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FOCUS January 2014 Vol.

2 No: 1

Community of Broken and Beloved - Dr. John Thatamanil, New York - Page 14

Cover Photo Lal Varghese, Esq.

A Publication of Diaspora FOCUS

Contents

Editorial - Page 3 Church - People Journeying with Jesus Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas - Page 17

Metropolitan!s Message - Page 5

Abraham Mar Thoma - Page 20

Everyday Theology Part II - Dr. Zac Varghese, London - Page 8 Thomas Mar Athanasius - Page 21

Pearls of Wisdom - Dr. Zac Varghese, London Page 10

Jesus Prayer - Fr. Thomas Punnapadam, Kerala - Page 22

Sacramentality of Creation - Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam - Page 11

New Diocese of Mar Thoma Church - Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas - Page 25

Editorial
Ask anyone what they remember what their education, and chances are they will tell you about their most memorable teachers and relationships. Ask them about their favorite subject was and you will often find their favorite teacher taught it. If we liked and loved a teacher, we were far more likely to follow what they had to teach; you begin to work hard to please the teacher out of love and respect. It is in relationship true learning takes place. This is also true of parents and spiritual guides. Gurus of ancient Indian tradition maintained a lifelong interest in their students; students in turn had gratitude and adoration for their teachers. There used to be an understanding that learning takes place in the interaction between people. Such learning was more than information gathering. This intimacy is not there in the cyberspace and IT-based studies. Thus, true learning is just not an individual activity, it happens in the family and communities. This is also true of spiritual guides. This learning is reinforced and enriched by the discussion we have and questions we ask. Certain things are pointed out to us, and we are often challenged in certain things that we tend to take for granted. Boarding Schools and University hostels provide an education, which homebound students miss; this is now quite evident in some communities. Much of the essential learning for life takes place as young people spend time together, understanding real friendship, relationship, sharing, and discovering identity. Now a day, young people get a lousy press, being portrayed as irresponsible and needing to be kept under strict control by Sunday school teachers and youth chaplains. Our community has outsourced the responsibility to other agencies as parents get on with their lives. Education is commonly seen as a commodity that can be purchased; parents place an order for certain defined outcomes for their children. Forcing children to do what they do not want to be not appreciating the real potentials of children, and not making an effort to know them through the grace of God. This image hides the fact many teenagers are serious people who flower when they are given responsibility and a chance to figure things out for themselves. In the October issue of this journal, Lal Varghese, Esq., in his article titled Religious Nones of Mar Thoma Church explained in detail with a sample survey on how and why the second and the third generation Mar Thoma Christians in the Diaspora leaving our parishes to find fresh expressions of faith elsewhere. It is essential to study all aspect of this, and engage this section of the community to come up with their own answers. If we give them the freedom and opportunity, they will come up with a solution to solve this issue once for all. This needs listening to them and ability to see things and read signs and symptoms. We should ask young people to run our parishes, the idea of giving one third representation in the committee structures of the North American and Europe Diocese is an excellent beginning in this direction. Local parishes should become a !Kalari, Pallikudam or educational sanctuary" for the total learning experience for our youngsters; they should be able to speak in an atmosphere of mutual affection and respect; a climate of awareness and presence should be established. This would help to develop much needed awareness that one!s own actions and that they might have on others. In reality, there is just one open movement of learning, where the subject matter is science, literature, history, art or religion, for finding out how to relate to each other, with discovering who we are and how we want to live in this planet as responsible citizens and children of God. We need to learn to live in the present before trying to escape to the future. Old spiritual classics indicate an association of wisdom with old age, but this is not true of today!s culture. It seems that the young no longer seek the advice of the old. If young people want wisdom, it seems they will find it for themselves in search engines. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Much of the highly skilled jobs in today!s rapidly advancing culture are based on information and communication technology. This is now under the domain of the young as they have trained to use the latest generation of software. Now children are outpacing and overtaking adults on technology tracks. There also has been a massive shift in family life; break down of the family life is causing instability in children!s lives. If elders in parishes are merely concerned with preserving a church that is relevant to them, then they disregard a biblical focus on passing on the faith. If younger generations struggle to relate to the old style of worship or preaching, then we need to have the humility to realize that this is either as a result of the dominant culture that we have created for ourselves or of the lack of opportunities that we have provided for young people for their fresh expressions. The young people also need to wake up and demand their space in our parishes and become "creatively militant! in achieving their objectives for their generation; do not wait for others to come to the rescue and prevent the exodus. Running away and looking for greener pastures elsewhere are not the answer. We should get rid of the attitude of "me and mine! for the good of the many. We must begin our work now to stop "un-churching the churched young generation.! They are mostly "un-churched! when they leave from the protective environment of home to university campuses. Let us not hide our heads under the sand and say the problem does not exist, it is indeed there. I remember highlighting this problem at a Diocesan Council meeting at Toronto in 2003; I was then told that I am imagining it. "Don!t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an

example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1Timothy4: 12). When it comes to a life centered on following Christ, parishes should have pastoral care teams (PCTs) with laity and priests to guide infants in faith. What matters most are finding suitable people with an infectious fervor for God irrespective of social, gender and age-based divisions? We need people to build bridges to create a cohesive community; we also need a covenant between generations. We need to be aware that different generations have different expectations when it comes to teaching, mission and worship. The recent advice from Pope Francis is worth remembering, Please continue to accompany them (young people) with generosity and joy, help them to actively engaged in the church; never let them feel alone! They are so creative, so audacious. Carry on, do not be afraid. Let us carry a burden about them, carry them in our prayers and make them more visible in our parishes and communities; they are our future. In 2014, the Mar Thoma Diaspora communities have three important events to thank God for: this year our Church will be celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan, celebrating 100th year since Abraham Mar Thoma, the first Marthomite completed higher studies from Wycliffe College, Toronto (1912-1914), and the Silver Jubilee of the Episcopal consecration of Bishops Geevarghese Mar Athanasius, Geevarghese Mar Theodosius and Euyakim Mar Coorilos (Dec. 9, 1989). Abraham Mar Thoma was known for his burning passion for evangelism, for his zeal for spreading the Gospel through the length and breadth of India. Thomas Thirumeni had a pedagogical mission of enriching the life of others through caring and mentoring; and his memory and influences are still with us and we should emulate him in loving our Church, honoring our heritage and traditions. Mar Theodosius has dedicated his life for God!s mission through his many efforts over the last twenty-five years including "Churching the Diaspora,!1 influencing the enforcement of discipline, and discipleship in family life. Let us offer our thanks prayers for Theodosius Thirumeni for his health and caring ministry. His ministry is indeed a blessing for our worldwide Diaspora communities and may it help us to become a blessing for others. The year that is passing by, 2013 is the birth centenary of our most beloved Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan. Somehow, as a Church we forgot to remember the birth centenary of this saintly Bishop. It was Alexander Thirumeni who encouraged, prayed, and blessed the formation of the FOCUS movement in the late nineties. Let us thank God for the ministry of this great servant of God. This organization will always honor him and carry him in its memory; he was indeed a prophet, teacher,

friend and a spiritual father. His life was a letter of Christ to the world. Such people are important reference points for us to emulate. It is gratifying to note that more than 225,000 people visited the October edition of the journal and we thank all of you for your help and co-operation; pray for this initiative and keep sending the URL of this journal, http://issuu.com/diasporafocus, to all your friends. Let us live in the spirit of Christmas and prepare for the forthcoming Lent. We wish you a very happy New Year.
1. Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius, !Churching the Diaspora, Disciplining the Families" CSS, Thiruvalla, 2013. Disclaimer: Diaspora FOCUS is a non-profit organization registered in United States, formed in late nineties for Diaspora Marthomites. It is an independent lay movement of the Diaspora laity of the Mar Thoma Church; and as such Focus is not an official publication of the Mar Thoma Church. Opinions expressed in any article or statement are of the individuals and is not be deemed as an endorsement of the view expressed therein by Diaspora FOCUS. Thanks. Contact: www.facebook.com/groups/mtfocus, E-Mail: mtfocusgroup@gmail.com,

http://issuu.com/diasporafocus

FOCUS wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Synopsis of Metropolitan!s Pastoral Letters in the "Sabha Tharaka! October, November & December 2013
October: Metropolitan Thirumeni begins his letter by mentioning the terrorist attack in All Saint!s Church at Peshawar during a devotional Sunday worship in September, resulting in the death of over 80 innocent worshippers. Suicide- bombers do this to become martyrs on the misguided notion of a holy war against the infidels and hoping to receive the just reward in heaven. Religion-inspired terrorism is beginning to emerge in other east-Asian countries. Some groups are trying to infiltrate and propagate religious extremism and violence in north India; it is to the credit of north Indians that such agitators are not succeeding; he is confident that the people of north India will reject such propaganda and violence. He rebukes militant forms of religions and terrorists; he hopes that they would not engage in planting such antisocial ideas in the minds of people. Thirumeni asks us to visualize the highest ideals of "Onam festival" in achieving brotherhood of man, equality, justice and prosperity for all. Martin Luther King Junior used the nonviolent principles of Gandhiji for eradicating injustices and th sufferings of Afro-Americans. It is the 50 Anniversary of his "I have a dream! speech in Washington, which set out his hope for his people and it was a decisive time for the civil right movement. He would not have fought white supremacy without a sense of manifest injustices that could be overcome. His dream is becoming a reality through the presidency of Obama. Such visionaries transform the world and rewrite the history according to God!s design and delegation. Thirumeni mentions how our church benefitted from the fortitude and vision of Kovoor Achen. However, he reminds us that we have also lost many opportunities in later years in not having a long-term vision. Thirumeni then gives an account of the Mandalam proceedings, which took place in September. Thirumeni strongly reprimands people who circulate false statements about the Mandalam proceedings and regularly make the smooth functioning of this democratic institution difficult. He comments on the Mandalam study booklet, "Justice and Peace towards the Fullness of Life;! this is related to the theme of the WCC general assembly in Busan - "God of life, Lead us to Justice and Peace;! the theme in Brazil was "God in your Grace, Transform the World.! Younger generation has a justifiable concern about the on-going ecological destruction of the world; they worry whether the life on the earth would be feasible in few years! time. Are we leaving a nonviable world for them? Intergenerational equity and justice are needed; justice and peace are mutually reinforcing realities. The Old Testament paints the constant struggles of Israel!s relationship with God and its effects on creation. The world is interdependent and relational because it was created by a relational God. We should recognize that each creature has an innate dignity and freedom to live. We should be living in a way that leaves enough resources for future generations and other species. Thirumeni gives us confidence about his improving health and wellbeing. He shares sadness of the death of Paulos Thirumeni!s mother at the age of 91. He also thanks God for the ministry of late Rev. Joseph Abraham. He congratulated Miss Shoba on her appointment as the president of the All India Mahila Congress, and another Marthomite, Justice P.C. Koshy, for his elevation as a high court Judge in Madhya Pradesh, India. Thirumeni tells us that we are coming to the end of the liturgical calendar. Salvation is a gift from God. There are different understanding about salvation among Christians and people of other faiths. However, our understanding of salvation in and through Christ is abundantly clear (John 14:9). It is through Jesus Christ we see the Father. Thirumeni relates following stories to give emphasis of our foundation in Christ: 1) Jesus! confrontation with Zaccheus (Luke 19: 110); 2) The story of Peter jumping out the boat to imitate Jesus Christ (Matt 14:22-32)); 3) attitude of Martha and Mary at the death of Lazarus as opposed to that of the Centurion on healing his servant (John 11: 1-40; Matt 8: 5-13); Jesus continues to call us by our names as he had done with Lazarus at his tomb, Paul on the Tarsus road and others. Thirumeni exhorts us to walk with God and use our Godgiven talents for the welfare and the common good of the society. We should be prepared to swim against the tide in a th certain situation for becoming partners of God!s mission. 27 October is a Sunday for the rededication of our families for this task; it is good to remember the words of Joshua, But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24: 15). November: Thirumeni expressed his relief over the recent emerging possibilities of reducing tension in Syria, on the boarders of Pakistan, and between other countries. He was also expressed a degree of satisfaction in the emerging trends in solving some of the financial problems and recessionary tensions confronting America and other countries. He also alluded to the difficulties facing members of the two major denominations in Kerala following a recent High Court Judgment. He hoped that the people and the leadership of both groups would be able to solve these age old- issues with a longing for justice and conciliation under the divine grace. He also reviewed some domestic political issues regarding the uprooting and resettlement of large number people and traditional communities; he hoped the human rights of such people would be valued and respected in making such political decisions. He congratulated people over the Navathy celebrations of Valakam School and the Boy!s Home at Punaloor. He also

mentioned the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Kuwait Mar Thoma community. Thirumeni expressed his happiness over the emerging interest over the restarting of the Gulf region youth conference. He hoped that our people would over difficulties in organizing such conferences in that region and build on it. Thirumeni informed the formation of a new Diocese at Kottarakkara and he hoped that other Dioceses would also be formed in the near future after going through the due process of consultation. Thirumeni indicated certain issues emerging over the religious freedom enshrined in the Indian constitution and certain restriction over the free movement and assembly of people across the state boundaries and regions of eh country. Thirumeni then wrote about the forth coming WCC general assembly and our increased representation based on the recognition of our church as a Mar Thoma Family or Mar Thoma Communion. This is indeed a very big achievement and this helped to have representation from, India, America and Canada, Europe and Africa, Gulf, Malaysia-SingaporeAustralia. The recognition of six members of the Mar Thoma Family is a very significant moment. Thirumeni congratulated th Thozhiyur Valiya Metropolitan on this 60 Birthday anniversary. He indicates the happening of two important events in November: firstly 1oth November is the anniversary of the unity day remembrance with CSI and CNI; in addition to this, the formation of the CNI was also in November. Secondly, All India Sunday School Association (AISSA) was also created in November, twenty-two years ago. Rev. Dr. Iype Joseph is invited to present a paper on "Church!s Advocacy on Children! at the 10the WCC General Assembly. rd We also celebrate the "World Sunday School Day! on 3 November. November is also a time that we remember a number of events in the liturgical calendar such as All Saints! Day, Sanctification of the church, and the renewal and the festival unity of churches. The Annunciations to Zechariah and to Virgin Mary are important themes for mediation in November, and pointers for us to understand the salvation plan and rescue mission of God to lead us from darkness to light and show us the path to heavenly peace (Luke 1: 78-79). St. Andrews chance encounter with Jesus made him realize he was the Messiah and brought his brother Peter to Jesus. This encounter and relationship with Jesus is at the heart of discipleship. St. Andrew!s life was a model of discipleship of bringing others to Jesus without outlandish claims and hunger for fame and popularity. Thirumeni asked us to provide opportunities that allow others to have and encounter with Jesus following St. Andrew!s model, which may lead to discipleship. Thirumeni concluded his letter by quoting Micah 6:8, And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God. December: Thirumeni wrote this letter from New York, and begun by quoting from Zechariah!s song (Luke 1:78, 79). In the Advent season the Church and the world is waiting and preparing in expectation for light to dispel darkness. When we look back we see how the forces of darkness collectively and progressively enforcing disorderly behavior on every aspect of life. When India is facing a general election, instead of highlighting on the achievements, commentators are concentrating on debates relating to topics unsuitable for

progressive development of the country. Thirumeni compares this to Swami Vivekananda!s comment, Kerala is lunatic asylum. He asks us to mediate on Zechariah!s song in the current context of debates on parent-child relationships and gender-related issues; these are crossing the boundaries of common decency. Is this a reflection of the frozen or paralyzed state of the consciousness of Kerala? He appreciates the scientific progress in India!s space exploration and hope that the recent Mars probe would be a success. At the same time, he reminds us of our ecological stewardship and responsibilities too. He asks people to study some of the recent judicial reports and move away from greed, self-interests, and all sorts of destructive tendencies; he appeals for the preservation and strengthening of democratic values and institutions of the country. th Thirumeni gives a detailed report of the 10 WCC General Assembly at Busan, which Thirumeni attended with Zacharias Thirumeni, Philoxenos Thirumeni and 14 other representatives. Mar Thoma Church now has increased representation because it is now considered as a "Confessional Family.! Philoxenos Thirumeni is congratulated for being re-elected to the central committee. This time our church was represented by a number of young people as well. There have been some commendable developments on ecological and environmental issues in the central Travancore, and as a result a 10 KM tributary would be constructed for the Pampa River; there is also an effort to clean up the Vattar River. He encourages our people to avoid polluting rivers and help to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of these natural resources. Thirumeni wants people to contribute to the "Corpus Fund! to reach the target of Rupees 5 Corers by January. An appeal is also being made for the much needed rebuilding of the "Poolatheen Complex!, Metropolitan!s Residence. He indicated that Thiruvalla Mar Thoma College has applied for an autonomous status. Thirumeni gives a detailed warning about a recent tendency of appealing for money on the pretext of cancer, other kinds of illness and personal tragedies. He gives a case study of a woman pretending to be cancer patient and collecting money from our parishes. Thirumeni concludes the letter with a reflection on the "Feast of Nativity! based on 2 Cor. 8:9; Luke 9:58 and Heb. 5:7-9. Thirumeni asks us to think, why did Jesus come to this World? We see the reality of sanctified poverty in Jesus Christ. When we look around we see our attitudes towards poverty is pitiable; our dealings with innocent people indicates a cultural and moral vacuum; we are greedy in thinking of attaining abundance and sufficiency through unholy alliances without thinking of a God who controls history. It is by Jesus! poverty that He has enriched us. He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Thirumeni prays for all of us for the grace of God to enable us to stand before Him without guilt on His glorious day of incarnation and in the New Year. The New Year is important for India in electing a future government and for the church for electing members of the Mandalam. Thirumeni offers New Year blessings to everyone. Compiled by Dr. Zac Varghese, London.

Everyday Theology: Part-II*


Dr. Zac Varghese, London [Abstract: A theology that is immediately relevant is everyday theology and it is entirely up to us to write this theology by living out our faith through the grace of God. If we pick up words from the Bible or other sacred books as a safety net or password for access to a currently fashionable mind-set and do not use it in everyday situations of hustle and bustle of life, then we are like the stupid architect who built his house on the sandy beach; when storms rolled in, and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards. (Matt. 7: 26-27)] Theology in its simplest sense is a "talk about God;! it connects the biblical facts together to expand our vision of God. What is everyday theology? It is walking the talk about God; it is taking the incidences of everyday living and relating it to the manifestations of God in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives. It is about loving God and realizing His love in our lives and the lives of our neighbors. It is testifying with confidence that His grace is sufficient for us in all circumstance of living and all seasons of our lives. Then we begin to experience the presence of God in the highs and lows in our lives, in the rise and fall of the sun, in the waxing and waning moon, and in the rise and fall of the wind. All these are opportunities to feel a purpose for our pulsating lives, our neighbors and the created order. The creator and coordinator of this incomprehensible mystery is our God; everyday theology helps us to experience this mystery in our living. Even Jesus himself was amazed at the power of this authentic everyday theology. Jesus turned to the crowd following Him and said, I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel (Luke 7: 1-10). The Roman centurion!s servant was sick and about to die. However, the centurion was totally prepared to leap over his constrained faith and cultural barriers to reach out to Jesus for saving the life of the servant he valued highly. The centurion took a familiar everyday experience and made an amazing faith-connection and confession: Say the word, and my servant will be healed. For me, I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, "Go! and he goes; and that one "Come!, and he comes. I say to my servant, "Do this!, and he does it. It is in everyday ordinary events that we experience the love, the power and the authority of Jesus. How do we appreciate this everyday theology? This can be illustrated through the story of the hermit who, lived in a cave on a hill above a Celtic Village. He was well known for his wisdom and understanding. Many people came to him for help and counseling. But two village boys wanted to play a practical joke on him to tease him. They decided to shout for him from outside the cave, one of them hiding a small living bird in the palm behind his back, and asking the question: Father, is this bird in my hand live or dead? If he said it was dead, the boy would open his hand and let it fly. But if he said it was alive, the boy would cruelly crush and kill it for the sadistic pleasure of proving that the old hermit was a fool. With this carefully constructed plot, they climbed the hill and called on the hermit. Father, said one lad, I have a small bird in my hand, you are wise, could you kindly tell us whether it is dead or alive? There was a long silence; the old man fixed his gaze on them and exploded into laughter and said: Well, boys - it all depends on you! Only theology that is relevant is everyday theology, and it is entirely up to us to write this theology by living out our faith through the grace of God. If we pick up words from the bible or other sacred books as a safety net or as a password for access to a mind-set and do not use it in everyday situations of hustle and bustle of life, then we are like the stupid architect who built his house on the sandy beach; when storms rolled in, and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards (Matt. 7: 26-27). Centers of learning, perhaps, provide shortcuts to understanding God to some extent; they have study guides and formulas, diplomas and degrees for a successful life that can be obtained in our spare time. Religious life is not a spare time activity or a hobby of a kind. An everyday theology should help us to keep away from false teachers who smile a lot, masking insincerity; these people are out there to rip us off some way or the other. A real teacher will never exploit our emotions or our checkbooks. The words of Jesus during his Galilean ministry are foundational words, words on which to build a life. Galileans were surprised at Jesus! teachings because he was living everything that he was saying, quite contrast of their accredited religious teachers of the day. This was the best simple teaching they had ever heard; His words are life-giving words, healing words. If we use these words in writing an everyday theology for living, then we will be like the smart architect who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, river flooded, a gale hit- but nothing moved that house because it was built on a sure foundation. The way to living, living with God, requires total attention and commitment. This we know from the living testimony of people who tasted life with God and said: And for we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The only life that is worth living is a life in communion with God, it is an unbelievable inheritance! Any religious thought, no matter where it comes from, should be threaded; and every thought, no matter who said it should be set in the context of others with the silk thread of love and reverence to feel the beauty of creation and enjoy the bliss of the union of the creature and the creator. These pearls of wisdom were part of a necklace of humanity once, or intended to be part of one, threaded with a very strong silk thread of love. Someone, somewhere, somehow broke the string and the pearls were shattered and lost or misplaced; we need to find the pieces and the silk thread to recreate the string of pearls. Unfortunately, these pearls have become private collectors! pieces and they do not belong to ordinary people any more, they have become museum collections. These museums are our religions and its curators are priests and religious leaders. Nevertheless, if we have a tiniest fraction of the sensitivity of Jesus we may see divine truth being revealed in the chatter of children or in the conversations of simple people during their everyday activities, or in the unmolested beauty of the nature. But there is a thread connecting all these people and events, the beauty of living is in finding the thread, the silk thread of love. It is the thread needed to weave the fabric of life with an everyday theology.

We must be alive for reasons other than procreation, productivity and consumption. We should be able to become alive in ourselves when we see a beautiful flower, hear a melodious song, witness a beautiful human activity or simply experience a moment of divine grace. It requires courage and humility to say: I am a spoiled child of God as God has given me most of things I have asked and many more things which I did not ask for. But we have lost our innocence. Most unexpected thing can happen from one minute to the next, but that uncertainty is also lost because of our trust in a plastic credit card. We are bewitched by the false god of glamour and a fake promise of advertising. In our obsession for instant success, we neglect the fact that best things are discovered slowly. Slow aging and maturing are essential to bring out the fullness of a classic, vintage wine. Spirituality is a slow journey; instead we are offered package spiritual holidays with guides and tours devoid of silence, beauty and meaning. It was Blaise th Pascal, in the 17 century, who said that all human difficulty derives from the inability to sit quietly in a room. If we trust our need for silence, stillness and solitude we will find where we need to go. We need to find great shelters of belonging in this journey. We need to reclaim our right to our faith traditions from the frightened functionaries who create exclusive gatedcommunities and guard their gates so jealously. Institutionalized religions have covered up most of the innate, spontaneous and dynamic experiences that can be enjoyed in belonging to faith communities. In its place, we are given neatly packaged prescriptions and repeat prescriptions of a kind, which will bring artificial stability, and instant release of pressure and anxieties. The worshipping place, temple, or church is a place now we hear "you must, you shouldn!t, you can!t!, but it should be a place where we experience the beauty of a conversation with our maker. Religion, which is composed of rules and regulations, of moral codes, external rites and statutory religious duties, is as chilling as the bureaucracy and red tape that surround it. As religious pilgrims, let us hope that our parishes may become places where we find meaning of life in difficult times. If our marriage is going bad, our kids are on dope, our work is unsatisfactory, we!re lonely, we!re getting old, we!re unhappy, may be the place not to go to is the gambling house or the house of pleasure or a department store of instant spirituality. The place to go to is the local church or a community of believers; just go in even if we!ve lost our faith in the church and the God they portray. Let us go in for the fellowship because we need to belong, we may find peace and we may be even in for a miracle of finding that we may be helping to put together an everyday theology. This world of everyday theology is the arena of God!s creative involvement and love, and once you have entered that fellowship there is no turning back. There are only two rules for this journey, love for God and neighbor, but in everyday theology they are both one. The New Delhi assembly of WCC stated: The real letter written to the world today does not consists of words. We Christian people, wherever we are, are a letter from Christ to the world. Relationships are important; we do not grow in our own spirituality apart from others. An old adage tells us that a "solitary Christian is no Christian.! How can we speak or write to others about God if we are broken in our relationships? What one puts into a relationship is more valuable than that what one expects to get out of it. St. Paul in Romans 12 speaks about the style of personal relationship within the

Christian community. Paul!s emphasis has been that the Gospel of grace should inform and mould our relationship with others. God!s gracious relationship with us is both a paradigm and a resource for our relationship with one another. Let me end this discourse on everyday theology with an old legend. This I hope will help us to see the need for repentance and rededication to build the world-wide Mar Thoma Church; it will help us to see opportunities in places where God has placed us to build His Kingdom. Once there were two monks who went in search of a very special door at the end of the earth, which opened to a place where heaven and earth met. They started their pilgrimage in search of this door, they travelled all over the world, encountered difficulties beyond imagination, suffered all privations that such a journey around the world demands. Finally, they found the special door in a very special place and they were hoping to find God inside. With trepidations and trembling hearts they knocked at the door and watched it slowly open. But when they went inside with anticipation they immediately realized they are standing inside their own monastery from where they started their pilgrimage many years ago. Then they began to understand that the place where heaven earth meets is to be found in everyday lives, in the place where God has placed them to be. The second and third generation Mar Thoma Christians in various Diaspora communities in their pursuit for fulfillment should understand this story. Ordinary Christian folks and faith communities need to understand the very simple fact that we are the only Bible that people out there read. Doors are symbols, icons, for so many events in our life. Doors can divide and they can open to create relationships. The risen Christ passed through locked doors to see his frightened disciples. This changed everything, their anxiety disappeared. The Lord said to them: As the Father sent me, so I send you (John 20:21). These Apostles were not comfortable functionaries in an affluent Church, they were restless men, who did not spare themselves, but expended their strength in the service of the marginalized, poorest and most abused people in the communities. That is what everyday theology is all about. Our primary vocation is to implement Jesus! love and compassion; we can only fulfill that vocation by applying an everyday theology in places where we live, where we work and where we spend our leisure. Let us repent and rededicate ourselves for this task. * Part-1 of this article appeared in the October 2013 issue of the FOCUS (Vol.1 No. 3)

Editor"s Note: Dr. Zac Varghese, London, was the director of Renal and Transplantation Immunology Research of Royal Free Hospital and Medical School, London. He has co-authored Medical textbooks and published extensively on Transplantation, Nephrology, Inflammation, and lipid-mediated vascular injury. He is an Emeritus Professor and supervisor for doctoral studies even after his retirement.

Pearls of Wisdom from Down the Ages-3


[Abstract: St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is one of the most important church fathers. He contributed much to the development of the theology of Trinity and his works include: !the city of God" and !confessions." The following is a beautiful discourse on the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, and it is part of a reading from his commentary on Psalms 85.*] Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. God could not possibly have done more for men than to offer them as their Head the word by which he had created all things, and to make them the members governed by that Head. By this gift he who was Son of God would also become son of man, one with Father in his divinity and at the same time one with mankind in their humanity. When we speak to God in prayer, therefore, we do not separate the son from the Father, and when prayer is offered by the body of the son, the body does not regard its Head separated from itself. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is one in himself, the savior of his own body. He prays for us and in us, even though we pray to him as well. He prays for us as our High Priest; as our Head he prays as part of us; and as our God we pray to him. This we should recognize our voice in his voice and his in ours. And when, especially in the prophesies concerning him, we hear something said of the Lord Jesus Christ that attributes to him some quality of lowliness incompatible with God!s majesty, we must not hesitate to understand it of one who, for his part, showed no hesitation in becoming one of us. He is able to use all created things to serve his ends, since all are of his making. We are assured of his glorious divinity each time we hear the words: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God; the word was God. He was with God from the beginning. All things were made by him, and without him were created nothing. In words like these we are made aware of the divinity of the son of God, of his sublimity and transcendence, of his immense superiority over all created things however marvelous; yet in other parts of Scripture the same son is portrayed as sorrowing, praying, and crying out in agony. And, it may be, we are tempted to avoid applying such passages to him, because our thoughts, raised up high by the contemplation of his divine majesty, are reluctant to come down to earth to consider the lowliness of his humanity. It seems almost an insult to apply such texts to him as a man, before him as God we But let us rouse ourselves and open our eyes to the light of faith. Then we shall see clearly how he not long before appeared as God has now assumed semblance of a slave; he has taken to himself a human form and now behaves in every way as man; he humbled himself, even going to the length of submitting himself to death. And while hanging on the cross he went still further and made his own Psalmist!s words: "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" As God, then, he receives our prayers, as simple man he offers prayers himself. On the one hand he is the creator, on the other he has become a creature; without any change or alteration in his divinity, he had adapted to himself our changeable creature-hood, and as he gathered us up into himself, to become with him one single man, head and body. Thus we pray to him, through him and in him; our voice is heard along with his and his with ours. Jesus Christ prays for us, he prays in us and he prays to us. *A Word in Season edited by H. Ashworth, 1974; The Talbot Press, Dublin page 249-250. have but recently lain prostrate in prayer. So for the most part we tend to turn our mind away and try to modify our standards of interpretation: no such scripture test must be applied to him and can by no means be deflected from him.

Sacramentality of Creation-Biblical Perspectives


Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam Climate Justice for a Better Tomorrow The ecological crisis today, particularly climate change, is due to human intervention in the order of creation in an irresponsible way. The Nobel Laurette, Al Gore has brought it to our attention with adequate proof. We need to remember without shadow of doubt that Climate change and Global warming are not simply about rising sea levels and melting of ice, dead seals and polar bears facing extinction. It is about us, our lives, and the planetand the way the powerful and rich of the earth have dominated and kept destroying them for centuries to accumulate private wealth. This is due to human failure to exercise a caring attitude to all under his stewardship. Environmental justice for a social cause is an important factor to promote peace, justice and equality among the marginalized groups. For a common tomorrow, we need to bear in mind that in an ecological community, there is no distinction between the haves and the have-nots. As ecology is concerned with the harmony and integrity of one cosmic home, the cosmothenadric unity of reality (S. Painadath) is to be affirmed. Dust thou art, to dust thou shall return is an age-old truth and is addressed to one human family. The life style of the industrialized nations is a violation of human rights. In Romans 8:19-21, St. Paul speaks of the groaning of creation for sharing the liberty of the children of God, which is nothing but the presence of the Kingdom in our midst.

(Contd. from July Issue)

honored by the developed nations. The pattern of production and consumption promoted for the existence of the rich necessitates plunder and rape of natural resources, lavish use of energy and creation of huge quantity of waste (including electronic and nuclear waste). Rao makes an appeal to seek for political will, practical steps and partnership in pursuing alternative models of development such as green energy, food security, green jobs, safe and accessible water, management of ocean resources, waste management and disaster management (See UN News, June 2012). How much is enough? As members of the faith/religious communities we need to ask two questions!) i) how much is enough? ii) What about a better common tomorrow? The question raised by an Indian girl of the 9th standard at the UN Assembly in Sept 2009 is worth recalling. Speaking about climate change and global warming, she asked the leaders of the world: What kind of a world you, elders are leaving behind for us, children? There is the melting of ice in the Himalayas and other ice caps, polar bears are dying due to climate crisis, millions of people in the world are not getting safe drinking water, the atmosphere temperature is soaring high and the sea level in the Pacific ocean is rising which would devastate a few countries of the world in the twinkling of an eye. You need to take action against these alarming life situations. If action is not taken at this moment when will you? If not you, who will? Faith communities should respond to this eco-challenge seriously. The UN slogan, for 2009 the planet earth needs you for facing the climate change is indeed a warning to us. It should be remembered that the question of violence and peace is also integrally related to earth ethics. The protection of earth!s surface and its vitality, bio-diversity and beauty is a sacred trust to all people beyond any divide. The eco-call is to live simply, so that others may simply live .Our concern should not be stated as "the well-being of the individuals; but of the people in the community (John M. Itty). The ecological sins such as water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution and light pollution carry social implications in our community living. The Vedic chant, we are the birds of the same nest illustrates this. The Eco-canvas goes beyond the boundary caste, creed and code. It is indeed a matter of spirituality for the affirmation of life for all. Eco-spirituality rightly understood is hope which is the language of life for all. The WCC theme for its 10th assembly in 2013, God of life, lead us to justice and peace also sums up the theological and ethical dimensions of Eco-ethics. We need to adopt a pattern of consumption, production and distribution that respect and safeguard Earth!s

The outcome of Raio+20 which met in Brazil June 2022,2012 is disappointing as the developed nations of the world (US, UK, Germany and some other rich nations) which pollute the atmosphere more than any other countries of the world boycotted the global meeting of 193 countries. The pattern of development that the capitalist system upholds is at the root of the ecological crisis today. The Kyoto protocol of the UN (1997) to check greenhouse gases is not being

regenerative capacities. This is the message of the Joel year (Lev. 25 23-24). The challenge is to simplify our lives and to integrate our knowledge with love and compassion. In order to improve the quality of life on this planet, we need to strive for a culture of peace and cooperation. The infinite possibilities of a world governed by love and justice have to be captured by humankind, if it is to survive. As co-workers with God, the humans are accountable before God for what has been entrusted to them through divine wisdom. The religious resources of the peoples of God will have to be pooled and treasured for a vision of development that can be sustained in the long run environmentally and ecologically. The primary concern for us should be that the world should not go back to its original state of null and void. In Search of a Green-Theology In the first verse of the book of Genesis, we read In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God is able to create things out of nothing and man, a little lesser than God (Ps.8: 5) is endowed with the wisdom to assemble or to make things out of what is already there. If this proposition is maintained, we are bold to affirm that the divine designs of all things fall within the oikonomia of the universe (Jer.10: 12). Gen.1: 27, being created in the image of God is a biblical and theological affirmation that the human beings are expected to reveal the attributes of the divine in relational categories of thought .The words of divine attitude to creation is well stated in Gen.1: 31 where we read God saw that it was good. It means that humans must make use of their imagination and creative power to make this planet habitable. Sin is not just abandoning what is bad; it is making the good bad by our wrong attitudes and perceptions. This planet must become more beautiful, healthier and fruitful. Rabindranath Tagore makes a plea to a tree to speak about God. The trees manifest the power of the divine in our midst. The three-fold existence of a tree should teach us the meaning of human existence too. Remember God will not betray himself as by wisdom the Lord founded the earth, by understanding he established the heavens, by the knowledge the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew (Proverbs 3:19-20). In the order of creation, God manifests his ultimate will for all living beings. After the creation of the human beings, God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over. every living thing (Gen.1: 28). In Gen.2: 15 we read, the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it (to dress it and keep it (King James Version). The three fold responsibility, to till, to subdue and to guard goes hand in hand and a caring attitude to nature alone will free the nature from its groaning. The reference to the brooding of the Spirit of God in the creation story speaks of the immanent presence of God in the universe. (Cf. the book of Wisdom

1:7; 7:24). The creation story of Genesis makes it abundantly clear that there should be harmony in Godman and nature relationship. This relationship is to be maintained in terms of Eco-justice. In Eco-justice, we need to speak about biotic rights, holding the principle of voice (e.g. act of God) and living with a sense of mutual custodianship as parents etc. In this respect, caring of God!s creation is matter of spiritual obligation. It is a necessity that is laid upon us in declaring the good news to all creation. The much-debated issue of the interlinking of rivers is to be evaluated in the light of legitimate questions for the survival of all living beings on this planet. The very concept of inter-linking of rivers is too anthrocentric rather than bio-centric and it is a denial of God!s purpose in creation.

In the New Testament, the Christ of creation is conceived as the Christ of redemption and reconciliation (cf GK. propositions en, dia and eis in Pauline theology). Reason and faith will have to play their complementary roles in opening the mind to the One Mystery who is the creator and sustainer of the Universe. In the ecological Psalm of 104, particularly verse 24-30, we get a glimpse of God!s love and care manifested in the universe.O Lord, how manifold are Thy works. In wisdom hast Thou made them all (V. 24). (Cf. Ps. 24: 1-2) According to the Psalms, God is not immanent in creation, but he is imminent in a personal way with humankind(N. H. Snaith). There is a theological unity between the ecological awareness of reality and the personal realization of the reality. Nature by itself does not reveal God, it only serves as a means of revelation. Nature is a constant reminder of the reality of God to those who have the eyes of faith(K .V. Mathew). In the Psalms we do not find any natural law as independent from God. The humans are asked to learn from nature (Pro.6: 6-11). As nature is God!s peculiar language (Robinson), creation and ethics should go together. According to Ps.147: 16ff, nature is the creative word of God that is at work in the ongoing process of growth and change in nature. This gives order and regularity in the ecosystem. It is God!s faithfulness and love that sustains the world (Ps.139). A sacramental

approach to nature is the key to the poetic insights of the Psalmist. The humans and other living beings come together as partners in praising God, the creator. Nature is God!s Media of Communication In Romans 1:20, St. Paul writes, Ever since the creation of the world, his (God!s) invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. A search for the unity of all creation will ultimately lead us to a vision of God!s invisible nature in creation. In a larger view of religion (i.e. the concept of panentheism-God is involved in creation, but not identified with the cosmos), we find a combination of the best of science and the best insights of religion. (Mathai Zachariah) What we need today is an ecological model of God. This vision alone will give us the required spirituality for human survival. As nature is an open book for all to read, man should celebrate diversity in the very texture of creation. To discover, to appreciate and to promote the rich diversity in the order of creation takes us to the divine. The book of Job chapter 12 verses 7 and 8 make it clear that the flora and fauna carry a message for the well being of the humans (cf. Proverbs 6:6-9). As plurality is integral to reality, there is always a challenge before us to live by unity in diversity. The knowledge of unity in diversity is a creative possibility. So there is urgency for a cosmic vision, which is inclusive. The great theological challenge before us today is to affirm the unity of purpose in God!s order of creation as envisioned in the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom. As members of the Faith Community, we are challenged to pray as Jesus taught in the Lord!s Prayer. Let your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (St. Matt.6: 10; Lk.11: 2). The riddle of the philosophical question of the one and the many can only be answered through Ecology. The ecological model of God leads us to a larger view of religion and religious life .The words of Cerdric Wright are worth quoting: A tree is a symbol of non-violence. From its mute form there flows poise in silence, a lovely sound of motion in response to windTrees do not scream for attention. A tree has no pretense A tree retains its deep serenity. It is widely maintained that without an earth ethics, the possibility of creating world community and peace is faint (See Larry Rasmussen!s book Earth Community, Earth Ethics, WCC 1966). It is a naked truth that the most oppressed are most intimately connected with nature. For example dalits are related to the land; tribals to the forests and fisher folks to the sea. The indigenous community regards violence against nature as a matter of violations of human rights. New social conflicts arise out of the frustrations of the wretched of the earth. It is incorrect to hold the view that the Christian faith is responsible for the ecological crisis today.

Kingdom of God-Call to live with ecological sensitivity The teaching of Jesus gives us a blue print of "vasudaivakudumbakam! with concern for all .In the parable of the Mustard Seed (St. Mark. 4:30-32), there is a divine call to care for the least and to value the inherent potential of all that is good and noble. To live in the midst of flora and fauna with an ecological sensitivity is indeed the celebration of life. For Jesus, all that is seen and unseen unfold the face of true humanity in its pristine form. The reference to the Sun and the rain (Matt. 5:45); the scorching heat and the south wind (Lk.12: 55); the clouds and the showers (Lk.12: 54); the earth and the sky (Lk.12: 56); the flashing of light (Matt. 24:27); the rock and the sand (Matt.7: 26); the seeds and the grains (Matt.4: 2-8; the lilies and the grass (Matt.6: 28-30); the thorns and the thistles (Matt.7: 16); the figs and the grapes (Matt.7: 16); the moth and the rust (Matt.6: 19-20); the sparrows and the eagles (Matt.10: 29); the dogs (Lk.16:21); the fish and the serpent as well as the scorpions (Lk.11:11); the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32). etc., are imageries taken by Jesus to illustrate God!s care of the universe. The eco paradigms in his teachings of the Kingdom make space for all in the household of God. The scientific and economic assumption of development is a myth unless we take into account the ecological dimension of relationships, which includes the whole cosmos. Therefore, it is to be affirmed that defending the earth is not a project, defending the earth is a way of life for our corporate survival. Conclusion The saramentality of creation is not simply a theological proposition, but challenges us to initiate action plans at the grass roots level. The restoration or the healing of the wounded earth is the mission and task of every faith and religious tradition all over the world. Let this be our prayer, O Lord, keep our lamp burning (Ps.18: 28) by protecting the symbols of life- earth, water, air, sky and fire. Let us seek for the fullness of life for all creation.
Editor!s Notre: Rev. Dr. M.J. Joseph, M.Th., D. Th, is the former Director of the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Bangalore. He has also served as Professor and Principal, Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, India. As a former member, Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, he is widely known for his ecumenical and ecological contributions. He has served as Secretary Board of Theological Education, Senate of Serampore College (University). He currently serves as Convener, Ecological Commission, of the Mar Thoma Church. Dr. Joseph has also authored several articles, poems and books available both in English and Malayalam languages. E-Mail: drmjjoseph_65@yahoo.co.in.

The Community of the Broken and the Beloved


Dr. John J. Thatamanil, New York [Abstract: The word sin has been stained by the uses to which it is put. We must now ask, Is it now a sin to use the word sin? Some people use the word sin to give divine endorsement to the divisions we construct and maintain. The word sin is not to be used to list the failings of others but to name our common predicament, our alienation from each other. The word sin, used rightly, is a great leveler, a binding agent that links us all together. To know that you are a sinner is to know that you are not exempt from the human predicament. You know that you are frail, fragile and even broken. When Jesus asked those who were without sin to cast the first stone, Jesus gave his listeners a great opportunity, the opportunity to put down their stones and enter the human community. Let us resolve never to use the word to demean the dignity and worth of others.] This article is about a word with which I have a love-hate relationship, namely the word sin. I am deeply allergic to most of its uses in public discourse. These days, it!s hard to see thinking of the word without immediately hearing it in the mouth some politician or TV preacher as he says, homosexuality is a sin. It!s impossible for me, impossible for us, to forget that the word is now routinely used to demean an entire group of people who are our friends, our partners, our brothers and sisters, and we ourselves. Sin is a word that is almost always used to wound and not to heal. When we hear the word used to violate our dignity and the dignity of those whom we love, it is hard to see how it might be refurbished and used to any good or liberating purpose. The word sin has been stained by the uses to which it is put. We must now ask, Is it now a sin to use the word sin? dismiss the word and the idea is to reject the Christian project altogether? These are some of the questions that the Gospel reading for the day compels us to think. Let us listen again closely: Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14) Could it be that in this passage we have two different approaches to sin, one that is destructive and one that is redemptive? Is there wisdom in the tax collector!s use of the word sinner that we have yet to learn or must relearn because we have forgotten? The tax collector does not wield the notion of sin like a blunt instrument. It is not something that he uses to categorize others. He brings the notion to bear on his own life. But is he being too dramatic, too self-demeaning? Is he lacking in a healthy and positive sense of self-worth? Would he too be better off without having to shoulder the weight of the word sin? Let us begin our reflections with the Pharisee and his use of the word. The Pharisee knows that he himself is not a sinner and knows just who the sinners are: they are the thieves, the rogues, the adulterers and the tax collectors. He knows that he does not number among them. The sinner is always someone else. To protect his own purity and dignity, he must not keep company with those people. So, even in the temple, he stands by himself. Even the templeor perhaps especially the templecannot be a shared and equalizing space. There too he elevates himself above the tax collectorthe person whom he can rule out of court as a sinner. The tax collector is, after all, an agent of Empire, in service to Roman Occupation, an insider whose work makes him an ally to the Gentile outsider, the oppressor. The tax collector is the betrayer, the one who keeps company with the enemy. If we cannot judge and exclude the tax collector as a sinner, whom then can we exclude? The word sin plays a devastating role in this context because it is used to give absolute and transcendent validity to the Pharisee!s artificial principles of segregation.

The Hindu sage, Swami Vivekananda would most emphatically say yes. At one of his famous speeches at the 1893 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, Vivekananda had this to say: Yeah, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. We are the children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earthsinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Vivekananda was making a theological and apologetic point: he teaches the ancient Hindu idea that human beings are inherently divine. To call people sinners is a fundamental mistake that misses what is truest about the human being. He was also, of course, seeking to counter the barrage of missionary attacks on Hinduism, by suggesting that Christianity is an inferior religion because of its commitment to the doctrine of sin. So should we now take the advice of Vivekananda and dispense with the word, sin? Can sin be redeemed? If sin cannot be redeemed, does that spell the end for Christianity? Is Christianity so tied to the idea of sin that to

And we too use the word sin to give divine endorsement to the divisions we construct and maintain. We must not spend time with those who are beneath us because they are beneath us for God-ordained reasons. After all, they are sinners, and we are righteous. Prostitutes, tax collectors, unwed mothers, the divorced, the poor, those whose sexual lives do not conform to our standards or alternatively the superrich, the conservatives, the fundamentalists. We must not spend time with them because they are sinners, and we are better than they are. When the idea of sin is used to give divine sanction to the distinction between them, and us the notion has toxic effects. Then, not only can I ignore you and demean you, and above all think of myself as better than you; I can believe that God stands with me. I can even say that I don!t want you around my children because you set a bad example. If sin is used to divide me from you, of us from themand it really does not matter who the other is in this casethen the category of sin is put to sinful effect. The thing that routinely puzzled and even infuriated people about Jesus! way of being in the world is that he defied the principles of association that ordered the social world of his time. Jesus disregarded and had no patience for this kind of cultural commonsense. Few principles exercise greater tyranny over the way that a people live than the written and the unwritten rules that tell us who should spend time with whom. These are the principles that help us to tell the insiders from the outsiders, who should be part of the community of the acceptable and who should be marginalized and excluded. There is in us a desperate need to secure our own sense of value, worth and importance at the expense of others. It is not enough for me that I am part of the common lot of humanity. I must be special, distinctive, smarter, more valuable, and perhaps best of all, more righteous than thou. Should we dare to scrutinize ourselves honestly, we will see that there is a whole host of people that we see as below us in dignity and worth. By diminishing them, I am able to elevate myself. This is what I feel I must do in order to establish my own sense of value. I have my list too. My list of those I consider beneath me includes fundamentalists, the 1%, anti-intellectuals, overpaid corporate CEOsand that!s just my starter list. It is not only that I need to see these people as sinful and so as beneath me, but I need to see them as inferior because my sense of worth requires that I must think of myself as better than they are. Left to my own devices, I do not see how I can escape this trap of securing my own self-worth at the expense of others. I must confess that this habit seems part of the very architecture of my mind, the scaffolding that sustains my sense of self. I do not know how I can set myself free from these entrenched habits of self-elevation. When I listen honestly to Jesus! parable, I confess that I do not see myself in the tax collector. I recognize myself only in the Pharisee. The Pharisee is my brother; I am the Pharisee. But just in this moment when I recognize myself in the Pharisee and as the Pharisee, something is opened up in me. Just naming to you and to myself just how desperately I need to feel valuable and how desperately I need to demean others in order to stabilize my sense of self-worth, I come to see that I too am a sinner.

I begin to see that there may be another way to use this word sindangerous though it isnot to impose the label on others but on myself. I can see the word sin as a tool that helps me to name what Paul Tillich called my triple estrangement from my own best self, from others, and from God. The word sin is not to be used to list the failings of others but to name our common predicament, our alienation from each other. I propose that we distinguish between two technical theological terms, sain [to be read with a heavy Southern accent] and sin. The former perhaps should stand in for the ways in which we measure others, judge others, and elevate ourselves at the expense of others. The latter we should use to name our common predicament. Now we can see why Jesus infuriated so many when he routinely chose to disregard the conventional rules of social decorum. In so doing, Jesus gave the lie to all the ways in which we seek to secure our sense of ourselves as special at the expense of others. If Jesus chooses to spend time with me and also with the prostitute and the tax collector, then I am not more special than they, nor can I think of myself as morally superior. Worse still, my association with him stains me. This man who speaks and acts in the name of God spends time with them and also with me. This does not look good. This indignity I cannot tolerate. Surely, the divine cannot be so incapable of telling the difference between the right crowd and wrong sort! But there is a profound tragedy at work in these uses of the word sin. What we need most is not a sense that we are special won at others! expense. What we need most is a sense that we belong to the beloved community. I need to feel that I am not estranged from fellowship. If I must win my sense of worth at your expense, I put an end to the very thing I need most, the only thing that ever secures for me a genuine sense of inviolable worth, namely Love itself. I choose the feeling of superiority over the feeling of being loved.

The word sin, used rightly, is a great leveler, a binding agent that links us all together. To know that you are a sinner is to know that you are not exempt from the human predicament. You know that you are frail, fragile and even broken. In his new spiritual autobiography, Darling, Richard Rodriguez writes, If I were a young man, I would swear to you that I have never met a Christian who is weighed down by the knowledge of Original Sin. At my present age, I will tell you I have never met any human being who is not weighed down by the knowledge that men and women must fail. Indeed. We fail daily. We fail to accomplish what we set out to do. We find in ourselves hardness of heart as

we pass without regard the poor and the homeless in our midst, or we find in ourselves compassion but we know not what to do with it. We are mindful of our obligations to our families, our friends, our jobs, our partners, our nation, and even to the planet, and because we are mindful, we are only too aware that we miss the mark. We sin not only they. I!ve just recently returned from a trip to Oslo. No, I wasn!t there to pick up the Nobel but rather to be part of an international theological workshop. As part of that experience, our colleagues took us to see the work of the Kirkens Bymisjon or the Church City Mission. I was especially struck by the work of Natthjemmet, the night home for women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. There, I was given a powerful and healing word from Gudmund Johnsen Wislff who helps to run the home. Gudmund offered a striking exegesis of the famous Gospel passage about the woman who was caught in adultery, the woman who was about to be stoned. In that famous passage, you will remember that Jesus says, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7). Wislff said something that caught me completely off guard, and here I must paraphrase him:

he knows that any claim to self-righteousness is entirely undone. The word sin serves for him as a healing tonic that reminds him of his many and inevitable failures. The word sin teaches him something we too must learn: that our motives are often unknown to us that are deeds are too often marked by self-seeking that our grandest plans are sure to meet with fracture and failure. The word sin, when used rightly, can put an end to our naivety and our pomposity. When I use the word in this way, it brings me home and into community with all other human beings. Used in this way, sin makes it impossible for me to see myself as better than others because I know too much to assume a posture of superiority and self-justification. Our gospel reading instructs us that we must use this powerful and dangerous word with great caution. We must never use the word to exempt or excuse ourselves from the human condition. We must never to deploy the word as a weapon by which to judge others; the word sin must never become a stone we throw at those whom we despise. Let us resolve never to use the word to demean the dignity and worth of others. If we are to use the word, let us use it to remind ourselves that we are, each and everyone us, prone to failure, prone to violate our deepest commitments and our best intentions, prone to fall short of our grandest hopes for ourselves and for the world. Let us use the word to remind ourselves that we belong to one common universal fellowship, the community of the broken. Let the word remind us that the community of the broken is also the community of the beloved, the community of those who are precious to and justified before God just as we are, in all our fragility and fallibility. Let us use the word but only if it helps us to abandon every effort at securing our self-worth by what we do rather than by virtue of, who we are, the children of God. Then we can come to the Eucharist table as one broken and beloved community, all of us sinners and all of us justified by the love of God in Christ, whose body and blood is given only to those who come crying out, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Come to the table you who are broken and yet beautiful, you who are beloved in the eyes of God!
John J. Thatamanil is Associate

Most people think that this passage is entirely about what Jesus does for the woman caught in adultery and Jesus! great act of mercy toward her, but another gift was given that day to the men who came to stone her. When Jesus asked those who were without sin to cast the first stone, Jesus gave his listeners a great opportunity, the opportunity to put down their stones and enter the human community. They were invited to give up their sense of superiority to the woman whom they came to stone and to become again nothing more and nothing less than ordinary human beings and so enter into a common fellowship with all. How heavy and costly are the stones that we would hurl at each other! What a great cost we bear when we stoop down to pick up the stone that we would cast at those whom we deem sinful! What harm we cause to ourselves, as well as to others, when we feel we must violate and demean another as a sinner in order to seem righteous in our own eyes! The blessed tax collector, by contrast, in his prayerful weeping is entirely too aware of his own brokenness to compare himself with anyone, to place himself on any scale of moral assessment in which he will come out on top. He cannot delude himself into thinking that he is better than anyone. As he stands before the Holy,

Professor of Theology and World Religions at Union Theological Seminary, New York. He is the author of The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation (Fortress Press, 2006). He is completing his second book, The Promise of Religious Diversity: Constructive Theology After Religion. Prof. Thatamanil is a past-president of the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS) and Project Director of the AAR"s Summer Seminars on Theologies of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology. He teaches a wide variety of courses including Process Theology, Tillich and the Future of Theology, Hindu-Christian Dialogue, and Comparative Theology. He is currently working on figuring what religion is and how our notions about religion shape our attitudes toward other traditions and what we believe we can learn (or not) from them. He can be reached at johnthatamanil@gmail.com

Church: People Journeying with Jesus


Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas
Pope John Paul II said: "Jesus makes it a condition for our participating in his salvation to give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, console the sorrowing, because, "when you do this to one of my least brothers or sisters you do it to me" (Mt 25:40).! The birth of Jesus was to provide joy to the whole world and not to a particular religious group or denomination. Even Christianity in the form a religion was not even in existence during the time of the birth of Jesus. Then how could Christians believe that Jesus came to save them only from their sins and died on the cross with a promise that he will come again only to gather them? In fact Jesus! continuing mission, " Missio Dei! is salvation to the whole world irrespective of culture, race, social status, rich or poor. Hence, church should be inclusive, and able to walk with people in order to journey with Jesus. Church should come out of its institutionalized-culture and embody the diakonic culture to journey with Jesus. Jesus was a Jew by birth, but He always mingled with Samaritans and people from other cultures, who according to Jewish custom is not worth to be associated with at all. It appears that we are trying to protect ourselves in a self-fulfilling gated cultural zone, even though we are planted in a multicultural society to journey with people of multiple cultures. We do not encourage people from other cultures to attend our worship services. The church should be able to transform a crowd in to a community, instead of hiding within its own cultural norms and boundaries. Liberation theology was a radical movement that grew up in South America in the eighties as a response to the poverty and the ill treatment of ordinary people. The movement was caricatured in the phrase "If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary,! but it's more accurately encapsulated in this paragraph from Leonardo and Clodovis Boff: "We can be followers of Jesus and true Christians only by making common cause with the poor and working out the gospel of liberation and social justice.! Journeying with Jesus means, journeying with marginalized people. God!s justice must be fulfilled through the church. If the church does not journey with people and community around it, it fails in its neighborhood mission. The mission of the church is to overflow from its sanctuary into the streets of its neighborhood. It is sending out the people of God to the outside realities of the world to confess the gospel and to be involved in all aspects of human liberation. Jesus after healing the people who came to him, asked them to go back to their families and native places and testify about the mercy shown to them by the Lord. The church should be a movement for those who were denied their rights and plunged into poverty where they were deprived of their full status as human beings. The church should follow the example of Jesus and transform itself to a just, equalitarian society so that all irrespective of their social status can experience Gods! justice. Some liberation theologians saw in the collegiate nature of the Trinity, a model for co-operative and non-hierarchical development among humans. Church instead of alienating itself from the community around should be able to merge in to the multicultural societies around it in order to transform itself as a vehicle and medium for social justice. Church should be able to testify about the mercy and grace of Christ to others. The attitude of Jesus towards the poor and less fortunate, angered the Jewish hierarchy, and ended up in His death on the cross. But, it should be remembered that Jews

The wise men searched for Him in the palace, but He was in the manger; His parents searched for Him in the crowd, but He was at His father!s place, the temple; Jews searched for Him in the temple, but He was with His people walking from village to village treading less frequented roads and visiting the less frequented Samaritan wells. Church in order to journey with Jesus should move out of its comfort zone into streets of its neighborhood so that it can experience the pain and suffering of less fortunate and marginalized people around. Worshiping community must transform itself to a witnessing community, and also become a sharing Eucharistic community for journeying with Jesus.

were the first followers of Jesus Christ, followed by people from different cultures; the Christianity only came to existence after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Hence, all proclamations made by Jesus described throughout the gospels are not intended for the Christians alone. It is a call to all those who follow Him to take up His cross and be part of the sufferings of the world. In Mat. 10: 8-9, He asked the disciples to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out the devils, freely you have received, freely give. This is Jesus! proclamation of His social justice and not to provide gold, silver or brass in your purse and need not script your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes nor yet staves. The mission of the church should be not of acquiring gold, silver or brass or other materialistic possessions, and then go for mission by sharing a portion of it. In Mat. 5:38 and 16:24, He reminded that anyone who wants to follow Him must deny himself and take up His cross and then to follow Him. So, the church should never wait for abundance and surplus resources for helping the poor.

cleansed, and deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.! The church!s role is to follow Jesus to enable the blind to see, lame to walk, lepers to be cleansed, deaf to hear and the dead to be risen while preaching the gospel. If the church only preaches the gospel and not lives the gospel, the church is not walking with Jesus. The mandate for the church is given by Jesus to go to the end of the world to preach gospel and to observe whatever He has commanded, and assured that He will be with us till the end of the world (Mat. 28:18-20), and this mission mandate must be obeyed by the church. Jesus! mission was carried out in faith, love, forgiveness and compassion to people of all social classes and the church!s mission should include all classes of people of different culture and should be done in faith, love and compassion. Jesus! mission is the call for faith admission and joining in His mission for all people, especially the poor and the outcasts. Gospel of Jesus should encourage church to go on a mission to fish for people. Just like Jesus overcame opposition to gather a community of believers, church should overcome its materialistic obstacles in order to create a community of believers to serve the less fortunate and the marginalized. Church should not become a symbol of social status with materialistic possessions. Pope Francis said he wants "a poor Church, for the poor" following his election as head of the Catholic Church. When the church and its people become wealthy, they may have a tendency to forget the poor around them. Pope Francis lived like an ordinary person while he was a Cardinal, living in a Spartan apartment where he turned the heat off on weekends, cooking his own food, traveling in buses, and visiting the slums of Argentina. We need churches with its leaders and believers who are willing to walk with people especially the poor people. Recently in an ecumenical meeting Pope Francis spoke in favor of narrowing the gap between the lay people and the established order of the Church. It seems that Church is walking with the wealthy people and not with the poor people, while Jesus did the opposite, He walked with the poor and criticized the wealthy and even warned that it is very difficult for a wealthy person enter in to heaven. The Holy Spirit expects us to move beyond the imperial religion to the essence of Jesus' teachings: Do it to the least of these and you do it to me. In Mat. 25:35-40, Jesus said: "For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in the prison, and ye came unto me; Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.! This is the sum and substance of Jesus! social agenda for justice and ordinance for the church and its faithful believers. The church needs to leave behind its so-called legalistic, straightjacketed, traditions and move

After reviewing the data about the growth of religion and church attendance couple of decades ago, the Gallup poll concluded: "Religion is increasing its influence on society, but morality is losing its influence. The secular world would seem to offer abundant evidence that religion is not greatly affecting our lives." If a community around our sanctuaries feels the same, they should not be blamed, since in their eyes, that worshipping community is not transforming itself in to a sharing and caring Eucharistic community. It seems that we are content with the Sunday worship and believe that partaking in the Holy Communion, by receiving the bread the wine, we are walking with Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is not only to be preached, but also to be lived by His followers. Then only we will be able to journey with Jesus by being part of His mission; we should be doing God!s mission and not selfcentered and self-motivated Church!s mission. In Mat 11:5, Jesus tells us about His gospel, "the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are

to the other side to reach out to the unreached. The 105th Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury departed from tradition during his enthronement ceremony, when following centuries of protocol, he approached the cathedral!s great oak doors and banged three times with his crosier. Instead of a high-ranking church official who has filled the role in the past, there was waiting a 17-yearold, Sri Lankan girl, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, wearing a traditional Indian "Saree!, who read a scripted challenge asking who he was and why he had come. I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in His service together, he responded. Jesus Christ calls us to step outside the comfort of our traditions and places 'and go into the waves', the Archbishop said during his inauguration ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral. Reciting the liturgy and Nicene Creed without understanding its meaning and following all sacraments of the Church has become a norm for everyone. Many believe that providing for charity and for the poor out of the surplus or wealth gathered through illegal ways is the means for recognition in the society and ultimately leads for salvation. Church also takes advantage of this misconception of its believers by urging them to contribute to its projects and programs especially for building up structures and cathedrals meant for worship only. This is equivalent of purchasing indulgences sold by the churches in the middle ages, which was an additional income. Martin Luther, the famous German theologian, wrote a series of thesis against the selling of indulgences and kissing the relics of the Saints. Our attitude towards giving should be like that of that of the widow who put two copper coins in to the money box in the temple. Jesus remarked: "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Mark 12:41) The church!s approach to charity also should be the same, not by acquiring huge material possessions, and then out of it a small portion is spending for the poor. Unless and until the worship becomes meaningful by sharing and caring for the poor and oppressed, our prayers will not be answered. Christ did not call us for an easy path or way of life to follow Him. We should feel the same agony Christ faced in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus seeks companionship and obedience from His followers, like God sought the companionship of Adam and Eve. The church should not act like disciples sleeping at Gethsemane without feeling the agony of the people around its sanctuaries. "The rich lock up the treasures of the earth,! wrote popular preacher Gerrad Winstanely, "and tell the poor to wait for a reward in heaven.! Walter Rauschenbusch in his book "Christianity and Social Crisis! said: "Christians pay too much attention to individual salvation and not enough to the call for social change

implied in the symbol of the kingdom of God. Whoever uncouples the religious and social life has not understood Jesus.! The cross and the kingdom move together. Church at times seems also too much centered in theology and its interpretations by different denominations according to their own beliefs and faith. "Theology ought to make a difference in people!s lives, helping those suffering and in need. If theological reflection does not vitalize the action of the Christian community in the world by making its commitment to charity fuller and more radical, if it does not lead the church to be on the side of the oppressed classes then this theological reflection will have been of little value.! (Gustavo Gutierrez, "A Theology of Liberation for by Caridad Inda and John Engleson (Orbis Books, 1973) p. ix. There is much importance of eschatology and the kingdom of God in Jesus! teachings. Theologians tried to use eschatology as the basis of theology that would be more concerned about the changing the world, working for reform in the society and not just worship alone. "The practice of hospitality, especially to strangers (the Bible's term for outsiders or people not of your tribe, clan or national group), is one of the most central teachings of the Jewish and Christian scriptures," said Ryan Bell, Senior Pastor, Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church in an article titled "Our God is Undocumented.! The church in order to journey with Jesus must walk in the shoes of the poor and feel their pain, if not, it can simply publicize that it is walking with Jesus, but in fact not. I like the humility of Pope Francis, who called from Rome, his newspaper guy in Argentina to stop delivering papers and expressed gratitude for delivering the newspaper, which is an expression of Jesus! humility. The church, its leaders and its people must have the same humility shown by Jesus when he washed the feet of disciples in order to journey with Him. Our Diocese and parishes should transform from a formulaic worshipping community to a witnessing community to the strangers around us in order to journey with Jesus. The true worship is in "truth and holiness, is for giving glory to God; sometimes we are miles away from this reality. We should go to the basics and translate the transforming power of liturgy in our daily living. Editor"s Note: Lal Varghese, Esq., is a lawyer by profession and is mainly practicing in U. S Immigration law for more than 20 years in Dallas. He is the legal counsel and member of the editorial board of Mar Thoma Messenger of the Diocese of North America & Europe of the Mar Thoma Church. E-Mail: attylal@aol.com, Tel: (972) 788-0777.

Celebrating Centenary of two Fathers of Mar Thoma Church - Abraham Mar Thoma (1880-1947)
among his fellow-students. He strongly believed that evangelism was the responsibility of every member of the Church and not of the clergy alone. He emphasized that every man and woman was called to be witness of Jesus Christ, irrespective of his/her secular occupation. It was this conviction that led him to organize groups of men and to give them specialized training in personal evangelism. Thus the Voluntary Evangelists Association was established in 1924 as a voluntary lay movement of the Church. The women of the Church also were encouraged to take their part in fulfilling the mission of the Church. He encouraged the formation of the Mar Thoma Suvisesha Sevika Sangam, which is the women!s auxiliary of the evangelistic work in the Church. One of the greatest aims was to find proper individuals for both the ordained ministry of the Church and for lay activities. It was through his influence that many university students and graduates came forward to join the ministry of the church, when they could find lucrative employment elsewhere. After finding suitable young men, he arranged for their higher education and theological studies. He organized special summer schools for ordinary people engaged in secular jobs for Bible study and training. The Vanithamandiram, for training women workers also was developed with his active encouragement. The call that he gave to young men and women to go and live in the villages of India in different language areas resulted in establishment of Ashrams in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and in places till the borders of Tibet. His help was sought by Christian friends all over India to lead evangelistic conventions. Such assignments took him from Kanyakumari in the south to Kashmir in the north. He was a friend of missionaries in India and all of them looked up to him for inspiration and guidance. The Tiruppathur Ashram and the Kodaikanal Ashram established by members of other Churches regarded him as their friend, guide and philosopher. He was president of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association and the National Missionary Society. Even though he was suffering from acute diabetes for many years, he went on working with the motto: it is far better to burn out than to rust out. The Abraham Mar Thoma Bible Institute established for the training of voluntary evangelists in the Church was named after him. Though he was Metropolitan only for four years, his long ministry as Bishop strengthened the Church in all its missionary enterprises. Thirumeni was also a great a freedom fighter against colonial rule, and worked relentlessly for obtaining India!s freedom; he also worked against the divisive rules and policies of Sir CP Rama Swamy Iyer, the Diwan of Travancore. He was called to eternal home in 1947.

Photo courtesy: Jacob Joseph, Toronto Late Abraham Mar Thoma (Rev. M. N. Abraham) as per the available records was the first Marthomite who came for higher studies to North America at Wycliffe College, Toronto in 1912. Thirumeni completed his studies in 1914, thus making 2014, the centenary year in the history of Mar Thoma Church. Abraham Mar Thoma was known all over India for his burning passion for evangelism, for his zeal for spreading the Gospel through the length and breadth of India. He received theological training in India and Canada. It was during this time that the Mar Thoma Church became well known in the western world. He was consecrated as Bishop in the year 1917 and he worked relentlessly as Suffragan Metropolitan for the spiritual strengthening of the Church and for its witness. He was installed as the Metropolitan in 1944 when Titus II Metropolitan passed away. He was born in an illustrious orthodox family but his father passed away when he was very young and he was brought up in his mother!s house at Eraviperoor, a home, which cherished the blessings of the reformation. Thus from his early days he was inspired by evangelistic activities. Even as a student in High School at Kottayam and in Madras Christian College, he was a spiritual leader

Late Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan (1914 - 1984)

Council of Churches at Amsterdam in 1948, and also the Assembly at New Delhi in 1961. He was a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches since 1961. Thus he made significant contributions to the cause of ecumenism. He has attended many other international conferences in the Churches and was a delegate to the Melbourne Conference where he had made a distinct contribution as a leader of Bible Study. He also attended the sessions of the second Vatican Council on special invitation. He was designated as Suffragan Metropolitan in May 1978 together with Philipose Mar Chrysostom. He has been President of various organizations of the Church, such as the Evangelistic Association, Sunday School Samajam, Sevika Sangham and Yuvajana Sakhyam on different occasions. He guided the evangelistic activities of the whole church for many years. As a builder, he opened up many centers for the development of the church, raising funds by personal appeals. Through his efforts were established the Diocesan Headquarters at Adoor, Manganam and Kunnamkulam. The Church Center at Chungathara, the convention speakers Sites in the Retreat Centre at Maramon, and the St. Augustine Study Centre, Manganam, Kottayam with the view that the clergy and laity should take time off to stay at the center and read the latest books on theology and related subjects. By his personal efforts, he built a library of over 6000 valuable books. He encouraged the formation of the Society of St. Thomas and St. Augustine, in England in 1984, for building ecumenical relationship with other churches and was one of its presidents and patrons together with Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie. The Mar Thoma College for Women at Perumbavoor was established under his inspiring leadership and patronage. He gave leadership to the parishes in the Ranny area to establish a center for the church. He was Chairman of different colleges of the Church and of the Vaidika Seminary for many years and gave valuable contributions to their development. The last months (July, August, September, 1984) of his life were spent in organizing and developing the parishes in North America and in England. He had very successful medical and surgical treatment in London and returned to Kerala in October 1984. His loss was irreparable. He was awarded a Doctorate by the Serampore University considering his meritorious services to the Church in India, and towards ecumenical cause. At the time of his consecration as Bishop a controversy was started by Mr. K. N. Daniel, who questioned his loyalty to reformation principles. After closely observing his life and work for some years, Mr. Daniel himself admitted that his fears were unjustified and he had full confidence in Mar Athanasius!s personal commitment to Jesus Christ, his evangelical zeal and loyalty to the Church. Editor!s Note: The above information is taken from the web site of the Mar Thoma Church at www.marthoma.in. We also express our gratitude to Mr. Jacob Joseph, Toronto for providing us with the rare photographs of both Abraham Mar Thoma and also Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan from his collections of photos.

Photo courtesy: Jacob Joseph, Toronto Late Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan (1914-1984) is celebrating his birth centenary in 2014. Thirumeni was instrumental in the formation of prayer groups and congregations in the Diocese of North America in the early sixties while visiting several places where early Diaspora Marthomites resided during that time. FOCUS salutes Thirumeni for his exemplary leadership as a faithful servant of Lord Jesus Christ. He was born in 1914 in the Panampunna family at Kottayam and was a deep scholar who continued his reading and studies to the end of his days. He was known for his deep devotion and great ability to build up the Church. He had his earlier education at the C.M.S College Kottayam and later as at Trivandrum where he took post graduation in history from the Arts College. He had his theological training at the Bishop!s College Calcutta and at Oxford University, England. He taught in the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary and the M.T High School Kottayam. He was ordained Deacon of the Church in 1944 and Kasseessa in 1946 while he continued his teaching at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary. On his consecration as Bishop in 1953 with the other two Bishops, he was first in charge of the Diocese in Kerala, south of Adoor, called the Southern Diocese at that time. After six years in this capacity, he functioned as Missionary Bishop from 1959 to 1963. Since then he has been in charge of the Northern Diocese with head quarters first at Kottayam, and later at Manganam. He was indeed "The Bishop of Kottayam,! such was his charisma and dignity; people loved him and respected his natural authority as a bishop.He attended the first Assembly of the World

The Jesus Prayer


Fr. Thomas Punnapadam, SDB
!The end of all our searching is to come back to the place from where we started and rediscover it for the first time."

These insightful lines of T.S. Eliot, the mystic poet are applicable to our spiritual life, particularly our prayer life. The global spirituality market is expanding at a rate no slower than the other markets. The influence of globalization is not restricted to the economic sector but has equally influenced the spiritual zone too. Prayer is central to any spirituality. It is indeed intriguing that spirituality seekers are often enamored by the numerous (purportedly modern) prayer techniques spirituality malls seem to offer. Unfortunately some never seem satisfied in their spiritual life even after and relentless shopping.

The prayer is incredibly simple. It is based in the Bible as any other authentic Christian method of prayer. The miraculous healing of Bartimaeus, the blindman of Jericho, is the spring board of this prayer (Mk 10/46-52). It is enlightening to note that the only prayer he said was: "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. Though his prayer was so short, he obtained this great miracle from Jesus. This reminds us that the length of prayer is not as significant as the fervour and intensity of prayer. People who place too high a premium on words and sounds in prayer, need to take to heart the very clear warning of Jesus Do not babble empty phrases when you pray (Mt 6/7). In Jesus prayer, all one is invited to do is to repeat the words of the blind man. The challenge is to do it with the attitude and sentiments of Bartimaeus. His faith in Jesus was absolute. He shouted the prayer even more loudly, when people tried to silence him. In learning to pray the prayer of the blind man as efficaciously as he did it, the following suggestions could prove helpful. 1. In the early stages of one!s practice, a slow, prayerful reading of the text is the first step. Though one may be familiar with the text, it should be read repeatedly, after recollecting oneself, slowly, as if for the first time. Then with the help of one!s fantasy one should try to enter into the life-situation of Bartimaeus, conjoining one!s own prevalent weakness, current helplessness and immediate need with his. Then consciously, slowly, with all one!s heart and soul one should repeat, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. In early Christian tradition this prayer is called the prayer of the heart. The heart symbolises not so much the organ as the deepest emotional and psychological ground of one!s personality. This prayer is to be prayed with the whole of one!s being.

Among the numerous prayer methods known to Christian tradition, there is none as simple yet as efficacious as the Jesus Prayer or The Prayer of the name of Jesus. It consists of devoutly repeating the most 2. To experience the efficacy of this prayer, it is holy name of Jesus, with whole of one!s being, body, indispensable that one believes in the infinite power and mind, heart and soul. It is a method of prayer most of us grace of the most holy name of Jesus. The name is not have probably heard about and even practice an empty sound. As St. Peter reminded the early occasionally, albeit unconsciously. Anyone who has Christians as well as the jews, there is salvation in no practiced this method of prayer, faithfully and one else except in the name of Jesus (Acts 4/12). systematically over a considerable period of time would Jesus is the greatest of all names given to God. In fact it vouch for its incredible power and fruitfulness. Many do is the name God the Father himself gave to his son not believe in its efficacy nor have really tasted its through the angel (Mt 1/21). The power of this greatest potency, primarily because they have not practiced it divine name will be experienced in proportion to the love systematically. By experience of long and systematic and devotion, faith and trust, tenderness and reverence practice, one will discover that it is the most effective of with which it is called upon. all prayer methods. Those who have experienced radical transformation in their lives would not even think 3. Our breath is our life. Besides the heartbeat it is the of trying other methods of prayer. most relentless activity (though unconscious most of the time) of our life, from the moment we are born till we

breathe our last. In the modern world, mindfulness of the breath is one of the most encouraged practices for de-stressing oneself. Synchronising this prayer with one"s breath is the most effective method to make our prayer truly soul-prayer. As the breath enters every atom and cell of our being, so will the grace and peace, love and joy of the name of Jesus enter and transform our whole being. It is often forgotten that the posture of the body is fundamental to deep and efficacious prayer. A comfortable yet alert posture ( with straight back) enhances deeper and slower breathing as also greater concentration. Regularity is said to be the queen of all the virtues of prayer. Hence setting aside a regular time for the practice of this prayer every day is indispensable if one is to experience its fruits. To start with, one could set aside at least two daily sessions of ten minutes each to the Jesus Prayer. Reciting the prayer unhurriedly and rhythmically is very important. It is not the number of times, but the way it is prayed that makes it effective and efficacious. The slowness and rhythm deepens concentration and helps the prayer enter the deepest recesses of one!s being. The power of repetition soon penetrates the unconscious which influences our attitudes and behavior far more than we realize. When the power of the name of Jesus pervades the unconscious, it is purified. This purified and divinized unconscious soon transforms and divinizes one!s personality. The heart keeps repeating the prayer independent of the mind, just as it keeps beating all day and night, independent of the mind. Once the practice deepens it will automatically flow into every moment of our busy day. Whenever one sighs, this name of Jesus effortlessly be synchronized with one!s breath. When overwhelmed by a sudden crisis, the name of Jesus will spring to our lips from our hearts.

benefits will be immense. Even when not praying it deliberately we will suddenly realize we are doing so unconsciously. Indeed then we will be living up to the biblical demand to pray always (I Thess. 5/17).

The Jesus prayer can be prayed at any time and place, day and night, at home and at work. In fact it can be prayed while engaged in our daily chores which take up so much of our time every day. Most importantly it can be prayed in every mood we find ourselves subject to, during a normal day. When we are elated we can call on the holy name of Jesus joyfully and gratefully; when in dire in need we can call on Jesus trustingly, when we are sad or anxious we can call on Jesus with hope; always and everywhere we can call on Jesus with all the love hidden in our hearts. In an incredibly short period of time, one is sure to notice the benefits of this prayer. Nothing sensational is guaranteed. However one begins to feel more serene, recollected, peaceful and not easily perturbed by the ups and down of daily living. Authentic Prayer is rightly understood as the breath of the soul and therefore uninterrupted prayer should be the rule than the exception. Jesus prayer is undoubtedly one of the simplest means to maintain contact with God every moment of every day. It would not be an exaggeration to affirm that Jesus prayer is like a drug. Once one begins to enjoy its fruits, one cannot live without it. On the one hand all other forms of prayer recede to the background and on the other hand, paradoxically all other prayer forms, including community prayers, become more meaningful and take on a contemplative character. In all vocal prayers, words become slower, fewer and arise from depths of one!s being. Vocal prayers will no more remain a babble of empty phrases.
Editor!s Note: The above article is a brief summary of the book Jesus Prayer A Rediscovery published by Kristhu Jyothi Publications, Bangalore, India, 2005 written by the same author, Fr. Thomas Punnapadam, SDB.

Besides this, it is advisable to try to repeat the formula during the day whenever one remembers. So often during the day one pauses to take a deep breath or finds oneself alone, walking, thinking waiting for someone. There is so much enforced leisure in our lives, and if prayer can become our leisure time activity too, its

Letters to the Editor: A Critique: FOCUS 'Revived' - 'Renewed'


Abraham Alex*, Trivandrum, Kerala Having lived the best part of my adult life outside Kerala though not outside India, in Bombay base for over 50 years, I have been a Diaspora Marthomites, but now settled in Kerala in retirement. The Diaspora interests and concerns, remain alive, as I have my children and grandchildren overseas, apart from friends and relatives. I understand that the 'mission statement' of FOCUS when it began in the 90s as well as now includes: "to enlighten the Diaspora Communities of the Mar Thoma Church to remain faithful to the 'heritage', "identity! and mission of the church, along with its' traditions..." It is my humble submission that it is time for FOCUS to make an honest reflection on what exactly are the essentials of these 'heritage', 'identity' and 'traditions' that we now have and would like to maintain? Whether in the Marthomite communities in the Diaspora or at the roots in Kerala, do we have an identity distinct enough and enduring from generation to generation? If we do, what exactly are they? Again FOCUS! aim is of !building a contract between generations, and with no other aim except to make our thoughts available to a wider group of people. These ideas in themselves require, in my view, a review. Diaspora Marthomites of the current generations have their own thoughts, and it may be time that we of the earlier generations, lend our ears to what they may have to say. That we had over two lakh viewers to the on-line FOCUSS early October may be a promising indication of our younger generation's interest in what we want to say - but, is it not equally, if not more important, that we should seek to listen to what they think, and encourage them to share their thoughts with us through the medium of FOCUS? With its present resourceful team of !leadership! and "management!, I am sure FOCUS could effectively get them to participate. Human identities, traditions, do not remain static eternally. CHANGE is the one phenomenon in life that does NOT change. I do hope and pray that FOCUS revived will become FOCUS renewed, and be a dynamic interactive bond between our generations beyond. *Mr. Abraham Alex is a senior management professional with a back-ground of three decades in corporate career based in Bombay, followed by over a decade of consultancy services to business and industry and a further decade of advisor y services to development organizations National and International. He is also a visiting faculty Professor to Masters level students in Management at reputed Business Schools in India. In retirement, he is based in Trivandrum, and continues to be an Hon. Advisor for various Non-Profit/Developmental/ Educational, initiatives, and is the Founder Trustee and National President for Abundant Life-India, a registered NPO. Editorial Response: Heritage, Identity and Tradition One of the readers of the Diaspora FOCUS journal, Mr. Abraham Alex, raises the following question: It is my humble submission that it is time for FOCUS to make an honest reflection on what exactly are the essentials of these 'heritage', 'identity' and 'traditions', that we now have and would like to maintain? It is not only for the editorial board of the FOCUS, but others also should make an effort to find an answer to this question. We should know what our identity, heritage and traditions are. We do not think it is possible for a journal to prescribe these simple basics of our life. As members of the Mar Thoma Church, we have an identity of being members a reformed branch of the St. Thomas Christians of India, now living in various part of the world as Diaspora communities. People have multiple identities, being a Mar Thoma Christian is one of them. We also have another overarching identity in Jesus, the Christ; this is the most important of all identities. This identity should help us to believe that we are the children of one God and we are bonded to each other in God!s unconditional love. It is up to each one of us to realize or create our own identities under the grace of God. Part of our identity is in what we believe (and not believe) and how we live them out in 1,2 everyday life. Identities are often entangled in ego boundaries; we need to transcend these boundaries to find our God-given identity in Christ. We refer readers, who are searching for an authoritative answer to the question of heritage and identity, to two publications: 1. Christianity in India and a brief history of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Johann Mar Thoma Metropolitan, 1952. 2. The Mar Thoma Church Heritage and Mission, Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan, 1985 What is our tradition? Tradition is a custom or belief that has existed for a long time, which we carry in our collective memory. The Yale theologian, Jarosalv Pelikan, famously said, Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name. A significant aspect of the living faith is our dependence and trust in the word of God and our dependence on family prayers in the morning and evening. In earlier times, our parents and grandparents used to get up early in the morning and sang 'Maname pakshi ganagnal .......'; they insisted on family prayer in the evening also. This was heard from each Christian family in Kerala once upon a time. Do we have such a practice now? This is an example of our heritage, identity and tradition, which we should be passing on to our varied generations among several other things such as a longing for relationship, community cohesion and justice. Please look at the article on Kerala culture on the October issue of the FOCUS. This is not a corporate responsibility, but it is up to each of us to pass it on; otherwise, people are just looking for scapegoats and excuses.
1. Titus Mathew, What we believe, Diaspora FOCUS, Vol. 1. No: 1, April 2013 2. Titus Mathew, What we do not believe, Diaspora FOCUS, Vol. 1, No: 2 July 2013

Congratulations to Kottarakkara Punalur Diocese of the Mar Thoma Church

Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church re-organized the Trivandrum Kollam Diocese and formed a new Diocese with the name Kottarakkara Punalur Diocese in consultation with the Sabha Council and Episcopal Synod. The new Diocese will have 90 parishes under its jurisdiction. At present Mar Thoma Church has thirteen Dioceses including two Dioceses outside India, namely Diocese of Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Diocese of North America and Europe. The Mar Thoma Church has thirteen Bishops including Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan and Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, who is the 21st Mar Thoma of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The head quarter of the Church is located at Thiruvalla in Kerala, India. Recently Mar Thoma Church has celebrated its 175th year of its reformation. The Church has about 1.5 million members, 1200 parishes, and 821 priests and 165 retired priests. The Mar Thoma Church is a member of World Council of Churches (WCC). It is also a member of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Churches Together in England (CTE) and Churches Together in Great Britain and Ireland (CTBI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the National Council of Churches in USA (NCC USA), and the Kerala Council of Churches in Kerala, India (KCC). It is in full communion with other Churches such as Church of England, Episcopal Churches in USA, and Anglican Churches in Canada and

has cordial relations with the various denominations of other Christian Churches. The Mar Thoma Church actively co-operates with the Church of South India (C.S.I) and the Church of North India (C.N.I) through Communion of Churches in India (CCI). Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos is the Diocesan Bishop of the newly formed Diocese. The Diocese was inaugurated on Dec. 1, 2013 by Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan by lighting the lamp at the new Diocesan Center in Kottarakkara. The dedication service began with Holy Communion service at Kottarakkara Mar Thoma Church (one of the post reformation parish) led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos. Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Timotheos, Diocesan Bishop of Trivandrum Kollam Diocese, Rt. Rev. Gregorios Mar Stephanos, Diocesan Bishop of Kunnamkulam Malabar Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Theethos, Diocesan Bishop of Mumbai Diocese were also present during the dedication of the Diocese. FOCUS congratulates the new Diocese, and also prays that God may shower His abundant grace upon Coorilos Thirumeni, all clergy and laity to continue the faith journey of the Mar Thoma Church as a reforming Church. For more details about Mar Thoma Church please visit its web site at www.marthoma.in. Lal Varghese, Esq., Dallas