Greetings to you! The last Sunday in October is marked as Reformation Sunday in the lectionary of CNI. This is to earmark the Reformation which began on October 31st 1517, when Martin Luther protested against the sale of indulgences by writing a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz. He enclosed with his letter a copy of his disputations on the power and efficacy of indulgences which came to be known as the ninety-five thesis. He posted that on the church of All Saints in Wittenberg.
Through Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and many others the movement spread throughout Europe and called for reformation within the church. The cry was salvation was by grace alone, by faith alone, and through Christ alone. They also proclaimed that scripture was the most important way to understand God’s will rather than tradition.
We mark today as Reformation Sunday in order that we may think about bringing reform within the church. Corruption has set in within the church as much without. Bishops, pastors and ordained men and women of God have fallen prey to the gods of Mammon.
Some work like professionals demanding money for their services, others illegally occupy church property, while still others sell off church property to fill their own pockets. Corruption, nepotism, regionalism, immorality, power struggle, violence are all found within the echelons of the church.
In this kind of context, how are we to bring change? Not only have the clergy fallen short of God’s standards but the congregation has also equally fallen short of God’s standards. Reformation needs to begin with each one of us. It is very easy to be self-righteous like the Pharisees and the Teachers of the law who pointed fingers, but did not bother to check their own lives.
In the reading for this morning from the gospel of Luke chapter 11, Jesus talks about the eye as the lamp of the body. In other words, Jesus is saying that the eye is the vehicle of perception. If the eye brings in light then the whole person glows but this can only happen if the eyes are healthy and can receive spiritual truth. Not to take in God’s light is to risk darkness. If the light of Christ is within us, our lives will be attractive to others.
Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to eat with him. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash before the meal. Jesus had the harshest words for the Pharisees because he told them, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
The Pharisees were very much like us. They believed in the inspiration and authority of the bible, in miracles, in Satan, angels, heaven and hell and the resurrection of the dead. They pretended as they were absolutely holy on the outside and from the inside it was far from it. Therefore, Jesus challenges them to be clean inside and that could happen when they started giving of their wealth generously to the poor.
Jesus also has some harsh words for the Pharisees saying, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.”
The Pharisees were keen to get the most important seats in the Synagogue so that people would recognise them and praise them. They want to feel important. Jesus also tells them that they are like unmarked graves which people walk over without knowing them. In an unmarked grave the body was rotting inside but people don’t sees anything outside. They defile the people who come in contact with it.
Likewise, the Pharisees who thought of themselves as the paragons of purity, were infact leaders of spiritual uncleanness and would lead people to death: though the Pharisees themselves thought they were leading themselves in the paths of life.
The challenge for us this morning is to reform ourselves both as individuals and as a church. We need to stop seeking praise for ourselves, stop building our own kingdoms and stop doing our own will. Instead, we are called to glorify God’s name, build his kingdom on earth and do his will. Sometimes, we are so caught with our traditions that we have failed to do God’s work. God is challenging us to turn around to repent of our sinful ways and to come back to him.
In the Old Testament reading we see Josiah who made the people hear the words from the book of the covenant. After that he brought sweeping reforms in Judah as the destroyed all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem. He enabled the people to return to God. May we also take time to repent of our sinful ways and return to God.
Greetings to you! We are in the week of our Convention where we have been thinking about “Recognising the Times”.
We are reminded constantly by God’s word that the second coming of the Christ is closer than ever before and we must be ready to face him when he comes.
Meanwhile, we are to use aright the time that is left for us here on earth. We have also witnessed a couple of funerals recently reminding us of our own mortality. It is in this context that we need to understand the theme for this morning, “True Compassion is based on justice.”
We may wonder how compassion and justice can go together. Does not justice demand punishment? Then how can compassion be based on justice? However, when we delve deeply, we recognise that compassion can only arise when we have a sense of justice within us. We live in a world full of injustice. The gap between the rich and poor; the haves and have nots is huge.
Even when we look at it from a global perspective, we notice that the global North consumes the vast majority of food, electricity, lumber, etc. Statistics tell us that almost 2.8 billion people on this planet struggle to live on less than Rs. 150/- a day. God has created enough resources in the world for all to share, but we have become greedy as human beings and always want to have more than we have.
When Jesus saw that people were sick or demon possessed, he was moved with compassion because this was not the life that God had intended for them. Similarly, we too should be moved by those less fortunate than us, particularly, the poor and the needy because God will call us to account on the final day.
In the Bible reading from today from St. Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells us a story to drive home the point about how true compassion is based on justice. In the parable, there was a rich man who had everything he wanted. He was dressed in purple, the best possible attire of that time or the designer garments of yester- years. He also wore fine linen and he lived in luxury everyday wining and dining with not a care in the world. In contrast to the rich man, there was a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores and was sitting at his gate begging and longing to eat whatever left-overs were there from the rich man’s table. His sores were oozing that the dogs came and licked them. Something similar to many of the poor people who sit outside the church every Sunday. In this life, one lived a life of prosperity and other lived a life of poverty and suffering.
In the second scene of the parable the beggar dies and angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. Death is not the end and so story continues. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. Lazarus goes from being a poor and lonely sufferer to be at the side of Abraham, meaning being with the saints. The rich man on the other side is in Hades where he is in torment. The rich man is suffering from judgement, whereas Lazarus is enjoying God’s blessings. The rich man is in great pain and suffering but with no relief.
The rich man appeals to Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, because he was in agony in the fire. Abraham tells him that it is impossible for Lazarus to come there because there was a great chasm between them. The roles have been reversed here.
The rich man now pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his family so that they would not end up in torment. Abraham tells them that they had the scriptures which was sufficient for them to believe. If they did not believe in the scriptures then there was no way that they would be convinced even if a person went back to them from the dead.
The challenge for us this morning is the same. Do we see ourselves as the rich man who had enough and more to spare? Do we see the people outside the church as the Lazarus’ of this world? If there is any sense of justice within us then we would indeed be moved with compassion and reach out to the poor outside the church. We can choose to be like the rich man and complain about their oozing wounds and avoid them like the plague thinking that we will be infected by them. A sense of justice should drive us to reach out to them in true compassion. May we as a church not shun the poor and the needy but reach out to them with God’s compassion.
Greetings to you! We have gathered together in God’s name this morning to meditate on the theme, “Common sense as well as devotion are needed for the service of God.” Common sense, unfortunately, is not so common and true devotion is also difficult to find in our world today.
In the gospel reading this morning from St. Luke, Jesus tells his disciples about a dishonest steward who showed common sense, foresight and also insight into his Master’s character. The dishonest steward discovers that his Master expects obedience and judges those who fail him. He also discovers the extra-ordinary mercy of the Master.
Therefore, he decides to risk everything on the unqualified mercy of his Master. He knows that if he fails, he goes to jail: if he succeeds, he is saved. This parable is one of the most difficult parables. Does it show Jesus as approving or compromising with the unjust steward? Let us unpack the parable to understand it.
In the parable the Master of the steward has heard about the misdemeanours of the steward. He therefore calls the steward in to give accounts. The Master finds out that he has been pilfering and therefore relieves him from his post. Legally he has been terminated though he has to hand over the accounts. This steward was fully aware that he was guilty. He knows for sure that making excuses would not get his job back. The one thing that the steward discovered in this process was that his Master was merciful and had let him go without being jailed or scolded. He notices that his Master shows unusual mercy and generosity even towards dishonest stewards.
The steward knows that if he loses job, he was not in a position to do manual labour. He also knew that once word gets out that he had been dismissed, then nobody would hire him. So, he comes up with a wise plan.
The steward used his common sense and said to himself, “Others still don’t know that I am fired.” So, he called each one of his master’s debtors. They come to him one by one and since all of them owed huge amounts they probably thought that the Master had something to say to them. So, he calls the first debtor and asks him what he owes the Master. The debtor replies about 3000 litres of Olive oil. The steward makes him change it to 1500 litres reducing it by 50%. He calls another debtor and asks him what he owes his master, and he says about 30 tonnes of wheat. He makes him reduce it by 20%. These were huge amounts, almost half a year’s wages. The steward them submits the changed accounts and delivers them to his Master.
The master looks at the account and knows that the amounts have been fudged. What are the options that the Master has? Word had got around to the village that the Master was a noble man who had called them and reduced their debts. There was a great round of celebration in praise of the Master in the entire village. The Master could either go back to the debtors and say that it was a mistake but then this would have turned the villagers joy into anger and he could have been cursed for stinginess. The other option was to keep quiet and accept the praise that has been showered on him, and allow this steward to ride high on the wave of public enthusiasm. He therefore says you are a wise man.
Jesus uses the example of a dishonest man and asked the children of light to learn from him to be wise. The cleverness and skill deployed in self-preservation is being praised. He is praised for his wisdom. He is sensitive to the hopelessness of the situation. He is aware of the one source of salvation namely the generosity of his Master.
Similarly, human beings are also in hopeless situations. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards. We are therefore to be punished. Our excuses will avail nothing. Human being’s only option is to entrust everything to the unfailing mercy of God, who in his generous love, will pay for the price of our salvation.
May we too this morning prepare ourselves for the coming judgement that we may throw ourselves at the mercy and love of God that he will forgive us and grant us eternal life.
Greetings to you! We celebrate the life and witness of the Apostle Thomas whose doubt was turned to faith. St. Thomas was the Apostle who sailed to India with the good news of Jesus Christ as early as AD 52.
Very often we are told by others that Christianity is a Western religion and that it was brought by the British to India. However, the fact is that Christianity came to India long before it went to Britain. Though some people suggest that Christianity was present in Britain in the 1st century, it was only in 6th century when Augustine, a monk was sent to evangelise Britain that it spread. So, we do have a history of Christianity in India over 2000 years.
We are grateful to God for sending his Apostle St. Thomas to India. We know that he came to the southern part of India and preached the good news of the gospel to the people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He was ministering to the Brahmins in Tamil Nadu who were upset with his teaching and eventually speared him to death in AD 72 in Chennai.
The name Thomas has its root in the Aramaic and Hebrew ‘Teom’ meaning ‘Twin’. The equivalent term for ‘twin’ in Greek is ‘Didymos’, which is another name of recorded for Thomas.
Thomas is one of those disciples whose doubt was changed to faith. When Jesus rose again on the third day after his crucifixion, he appeared to the disciples who were gathered together in a room. However, Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to them. The other disciples told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas was somebody who wanted hard, tangible, empirical evidence. He was not going to believe the resurrection unless he saw and felt Jesus personally. He is full of doubts about the resurrection because the Jews believed only in the resurrection on the final day of judgement. Therefore, he did not believe what the other disciples said.
A week later the disciples were again gathered in a house and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus reveals himself to Thomas in flesh and blood asking him to touch and feel him and to know that he had really risen from the dead. Jesus challenges him to stop doubting and to believe in the resurrection.
When Thomas saw Jesus, heard his voice and felt him, he knew that that this was indeed the Son of God and therefore he confesses saying, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas’ faith came only after he saw the risen Lord and felt him. Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed.”
Jesus is challenging Thomas and us to believe in him through the evidence that has been given to us by the witnesses of the resurrection. Thomas did not believe in the testimony of his fellow apostles and only the risen Lord’s presence made him believe. Many a time we too are like that. We have doubts about Jesus. We want solid proof before we can trust him.
However, God has given us the testimony of the early witnesses in scripture for us. We are called to believe in the risen Lord and put our personal faith in him. This morning you may have several doubts in your mind about the testimony of Jesus. Jesus says’ “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed in him.”