity - followers of Christos. The purpose of the above reflection on Christian ministry today
is to awaken the lay people [Almaya] to their call as true
Hierarchy in the Church [What happened to Christian disciples to be the servants of Christ. Christian movement was
Leadership in course of time?] essentially a peoples arising, a laities’ call to be witnesses of
God’s rule here on earth. It may not be in the best interest of the
By early 4CE, persecution ceased in the Roman Empire. beneficial hierarchic class to come forward to revive the servant
Christianity became the religion of the land. Emperor ministry.
Constantine embraced the new religious movement. The
servants of the Church were offered the privileges, positions Our Turn [What about us the Lay and the Hierarchy today?]
and authority of the royal officials, an enticing moment for the
servants of the Church. While most of them fell into the trap of Are we still burning with the spirit of servant ministry of Christ
royal patronage, there arose the ascetic movement in or, are we standing ‘still’ under the burden of a church hierarchy
disapproval of royal patronage. Soon Christianity became of traditions, the sign of a dead church? Or are we ready to
Christendom, a political version of Christian Faith. ‘Liturgia’– follow the Gospel Tradition, sign of a living church bearing
which means serving the wider community, became service witness to God’s rule on earth where justice, peace,
confined to the Church. A hierarchic system followed for righteousness and joy will prevail in a new humanity. Even the
administrative purposes in the form of Pope, Patriarch, Arch whole creation eagerly waits for such a time on earth. If we
Bishop, Catholicos, Metropolitan, Episcopos, Priests, Deacons don’t, God will raise his people, even from among the stones, to
carry out the divine plan and purpose.

6 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Faith Seeking Alternatives: Musings on the Theology of
Mar Chrysostom
George Zachariah, UTC, Bengaluru
spirituality in our social interventions to transform the face of the
earth.

Mar Chrysostom’s understanding of spirituality is important in a


context when we continue to profess and practice a heaven-
bound Christianity, renouncing the earth. For him, “heaven is the
place where we realize the fullness of the potentialities of God’s
creation. We can create heaven on earth.” Heaven is the place
where we find the true meaning of our lives, and for Christians, it
is in the vocation of enabling the other in realizing his/her
humanity, that we find the meaning of our lives. God is intensely
material. “God created the world. God enjoyed and celebrated
the life on earth. God worked for the need of the world and to
solve the problems of the world.” Re-imagining spirituality as
flourishing of life and humanity invites us to experience the
richness of spirituality in the struggles for life in solidarity with
the other.

Mar Chrysostom is a Church leader who has been criticized


vehemently by Christians for his theological positions on God
and religious pluralism. For those of us who consider God as
Christian and people of other faiths and no faith as enemies of
our faith, Mar Chrysostom is certainly a heretic. It is important to
History of Christianity is more than the biography of the understand his perspectives before we make judgmental
individuals who lead the Church. Rather it is the narrative and observations. Mar Chrysostom categorically affirms that “for me
interpretation of the journey of the Church engaging in public God is Christ. But for others God can be truth, justice and even
witness. In that narrative, the life stories of the servants of God nature.” He further believes that we ought to accept and respect
who facilitate the Church in its discernment and practice of diversity because diversity and reconciliation are part of divine
mission are also important. However, the intention in weaving nature. At the same time diversity should not separate us. “I
those life stories into the story of the Church is not to valorize believe that there is a God who created all. There is a God who
them or to glorify them. Dominant versions of the history of sustains all. There is a God who loves all. I believe that Christ
Christianity prove that it is a difficult task not to yield to the embraces all. That does not mean that salvation is only through
temptation to convert historiography into hagiography. These Christ.”
introductory reflections are important as we celebrate the birth
centenary of Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the Metropolitan Mar Chrysostom’s position on conversion and evangelism is
Emeritus of the Mar Thoma Church. Even as we thank God for instructive for all of us in the context of the institutionalization of
the life and witness of Mar Chrysostom, we also need to thank prejudice, hatred, and xenophobia. “I am neither for nor against
God for enabling the Mar Thoma Church to midwife and mentor religious conversion. All of us have the freedom to practice and
people like Mar Chrysostom. This article is an attempt to reflect profess what we believe. We should not impose our faith on
upon the life, message, and witness of Mar Chrysostom and others. Instead our vocation is to transform the society in
their implications for the renewal and reformation of the Church accordance with the Kingdom values. Unfortunately, we are
so that the Church will continue to inspire and mentor new cowards. We don’t have the courage to transform the society,
generations to become radical disciples and witnesses of the because we are aware of the cost involved in it, and we are
Crucified and Risen Lord. afraid of the consequences.” The fundamental question here is
whether our lives will inspire others to change their lives; not
Theology, for Mar Chrysostom, is not a metaphysical and their religious affiliations. If the Church gets this perspective
speculative discourse on God’s existence or God’s nature. clear, it will regain its vocation to be a transforming and
Rather theology is a profoundly this-worldly affair. It is in the therapeutic presence in the world.
materiality of everyday living experiences of the community that
theology happens. Mar Chrysostom does not believe in the Of course, we are open to discussions on inter-faith dialogue
dualistic categorization of reality into spiritual and material. and engagement with people of other faiths. But how about
Spirituality for him is a “divine blessing, and we experience it in people of no faith? How do we theologically explain Church’s
the transformation of human beings into better human beings.” partnership with the Communists in our mission and ministry?
In other words, struggles against dehumanization, and initiatives Mar Chrysostom continues to keep the attitude of critical
to uphold human dignity and human rights are profoundly solidarity with the Communists. He has high regard for several
spiritual. Spirituality does not mean to renounce the world. leaders of the Communist movement. At the same time, he is
Spirituality is the affirmation of the material, and we celebrate critical of some of their policies. Metropolitan Chrysostom has
an interesting theological explanation of “atheism.” “When
7 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

people say, there is no God, it is not that they categorically The distress of the earth and her children is a reality that
reject God. But they reject the God whom we profess and disturbs all of us, and Mar Chrysostom is not an exception. The
practice. When others reject the existence of the God whom we long life that God has given him has helped him to critically
believe, it exposes our failure in living out our faith in the public observe and reflect upon the changes that happened to the
sphere.” To put it differently, what we find here is not a rejection eco-system. “We meet God in the Bible as a farmer. God
of God per se. Rather they reject the God whom we profess and created a garden, planted trees, and took care of them. God of
practice through our life and witness in the public sphere the Bible is not a staff/employee of the temple/Church. God of
because that God does not inspire them and hence not worth the Bible is a farm worker.” What a profound insight! Human
following. What a profound insight! vocation, therefore, is to continue the divine vocation of tilling
and keeping the earth. “The earth is part of my being. We
For Mar Chrysostom, theology is the faith response to the cannot live without the earth. It is the exploitative system that
realities around us. Let us look at his reflections on some of the destroys the harmonious relationship between human and
social realities, which demand responsible theological nature.” So, the vocation to till and to keep the earth, in our
responses and interventions from the Church. Metropolitan times, makes it imperative on us to discern the life-negative
Chrysostom, in his writings and reflections, is genuinely self- exploitative systems and to participate in the ongoing struggles
reflexive when he addresses the issue of casteism. Casteism is to redeem the earth.
the original sin of India, and all our social relations are infected
with the virus of caste. The subtle ways in which caste Mar Chrysostom’s reflections on his decision to become a full-
penetrates our minds and continues to determine our social time minister of the Church is worth pondering even as we re-
relations and even the life of the faith community is narrated imagine our understanding of vocation and Christian ministry in
beautifully in the writings of the Metropolitan. His appeal is to relation to Church. “I became a full-time minister, not because
recognize the prevalence of caste discrimination as a reality in of any vision of God or formal theological studies. It was in my
our church and families. Annihilation of this sinful and evil attempts to respond to the challenges of social realities around
ideology and practice is possible only through enabling the me that I met God and heard God’s call. I have allowed myself
victims of the caste system to reclaim their identity, dignity, and to become an instrument for the needs and good of others. It
humanity. Mar Chrysostom invites all of us to engage in the act was not my affinity and loyalty to Church that made me spiritual;
of genuine introspection to be conscious and critical about our rather I experienced spirituality in responding to the needs of
own racism, casteism, and caste supremacy. the other.” It is in this context that we need to examine his
reflections on prayer. “Prayer is meant to discern God’s will.
Discrimination and inequality based on gender is a sin. But we use prayer to make God cater our needs and interests.
“Children should be taught about their basic human rights in the For us prayer is our selfish plan to use God to fulfill our dreams.
childhood itself. Daughters do have legitimate rights over That is not prayer. Prayer is an act of submission; submitting
ancestral property. Denying their due share is injustice.” our lives to be used by God for the realization of God’s will.
However, justice for Mar Chrysostom transcends equality. It is Submitting our talents and resources so that God will make use
not merely equal share in the ancestral property; rather it is a of them for the blessing of others.” Here he underscores the
just sharing based on the needs of the parties involved. Said importance of prayer in our life, and cautions that true prayer is
differently, gender justice is more than reservation or subversive as it is system-threatening and it can uproot us from
proportionate share. It is a call to recognize the presence of our comfort zones.
injustice and evil in our society due to patriarchy, and to bring
about radical changes based on the needs of the people. This “I don’t have gurus and I don’t have disciples. But I have friends
theological position has implications for the role of women in the who correct me and I have friends who accept my criticisms
life of the Church as well. One of the tributes that we can offer and correct themselves.” This observation of the senior most
to Mar Chrysostom on his birth centenary year is to celebrate Church leader from India invites us to introspect our attitude
the divine gifts of our mothers, sisters, and daughters by towards criticism and dissent within our institutions and faith
breaking the barriers that prevent them from having full communities. If we as a church truly love and respect our Valiya
participation in the total life of the Church including ordained Metropolitan, his testimony about his sense of call and the
ministry. recognition of that call by the Church and his self-understanding
of his vocation and ministry should inspire us to rethink and
The conflict between Science and Religion is a hot political topic revision our understanding and practice of ministry, its selection
in different parts of the world. There are Christians who believe process and the nature of theological education. From blind
that science can destroy faith. They are also suspicious about loyalty to Church and the expectation to be defenders and
teaching evolution in schools. There are also critical questions protectors of faith and tradition, let us affirm the priesthood of
on bio-ethical issues where science and certain understandings all believers and re-imagine ministry as engaging in the mission
of Christian faith contradict each other. Mar Chrysostom’s of God by enabling the people of God to realize their full
reflections on science and faith are instructive here. “It is humanity. The greatest tribute that we can offer to our Valiya
through science that I was exposed to the mysteries of the Metropolitan on his one-hundredth birthday is to affirm our
world. I don’t know whether the world was created by God or resolve to continue the spirit of reformation so that the Mar
human beings or it was self-created. I prefer to believe that God Thoma Church will remain as a reforming church midwifing,
created the world. But I will not insist others to have the same nurturing, and mentoring new generations of Chrysostoms.
opinion. I respect their convictions and their right to have a
different opinion from me. There is no need to be fanatic and to Editor’s Note: Dr. George Zachariah serves at the United
worry about the differences between science and religion.” Theological College, Bengaluru, India as professor and
chairperson of the department of theology and ethics.

8 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Rehabilitation of the Noble Word ‘Pastor’
Dr. Zac Varghese, London
senior priest before ordination may also be a helpful
Archbishop Desmond Tutus’ confession may be a good measure to get a taste of what it would be like.
place to begin with: “I pray each day, I talk to Jesus, I
live with Jesus, I want to be like Jesus, I want to learn Priestly Traditions:
from Jesus, Jesus and me are always together.” The
title of this article is borrowed from a prophetic statement Priestly traditions were instituted in the Old Testament
of John Stott, who was a Church of England priest, a (OT) times to worship and preserve the holiness of God,
famous author and preacher at All Soul’s, Langham and to maintain the covenantal relationship with God and
Place, London. He was a very saintly person who brought the Israelites to bring forth blessings to the whole of
many people to Christ through his Christ-centred living humanity. At Mount Sinai God told Moses, “Although the
and ministry. He was a pastor of pastors. Thousands of whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of
foreign-students in the nineteen sixties onwards in priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19: 6). During that time, we
London were attracted to his city-church and his see God constantly encouraging people to be holy: “Be
engaging ministry. I have benefitted very much from holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11: 45). Holiness was
listening to him and reading many of his books. He once required for maintaining the covenantal relationship with
with great pain said, “Rehabilitate the noble word God, which was mediated through the priesthood of
‘pastors’ who are shepherds of Christ’s sheep, called to Aron, his sons and the Levites. The priests became holy
tender and protect them.” He, as a ‘watchman’ and a through sacramental rituals. Aron and his sons were
prophet, saw dangers looming; he saw priesthood priests of God, but were separated from common people:
moving from ‘a calling or a vocation’ to a profession. “. . . They may serve me as priests” (Ex. 28:1). Therefore,
Therefore, rehabilitation is an urgent need because of the priests were separated from common people to maintain
scandals of all shapes and size reported from all parts of the holiness of God. In order to invest the holiness of God
the world. No one can stand outside these allegations in the whole nation, Moses again and again reminds the
and pretend that it is not about their church. We are all Israeli community: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God
involved in this somehow and it is indeed our urgent need is holy” (Lev. 19: 1). The quest for holiness became a
to repent, pray, and introduce total corrective measures–– major focus for the Jewish community in maintaining
lock, stock and barrel. It is this need which prompted the various codes of behaviours, purity laws, and social
editorial board of the FOCUS to select ‘Priest and customs.
Ministry’ as the theme for this October issue.
The thought of becoming a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy
The scandal of sexual and other abuses by ordained nation’ brought with it the need for separation from what
priests raise hard questions that are still left unanswered. they thought was profane. We see this very clearly in the
Pope Francis and other leaders of the Church have attitudes of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. The parable of
spoken about an approach of ‘zero tolerance’ and at the the ‘Good Samaritan’ contained explicit reference to the
same time have asked us to practice compassion and priest and the Levite who in their pursuit of holiness fail to
mercy towards both victims and perpetrators. It is not offer help to the wounded man. Jesus’ life and priesthood
about a cover up for providing protection for the people challenged the understanding of Israel as a nation with
who have an addiction towards such heinous acts, but closed boundaries of holiness. Jesus broke these red
applying strict available legal measures to prevent such lines of demarcation and strict observance of holiness;
things to protect vulnerable children and other victims. Jesus moves with sinners and cripples. For Jesus,
We need rehabilitation to recover the good name of holiness was not a matter of separation, but inclusion and
pastors and their ministries. This means we must do table fellowship with sinners and outcasts. Jesus clearly
everything to protect the vulnerable, and to prevent indicated that it is the sick that needs a doctor: “I desire
anything that could cause them permanent harm. We mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the
must not become complacent with expert-commissions righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 13). Therefore, we see a
and their reports to find out the root causes of these sea change in the idea of holiness and priesthood in
behaviours or of introducing guidelines for prevention. It Jesus’ ministry. Jesus does not live in isolation in a holy
is also a time for us to look into the formation of priestly sanctuary; instead, he becomes our ‘Immanuel’.
order and at educators and seminarians for their roles as
In the place of holiness obtained through separating
mentors in grooming priests and finding the right kind of
oneself from sinful people, we see in Jesus sanctification
ministry for each and every priest before ordination. There
obtaining through accepting the outsiders, and being with
is a need to be more proactive in the mature development
them in their situations. In Jesus’ ministerial relationship
of priestly formation that results in healthy ministerial
with the marginalised communities and sinners, God
lives. A period of pedagogical pastoral care training with a
proclaimed Jesus to be a high priest in the order of

9 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Melchizedek (Heb. 5: 8-10). It is in this compassionate ever diligent not only to speak about God but also to
solidarity with victims of injustice and the marginalised; maintain continuous communion with him.
one becomes a priest for God’s ministry. Bringing people 4. Most importantly, s/he should guard against over-
closer to God is the God-given mission of the priest; it is familiarity with God, which results in a weakening of
for removing all boundaries of exclusion between people. devotion. In everything giving glory to God should be the
The priestly kingship implied in the order of Melchizedek priest’s primary concern and preoccupation.
is a caring kingship. In Jesus we observe a servant king, a
union of priesthood and kingship. The symbolic foot 5. The aim and purpose of a priest’s life is to bring people
washing in John’s Gospel (Chapter 13) and the new to God and show them the right path. S/he should never
commandment of love and Eucharist is part of the be content with statutory worships and preaching.
servant ministry that an ordained priest is expected to
emulate. Priests who preside over the Eucharist are If we, as lay people, are bold in claiming our ‘royal
invited by Jesus to live the life of the Eucharist of taking priesthood’, are we serious about our God-given
God’s gifts, giving thanks for them, breaking them and responsibilities associated with this priesthood? Do we
sharing them with others. A gift that is not opened and see God as one who understands our needs and is ready
shared is not a gift at all. This is the meaning of living the to help us? We should be able to listen to the ‘still small
Gospel. Pope Francis often speaks of a people-oriented voice of God’; we often drown that voice with our
pastoral Church that focuses on the needs of others discontent, rebellion and complaint. Therefore, we need
rather than the one that is preoccupied with institutional to learn to be quiet before God: “Be still and know that I
issues and prestige. Therefore, the mission of the Church am God”. Cardinal Manning said that the problem of
is not building walls, but breaking them down to create an Judas was his over-familiarity with the holiness of Jesus;
inclusive community. We need pastors for churches this can indeed be a problem in the mere ritualization of
without walls. One of the active images of the priest is our worship.
that of ‘a man of God for others and for all seasons’. In
this role, the priest is called to lead a self-giving life after Canonically ordained priests tend to be mostly
the model of Jesus Christ, a kenotic Good Shepherd. conservative in their outlook and approach, attempting to
limit the vision of God within the bounds of the
For St. Paul, his apostolic ministry was servant hood and institutionalised churches. These priests hold to a God of
not an office of power and privilege. Paul copied his the past and a God of the Book, while priests with
ministry in relation to the lifestyle and patterns of Jesus. It prophetic vision and trust in an infinite God worship the
meant that the Gospel of God shaped Paul’s own thinking God who holds the future of humanity in His hands.
and attitude towards his priestly ministry (Rom.1: 1). He Prophets seek to understand God reading the signs of
knew that his calling as the bringer of God’s message of the time and expressing the will of God in all sorts of
love and salvation was through the grace of God. He also ways. We need partnership with ordained and lay
knew that the message he carried in his life is more priesthood for God’s mission for bringing God’s future to
important than he as the bearer of that message. He the present. The time has come to move the altar and the
became a powerful medium for the message through the pulpit to the pews; we must remove boundaries and
mediation of the Holy Spirit. Ordained and lay ministers separations and at the same time keep the fear and the
need to be transformed to become servant ministers and mystery associated with the sacraments. “Sacraments
become bearers of the message. It is very important not are outward expressions of the inward flow of grace.”
to distort the message in anyway by the lifestyles of the
messengers. The message is more important than the The Priesthood of Laity:
medium.
The royal priesthood of the laity (1Peter 1: 9) and the
Responsibilities of Priesthood: ordained priesthood are interrelated; each in its own way
shares the priesthood in Christ. Therefore, we have a
It is good to remember five characteristics and corporate priesthood of the faith community. There is a
responsibilities of the priesthood as described in Malachi need to sustain and nurture this mutual dependency and
2: 5-7: respect between laity and clergy. Laity has much to
contribute since their experience within the family,
1. Every priest should remember that he or she is an professional, secular and religious life is the very attitudes
agent and herald of God. and convictions necessary for Christian witness and
2. He or she should understand the will of God and make mission. In many churches, there is a degree of neglect in
it known to others under his/her care. providing pastoral care; existing models are not totally
adequate. Therefore, we need to develop voluntary
3. S/he should quietly and honestly walk with God. This is ‘Pastoral Care Teams (PCTs)’ in each and every parish to
the sole purpose of creation. Therefore, s/he should be provide a partnership in mission with clergy. This need is
particularly urgent in diaspora parishes of the Mar Thoma

10 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Church because of the discontinuity of pastoral care oak tree in the acorn and the butterfly in the caterpillar;
arising from the three-year cycles of the ‘hello goodbye this is indeed our God-given spiritual potential and it is in
ministries’ of parish priests. Parish executive committees our spiritual DNA. Through our utter humility,
are not PCTs; these structures are there to oil the nuts weaknesses, impediments and overarching God’s grace
and bolts of the Sunday worship. Lay people need to others should be able to see Christ in us and read us as
wake up and assume their God-given responsibility in God’s letters to the world.
building our communities by caring for the spiritual needs
of the present and future generations in partnership with What does this mean for the priest today?
ordained priests.
The person exercising that ministry has one fundamental
Many mainline churches including the Roman Catholics task, which breaks down into a number of different
are beginning to realise that the Church in the 21st century responsibilities. The fundamental task is that of
would be a lay-centred Church. Therefore, a change in announcing by word and action in the middle of the
strategy is needed for moving away from the assumption community; it is about knowing what the community is,
that faith-related matters to be left entirely to and where it is in relation to other communities and faith
professionals, clergy or professional missionaries. It is groups. The priest is therefore in the business of
time to turn away from that view to the realisation that in immersing in Christ's action of caring for the needy. In all
the communities that we now live in, we are missionaries this, we can perhaps see why and how the Eucharist is
of Christ. Priesthood of all believers is an important the central identifying act of the Church. This self-giving
concept, which gives us an authentic responsibility for ‘liturgy after the liturgy’ should become the lifestyle of
expressing God’s unconditional love. One of the priests and parishioners. For this to happen in the
wonderful aspects of God’s graciousness towards us is ministerial life, according to Archbishop Ramsey1, the
that God raises us up to become co-workers with Him in priest has to be a watchman, interpreter and a weaver.
a rescue mission for healing this broken world. It means These three functions make an ordained minister.
that a layperson is a missionary, reaching out to others
and adding his or her effort to this ongoing work of The Priest is a watchman. The point of being a
holding and healing. Part of our Christian responsibility is watchman is that one has an opportunity of seeing what
to ‘bear witness’ and to ‘walk our faith’ in the world or to others don't see. This has two possibilities: one of seeing
become the fifth gospel in the process for the world to dangers and warning the people of the risks and
read. There are many different ways of doing this safeguarding their interest; the second of seeing
depending on our gifts and temperament, the people we possibilities and encouraging the people to take risk for
are with, the circumstance of the occasion and so on. the sake of the Gospel. In some sense it is a prophetic
role like some of the prophets of the Old Testaments.
The commonly available model of pastoral ministry from Both Habakkuk and Ezekiel used the term ‘watchman’ for
local and immigrant Churches is more concerned with their roles as prophets. This means a priest having the
caring for the sheep that are safe inside the fold than with right information about issues affecting the community
searching for the lost. The end result of this is the and ability to speak to congregations and age groups in
development of ghetto parishes for looking after the languages and styles they understand. They should
interest of the same ethnic groups. Each of the four become a listening post to detect vibes from within the
gospel ends with Christ’s command to spread the Good community and without. The authority for this role should
News to the ends of the world. To enable us for this be given to them by the local community the parish. This
mission, we have God’s assurance that He will be with us local authentication is an important, but often forgotten,
in the power of His Spirit. We are what we are today in aspect of the priesthood; he is indeed the priest and the
different parts of the world because of people who have mediator of the community before God for the
obeyed that command and believed in that promise. St. community. He should not have the attitude and
John’s Gospel takes us deeper into the mystery of the arrogance that he is appointed by the bishop and he can
mission, when the risen Christ says to the apostles: do what he wants. Parishioners should have the absolute
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I also humility to accept the role of the priest as a watchman, a
send you.” That is to assert, those who belong to Christ watchman of our whole moral and ethical conduct, and
are united with Him in His promise of bringing God’s furthermore our relationship with each other. He should
peace to the world. Therefore, mission is at the very heart have the antenna to pick up cracks in relationships.
of our identity as Christians. There is a sharing of
Christian faith through the contact of everyday life - in the The second role is that of an interpreter. This is a
family, among neighbours and among people we work bidirectional interpretation; it is of interpreting the
with. Laity is our greatest strength, but many of them prevailing culture and cultural conflicts to the members of
need to be helped to gain greater confidence about
sharing their faith and providing pastoral care. We need 1 Zac Varghese, ‘The Christian Priest Today’, ECHO, Vol 3 (2),
confidence in sharing God’s creative vision of seeing the 2016, p 22-26.
11 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

the church and to explain the Gospel teaching to the community? The one telling story is the Mar Thoma family
parishioners and the world outside the church. He also conferences: people come together as families and then
should have the practical theological knowledge to they break away as groups and they never meet together
contextualise difficult biblical texts and make it easy for for conversations and discussions. The weaver may feel
people to follow. The Christian faith is God-given and his or her integrity disappearing in the effort to create a
grace filled, and there is no need to make it more living web of generous relationship in the middle of all
complicated with difficult theological constructions, these divisions. Much more seriously, we have divisions
incomprehensible words, Greek and Hebrew phrases, within the family life and it is not an easy area for a priest
and interpretations. A simple and humble approach is the to get involved as a weaver of relationships. The question
ideal one than scholarly reviews. Jesus used parables to Joshua asked is relevant in this context: "Are you for us
explain many things to His listeners. A priest should be or for our enemies?" The answer was simply neither
able to read the signs of the time, his parishioners’ moods (Joshua 5:13-14). What does this ‘neither’ mean in the
and modes, whims and fancies, weaknesses and middle of our conflicts; it is indeed where we have an
strengths. It is in this understanding that he becomes an opportunity to see the holiness of God and His
interpreter. In this, he also has an opportunity for seeking righteousness. People often think that they only need a
out the capabilities and talents of his parishioners and priest to solemnise a baptism, marriage or burial, the rest
using them effectively as partners in his ministry. Building is not up to the priest or the parish. For many the priest’s
this partnership is an important measure of success. In role is, as the Anglicans say, in ‘hatching, matching and
the context of conflict within the Church, the priest as the dispatching.’
leader charged with making a particular decision should
remain neutral as far as it is possible. These controversies Weaving a community together is not an easy task;
are mostly about liturgical symbolism and language, people are not inanimate fibers and hence it is a
between conservatives and liberals, between young, the cooperative and participatory activity. Parishioners should
senior-established people, and could even be on financial become willing partners in weaving a community-oriented
management. Traditionalists often do not want to see any tapestry of life in the light of the Gospel. Priest has a role
change, but young people may be interested in more as a watchman and interpreter to make the dream of
vibrant singing and clapping. The priest has to remind weaving a community together and providing hospitality
everyone involved in such disputes of what and where for the stranger. I am constantly reminded of an Irish
they are on a particular issue in the context of the Gospel, proverb: “It is in the shelter of each other that people
and seek compromise through prayer and meditation. live.” When we lose each other, we lose our shelter, the
This is part and parcel of interpretative skills; it is making world we live in. Our familiarity of the face of Christ
everyone understands the issues involved and the through the Bible, sacraments, prayers and Eucharist
consequences of divisions. Most of the valuable time of should enable us to see the face of Christ in others. Jesus
priests and bishops are wasted for settling disputes or Christ is the icon of God. He is the window to the mystery
creating more disputes in the process. Conflict resolution and the reality of God. It is in Christ and through Christ
is an important skill to acquire, but it is even better if one we realise the brotherhood and sisterhood of others
could sense troubles in advance and prevent them. around us. This reality, this vision is the tapestry that we
are asked to weave together as a faith community. The
The third role of a priest today is that of a weaver. It is face of crucified and risen Christ should haunt us to this
a term from the industrial past as weaving is an ancient reality of an infinite responsibility for building His kingdom
skill because it is now mostly automated and on the earth.
computerised. The Christian ministry is a ministry of
reconciliation. The priestly task is a making of The last part of this article is entirely based on the three
connections at many levels and bringing the alienated to ideas of priesthood––watchman, interpreter and weaver––
meet each other. The priest may be connecting visions that I borrowed from Archbishop Ramsey’s2 book;
and ideas–building bridges between the gospel values therefore, it is right to offer his words for concluding this
and human concerns at the level of the family and paper. “Today the ordained priest is called to reflect the
community. Building or weaving relationships between priesthood of Christ and to serve the priesthood of the
people is not an easy task, one has to invest so much to people of God, and to be one of the means of grace
weave a beautiful tapestry of relationships when so much whereby God enables the Church to be the Church.”
of parish life is divided between interest groups such as
Editor’s Note: Dr. Zac Varghese, London, was the director of Renal and
Sunday school, women’s organisation, youth Transplantation Immunology Research of Royal Free Hospital and
organisation, seniors, prayer groups, and evangelical Medical School in London. He is also a prolific writer on religious and
groups and so forth. Everyone is so proud of their little ecumenical issues; he continues to work relentlessly for common good
organisation, but fails to see the fragmentation it brings to of the worldwide Mar Thoma Diaspora communities.
the life of the parish. These are hard realties and we carry
on sleepwalking as if these divisions do not exist. Whose 2 Michael Ramsey, ‘The Christian Priest Today’, SPCK,
job is it to build bridges across this to weave a real London, 1972.
12 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Priesthood and Ministry
Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum

If I am not expected to repeat and re-validate the stereotypes hindrance; and the laity needs to recognize this danger for
in this regard, I could say the following- what it is.

The ministry is, or should be, a constant in its essence; though No religion begins with priests. Priests are a phenomenon that
it is bound to adapt itself to changing needs and times. Its emerges in the course of the historical development of a
substance is divinely defined. But its strategy is humanly spiritual tradition. In the early years of Christianity, there were
evolved insofar as the ministry is exercised by human beings. only ‘disciples’. Gradually, disciples gave way to priests. By the
Accredited or anointed; priests are human, nonetheless. So, it time we come to the Laodicean church, priestly hegemony
is natural if a cleavage comes about between priesthood and becomes a recognisable reality. The outcome is clear and it
ministry from time to time. That cleavage calibrates the decay may be put as: ‘priests in; Jesus out’. Read the 20 verse of theth

of a religion. Differences of religions apart, priesthood is 3 chapter of Revelation if you are not convinced.
rd

common to all religions and the degradation of the priestly


class has been one of the crucial issues in religions. The word priest is derived from “prevost” which means ‘one
put over others’, or ‘one placed in charge’. But Jesus did not
put anyone ‘over’ anyone else. It is contrary to the spirit of the
way of Jesus. He was not over anyone. He was the Servant par
excellence. He could not have been a party to creating
ecclesial hierarchy. The best we can possibly do in this regard
is to look at the insight Jesus shared with Peter, after his
resurrection (ref. St. John 21: 15-19).

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” On


Peter’s replying in the affirmative, Jesus mandates, “Tend my
sheep”.

From this we have three essential features of priesthood. A


priest is one who loves Jesus more than all else. He is also one
who, for that reason, mandated to tend, or be responsible for
the welfare of, Jesus’ flock. Third, a priest has no flock of his
own; though it is now habitual for priests to think of the
congregations they pastor as their flock (yente aadukal).
Consequently, many of them are ever on the vigil, looking for
the wolves that prowl in the vicinity of their sheep. The image of
a shepherd dog hovers somewhere above the heads of such
priests. They are an interesting study in itself.

Readers may also note in passing that Jesus did not prescribe
any uniform or vestments for his disciples. Even though his
robe radiated light on the mountain of transfiguration, there is
It is quite wrong to assume that ministry is what gets done by no evidence anywhere in the Bible that he subscribed to the
priests as a distinct class. At least since the time of Jesus, the doctrine of textile holiness in any context. On the contrary,
special right of priests to monopolize the ministry has stood there is a derisive rejection of such a puerile idea in the most
debated. Strictly speaking, all believers are priests. A contrary vehement denunciation of priesthood found in world literature,
assumption lends itself to the inevitable corruption of priests; ‘whited sepulcher’. The tragedy is that the garb of holiness
an issue addressed upfront by Jesus. He called the Judaic serves to camouflage inner realities.
priests ‘whited sepulchers’, which is not exactly an expression
of commendation. So, a quick word about the superstitious prestige attached to
priestly attire. Clearly it is a class marker. Historians point out
Sociologically speaking, priestly hegemony, the like of which that in the hierarchy that prevailed in early centuries after the
flourishes today, is a sign of spiritual decline. The priestly class, death of our Lord, priests enjoyed a position of prestige. The
like all classes, has their vested interests. They need not roll of social honour was: king, administrators, military leaders,
correspond to the will of God, though the laity is apt to assume priests, and sportsmen. In those days, the importance of a
that priests represent, even implement, the will of God. person or class was indicated by the distance maintained from
the people engaged in manual work. The less you worked with
Historically priests have stood between God and humankind. your body, the more important you were, like Brahmins in India
There are two ways in which they may do so; either as bridges or, now, the educated class in general. Hence it is that even
or as walls. It is not difficult to ascertain how a particular priest today all of us would be surprised, even disappointed, to see a
behaves and what effect he has on the people in this regard. priest who does ordinary chores as well. Priestly robes are so
Priests as walls are out and out unspiritual. They are a spiritual designed as to hinder a priest from doing manual labour. The
cassock is a case in point.

13 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Now read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Why do you At this point I cannot help pointing out that our overseas
think Jesus brings a priest and a Levite into the story in the way congregations have had an extremely unfortunate effect on
he does? The elaborate costumes of these two religious priesthood and ministry. The one thing that most priests covet,
functionaries would not have permitted them, even if they had even above the bliss of attaining salvation, is an overseas
the time and the inclination, to stop, stoop and serve. I doubt if posting. (There are hierarchies of preference within this larger
even 5% of priests today are mindful of the symbolic meanings category, with North American topping the list.) Such postings
of holy vestments. They value them mostly for the class depend entirely on the sweet will of bishops, who use it like
distinction they entail. The laity too endorses the same. They carrots or sticks to keep priests obsequious in demonstrated
are visually so cassock-conditioned that if a priest is seen loyalties. Bishops thus become real masters, which is in utter
except in a cassock, they find it hard to relate to him, much violation of what Jesus envisaged.
less respect him. How important superfluities are in our midst!
We cannot imagine priesthood, unless it is swaddled in I do not wish to be harsh on priests who are disposed in this
sanctified clothes, as if clothes are all. fashion. What works at the bottom of this embarrassing
scheme of things is the comparative poverty in which priests
Why is a problem, you may well ask. Well, let me tell you why. are maintained. They are ill paid. Except for windfalls of
This arrangement has driven a wedge between the word and overseas incomes, not many of them stand anywhere near the
the deed in church life. The ministry is associated almost prospect of retiring from service with a roof over their heads.
entirely with words. In many instances the only ‘work’ that a The reason why priests, unlike bishops, are kept poorly paid is
priest does is ‘proclamation’ understood in a limited, verbal nothing spiritual. Economic independence of priests is
sense. This reduces the ministry of the Word to a mouth-to-ear assumed to be (but never stated as such) a dangerous thing. It
‘performance’, which is the last thing it should be. We get could make priests less amenable to control. The unfairness of
progressively alienated from ‘the Word become flesh’. The it is justified by invoking biblical ideals from which bishops are
Word as mere word becomes a caricature in the mouth of deemed exempt. The luxuriousness in which most bishops live,
priests. The community of believers stays afflicted with a and the wealth that married bishops accumulate, would have
deadly famine: the famine of the Word. been a scandal to believers if they had not been conditioned to
it over generations of exposure. As a rule, the higher one goes
This brings us, I believe, to the crux of the matter. How are on church hierarchy, the greater the share, barring proverbial
priests meant to ‘tend’ the flock of Jesus, the Good Shepherd? exceptions, of worldly tokens of power and indulgence.
Or, how are priests to exercise their ministry in harmony with
the will of the One who has called them? We need not have bothered ourselves with all of this, if this did
not have serious adverse consequences for the ministry. The
First, it is a major misconception. Most priests I know are under prevailing state is largely responsible for the growing cynicism
the impression, which is never re-examined, that the will of of the youth regarding the relevance and authenticity of church
Jesus is identical to the will of the denominational church. The life. It seems a case of -to use a Malayalam proverb- the fence
will of the church is then equated with the will of the episcopal eating the crop it is meant to protect. We seem to have
authority supervening them. (In the political context we call it returned to the Judaic state of affairs that Jesus confronted.
fascism.) The authority of Jesus is supposed to hide
somewhere in this institutional charisma and in the liturgical Let us return to Jesus’ dialogue with Peter that I cited a while
propriety which assumes special importance on Sundays. For ago. Jesus should not be expected to instruct his disciples like
the rest of the time, it is the authority of the church, so to a schoolteacher who tends to forget that his students too have
speak. endowments. Jesus does not tell Peter what it means to ‘tend’
the flock. He leaves it to the spiritual discernment, freedom and
As to the authority of the church, the following- responsibility of that disciple. But that is done not in a vacuum,
but within a richly transparent context, against the backdrop of
The church is run mainly on the paradigm of maintaining the three years of hands-on training and spiritual education.
status quo. For all practical purposes, the church becomes the
de facto assurance that God is in his heavens, as Robert It would have been superfluous on the part of Jesus to say to
Browning said, and all is well with the world. The idea of Peter, “Tend my sheep as I tended them.” That was best left to
tending the flock of Jesus Christ is limited to scrupulous Peter’s inference. Stating the obvious is always awkward.
adherence to the liturgy, traditions, practices and There is no ground for us to assume that Peter was in any
administration of the church. Tending the flock becomes doubt about this; else he would have asked, as he did on the
synonymous with liturgical finesse. What is forgotten in the occasion of the washing the feet by Jesus (St. John: 13). In the
process is that ‘tending’ means principally ‘meeting the needs Jesus way of tending the sheep, the spotlight is not on material
of’. It is hard to see how the habitual adherence to set liturgy resources or professional expertise. The spotlight is on him.
amounts to seeking to know the needs of the people in order to That is because, in ministering to human beings, unlike to other
meet them. It is assumed, for reasons not wholly perspicuous, animals, the foremost resource is the quality and stature of the
that all that the people need is to worship as a congregation one who serves. It suffices for shepherds of mere sheep to
once a week. It is possible, if you like, to justify this assumption have natural and material resources. For shepherds of human
by quoting, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his beings, they need to be themselves the foremost resource.
righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.” This That is because the quintessential need of all human beings is
will work only if we assume that ‘seeking the Kingdom of God for God. All else is secondary. No matter what else is provided,
and his justice’ is nothing more than Sunday worship. if godliness is missing from the package, nothing has any
value. It is this that seems to have gone out of focus in our

14 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

midst, even though this is the most obvious biblical compared to most other professionals, priests fail to keep
requirement. abreast of developments even in their own fields. This is made
possible also by the ‘traditional’ idea of congregational life on
So, a priest, in its biblical sense, is one who grows continually; the part of the laity, which makes them parasitical towards
and grows even unto the stature of Jesus Christ. When the priests. If congregational life is no more than adherence to a
priestly calling shifts from the foundation of discipleship and tiny range of routine activities, it makes sense that priests don’t
morphs into priest-craft, the emphasis shifts from the spiritual waste time on scholarship, or even on going deeper into the
stature of priests to the finesse with which priestly functions, Word of God. The question that arises is this: should the
understood in their strictly ecclesial scope, are discharged. ministry -understood biblically and contextually- shape
Ministry becomes, as a result, a profession. priesthood or should priesthood direct and delimit the ministry?

There are two main resources for attaining priestly maturity. From the point of view of Jesus, the overarching purpose of the
The first of these is a deepening understanding of the Word. ministry is to lead the faithful to life in all its fullness (Jn. 10:10).
The Word is also the sum total of the wisdom of life at any The worship life of the congregation plays an important and
given point in time. It is not a fixed, but a fluid thing. I may enabling role in this respect. But it is not envisaged to be the
sound heretical in saying this; but that is because of a prior dead-end of this journey. To worship in spirit and in truth is to
heretical misconception about the Word, involving a lack of become fully human. It should never be misunderstood as
understanding of the dynamics of revelation. God, in his mercy, paying the weekly or annual tax to God, lest we caricature the
limits the scope of his revelation in tune with the development idea of the divine. God has no use or need for our flattery,
of a people. Secular and humanistic knowledge may have the though much of our prayer and worship in general is
potential to puff up and become agnostic or atheistic. But compacted of flattery. Flattery of God is conspicuously absent
knowledge, per se, is not hostile to God; for it is He who makes from the ‘model’ prayer that Jesus taught us. And we are
its expansion possible by making humankind such a glorious required to pray and worship in that manner.
creation. In my experience I have sensed a sweet and profound
harmony between understanding the Word and keeping myself The shaping purpose of worship, as per the Lord’s Prayer, is to
abreast, albeit to a limited extent, of the expansion of seek, know and do the will of God. St. Matthew describes this
knowledge in diverse fields. as seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Mt. 6:
33). The fullness of this cannot be limited to rituals, dogmas
and liturgy, important and essential though they are. God’s will
is to be sought. We are, as the Psalmist says, meant to ‘walk’
the way of God. Jesus reaffirmed it in his own inimitable way
(Mt. 7: 13, 14). The dynamism of the biblical faith, its life-
changing, socially transforming power, is hardly experienced
within church compounds. It is to be sought and realized in the
larger context that involves the society and its diverse avenues
of life and service. The ministry currently in force is indifferent
to this wider horizon. Priests, as a result, have become, except
in rare exceptions, irrelevant to the total life-world of the
faithful.

This is not an obscure or fanciful truth. It stares us, especially


priests like me, in the face to our disquietude. We experience
There was a time when the priest was the most educated and the need, as a result, to resort to measures to compensate our
enlightened person in a community. Not long ago, priests were growing inadequacies and irrelevance. The more irrelevant and
intellectual giants in Europe. From this pinnacle we have fruitless we become in the larger context of life, the keener we
slipped down and crashed into the assumption that he who grow to prove ourselves in church compounds. It is this that
knows least is most spiritual! Intellectual aptitudes are widely degrades the ministry into building projects. I remember being
believed to be inimical to spiritual wizardries. This trend told by Padma Bhushan Sr. Metropolitan Philipose Mar
equates mediocrity with piety, which is a great pity. Chrysostom when we met in the Mar Thoma Aramana in Long
Island, NY, USA, several years ago, “My achens have no time
It is hard to see how priests can tend the flock by being inferior to mentor the youth. They are busy buying big churches or
to them in any respect! building larger ones. In a few decades from now, there will be
none to worship in them.” He wondered if I would be willing to
When they are, the consequence is that priests become help with the youth ministry of the church in North America. I
glorified servants, servicing a community in terms of special agreed. The rest is history.
occasions -like birth and wedding anniversaries, weddings,
illnesses, auspicious occasions, special needs and so on- with Victor Hugo, my favourite among French novelists, who is an
a view also to augmenting church incomes. What is wrong exemplar in researching materials for his novels, talks at length
about it? Well, nothing; as long as we don’t ask what is the about the characteristic preferences of the priestly class in his
core function and shaping purpose of priesthood, which suffer novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They are, he laments,
neglect. alien to the poetry of the soul. Stone is the natural medium of
their self-expression. Decades later Oswald Spengler in his
The current understanding of priestly ministry is the main controversial magnum opus The Decline of the West pointed
reason that priests sink progressively into mediocrity. As out pithily, “They will prefer building to begetting”. What is

15 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

widely recognized as a spiritual perversion is hailed by us as Brothers Karamazov) makes the Cardinal see Jesus as a plague
the normative sacerdotal merit today. By that standard, Jesus on the church. “Thou shalt not utter a single word more,”
was an utter failure. He did not put brick on brick. commands the Cardinal. The hierarchy knows how best to run
Christendom. Jesus, with his anarchic ideals and
As a rule, there is a relationship of inverse proportion between idiosyncrasies, would make a mess of all that has been built
the material and the human. The greater the faith in, and up, with unimaginable investments, over the centuries.
obsession with, material resources, the lower will be the Perhaps, the Grand Inquisitor speaks for all of us?
concern for developing human beings or, in the words of
Jesus, ‘tending the sheep’. The fact that several congregations I do not wish to sound cynical about priesthood and ministry.
have mission departments does not prove the contrary. There The fact is that I attach supreme importance to both. The
is a radical difference between ‘funding’ missions and ‘doing’ worst, however, is the corruption of the best. And that should
missions. To be a Christian is to be a missionary. A worry us. Corruption reaches its peak with hardening of hearts,
congregation that fails to be the nursery for fostering the which makes the need for collective repentance -such as is
missionary outlook fails to be Christian. It may have successful projected in Jonah – a practical impossibility. Hard-
priests, but it may not have a ministry in the true sense of the heartedness makes the mistake friends for enemies and vice
term. versa. Yet, the most authentic proof of the residual spiritual
vitality of every entity and establishment is the willingness to
I wonder if it is because of the strong influence that Count Leo repent. To repent is to return to the original fountain spring of
Tolstoy had on me that I feel strongly about these things. He godliness. It is a homecoming, via discipleship, into the
has written extensively about the spiritual essence of Kingdom of God (Mt. 4: 17).
Christianity. He makes a clear-cut distinction between rituals
and dogmas on the one side and ‘the doctrine of Jesus Christ’ I know how deeply and anxiously the laity in diverse churches
which, he insists should have absolute priority in our total life. is waiting for authentic priesthood and Christ-cantered
He rejects the false dichotomy between spiritual and secular ministries. I know what an unimaginable blessing the same can
aspects of life and calls for radical obedience, as Dietrich be for the world at large. I also know the anger welling up in the
Bonhoeffer did after them, in the life of the believer. He hearts of many young people who see through, and resent,
condemns priests for reversing this order of priorities. To hypocrisies. Unlike my generation, whose hallmark is habitual,
Tolstoy, discharging priestly functions entirely in terms of the unmeaning compliance, the youth of today demand to be
observances of the church -the sterile option of staying on the convinced. They refused to be impressed or convinced by
mountaintop if you like- is the foremost temptation that mere words or the grandeur of ceremonies or the magnitude of
priesthood faces. ceremonial splendour. They insist on authenticity; nothing less.

All of us agree that Jesus is the role model for priesthood. If so, I remember interviewing a young candidate for admission to St.
what? He did not attach any noticeable importance to the so- Stephen’s College. He was the nephew of a distinguished
called places of worship per se. Of course, he insisted on their Christian priest in Kerala. He made it clear that he did not want
purity and taught vehemently that they cannot be ‘my Father’s to be bracketed with Christians, though that meant a huge
houses’ unless they are zealously pure. Mammon-worship has disadvantage in getting admission. “I am not convinced that I
no place in it. Jesus rejected the discontinuity between the want to be a Christian,” he said. “The hypocrisy of the church
sacred space and the secular world. An idea of worship bothers me. If I don’t make it on my general merit, I am happy
implying that a place of worship is a hiding place from the to be rejected.”
challenges and opportunities of the world was anathema to
him. I gave him admission, respecting his integrity. I felt he was
superior to me as a human being. Ironically, he ministered to
I have no doubt at all that our present idea of priesthood is me. Well, there is a ministry of that kind too. May be, it is too
contrary to the teachings as well as the role model of Jesus shocking to recognize it. But it is the sort of spark that worked
Christ. Imagine Jesus in a cassock! Today a man is not a its way within the inner churning of Saul and illumined his
priest if he is not in a cassock. Our Lord and Saviour would being, on the road to Damascus, opening his ears to the words
have looked awkward in one. That, in itself, tells us where we of the Risen Christ. Who knows?
have reached.
Editor’s Note: Revd. Dr. Valson
Jesus went around, covering the length and breadth of Thampu is an ordained Minister of
Palestine, meeting human needs. He was not bothered about Church of North India; he is an
who they were or where they belonged. He was free to see, educator, theologian, who was
acknowledge and admire what was good even in Gentiles. All the former Principal of St
were equally the children of God, not even the wicked and the Stephen's College, University of
degraded were excluded. He did not allow himself to be Delhi, from 2008 to February
fettered by the religious stereotypes of the times. Instead, he 2016. He is a prolific writer and
ridiculed them. The parable of the Good Samaritan, most has authored many books. He is
people don’t realize, was meant to ridicule the Jewish stupidity also a translator of books from
that made them insist that the Samaritans could not be Malayalam to English, and has
recognised as ‘neighbours’. received prestigious awards. He
was also a member of the
Hence it is that Dostoevsky in his uniquely challenging story National Minority Commission of India.
titled The Grand Inquisitor, (which is an extract from the novel

16 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

In Defence of Judas
David Brand*

For the events of Easter to unfold as they did, there had to be a Judas do to prevent the Romans from using this as an excuse
Judas make no mistake, the New Testament clearly states in to take complete control of Israel that would most likely destroy
John Chapter 17 verse 12 “. . . and not one of them was lost all that Jesus had created, by arresting him and scattering his
except the one destined to be lost so that the scripture might demotivated disciples? Even worse the Jews would probably
be fulfilled.” another version “. . . none of them is lost but the lose faith having felt themselves to have been betrayed by yet
son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.” another false prophet?
Knowing that there had to be a Judas, how many of you would
like to choose to be the one to fulfill this scripture? It would In his concern for all those involved he might have gone to the
take a special soul to be chosen for that role in order that Sanhedrin with the idea that if they detained Jesus for the
Jesus’ mission to sacrifice himself for us would take place in duration of the Passover and then released him after the event
the way that it was destined to be; no glory for Judas but utter was over, the chance of a riot and possible injury to Jesus
condemnation. would be avoided. If this was the case the Sanhedrin would
have hardly believed there luck and may have suggested that
The Sanhedrin had tried everything they knew, trick questions, Judas should identify Jesus at night with a kiss to make sure
set scenes like the attempted stoning of the unfaithful wife, that the right person was detained with no fuss while the
arresting Jesus or stoning him themselves (allowed under populace were fast asleep.
Roman law for Blasphemy and events like the unfortunate wife
as previously mentioned). His conduct in their opinion was not After this act was successfully carried out the Sanhedrin would
only discrediting them, it was challenging their power and have informed Judas that they had no intention of releasing
ultimately Roman rule. This could have had disastrous Jesus but would hand him over to the Romans for execution as
consequences on them and the whole of Jerusalem possibly a revolutionary and offered him a reward for his nights work.
ending with destruction of the Temple (which ironically Judas would then have been horrified to realise that he had
occurred approximately 40 years later) and all the benefits that been tricked into betraying his master and ultimately be the
went with it. cause of his death, mortified by his ghastly mistake born out of
concern and love for others he threw away the money and
If Judas had decided to betray Jesus for just thirty pieces of killed himself.
silver he would have taken the money, disappeared and spent
it without remorse. The Bible tells us that he threw the money If this had been a Bollywood or Hollywood script he would
away and committed suicide hardly the action of a betrayer have delayed suicide for over three days and no doubt one of
successfully earning his reward and spending it. We will never the first things Jesus would have done after his resurrection
know the exact truth, all we know is that it had been ordained would have been to forgive Judas. And he would have gone on
and all we can do is to try and understand why it happened to be the greatest of all the disciples in the same way Peter
and what caused Judas to carry out this unimaginable act so was forgiven for denying him three times. However the good
ghastly that even his name is still used today to label acts of Lord has his own agenda which we are not invited to be aware
betrayal. of, but it is worth noting in both cases of Peter and Judas,
Jesus knew what they were about to do and informed them in
It would, as Christians, be charitable to explore possible advance. If both Peter and Judas had killed themselves before
reasons for his terrible action and the following is only one of the resurrection from grief due to their actions of denial and
many lines of reasoning. Judas would have witnessed the betrayal there would have been no rock on which to build the
triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the huge crowd, the fledgling Christian Church.
palms, the shouting and most of all the expectation of the
removal of the Romans. There is a well-known saying that states “The road to Hell is
paved with good intentions! “And poor Judas became another
Now Judas was an honest man that is why Jesus made him the victim of this. Scripture is all about teaching and challenging
keeper of the purse he would not have given it to somebody he and maybe this is another challenge and lesson set for us.
could not trust and he would have held that position for over What is the worst act a practicing Christian can do? Is it
three years so I find it difficult to accept him being branded a betrayal or denial? This would have tortured many clergy in the
thief after the event of betrayal by a person or persons past as England swung between Protestantism and
unknown. Catholicism due to different successions of its monarchy.
Jesus was able to forgive the denial but clearly we have been
His honesty and his lack of comprehending Jesus’ mission, challenged to truly forgive the betrayal and if you can get on
along with the rest of the disciples could have caused his your knees and pray for Judas you will have made a giant step
downfall, he was unable to conceive how Jesus would get rid in your journey towards God and all he represents. Finally,
of the Romans peacefully, and there was no army and no arms. please remember, “to err is human but to forgive is divine “.
Once the excitement had died down and with no action what
next? A frustrated mob would have taken it out on Jesus and in Editor’s Note: Mr. David Brand is an elder and a Lay Reader of
their frustration cause a major revolt which might have ended in the All Saints’, Harrow Weald, where the Sinai MTC conducts
a massacre as the Roman army would have entered Jerusalem worship services. He is a retired electronic engineer with a very
to restore order and possibly remain there. So what could deep interest in spirituality.

17 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

The Other Side of the Faith
Lal Varghese, Esq. Dallas
platform (and not from the pulpit as it used to be) in the dimmed
What is faith? No better answer is given in perhaps all in the light with background sound of musical organs.
Bible than in the great eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 11 shows that faith is so important because God’s But our post-Christian cultural shift heightens the church’s need
people are confronted with weakness, poverty, trials and to reclaim its historic emphasis on our faith. We need the weekly
tribulations in their life. Verse says: “Now faith is the assurance reminder of corporate belief more than ever. Spending six days
of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The a week in the wilderness of cultural unbelief, the church needs
context for faith is a life in which things are hoped for but not yet that seventh-day gathering to do what it was designed for:
seen or possessed. Faith grasps things that are promised by reminding us that we are not alone. We need a movement from
God but are so far unfulfilled in our life experience. We seek and me back to us, re-envisioning corporate worship as a place that
hope for power in the midst of our weakness; we hope for purposefully points us away from individual experience toward
peace in the midst of conflict and we seek for joy in the tangible reminders of our shared faith. Moving from me to us
presence of sorrow. For all these reasons, God’s people require requires re-evaluating worship environments. The use of stage
faith to survive in a difficult world. Faith is the belief in God’s lighting leaves the congregation in darkness for much of the
Word in order to lay hold of things tight that are promised and service, and anonymity invades our worship. Only if we move to
make them real in our lives. Faith is the mode, or the manner by the other side of our faith makes these things possible.
which we possess heavenly things on this earth. Is this faith a
stagnant one to be kept within ourselves or within the four walls What should be our faith and what form should it take to
of our sanctuaries? No, it needs to move from the center to the continue our faith journey is the question to be pondered by
periphery so that people living around us may recognize us as each believer who lives in a multicultural society. Our faith
Christians witnessing and testifying the life and mission of Jesus should not be confined within the four walls of our sanctuaries
Christ in our faith journey. adorned by stained glasses. It should pierce the stained glass
windows and should overflow into the less treaded roads and
Hebrew 11 mentions about faithful fathers of the Bible. By faith unfrequented Samaritan wells. We should be able to live a life,
Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice because Abel's which reflects our faith and belief. Faith cannot be
sacrifice was made by true faith. By faith Enoch was taken away demonstrated by billboards or power point presentations or with
so that he did not see death. By faith Noah, being divinely the sound and fury of musical instruments. It should reflect the
warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared life we live and people who see us and interact with us must
an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned recognize our true faith from our actions and deeds. Taking your
the world and became heir of the righteousness which is faith to the other side is stepping out of your own comfort zone
according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called into the hands of God, from not being a comfortable Christian
to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. but to be a disturbed disciple.
And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith
Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us
bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they
Him faithful who had promised. By faith the harlot Rahab did not took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats
perish with those who did not believe, when she had received were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat
the spies with peace. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But
Jacob, Sara, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him
Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets, all those persons up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are
mentioned in Hebrews 11 took their faith to the other side and perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the
became God’s favorite people. Thus Hebrew 11 became the hall sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a
of faith where the story of people who took their faith to the dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still
other side without fear or disbelief and by trusting God fully by no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one
moving into the unknown territory and less frequented another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey
Samaritan wells. him?” Mark 4: 35-41.

We live in a multicultural society where the truth of the Bible is Jesus asked the disciples to go to the other side of the sea.
being questioned. Christians are not allowed to pray publically What is on the other side of the sea waiting for them? The
in schools, colleges, and public functions as they use to do in unclean Gentiles as per Jewish religious standard, a territory
the past in the U. S. A. The number of people attending which Jews do not want to cross at all. But Jesus passed
traditional liturgical churches is declining both in Europe and through the Samaritan territory before. That is where he met the
North America and elsewhere. The traditional churches are Samaritan women and asked water from her. When she replied
giving way to nondenominational individual-centric churches, that how come being a Jew, you could ask water from me since
where people go as individuals and returns as same individuals I am a Samaritan woman. Jesus replied to her that if you knew
without even getting a chance or making an attempt to have that who is asking water, you could give him enough water
interaction with others. The nondenominational churches shift without any hesitation. Jesus replied to her the water, which he
the corporate worship to individual-centered worship. is going to give her and if she drinks the same she may not be
Individuals attend such service look forward to what they get thirsty again. The fishermen who were called by Jesus left their
from such services including sermons preached from the nests and boats and took their faith to the other side in order to
fish for men and women to become followers of Jesus Christ.
18 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

They lived their life by propagating to the ends of the earth, (An Eco - Meditation)
which resulted imprisonment and they all martyred except John
who believed to be died of natural causes.
BAMBOO: JOY OF LIVING TOGETHER
When these disciples failed to take their faith out of the boat Revd Dr. M.J. Joseph, Devalokam (Kottayam)
when they were traveling with Jesus, He came to their rescue by
calming the storm and the sea. When we fail to take our faith to “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good
the other side, remember there will be our Lord who comes to works” (Heb. 10:24).
us to help us to be firm in our faith. When the angel announced
to Mary that she will become pregnant and deliver baby Jesus,
by faith she obeyed and kept everything in her mind. When
Mary went and met Elizabeth, both of took their faith outside of
their comfort zone by submitting to God and believed the
promises of the Lord. If our faith is stagnant and does not
overflow our mind and body it is in vain. The Canaanite women
who sought help of Jesus to cure the illness of her daughter by
having faith beyond the barriers of her race and religion was
able to get the help from Jesus by curing her daughter. Again,
the disciples who did not have enough fish and bread to feed
the crowd, which accompanied Jesus, have taken their faith into
unknown territory and were instrumental in feeding the
thousands and was able to gather many baskets with the
leftovers.

In Philippians 1:13 Apostle Paul says even though he is bound,


and imprisoned, but the gospel is not bound and his
imprisonment has caused for the flourishing of the gospel. Saul
who once persecuted the church walked to the other side of the
faith on his way to Damascus by the intervention of Jesus Christ My name is BAMBOO.
and became Apostle Paul. He testifies that all the suffering he
has endured has caused for the spread of gospel in Rome. Faith Let me introduce myself to you:
is not something to be bounded within us, but it should flow I am called: the Nature’s bounty.
from within us to the other, thus the other is enabled to My height is about 40ft, yet I am classified under “grass”
recognize that we are witnesses of Jesus Christ. It should be I am known in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Latin America.
reflected through our actions and not through our worship or The Chinese make soup out of my shoots
preaching alone. The Mizoz dance on my body
I have an extended family of 1200 tribes
A very recent example of God using ordinary people to do extra I have become the nut and bolt of 2.2 billion people in Asia.
ordinary things is the fishermen from the seaside of Kerala, People make musical instruments out of me.
bringing their large boats to rescue people trapped in their
homes in central Kerala. What a daring example, forgetting the I have become the favourite musical instrument of the deity,
livelihood of their families, they moved their faith to the other Krishna.
side in order to help the people whom they never knew before. I support the poor and the rich alike in India and Vietnam.
This is the perfect example of God using ordinary people to do There are over 1,500 documented traditional uses of me.
extraordinary things for the glory of his name. These fishermen I am also now known in tissue culture.
folks were able to take their faith to the other side, but what
about us? Are we daring enough to take our faith to the other O bamboo!
side from our comfortable zones? You are the symbol of corporate living.
You live together in times of joy and testing.
While we often think of sharing faith as something we do with The winds make you bend at its will for a day,
strangers or non-Christian friends, but some of the most You resurrect the next day by mutual support.
significant and impactful conversations happen in the familiar Your roots support each other when you pass through severe
context of home. Teaching children the Good News is one of testing,
the most effective ways to follow Jesus’ instructions to “go and
make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Paul’s letter to the Your call to live in mutual care makes me ashamed.
Romans instructs believers to claim what they know to be true You have your own identity in times of joy and sorrow.
about the gospel: namely, that the Good News of redemption is But your willingness to share your strength to the
for everyone. He underscores his confidence in the believers in Neighbour is indeed great
Rome who were “filled with knowledge and competent to The wind will get ashamed, for it will not be able to bend you
instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14). Similarly, parents, too, are forever!
competent to teach the gospel. It isn’t just another task—it is
perhaps the one task that defines us as parents who follow * An Eco- poem dedicated to the flood affected people of Kerala
Jesus, and the eternal importance of it brings great joy.

19 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

St. Paul’s Understanding of his Ministerial Offices
Revd Dr. M.J. Joseph, Kottayam
builder" (1 Cor. 3: 6). The instrumentality of Paul is further
St. Paul's call, office and its demands belong to the total noticed in Paul's giving of the account of his work to God.
‘Plan of Salvation’. He is conscious of his role in the scheme (Rom. 15: 17). As a. "skilled master builder in the plan of
of salvation when he writes: “I have become its servant by God", he takes much credit for his work. He claims that he
the commission God gave me to present to you the word of worked harder than any of the apostles before him (1 Cor.
God in its fullness . . .” (Col. 1: 25). By fulfilling his task, Paul 15: 10). This was possible because he believed that God had
fulfills the demands of his special charis. In the divine plan of given him "grace" (1 Cor. 15: 10) as a permanent power to
calling, there is a process of preparation. The call came to fulfill his mission as leitourgon christou Iesou (Rom. 15: 15).
Paul in an "unexpected time." But it was the "appointed Since God is the one who initiated the mission (2 Cor. 5: 18)
time" of God. This act of God creates self-awareness in Paul and entrusted him the "ministry" and the "message" of
and he gives expression to it in the realization of God's plan reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 18, 19) he only executes the
with regard to the Gentiles. The God who summoned Paul mandate given to him as diakonos of God (2 Cor.6: 4) and
makes him "competent" to fulfill the divine mission. So he fulfills the demands of the Gospel which was laid upon him
was equipped with the power of the Spirit. as “necessity" (1Cor. 9: 16-17).

2. diakonos - Servant
Paul does not call himself as diakonos Christou Iesou; but
diakonos. theou (2 Cor. 6:4). The word diakonos originally
meant one who waits at the table (Jos. Ant. 6, 22: Jn. 2:5, 6).
It was also used of king's servants (Matt. 22:23). In the
Synoptic Gospels, the idea is found in the context of Jesus'
exhortation to humility (Lk. 22: 26). Paul applies the term to
his apostolate in a significant way. In Rom. 14: 8-9 Christ is
A. Paul's relationship to God: called diakonos. To quote: “For I tell you that Christ became
Paul believes that he is 'called' (Cf. Rom. 15: 15), "approved" a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in
(1 Thess. 2: 4) and "made competent" (2 Cor. 3: 5) by God to order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs and in
fulfill his role in the "priestly service of the Gospel of God" order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy”
(Rom. 15:16). In the following analysis we shall examine the (Rom. 15: 8-9).
titles, which clearly indicate his relationship to God who is
the 'originator' of the mission. The text speaks about the dynamic character of Christ's
earthly life and Paul links up his task to the role of Christ in
1. Sunergos-"Co-worker" the succeeding texts. (Rom. 15: 14-21). In the light of Rom.
The word Sunergos means, "working together with, helping" 15: 8-9 it can thus be argued that Paul relates himself to the
(Cf. 2 Macc. 8: 7). In the LXX the word is rare. As a mission of Christ when he calls himself "diakonos of the
substantive, it is used as 'helper, 'fellow-worker' (Cf. Jos. church" (Col. 1: 25). As "diakonos of the Church" Paul
Ant.16, 7: 346). Paul speaks of those who helped him in undergoes suffering for the sake of the "body of Christ" (Col.
spreading the gospel as "his fellow-workers" (Rom. 6: 3, 9, 1: 34). In 2 Cor. 3: 6 Paul thinks of himself as diakonos of the
21; Phil. 2: 25; 4:3; Philem. 1, 2, 24; Col. 4: 11.) (The new covenant". Thus Col. 1: 25-26 and 2 Cor. 3: 5-6 make it
preposition eis- (Col. 4:11) indicates "the field in which co- clear that it is in the service of the "Gospel of God" (Rom. 15:
operation takes place. Similarly since Titus continues the 16) that Paul becomes the "diakonos of God" (2 Cor. 6: 4).
work of Paul in Corinth (2 Cor. 8: 23), he is called 'Paul's The nature of Paul's use of the title indicates that he applies
fellow-worker' in the service of the Corinthians. In 2 Cor. 1: it to his apostolate in two ways: (a) in the context of his
24 we read about Paul’s work with the Corinthians for bring apostolic suffering and preaching (2 Cor. 6: 4; Col. 1: 25-26)
them to joy because he is their "father in Christ" (I Cor. 4:15). and (b) in relation to his special commission to preach the
In 1 Thess. 3:2, Timothy is called Sunergon tou theou en to word of God (2 Cor. 3: 5-6). This shows that the title implies
euangelio tou Christou because he shares the apostolic a functional relationship.
mission of Paul. The instrumentality of the person in the
service of the Gospel is further supported by a reference in 1 3. Oikonomos 'Steward'
Cor. 3: 9, where Paul makes explicit reference to his task in Another important term to express Paul's relationship to God
the divine economy of salvation. is oikonomos. It is usually rendered as "steward". It means
"inspector of goods", "estate manager", "house keeper" etc.
He is a “collaborator” with God, because he was called by The word is found in the LXX (Is. 36: 3, 22; 37: 2). In the
God in the service of the Gospel (Gal. 1: 16). In 1 Cor. 3: 10, course of time the word assumed several shades of
he refers to his special "grace" as a "skilled master builder". meanings, (1) "manager in a private position" (Lk. 12:42;
Since he co-operates with God, he is called "steward of the 16:1; Jos. Ant. 12: 200). (2) One who is in charge of public
mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4: 1). This means that he is property (Rom. 16:23; Erastus is called oikonomos tes
accountable only to God because God is the "supreme poleos. (3) "Administrator of divine things" (in the context of -

20 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

cult associations) Murphy-O' Connor points out that the Gentiles (Rom. 1: 5). As the agent of Christ engaged in the
Serapes and Hermes-Trismegistus Cults furnish us with priestly service of the Gospel, thus the functional relationship
some examples to indicate the religious connotation of the consists not in enjoying a status with Christ, but fulfilling the
term. (4) In the NT the word occurs first in the parables of task entrusted to him.
Jesus. In Lk. 12: 42; it is used to denote the slave charged
with the distribution of rations (Cf. Mat. 24: 25). In addition to 2. doulos - Slave
the above use, Paul employs the term metaphorically in Gal. Paul also calls himself doulos Christou Iesou. It was a
4: 2. functional title (Cf. Is. 44: 1; 41: 8; Deut. 7: 6; 43: 10). The
The terminological discussion leads us to affirm that the term title was used with special reference to the leaders of the Old
is used to indicate the discharge of a function whether Covenant: It is impossible to deny OT influence in Paul's
religious or secular. The steward is responsible to the master self-designation as Slave of Christ (Cf. 2 Tim. 2: 24). It can
who entrusts him with the function and he is expected to be be affirmed that "this usage evinces Paul's awareness of
faithful in the discharge of his duties. In 1 Cor. 4: 2 he being the successor of the great instruments of God in the
regards himself as "steward of the mysteries of God". As Old Testament." (Jerome Murphy-O-Conner) As a self-
"steward" he is entrusted with the treasure of the "gospel of designation, the term occurs in Rom. 1: 1; Phil. 1:1 and Gal.
Christ" (Rom 15: 19). In the discharge of his task, he is 1: 10. In Gal. 1: 10 his self-awareness is linked up with his
legally bound and is expected to be 'trustworthy' (1 Cor. 4: missionary obedience, as "not to please men" but "to do the
2; Cf. Tit 1: 7). He has been entrusted with an oikonomia 1 will of God" (Cf. Eph. 6:62).
Cor. 9:17; Cf. Eph. 3: 2). As God's 'steward' his task is to co-
operate with God in the carrying out of the divine task. So he 3. Hupretes—Servant
is obliged to give an account of his "labour" before God The Greek word huperetes means "helper, assistant” who
(Rom 15:17). Since he has not used his position for his serves a master or a superior. It was originally used to
selfish ends, he has reasons to be proud of his work (Rom designate the servants of a board or court or of the
15:17) and he is accountable only to God, not to any "human Sanhedrin. It was also used to denote a synagogue
court" (1 Cor. 4: 3). attendant the notion of official status is known in Wisd. 6: 4.

B. Paul's relationship to Christ Paul calls himself huperetes Christou to insist on the right of
Paul makes himself known to the Gentile churches in terms his position in the church for he had no wish to ' be adopted.
of his relationship to Christ in a variety of ways. His As the leader of 'a faction that would destroy. The unity of
relationship to Christ is expressed either referring to some the church (Cf. 1. Cor. 3: 22f). Paul's relationship to Christ is
titles or alluding to his own experience as continuation of the so vital that he does not want it to be misinterpreted by the
redemptive work of Christ in its stage of fulfillment. We shall revival factions in the church. By emphasizing his
deal with the titles, which he employs to express his relationship to Christ, he tries to pin point the legal
"functional relationship" with Christ. relationship, which he has with Christ. The legal relationship
implies a sense of authority. Paul enjoys this authority "for
1. Apostolos - Apostle building up and not for tearing down the churches" (2 Cor.
Rabbinic Judaism knows the, office of Shaliah, which has 13: 10). By linking himself directly to Christ, Paul links up his
some bearing upon the use of the term. In the New obligation to Christ not as the leader of the church, but as
Testament, it can also mean 'delegate', 'envoy' 'messenger "the skilled master builder" in the plan of God.
(Cf. Phil. 2: 25). Prophets are also like the apostles;
messengers from God. Christ is called an "apostle" in Heb. The above investigation on Paul's relationship to God and to
3:6 along with archeireus. In all these uses the idea of a Christ permits the following conclusions. The titles interpret
mission is implied. It can be concluded that the expression the different aspects of Paul's role in the plan of salvation. It
has been borrowed to designate one especially is the missionary obligation "to preach" that binds him to
commissioned for a task. In Paul the term is clearly cognate God and to Christ (1 Cor. 1: 17). The self-awareness of being
with the verb aposteillein to send away or out. the 'apostle', 'slave', 'servant' and 'minister' of Christ grows
Paul believes that he has been sent by the Risen Christ to out of the strong conviction that Paul is "being controlled by
preach (1 Cor. 1: 17) the mystery of Christ to the Gentiles the love of Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 14).
(Gal.1: 16; Eph. 3: 8). This means that Paul's apostleship is
grounded in the fact of being called by God and sent to the Editor’s Note: Revd. Dr. M. J.
Gentiles as his agent and that his relationship implies a Joseph is the former professor &
missionary obligation. principal of Mar Thoma Theological
The title apostolos Iesou Christou implies a "functional Seminary, Kottayam & also former
relationship" with Christ. The functional nature of his Director of the Ecumenical Christian
relationship to Christ implies an office although office and Centre, Bangalore. He was a
obligation are linked up. The missionary obligation implies member of the Faith and Order
Commission of the World Council
two things: (a) It means that Paul is under "divine constraint"
of Churches. Currently he is the
to carry the name of Christ "to where he has not yet been
convener of the Ecological
named" (Rom. 15: 19) or "to preach" the gospel by which to
Commission of Mar Thoma Church.
bring about the "obedience of faith" from among the

21 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Priesthood and Ministry: A Divine Calling
Plammoottil V. Cherian. M. Div., Ph. D., Chicago

Priesthood The work of the laity is in fact the work of the Church in the
world. This is the most important aspect of the ministry of lay
Priesthood is a sacred covenant with God to serve the Church persons: they, not the clergy, are the Church’s agents, God’s
preparing and leading the people to become members of the representatives to the world (I Pet. 3:15), the ambassadors of
Kingdom of God. Members of the priesthood are ministers Christ and ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 17-21), gifted by
dedicated to serve the Lord in specific ministry of the Great the Spirit for service to the Triune God. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-28
Commission Jesus called for. A priest is a congregational leader the holy Spirit endures the members of the body of Christ with
ordained to perform sacred sacraments and more importantly spiritual gifts, whereas in Ephesians 4:11-13, Apostle Paul
as a mediator between humanity and the Creator God. The presents men guided by the Holy Spirit to carry out specific
word “priest” is derived from the Latin for presbyter, the term roles.
serve used for elder (Revd 1:5-6; 5;9-10; 20:6). In the Greek
concordance priest is hiereus, (ἱερεύς, heer-er-yooce’), meaning God Called out and separated Abraham from the Ur of the
one who offers sacrifices to God. Metaphorically, a Christian Chaldeans with the promise of a land because God hoped that
priest serves Christ alone because he is anointed and ordained his generation would be faithful and obedient to Him. “I have
into the ministry of the church, and are called to dedicate their singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families
life to Christ. All who are called to priesthood must know that it to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just.
is the divine authority God has delegated them to bring people Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised” (Gen.
to God for the eternal life, working hard for the salvation of the 18:19). This verse implies that God’s promises to Abraham and
people. This is the mediatory role of the priesthood. his descendants will come to pass fully only if they keep the way
of the Lord. When he brought them from Egypt after four
hundred years of bondage carrying them as on eagle’s wings,
he told them, “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and
a holy nation” (Exod.19:6). When Christ came for his earthly
ministry, he was God with us being the Immanuel and taught
many things. He was the High Priest of God, in the order of
Melchizedek and gave priestly roles to all the redeemed
(Ps.110:4; Heb. 5:6,10; 7:1-5). While Christ is the High Priest of
God forever, the king of peace and king of righteousness,
Apostle Peter reminds us: “you also, as living stones, are being
built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1
Peter. 2:5). All true believers are priests to proclaim the Gospel
of salvation and lead others to righteousness, enjoy peace and
lead them to eternity
Ministry is the humble service offered primarily to the
communities in a specific geographic region God placed us so Priests and Ministry of the Word
that they would make disciples of all nations. A priest or
evangelist on each day choose to accept God’s grace and Priests are to proclaim and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to
anchor themselves on the cross of Christ, to disseminate the the world. First, it must be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I say
love of God to all people helping them to enjoy the abundant life it again because there are different gospels these days and
and the peace Christ promised us, through teaching the Word many are hesitant to speak and share the true Gospel. One
of God which is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path in does not share anything if he doesn’t have anything to share.
the rough roads of human life When priests and evangelists do not have the right message
and the true Gospel, they deliver made up jokes and if there was
Who are the Ministers any message of the Gospel, it will be drowned in the laughter.
Priests are to share with everyone the truth of the Gospel to
All believing members of the church are minsters including help them rejoice in the Lord always. A priest must have the
bishops, priests and laity, men and women. In fact the order truth to live by and help others live in that truth. We share the
should be in reverse because every priest and minster begins Gospel not only with members of our congregation but with
his or her priestly role as a layperson. The ministry irrespective non-believers and non-Christians. When I looked through the
of the cadre is to represent Christ and his Church, to bear Church history, I came across some letters of St. Francis Xavier
witness to Him, wherever we may be, according to the gifts in which he stated that he was astonished to see so many
given us, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. millions teeming around him hungry for the Word of God in
It is Christ himself who gave some to be apostles, some India, but there was none to tell them. Do all priests today
[1]

prophets, some evangelist, and some pastors and teachers. boldly preach “For God so loved the world that He gave His only
according to the gifts given us we are to carry on Christ’s work begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish
of edifying the body of Christ through worship, and governance but have everlasting life”? (John 3:16). Jesus had no reservation
of the Church, till we all come to the unity of faith in the in telling Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one
knowledge and full stature of Christ. is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of
God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is
22 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘you many have a form of godliness denying the power thereof.
must be born again.” Jesus was talking these verses to Priests then are to know the Lord intimately so that they can
Nicodemus, a rich and powerful member of the Sanhedrin who teach others the only Way to the Father.
changed his life and attitude to the Gospel, and developed the
courage to ask Pilate the body of Christ for a proper burial. The Many have a form of godliness because we are in a multicultural
message and power of the Gospel must be preached to all pluralistic religious arena in the world and many Christians live
irrespective of position, in the society or in government, like they are of the world, by the world and for the world,
because the priests must show the way of the kingdom of God whereas the truth is we are in the world but not of the world.
to the rich, the poor, the weak and the strong in the society. Jesus replied to all the three who raised the questions, Peter,
Thomas and Philip in the most affirmative to their doubts about
Priests Must Show the Way of Eternity the Way, the Place and the Father. “I am the way, the truth and
the Life, and no one comes to Father, but through Me. If you
The most important aspect of priest’s ministry is to help people had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from
find the true eternal life. Since the latter half of the twentieth now on you know Him, and have seen him” (Jn. 14:1-11). Those
century culture has shifted not to accept Jesus Christ for what disciples who did not ask any question were wise like many of
he is, the way, the truth and life. Many philosophers, us so as not to reveal their ignorance. Today secularized
psychologists, evolutionary scientists propagating the theory of seminaries teach there are different ways to reach the Father,
evolution and humanists have contributed to this aversion and and in a culture of “cut and paste” literature and philosophy we
dislike towards God, Jesus Christ but developed a predilection are teaching people to seek God through shortcuts and broader
to a godless culture. Jesus himself said, “The world cannot
[2]
pathways of thoroughfare rather than the narrow, thorny, rough
hate you, (us), but it hates Me (Christ) because I testify of it, that and difficult way of Calvary. There are not different ways to God,
its deeds are evil” (John 7:7). Of course, Jesus speaks of the but only the Way through Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages cleft
unregenerate world, who rejects God. The world doesn’t hate us for us.
as much as it hates Jesus and his teaching, because we project
ourselves as of the world, and our conduct according to the The Aaronic priesthood did not recognize this, but failed and
worldly standards, because the norm is “When you are in Rome, God decided to do away with them as described in Ezekiel 34.
be a Roman.” This proverb instructs that a person should mould Israeli priests had seen their kings install idol gods throughout
up his attitude, behavioral pattern, habits and his way of life so the land from Dan to Beersheba since the days of Solomon, so
as to fit himself while indulging in different circumstances, and they were confused and were running with the culture, feeding
many follows that. Whereas, Christ’s teaching is that “You are in on the fat of the sheep they were shepherding. They did not
the world, but not of the world” (John 17:14-16). Thus in the know Jehovah, they did not know the power of El Shaddai, and
preset world there are many who are of the world, and few live they did not believe in the promise of God, of the Messiah, the
in the world knowing that they are not of the world, about whom Redeemer and the Holy One of Israel, the Saviour of humanity,
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me thus scattering the sheep. While Moses was receiving the Ten
before it hated you” (John 15:18). The truth of the matter is Commandments up on Munt Sinai, down in the valley Aaron
those who live a life separated from the world will be hated just was succumbed to the pressure of the people in their urge to
as Christ was hated. worship, and they themselves decided the image of God who
carried them as on Eagle wings from Egypt to that of a golden
Today under the secular culture many in the Christian religion, calf. Perhaps Aaron had given in to the pressure and culture and
sadly even some leaders are not sure where Jesus is, who the thus he decided, if they would not go the way he led them, he
“Father” is, or which is the “Way.” As his ministry on earth was would follow the way they wanted to go. That is a dangerous
ending, Jesus announced his departure from his earthly ministry ministry. Do the churches give in to the culture and promote
and was comforting his disciples who were distressed on different ways to eternity or the only Way of Calvary?
hearing that sad news (john 13-16). “Little Children, I am with
you a little while longer” only. Jesus assumed that his disciples The world is in total confusion and chaos as to true faith, true
knew whence he came and to where he intended to go. “And if I hope and true eternity. Therefore, the one and only goal of
go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive priestly ministry is to help those under their shepherding lead
you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And you them to the source of eternal life though Jesus Christ. We
know where I am going” (John 14:3). This assertion indicates cannot just preach what they want to hear, or what is soothing
that Jesus was under the notion that his disciples certainly knew to their ears but the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ that, “I am
the place, the way, and to whom he was going. Being with the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
Jesus for so long, now three disciples by name did not know except through me” (John 14:6). If we are afraid to speak this
where Jesus was going, nor the Way to eternity, nor who the truth emphatically, our ministry is in vain and those sheep under
Father is. Simon Peter asked Jesus, “where are you going?” our shepherding may lose the eternal life, like the rich young
(John 13:36). Thomas asked the same question revealing his ruler who found it difficult to follow Jesus, because of his love of
ignorance of where Jesus was going as well as the way to go. the world, fame, pride and wealth in a confused world.
“Lord we do not know where you are going, how do we know
the way” (John 14:5). Another disciple, Philip said to Jesus, May the everlasting God bless all who are in the priesthood and
“Show us the Father,” an open confession that he does not ministry to carryout their mission faithfully devoted to the
know Jesus heavenly Father (John 14:8). These disciples who Saviour during these challenging times to show the way, speak
were with Jesus, studied from him, walked with him, ate with courageously the truth, so that those who hear find eternal life.
him, seen the many miracles he did, yet do not know who Jesus Amen!
is, where he is going and who the Father Jesus was referring to.
This is the present situation of many in the Christendom, and

23 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Notes: Full release text:
1. Letters from St. Francis Xavier to Jesuits at Rome.
Plammoottil Cherian, a retired professor who
Catholic TV. https://www.catholic-television.com/letter-
received his education and PhD in Life sciences
st-francis-xavier-jesuits-rome-from-cochin-india/.
Accessed August 29, 2018. from Indiana State University with specialization in
2. Cherian, Plammoottil V. (2108). Origins of the Universe, microbiology, immunology, parasitology, and cell
Life and Species: New Perspectives from Science and biology has completed his new book, “ORIGINS OF
Theology. Covenant Books, USA. THE UNIVERSE, LIFE AND SPECIES”: a
propounding book about the unseen relationship
Dr. P. V. Cherian is a retired professor of
Life Sciences and a Scientist. From his between science and theology. Cherian shares,
fifty years of teaching and research in “Everyone knows the Genesis account of creation,
biomedical science, he is convinced that but not necessarily the systematic order and details
the complexities of life and of the universe in which they were created as well as the ecological
are too precisely tuned and designed and
that an unguided cosmic and biological
need for biodiversity to be created all at once for the
evolution cannot account for the origin of proper functioning and maintenance of ecosphere.
universe, life and species, but they are And throughout the Biblical Scriptures, there are
created by Divine Design. He has numerous passages that specify the creative work
provided numerous scientific evidences in
of the Supernatural Being whom we address as
his recent book, “Origins of the Universe,
Life and Species: New Perspectives from Science and God. Having studied basic theology, Darwin could
Theology” (2018) Covenant Books, USA. He is devoting his time not have completely forgotten the systematics of
writing books on Theology and Science, dispelling the theory of creation unless he ignored these numerous grand
evolution, proving God as the cause of everything in the references. During my academic career for the last
universe. He is the former Associate Secretary of the Diocese of
North America & Europe. He lives in Chicago, and is a member
fifty years, I was always tormented with the
of the Chicago Mar Thoma Church. opposing forces of evolution and creation and
contemplated whether scientific facts can
Book Release corroborate the claims of the Biblical theology of
God’s creative involvement in nature.” Darwin did
not have any evidence from the important branches
Plammoottil of science particularly genetics and molecular
Cherian’s new biology of genes which determine variation,
book, “ORIGINS adaptation and survival of each species in nature,
OF THE because these were not fully understood in 1859.
UNIVERSE, LIFE Published by Covenant Books of Murrells Inlet,
AND SPECIES” South Carolina, Plammoottil Cherian’s new book
is a profound employs knowledge from all fields of science from
discussion astrophysics to zoology in appreciating the essence
connecting and nature of God and his profound influence in
science and human life. This book presents astounding facts of
religion into one science deciphered since the past 500 years,
common thought. reinforced by biblical texts. It is an essential book for
anyone who is interested in the true facts of the
Summary of the origin of the universe, life, humanity and the
release: numerous species in the biosphere. Readers can
purchase “ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE, LIFE AND
Recent release SPECIES” at bookstores everywhere, or online at
“ORIGINS OF the Apple iTunes store, Amazon or Barnes and
THE UNIVERSE, Noble.
LIFE AND SPECIES” from Covenant Books author Note: Covenant Books, an international Christian
Plammoottil Cherian is a compelling discourse that owned and operated publishing house in Murrells
delves on the idea of God amid scientific discoveries Inlet, South Carolina and specializes in all genres of
proving otherwise. work, which appeal to the Christian market. For
additional information or media inquiries, contact
Covenant Books at their phone: 843-507-8373.

24 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

community to new responsibilities such as the preservation of
Book Review: creation, witness to Jesus Christ and service to society.” The
Dr. Zac Varghese, London mission of the Church is to become active participants in the
Mission of God, ‘Missio Dei’. Professor Hainsworth in his
preface to the book summarises elegantly what the book is all
“Mission and Liturgy: Contest, Convergence and
about: “The discussions had to do principally with the wedding
Congruence with Special Reference to the Malankara Mar
of two fundamentals of Christian life, Liturgy and Mission, or, if
Thoma Syrian Church” by Revd Dr. Jameson K. Pallikunnil,
you would, the meeting between community worship and
is published by ArthurHouse Publishers, UK, 2018, Pp. 205,
outgoing activity, the vertical of prayer igniting the horizontal of
£11.95. www.authourhouse.co.uk. ISBN 978 -1- 5462-9373-6
outreach and embrace.” Thus, this book gives deep reflections
on the mission and liturgy of the Mar Thoma Church and its
This is a much needed, invaluable book, for understanding the
intrinsic relationship.
intimate relationship between Liturgy and mission. This book
comes with an intuitive preface and recommendation by The Rt.
The book is divided into eight chapters: the first two chapters
Revd. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius. The Most Revd. Dr.
gives historical overview of the reformation of the Mar Thoma
Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan commented: “. . . the Mar
Church and how her Eucharistic Liturgy and its Bible-centred
Thoma Church has a growing relevance in rediscovering the
faith formulations, and missionary ethos evolved through its
quintessence of its spiritual life by re-reading its historic liturgy. .
interactions with East and West Syrian liturgical traditions, St.
.”
James Liturgy and the Bible-centred mission activities of the
Protestant traditions and the CMS mission. Chapter’s three to
The reformation of the ancient St. Thomas Church, the
Six of the book deal with the significance of the Liturgy in
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, in India, in the 19 century th

various cultural and geographical contexts. A detailed account


was mostly a liturgical reformation because the sacred, divine,
of the development of the diaspora communities and its
Liturgy is the centre of the life of the Church and its praxis. The
demands for liturgical modifications are also included. The
translation of the Eucharistic liturgical texts from Syriac to
seventh chapter describes how the Church keeps a balance
Malayalam was an important first step in encouraging active lay
between the Liturgy and Scripture in its life and mission. The
participation in the worship; instead of remaining observers, laity
final chapter has some proposals for liturgical revision and
became active participants in the Eucharist. Abraham Malpan’s
mission that are pertinent in the onward journey of the Church.
reformation has resonance with Cranmer’s concept of corporate
The author has tried to engage and instruct us about the
participation in worship by providing a liturgy of simple structure
concept on-going reformation which the Church needs to bring
in the language of the land. It was in 1549 that the Archbishop
about to enhance the experiential appreciation of the Liturgical
Cranmer published the first prayer book in English for the use of
life of the younger generations of the globalised Mar Thoma
both laity and clergy.
Church.
Liturgy touches all spheres of Christian life and spirituality
The book has a systematic analysis of how various challenges
deeply, and it is considered as the source and fount from which
were contested historically, how convergence developed
the spiritual energy for the mission springs out. Commitment to
gradually in the life of the Church and how congruence gives the
mission begins with the liturgical life of the members of the
Mar Thoma Church a significant place in its ecumenical
Church. However, often liturgical worship and mission are seen
relationships with other churches and for developing Eucharistic
as different aspects of the Christian life, but this book traces the
hospitality. Every statement in this book is referenced with
history and the development Church’s Liturgy, its rich
adequate footnotes and has an extensive bibliography, which is
theological understanding, and its commitment to mission in its
very helpful for further studies.
emerging multi-cultural contexts of a globalised Mar Thoma
Church of the 21 Century with its expanding diaspora
st

This book helps to appreciate that the sacred Liturgy of the Mar
communities.
Thoma Church––handed down to us by our Church Fathers and
continually reformed under the power of the Holy Spirit–– is not
Liturgy plays a vital part in the life of the Church. The regular
a mumbo jumbo of mantras; it has a sacred past and a living
worship gathers the faith community together. Liturgy keeps the
presence and has an amazing energy for moving us toward a
Church alive and dynamic. Liturgy is to be understood as a
blessed future of bringing God’s future to the present. The
practical process that gives the Christian life its purpose, shape
beauty of the intuitively modified St. James liturgy is the
and meaning in a given context. The Holy Communion is the
weaving of these various elements of Liturgy sensitively to give
central expression of the faith of the Church and remains as a
glory to God; giving glory to God in worship and mission is the
mark of one’s Christian identity. The liturgical celebration of the
role of the Liturgy; this helps us to experience the abiding
Eucharist strengthens the members in their relationship with
presence of God through the Eucharistic Liturgy in our daily
God and with one another. Thus, it creates a sacramental living
living or in other words, for practicing ‘the Liturgy after the
in the world. The Church, the faith-community, becomes a
Liturgy’. This is simply a way of accepting God’s gift of life,
witnessing community, carrying out an outreach ministry, which
thanking God, opening it or breaking it up for sharing it with
is her mission. Thus, the Eucharist and its Liturgy empowers the
others. This book is a rich tapestry of theological comments and
participants for the threefold mission of koinonia, kerygma, and
discussions on Liturgy and mission. I sincerely congratulate
diakonia. As stated by the author, “This book explores how the
Revd. Dr. P. K. Jameson and recommend this book. The
Church holds the scripture and Liturgy together in her spiritual
readers will certainly benefit much by reflecting on its rich
journey and mission.” This book gives emphasis to the fact that
insights. May it become a source of inspiration for further
“The Eucharist Liturgy affirms that the community gathered for
reflections and study.
worship must be dispersed for mission. It orients the believing

25 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

THE NEED FOR A NEW VISION IS REAL AND PRESSING - Part 1
Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum

In 1970 Thomas Kuhn’s landmark work, The Structure of context, the words and costume that go with it. None of these
Scientific Revolutions, appeared introducing the idea of has any necessary correlation to who or what they are.
paradigm shift. For the next quarter century theologians all over
the world -especially those frequenting Geneva- talked like The essence of hypocrisy, however, is not play-acting, but
parrots about paradigm-shift in theology. Soon it became clear violence. Play-acting is resorted to only for as long as it serves
that there was a world of difference between bringing about a the purpose of preventing the outbreak of the new. When
paradigm shift and talking leisurely about it. hypocrisy proves inadequate, violence is unleashed in all its
fury. In the Gospel this is symbolized as Crucifixion. What needs
As a rule, those who work towards, and effect, paradigm shifts to be recognized is that crucifixion is not a one-off event, but a
don’t talk about it. They may not even be aware that they are repetitive, irreducible pattern, of which the persecutions of
involving themselves in an epoch-making endeavour of that prophets are milder variants. Prophecy is the spiritual opposite
kind. Almost all of them in the past have simply followed a of hypocrisy.
vision, a sense of personal destiny, a pressure of responsibility
towards humankind. They aligned themselves to a flow of Jesus re-shaped history by effecting a paradigm shift. This was
history, which, as Hegel would say, was guided by something the very essence of his ministry. So, it seemed imperative to the
more than human. Or, in the idiom of the Bible, they simply custodians of the old order, sanctified by religion and tradition,
stayed fearlessly faithful. By the way, faith and fearlessness go to eradicate this flaming menace. They did it with all good
together; and is especially so in biblical history. So, when Jesus intentions. The crowd that screamed, “Crucify him!” was not an
sent his disciples out on their mission he told them, “Fear not . . unruly, insensate mob; but an army of the ‘faithful’. They
.” To fear is to be brittle and vulnerable in faith; as in the case of deserve our sympathetic understanding, if not indiscriminate
Peter, in Caiaphas’s courtyard. sympathy. Given the vision and mission of Caiaphas, and the
comprehensive control his establishment had over their lives
Let’s return to Kuhn. He observed that the need for a and outlook, the disposition of the crowd was a logical
paradigm-shift is indicated by the incapacity of the reigning necessity.
paradigm to account for emerging realities and challenges.
Contradictions multiply and threaten to break out of hand. Jesus Here I may point out, in passing that we have to be vigilant
lived in such a period of time. He looked around and found against the stereotypical misuse of biblical metaphors. I shall
everywhere a malady that, especially in the religious context, point out just one such as an illustration. It is offensive and
betokens the need for a paradigm shift: hypocrisy. objectionable on the part of a priest to think of a congregation
as ‘my sheep’. It is dangerous because most priests have lost
Readers of New Vision are familiar with the teachings of Jesus. the ability to understand symbols as symbols. They treat them
So, they would recognize that of all human follies the one that as literal facts. So, a congregation as someone’s sheep carries
invited maximum outright condemnation from Jesus was with it the idea that he can guide them as he wills and where he
hypocrisy. He was more tolerant of prostitutes than of likes. He doesn’t have to be in partnership with them or seek the
hypocrites. The reason is often overlooked. Prostitutes are the will of God for them. He doesn’t have to seek and find anything
victims of the existing paradigm, or scheme of things. at all. He knows it all, just because he happens to be the
Hypocrites are the enemies of the new paradigm that yearns to shepherd to this flock. It is difficult to exaggerate the extent of
be born. (St. Paul talks of the creation being in birth pangs.) harm befalling to the pastoral ministry from this state of affairs.
They are the shut doors, sealed under the authority of the status
quo -like the tomb of Jesus under the seal of Rome- against the What was the essence of the Jesus revolution? A good starting
urgently needed shift in perspective. The sin against the Holy point for seeking an answer is the ‘offence’ that Jesus was to
Spirit is hindering the birth of the new vision; for it is a crime the Judaic establishment (Mtt.11:1-5). The Pharisees and
against humanity as a whole. Sadducees were ‘offended’ at him, not because he was doing
anything wrong or evil -which would have been tolerated- but
To see, and accept, the logic for a shift in paradigm, it is because he ushered in something so new that they felt
necessary that the ills of the reigning paradigm are diagnosed, bewildered and endangered by it. What was that something so
as Jesus would say, ‘in spirit and in truth’. To that end, a few radically new?
words about (a) paradigm and (b) hypocrisy.
Remember that brilliant, unrivalled metaphor that Jesus used in
A paradigm is a central idea around which all other ideas and describing the Pharisees? Whited sepulcher! What is the power
possibilities -the diverse aspects of lived reality- are organized. of this metaphor? It is its incisive truth. And that truth pertains to
The idea that the earth stood still, or that the earth goes around the tyranny of the surface over the depth, the physical over the
the sun, are both paradigmatic ideas. Moving from the first to spiritual, the temporal over the eternal. The shell of the
the second is a paradigm-shift. The need for such a shift arose sepulcher is all matter. Inside, where in the case of living
because the realities that came to light over a period of time organisms, there should have been life, or the spirit, there is
could not be accounted for under the earth-centred scheme of nothing but putrefaction. We must understand this aright. So, a
things. Hypocrisy results from the parasites of the old paradigm few more words …
passing off as the priests and preachers of the new paradigm.
They are not what they seem. They are actors. For actors, only Life involves a mysterious relationship between matter and
three things count. The role they have to play in the given spirit, surface and depth. One cannot be, or remain life-friendly,

26 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

without the other. Matter is not superfluous or irrelevant; for that Rome. (There are always exceptions. I am reckoning general
too is a godly creation. Matter becomes problematic when it trends here.) They revel in the pomp and power the office
ceases to be what it is meant to be, and arrogates to itself a role affords. They ‘lord it over’ all the rest; which Jesus explicitly said
and power it is simply not entitled to. Matter, when it becomes they should not do. The pity is that they are not even aware of
autonomous from the authority of the spirit -the Spirit of Truth- the contradiction. They believe fervently that they will cease to
becomes shallow and oppressive of life. The condemnation of be bishops if they conduct themselves in practice as shepherds.
the whited sepulcher is not that it is white without, but that it is
hollow and dark within. If it were teeming with life, its external What do all these things point to? I am far from wanting to
whiteness would have been an embellishment. blame or condemn anyone. But I am obliged to be true to
history. Historically a great distortion befell Christendom with
The world is organized merely in terms of the material and the the conversion of Constantine in 4 century AD. Christianity
th

‘natural’ (which turns out, in course of time, to be unnatural for became a state religion. It was re-cast in the mould of the
that reason). That is why the world abounds in ornaments but is Empire. The officers of the church and the officers of the state
poor in symbolism. ‘Symbol’ denotes the co-existence of two became nearly identical. The King had his regal robes; the
realms -the spiritual and the natural. When Coleridge compares priests, theirs. Over the centuries, the aberration got worse.
the bride to a red rose, he is not merely referring to her physical Priestly and episcopal vestments came to symbolize an office in
beauty but also to the transcendence of her beauty, which its brutal, insensitive physicality and lost their spiritual aura. The
cannot be explained by any number of superlatives pertaining to sanctification of tyranny that happened in the form of the Papal
the physical aspect alone. The merely physical is best described Office -and, later, the institutionalization of extreme and
by direct description, not by symbols. A symbol stands with one diabolical cruelty in the form of the Inquisition which
leg planted in the physical and with the other poised over the exterminated nearly hundred thousand honest dissenters- were
spiritual. a natural outcome of this aberration.

In the spiritually wholesome period of a religion, which produces From my point of view, the bishops and priests are all unwitting
core religious symbols that survive the test of time, the external victims of this historical distortion. When Jesus said ‘you cannot
accessories and accouterments are mere symbols. That is to serve God and mammon’, he was pointing out a paradigmatic
say, they point to a reality that is beyond the physical aspects opposition. They denote irreconcilable opposites. The only way
they denote in mere appearance. Let me explain. they can be seemingly harmonized is through hypocrisy.

Take the vestments of a priest. His girdle is meant to symbolize Here is my experience of the church so far. Take it or leave it as
self-control. His white cassock symbolizes purity. And so on. you wish. But here it is.
During the spiritually wholesome phase of Christianity, they
were cherished as such by priests. If not by all priests, at least I haven’t seen or known many instances in which matters in the
by those who took their spiritual vocation seriously. But, over a life of the church -including the election of bishops- has been
period of time, priestly vestments became mere uniforms. Just truly guided by the Holy Spirit. I have heard the Holy Spirit
as the students of a school are identified by the uniforms they invoked a million times. But I have not experienced a single
wear -even if they don’t endorse the motto or culture of the instance -including my ordination- in which the Holy Spirit was
institution- the priests come to be identified with a religion by the guiding and decisive principle. If anyone else has, I am
their sacerdotal uniforms. There is no symbolic overtone to their happy for him and wish him well.
vestments in their self-awareness. They cease to be, in fact,
vestments and are deployed as identity-markers or status Again, I am not blaming anyone. Not even myself. I did not know
symbols. then. It took me over four decades to stumble towards what
seems to be the truth now. But, truth to tell, even today I am not
I have, in the recent years, ceased to don the priestly vestment cocksure if I have got the thing aright.
mainly as a test case. It is amazing how shocked and
disoriented my fellow priests are at seeing me without a The point I am making needs to be stated again. As St. Paul
cassock and girdle especially on a Sunday. It is the Sunday says, when it comes to spiritual things, we can only ‘know in
uniform, you see. I am not a priest, if I am not in priestly attire. part’. Now we see darkly, like in a mirror. It is this impossibility
My inner reality does not matter. It is essential that I be a whited of sure knowledge on the part of the common man, insofar as
sepulcher. Every imaginable merit depends on this, and on this he is spirit embedded in the natural and physical dimension of
alone. life, that keeps the doors open to make-believe and
institutionalized hypocrisy. It is this that makes extreme
Or, take the case of the bread and the wine. What do they vigilance -Jesus said, ‘watch and pray’- a spiritual duty. The
symbolize to the celebrant and the communicants? When I was godly relationship between the physical and the spiritual, the
in Bishop’s College, Calcutta (as it was then named), the natural and the super-natural, can be upset any time. Once the
sacrament used to be referred to by the seminarians as the physical gets mastery over the spiritual -as it indeed did in
‘magic’. But, the same persons, as they got into the Eucharistic Judaism at the time of Jesus- the symbolic aspect of a spiritual
celebration, and were in the designated costume, sustained a tradition withers away and what were once spiritual symbols
different make-believe. They seemed to radiate divine mysteries. become no more than religious signatures.

Take the case of bishops. A bishop is called the chief shepherd Editor’s Note: Part 2 of this article will be published in
of the flock. “Shepherd” is a symbol. It is a physical thing the January 2019 issue of FOCUS
pointing to a spiritual reality. Where is that spiritual reality
today? Bishops have modeled themselves after the Caesars of

27 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

PRIESTHOOD and MINISTRY: Are They Mutually Exclusive?
Revd Dr. Martin Alphonse, Portland, U. S. A.
Aaronic/Levitical priesthood, which made offering for Atonement
Difference in Perception: for Sin. Christ offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our
atonement. (Hebrews 7:22-28). Although, the salvific function of
The terms ‘Priesthood and Ministry’ have created a functional priesthood was perfected in Christ on the cross, He has still
dichotomy in the minds of many Christians who consider the commanded all of His children, both men and women, to carry
two terms as mutually exclusive. It is mainly due to some out some other functions of priesthood as a distinct, unique
specific functions priests are assigned to perform in the church. form of Christian ministry. This call of Christ to both Priesthood
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word priest as: “an and Ministry for all is embedded in the important biblical
ordained minister of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican Church, concept of Priesthood of All believers.
authorized to perform certain rites and administer certain
sacraments.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a Priesthood of All believers:
priest as “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion
especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God; One of the most vital teachings of reformer Martin Luther in the
specifically: an Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic 16 century was that both clergy and the laity are all consecrated
th

clergymen.” In traditional and mainline churches, these specific priests through Baptism, as Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 says,
priestly duties refer to the administration of the Sacraments of "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and
Baptism, Holy Communion, marriage etc. These functions Revelation 1:6: “(Jesus Christ) . . . has made us kingdom of
belong exclusively to the clergy, set apart by ordination, and priests to serve His God and father”; Revelation 5:10, "Through
being referred to as priest, minister, pastor, vicar, or presbyter your blood you have made us into priests and kings." Again as
and so on. Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:1: "No one should regard
us as anything else than ministers of Christ and dispensers of
While Priesthood is exclusive, ministry is inclusive in nature. It the mysteries of God." In fact, Luther’s arguments were also
can be and is being performed by both the ordained clergy and rooted in Exodus 19:6 where Yehovah spoke of ‘all’ Israel as
the un-ordained laity. There are a variety of ministries carried “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. The
out by both the clergy and the laity such as, Children’s Ministry, reformers enlightened the Church on certain important functions
Youth Ministry, Men and Women’s Ministry, Christian Social of priesthood, which are binding both on the clergy and the laity
Service of various kinds, missionary work etc. In fact, to perform.
priesthood is itself a form of Christian Ministry. Yet, the
functional exclusivism of priesthood as understood and a) Mediators/Reconcilers
practiced in many churches makes many Christians to think that
the two are mutually exclusive. Are they? The answer to this One of the exclusive functions of the priesthood, as pointed out
question depends on how one views the functions of priesthood by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is to be ‘a mediatory agent
as presented in the Bible. between humans and God’. This was the prime function of
priests in all the ancient pre-Israelite religions. Even in Israel, the
Functions of Priesthood: Aaronic priesthood was set apart by Yehovah to perform this
function. Most religions of the world today have assigned this
In the Old Testament, God set apart the tribe of Levi through mediatory responsibility to the priest. In the New Testament,
Aaron and his sons for sacred priesthood (Exodus 28) and gave Apostle Paul makes a strong case for the ministry of
instructions on the specific and exclusive functions the priests reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. Some might interpret it
were to perform. This was necessary at a time in the History of as though Paul has made the ministry of reconciliation as
Israel when all activities of the people, both spiritual and social, something, which belongs exclusively to the Apostles as
revolved around the pivot of worship of Yehovah in the Tent of “Ambassadors of Christ”, and through them to the Priestly
Meeting/Tabernacle/Ark of the Covenant to begin with, and Order of the church. However, the main objective of preaching
gloriously culminated in the Temple of Jerusalem. The priest the Gospel is to bring reconciliation between God and humans.
alone could enter into the presence of Yehovah in the most Holy It is not only for the priests to preach the Gospel. The laity is
place in the Tent or the Temple and make various kinds also called upon to preach the Gospel of Reconciliation to the
offerings to Him on behalf of the people. The most important world. In fact, the laity who preach the Gospel and thus function
offering was for Atonement for the forgiveness of sins. See as mediators between God and humans outnumber the clergy in
Leviticus 4:1-35; 2 Chronicles 29:21. most nations of the world.

In the New Testament, with the birth of the Church, Priesthood b) Intercessors
was given a new meaning altogether. Jesus Christ came for the
complete fulfillment of the priestly functions of the Old A main component of the act of mediation between two parties
Testament. He was prophetically described in Psalm 110:4 as is for the mediator to intercede on behalf of the weaker one to
the “priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” who had the stronger one. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are the chief
preceded the Aaronic priesthood and was honored by Abraham intercessors on our behalf before the Heavenly Father (Romans
himself (Genesis 14:18-20). 8:26-27; 34). What a glorious and powerful priestly function it is!
However, Christ has also commanded through the teachings of
In the New Testament, Christ had now become the fulfillment of His Apostles that all of His followers to be intercessors for the
both Melchizedek’s priesthood (Hebrews 6:20; 7:1-21) as the redemption of the world. Matthew 9:37-38 “The harvest is
Priest of the Most High God. Christ also fulfilled the plentiful but the workers are few. Ask (intercede) the Lord of the
28 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” break down. Most people feel safe in communities that subscribe to
Paul urged, in 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, that intercessory prayers should the same beliefs and norms and right or wrong cling to the same
be lifted up in the church for salvation of all the people including patterns of social behavior. Surely therefore the ultimate border is
kings and higher authorities of the land. the human skin: the wall between the inner and the outer self, which
is the border we can’t seem to get rid of. All spiritual quests have
Conclusion: been journeys of the mind to get through this final emotional
frontier, the fence of the self. Surely ‘independence’ is to control
While the clergy continue to perform certain priestly functions in strong personal prejudices and communicate meaningfully with
the church as ordained servant leaders, there are other priestly the other. Editor’s Note: * Mini Krishnan is Series Editor, Living
functions as shown above which both the clergy and the laity in Harmony, Oxford University Press, India.
are called upon to perform without any difference in their ranks.
While Priesthood may still be considered as an “exclusive”
Ministry for some, Priesthood of All Believers is an “extended”
Carmel Mar Thoma Center, Atlanta
Ministry for all the members of the Church.
The Diocese of North America and Europe purchased 41 acres
of property with 110,000 sq. foot facility including a 2,500
We and Us: Prejudice and Pride seating sanctuary at Stone Mountain in Atlanta, GA. The facility
Mini Krishnan* is named as ‘Carmel Mar Thoma Center’ and will be used as a
mission center for various mission activities of the Diocese. The
Writing this in the month, August 2018, which marks yet another purchase was possible due to the able leadership of Rt. Revd
year of our Independence, reminds us of physical borders that were Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa, who is the present
marked off in different parts of Asia and Africa in the last century. It Diocesan Bishop. Revd Manoj Idiculla is the Diocesan Secretary
gives us a chance to think about walls of different kinds in our and Prof. Philip Thomas, CPA is the Diocesan Treasurer.
physical world while the ‘www’ of Internet operates in ether. Natural
borders like the Himalaya have caused different kinds of linked
societies to develop over millennia but have man-made walls done
well? The Great Wall of China did not. Nor did the Berlin Wall!

Ever since the Stone Age people have lived in “trust”, groups of 15
or 20 with whom they hunted or traded; or with whom they had
children. Even a casual look at patterns of life in villages and small
towns shows us that this has not changed very much. Why?
Because people are by nature clannish and tribal. The reason large
groups of strangers (or any stranger at all) are viewed with suspicion
is because we immediately feel threatened with disruption or
wonder, which way things might go. Since it is a better policy to be
safe than sorry we “wall” off the stranger or strangers.

Paul Salopek, who undertook to follow the “Road out of Eden”


traveling from Africa on foot, outward into different parts of the
world, was recently in India where he found the borders between
India and Pakistan utterly artificial. True there were Hindus amongst
Muslims on one side and Muslims among Hindus on the other, but
“People on both sides are Punjabis. They grow the same crops, like
the same music, eat the same foods and dress similarly.” Salopek
also dwelt at some length on the sociology of walls and borders
saying that if you traveled at great speed over geographic terrain in
a car or train or plane you never really come into contact with
people except in artificial environments like airports.

As Salopek travels from country to country, culture-to-culture, he


finds people to be pretty much the same. “I don’t see colour or
language any more. Whether it is a Bedouin nomad in Saudi Arabia,
a photojournalist from Turkey or a brilliant scientist in Georgia, they
all talk about the same things — family, jobs, governments, climate
change, about what they have or don’t have. Worries are the same;
so are their hopes. “Geographical borders are fluid; they might
change with war, policies or famines but the border that divides our
inner and outer selves is the ultimate border that should really
concern us. They are walls of prejudice, of ignorance, of fear and
worst of all pride in being all of these things. They give us a false
sense of security and safety.

Possibly because the world seems to be shrinking with electronic


communication creating a borderless world, the walls in the mind
are gaining strength. Do we still surround ourselves with fences and
walls? Of course we do and the invisible ones are the hardest to

29 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

Three Amazing Silver Jubilarians of the Mar Thoma Church
dates three bright young priests of the Church – Revd Joseph
Jacob, Revd Thomas George and Revd Dr. A. I. Isaac –
responded to a ‘Divine call’ and became Rambans and
Episcopas after their consecration by His Grace Most Revd
Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan. Revd Joseph Jacob
received the name Rt. Revd Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa,
Revd Thomas George became Rt. Revd Thomas Mar Timotheos
Episcopa and Revd Dr. A. I. Isaac received the name Rt. Revd
Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa. Therefore, the Church is
thanking God for the ministries of these three talented bishops
and celebrating their Silver jubilee. FOCUS Movement is
particularly grateful for the blessings that they have showered
upon this Movement over the years and we offer our thanks to
them for all that they have done and continue to do in various
Dioceses of the Church and for the Ecumenical Movement.

Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa –


Thiruvananthapuram – Kollam Diocese

Rt. Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa –


Diocese of North America and Europe

These three bishops have identifiable unique servant ministries


for glorifying God’s name and His Mission. They specially take
note of the noble traditions of the Church. Their sweet and
pleasant behaviour coupled with simple lifestyles make their
personality and ministries very noble and exemplary. They have
their own special signatory commitments and ministries for
helping the needy and vulnerable people irrespective of caste,
creed and gender. They exhibit all the necessary grace-filled
streams of thought to develop spiritual fervour in the people
through personal relationship and dialogue. We are a blessed
Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Timotheos Episcopa – people because of the blessings they shower upon us. We pray
Chengannur – Mavelikara Diocese for their health and wellbeing for their continued ministry for the
spiritual growth of everyone under their stewardship.
August 31, 1993 and October 2, 1993 are important dates in the The Editorial Board
annals of the history of the Mar Thoma Church. On the above
30 | P a g e F O C U S O c t o b e r 2 0 1 8