Saturday, September 11, 2021

Fear the Lord and Pursue Wisdom: Reflecting on Proverbs 1: 20-33

When was the last time you heard a sermon or a reflection from the book of Proverbs? As I put forward this question, I am being reminded of at least five instances in my life about the engagement with the book of Proverbs. Firstly, in my childhood, I remember our parents and Sunday school teachers emphasising to us to read one chapter every day from the book of Proverbs as it contains 31 chapters, for on the one hand one can complete reading this book in a month and on the other hand it teaches some ethical and practical values of life. I remember reading the book of Proverbs with great admiration as it contained so many pro-verbs, in a sense so much profound wisdom is found in this book that is helpful for the actions in life. Secondly, I have engaged with the book of Proverbs by reading without fail, this particular verse from Proverbs 9:10 on the day of every school examination that I have written, for it offered me so much hope and confidence in doing my exams well. I want to read that verse aloud for you, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” for this verse was an assurance for me in facing the tests and examinations with all courage and positivity. The third instance I remember was when my aunt suggested that I read Proverbs chapter 3 for every birthday I celebrate, for it speaks about long life and the length of days in life, so Proverbs 3 serves me to be a birthday text which I read and I suggest for others too to read on their birthdays. The fourth instance I remember about the book of Proverbs is when our local preachers in my town in India were prescribing the text of Proverbs chapter 31 to women, for that chapter speaks about the qualities of the virtuous woman. Fifthly, I did remember preaching a text from Proverbs at one of my churches in India, about Wisdom, where she challenges juris-prudence from people.

How do we define Wisdom? Most definitions of wisdom inform us that it is the appropriate application of the knowledge we have learned and experienced from. We all know that wisdom is a good thing. Solomon was its champion. Proverbs sings its praises. Most wisdom literature presents wisdom as a mode of living defined by practical knowledge, ethical integrity, and intergenerational learning. Some of its key traits are moderation, even-headedness, and a concern for justice.

Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is not based on a community’s faith or merit rather is ascribed in human terms given to all people. Ethan Schwartz observes, “On a more abstract level, a crucial feature of wisdom is its universality or cosmopolitanism. Wisdom is accessible to all human beings as human beings, through their own intellectual and moral faculties—not through membership in a particular group that is privy to a particular divine revelation or historical experience. Wisdom literature tends to eschew communal particularities and to speak instead in human generalities. The book of Proverbs, for instance, mentions Israel only in the superscription and doesn’t present God as the covenantal deity of a specific national story. It’s therefore no surprise that wisdom literature from across the ancient world—including the Bible, Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia—often sounds and feels substantially similar. Wisdom was a broad, international discourse.[1]

Now turning to Proverbs 1:20-33, the prescribed lectionary text for this Sunday, it speaks about the woman wisdom, for the writer of this text informs the audience that wisdom is crying out asking people to live out their lives in prudence. The wisdom of God is like the grace of God, offered to all of creation based on God’s graciousness and not on human abilities or merits. God creating human beings in God’s equal image is the principle to understand that the wisdom of God is on all people of God. Unfortunately, in our human frailty, we either neglect or even reject being led by the wisdom of God and seek ways that meet the needs of our own self-interests. The wisdom of God is always life-giving to the entire creation of God and seeks for the renewal of the creation. The call of this text is to invoke the wisdom of God in each of our lives and work towards transforming our society and renewing the creation. In this text, we notice four things which are relevant for our times today.

1. The Publicness of Wisdom:

In verses 20 and 21, we see that wisdom is crying out in the street and in the squares, she raises her voice. This is to say wisdom is out in the public square and is not a matter of private affairs or is limited to any particular religious grouping. Wisdom is crying out in the busiest corners and at the entrance of the city gates, so that wisdom is heard by all people in the public square.

 

2. The Proclamation of Wisdom:

From verse 22-28, we see the woman wisdom’s proclamation of the impending reality, explaining that the public sphere has not taken into account her counsel. Let us read out these verses:

 

22. How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing

   and fools hate knowledge?

23 Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;

   I will make my words known to you.

24 Because I have called and you refused,

   have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

25 and because you have ignored all my counsel

   and would have none of my reproof,

26 I also will laugh at your calamity;

   I will mock when panic strikes you,

27 when panic strikes you like a storm,

   and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

   when distress and anguish come upon you.

28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;

   they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.

 

 

3. The Pathway of Wisdom:

In verse 29, wisdom further proclaims that the people in the public sphere hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. In other words, the pathway for wisdom is the fear of the Lord. We see this in several other verses in the book of Proverbs. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Our fear of the Lord is demonstrated in our prudent judgements in life, which is all about wisdom. Fearing the Lord is to be led by the wisdom of God, and in this process, we confess our human failings for hating knowledge, for not being open to the cries of wisdom in the public sphere. The key to this text is fearing the Lord and to pursue the wisdom of God.

 

4. The Promise of Wisdom:

In verse 33, the woman wisdom offers a promise that those who listen to her will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster. The woman wisdom begins by crying in the public sphere and ends in promising that those who listen to her will be saved and secured. This promise is about listening to the wisdom of God, working with God and community and striving for the new heaven and new earth here in our midst.  

 

Today in the 21st century, the wisdom that is being spoken in our public sphere is about being prudent in the context of the growing climate crisis. As the world leaders will gather at the UN Climate Change Conference CoP26 at Glasgow in November 2021, it will be an opportunity for us a follower of Jesus Christ to listen to the cries of the woman wisdom who is crying out loud in our streets about the impending climate crisis and is challenging each of us to step up, to join in striving for a green world, for wisdom which is the fear of the Lord is inviting us to care for our planet as our faith commitment.

 

Secondly, in the context of refugees and migrants, fearing the Lord and pursuing the wisdom of God is to offer welcome and hospitality without any conditions. The wisdom of God compels us to think that the issue of refugees is about the lives of people, and saving life and protecting life is all that the wisdom of God leads to.

 

Thirdly, in the context of vaccines where several wealthy nations are busy discussing giving booster doses to their citizens, there are several poorer nations who are struggling to get the first jab, fearing God and pursuing wisdom to share the vaccines with people who are not able to afford it.

 

Fourthly, when discrimination of people in name of caste, gender, class, race, religion, sexuality is on the rise, to fear God and to pursue wisdom is to love people of all identities and resist all forms of xenophobia. It is fools who hate the cries of wisdom, and so love is the ultimate public expression of the wisdom of God.


Fifthly, as the World Week of Prayer for Peace in Palestine and Israel begins from 18-25 September, fearing God and to pursue wisdom is striving for peace and justice in this land, so that people can live in freedom from occupations. Our call is to advocate towards peace in this land from our own localities and churches. We are called as churches to witness that we are for peace and justice in this land, and join the solidarity movements towards that goal.

 

The given text from Proverbs is challenging us to respond to the fear of the Lord, listen to the wisdom, strive for the renewal of our creation or reject the fear of the Lord and pursue wealth and self-interests. It is time that we turn to the fear of the Lord, so that the seeds of wisdom will sprout in our lives and we can act on Christ’s ways, who is the power and wisdom of God in and for our world today.

 

Raj Bharat Patta,

11th September 2021



[1] https://politicaltheology.com/wise-religion/


Friday, September 3, 2021

Church to Re-form as an “Ephphatha community”: Reflecting on Mark 7:31-37

In the gospel according to St. Mark 7:31-37, we find Jesus healing a person who is differently- abled, suffering from hearing and speaking impediments. The interesting part of this healing for me is the role of a community or a group of people who played a very important part in the healing of this person. If we carefully read through this healing, we see that the healing is taken place in an unknown place (no clear place is mentioned), the healing happens to an unknown person (no name or identity of the person is mentioned), the people who bring the sick person to Jesus was an unknown community (it is only mentioned as ‘they, no other clue of who they are), and Jesus uses an unusual way of healing (taking aside the person to a private place, putting his fingers in his ears, touching his tongue with his saliva, looking up to heaven, sighing and saying ‘Ephphatha’), and transforms the person to a known one as his own one.


 The emphasis I make in this episode is on the role of the unknown community, which played a vital role in the whole healing process. Here is where I strongly feel the relevance of this community for the church today. This unknown community, I would like to call them the “Ephphatha Community” and this community was primarily instrumental in making the unknown place to be a known one, for it would remain as a historic place for healing. This community transformed the person, his life and his future. I wonder whether Jesus would have been marvelled by the faith of this community of people and healed the person. By the way, ‘Ephaphatha’ means ‘be open’ and one can decipher the openness of this community to the needs of their neighbour, for they held the needs of their neighbour as top priority to be addressed.  The community’s faith would have been the news headlines in their days, and if the writer of Hebrews would have known about this community, there will be no surprise to see if he/she would have added this community in the heroes and the sheroes of faith mentioned in the 11th Chapter in the book of Hebrews. This community was a group of unsung heroes and sheroes, who did not crave for their name or banner, but rather concentrated on their neighbour and his healing. Kudos ‘Ephphatha Community’, you really are an exemplary one for all generations!

Therefore, today I pray that our church will be inspired to be like the ‘Ephphatha Community’, concerned deeply for their neighbours and be an exemplary one in its journey of mission and witness. To summarise the characters of the ‘Ephphatha Community’ are, which in a way explain their openness.

 

  • It was an unknown community – for no identity is mentioned.

  • It was a voicing community – for it voiced for this voiceless person.

  • It was a faith community – but for their faith, the person was healed.

  • It was an open community – no barriers for it, even the sick & weak were members

  • It was a proclaiming community – zealously proclaimed the healer & the healing

  • It was a loving community – its concern for the neighbour

 

I cannot but find a greater one than this ‘Ephphatha Community’ to be a role model for our church today. How are we as a church becoming the ‘Ephphatha Community’ of our times, addressing the needs of our neighbours? The potential in our congregations needs to be harnessed and used creatively, missionally and contextually to make our church vibrant. ‘Openness’ is one of the key ecclesial characters that define the being and becoming of our churches today. How open are we to the needs of our neighbours? How open are we to the perspectives of our neighbours? Or to put it the other way, if we are closed to the needs, perspectives and ideas of our neighbours, perhaps this text, this unknown community whom I want to celebrate as ‘Ephaphatha’ community challenges us as churches to be open to people’s needs around us. If there is at least one thing this text calls us as people of faith, it is, that we are called to be with open arms receiving all people of God, respecting them, caring for them and attending to their needs and striving towards the healing of our neighbours. Our openness to God, to our neighbour and to our creation determines our faith in Jesus Christ today. I am reminded of the words from the song, “Jesu, Jesu,” where the writer explains this love for the neighbour so well, “Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you,” for we learn how to serve our neighbours from the life and witness of our saviour Jesus Christ.

 

As we begin the ‘Time for Creation’ during this month of September, as on the 5th of September it is observed as ‘Climate Sunday’ in the UK, and as the international community gears up towards the CoP26 Climate change summit in Glasgow, it is time that we as churches express our solidarity with our creation and strive for climate justice today. For me, creation is our immediate neighbour, who is badly wounded and is on the grave margins, and to her needs we are called to attend to. It is time that we reflect climate justice as a faith issue. With the climate crisis so real today, we are called to address climate justice as a matter of urgency, striving like the ‘Ephphatha community’ for the renewal of our neighbour, the creation.

 

‘Ephphatha community’ had to make immense sacrifices when they brought their neighbour to Jesus Christ, they did not bring their own needs to Jesus rather cared for their neighbour and voiced their need to Jesus. In the context of climate change, we are called to sacrifice our pleasures and are called to care for the resources around us carefully and faithfully. Solidarity with Jesus, solidarity with creation, solidarity with the victims of climate crisis, solidarity with climate activists is the need of the hour today. To respond to the call of solidarity is to affirm life and to learn to live in true solidarity. Daisy L. Machado says, “Solidarity allows us to see the imago dei in the faces of those not like us, and it gives us the strength to reach out to those we consider foreign, to “the other” and to attempt to build community. And it is solidarity that condemns the radical individualism that pervades the lifestyle we find today throughout those nations that enjoy wealth and power, where the value of a person is measured in how much she or he can buy.``[1] Therefore the grace of God calls us to praxis and is calling us to be in solidarity with all those striving for liberation and justice today. If a transformed world in God’s grace is to be possible, firstly transformation needs to take place within us. If a transformed ME is possible, then a transformed world in God’s grace is possible. If a transformed world is to be possible, a transformed and re-formed church has to happen. It is time that we green our minds, green our faith, green our churches, green our pulpits, green our hermeneutics, green our theologies and green our actions so that we as a church can participate in making a difference to our world today. May we as churches dedicate ourselves to re-form as the 21st century ‘Ephaphatha’ community, open and relevant for our times today.

 

Our mother earth bleeds because of our greed,

Justice is when we protect her seeds and care for her needs,

She is our neighbour to whom we proceed,

‘To love is to save’ we live it through our deeds

 

 

Raj Bharat Patta,

2rd September 2021



[1] Daisy L. Machado, “James 1-5” in By Grace You Have Been Saved (WCC: Geneva, 2005) Pp. 83-84.


Friday, July 30, 2021

If Jesus is the ‘bread of life,’ so should we be as a church: Reflecting on John 6:24-35

The broad interpretation of the word ‘hunger’ as adopted from the “State of Hunger 2021’ report of the Trussell Trust in the UK is understood as ‘household food insecurity,’ which is defined as ‘a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.’[1] The report also explains that the lack of food is one of the aspects of wider poverty. Nearly six million adults and 1.7 million children in the UK were struggling to get enough food between Sept 2020 and Feb 2021, with BAME, disabled and older people being the worst affected. There has been a significant rise in ‘food poverty’ and the pandemic has changed things from bad to worse, pushing many people to hunger. It is also reported that most severe ‘food deserts’ in the UK were in areas of Greater Manchester, London, Liverpool and Glasgow. On the other hand, ‘holiday hunger’ for children at schools has been unabated, and we see people like Marcus Rashford consistently making efforts in addressing issues of hunger of children. 

In such a context, where ‘food poverty’ and hunger are the grim realities around us, how do we understand Jesus’ saying to the crowds in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” As I read and reflect this text, my immediate reaction has been to seek a confession from God, for how we as churches and Christians over the period of history have conveniently interpreted this saying of Jesus to say that Jesus was speaking about people who are ‘spiritually’ hungry and thirsty, making no sense to people who are physically hungry and thirsty. Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.




When we read this text of John 6:24-35, we see Jesus speaking to the crowds right after feeding them with 5 loaves and 2 fish to 5000 plus people. The crowd were asking for a sign from Jesus to believe him, and they remembered how their ancestors were fed by the heavenly manna in the wilderness when they were in hunger (31v). Jesus had to explain to the crowd that it was not Moses who gave them manna, but God, who had fed them with the true bread from heaven. Jesus here in that context makes two profound faith statements, which are relevant for his times and also for our times today.

 

Firstly, Jesus says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (33v). Jesus was reinterpreting the whole manna experience of their ancestors explaining that ‘the bread of God’ incarnates to give life to the world, food to the hungry-filled world. ‘The bread of God’ is not that which sits in the heavens untouched by the pain, suffering and hunger of the world. Out of God’s compassion to the hungry world, God shares God’s bread so that the hungry are fed and the thirsty are quenched, offering life to the world. ‘The bread of God’ is not about storing the bread for a rainy day, nor is it about accumulating bread and filling the heaven’s barns, rather is about coming down from heaven and is about reaching out to the hungry and giving life to the world. In giving life to the world, the bread becomes the bread of God. In other words, any bread that reaches out to the hungry and offers life, becomes the bread of God.

 

This discussion then brings into the relevance of our ‘Holy communion,’ for Christians understand the bread they receive at the ‘Holy communion’ as ‘the bread of God’ or ‘the body of Jesus Christ.’ I do understand and respect all the historical and theological traditions of the Eucharist. However, this text calls and challenges all those of us participating in the ‘Holy communion’ to understand and recognise that the bread we eat at this sacrament becomes ‘the bread of God’ when we as recipients go out into the world and feed the hungry, giving life to the world. The ‘heavenliness’ or the ‘divinity’ or the ‘spirituality’ of ‘the bread of God’ is in giving life to the world by feeding the hungry and meeting the needs of people who are being pushed into ‘food poverty.’ Next time, we partake in the ‘Holy communion,’ let us be reminded that ‘the holiness’ of the sacrament is in sharing food, offering food and in feeding the hungry, for we are joining with the ‘bread of God’ in giving life to the world.

 

Secondly, Jesus’ reply to the crowd who have asked him to give them such a bread of God always, as “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (35v) is of great significance. Jesus now communicates that he is ‘the bread of God’ who has come down from heaven to be the bread of life to give life to the world. Jesus firstly introduces ‘the bread of God’ and then implies himself to be the ‘bread of life’ who has incarnated into the world. The identity of Jesus is that he is the bread of life, and the purpose of his life is to be bread to the hungry and be a drink to the thirsty and give life to the world. Jesus then explains that whoever, no matter who they are, they will be fed by Jesus, with Jesus and will never go thirsty. The context into which Jesus was speaking was dominated by hunger and thirst, as the Roman empire was exploiting the people of first century Palestine with unjust taxes and by plundering the harvest grown by their hands in their own lands. So, when the crowd heard these Jesus words that he is the bread of life who addresses hunger and thirst, these words of Jesus sounded as real good news for them, for no one goes hungry and thirsty at Jesus and with Jesus. On the one hand the Roman empire plunders life from the world, creating more hunger and more thirst among people, and on the other hand Jesus, who has come from the bread of God, becomes the bread of life and has been on the mission of addressing ‘food poverty,’ giving life to the world. For this reason, there are about six incidents recorded in the Gospels where Jesus feeds people with bread and fish, which only explains Jesus’ mission of addressing hunger as his priority. 

 

So, this text has a huge relevance for our times today in the 21st century, where the world is becoming more hungrier and thirstier for life. The call for us is to be like Jesus, grounding in the bread of God and offering ourselves to be the bread of life, sharing our gifts, resources, food and water with people who have been pushed into situations of poverty. It is easy to eulogise that Jesus is the bread of life and celebrate about it, but the challenge is in seeking the relevance of Jesus the bread of life who came down from heaven to give life to the world, for likewise we are called to come down from citadels of comfort and give bread, drink and life to the world. This is a huge ask, however this is the meaning of following Jesus faithfully today, to be the givers of life with Jesus to the world today.

 

This week I have read a story about Trinity Methodist church in Hull, who as part of their mission plan created a project called “Re:Uniform'' giving away free school uniforms to children, and about 1000 local children were benefited by this initiative over the past two years. This story has been very inspiring, where we find the relevance of a local church in the community, which as I read it understand that they are trying to be bread of life by distributing school uniforms freely for children, addressing the needs of children and families.

 

Our school pantry initiative of taking food to local schools has made some inroads in our reaching out to the community, for which I am thankful to all those who have supported it. There are several signs of hope in trying to be the bread of life to the world today. Thanks to Marcus Rashford who has been constantly channelling food to children and their families living in deprived situations of life.

 

I, for one think that if Jesus is the bread of life, we as his followers, as his church should be the bread of life to people around us, be a table for all people, sharing food and offering drink, challenging the systems that perpetuate ‘food poverty’ and be a place of bread and drink for all. We as a church will find our relevance by feeding the hungry, by questioning the powers that create a gap between the haves and have-nots and by striving for food justice for all people on our planet. We as a church should be known as ‘bread church,’ ‘rice & curry church’, ‘soup church’ ‘falafel church’ etc. where food and drink are available to all, so that we address the needs of the hungry and the thirsty. And in Jesus’ parable of last judgement in Matthew 25, the guiding principle for God’s justice code is about feeding the hungry, nursing the wounded, and releasing the captives. May we as churches and as Christians follow such a code and strive to make our world a better place to live in.

 

Allow me to conclude with a lyric that I have written in 2010 for a Lutheran World Federation General Assembly where the theme was, “Give us today our daily bread,” which is still relevant today:

 

Give us today our daily bread…

 

1. Give us today our daily bread,

Teach us today to thank on what we’re fed,

Help us today, realise many go to bed,

Without a meal and are nearly dead.

 

                     Refrain: Food for thought, food for life and food for all,

Good for thought, good for life and good for all,

Said our thoughts, said for life and said for all,

Live our thoughts, live for life and live for all.

 

2. Forgive us O God for we eat in greed,

For selfishness is what we breed,

Forgetting that sharing should be our creed,

Forever we are insensitive to those in need.

 

3. O God, the maker & the giver of life,

You have sent your son as bread of life,

Broken for us to save from death & strife,

Promising those that taste you, eternal life.

 

4. Is starvation swallowed up in the victory of sharing?

Its sting, accumulation broken by caring,

Root of greed is uprooted in that sharing,

Food for all and life for all will be its bearing.

 

Raj Bharat Patta,

29th July 2021



[1] https://www.trusselltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/05/State-of-Hunger-2021-Report-Final.pdf, P.10

Pic credit: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/why-is-jesus-called-the-bread-of-life.html


Friday, July 16, 2021

‘One new humanity’ in Christ: The site of God’s dwelling place - Reflecting on Ephesians 2:11-22

Following the finals of the Euro 2020 football championship, Sancho, Rashford and Saka, the three football players from the England team have been racially abused and so much venom has been spitting on them online because of their colour by some toxic nationalists. When a mural of Rashford was damaged at Withington in Manchester, a great number of people came together to stand up against racism, supporting Rashford, offering messages of love and calling communities to defeat hatred and hostility against the stranger has been heart-warming. To offer our support and solidarity to Rashford, we as a family visited this site where the mural of Rashford was covered with lots of messages of love, and found that there are many people from different walks of life who came there to offer respect and stand up against racism. This wall with the mural of Rashford in Withington has now become a new pilgrim site for justice, where lots of people are visiting to take hope and courage in standing with Rashford and in standing up against racism. 


I was particularly warmed by the profound theological statement made by Phoebe Parkin, the Youth President of the Methodist Church condemning racism following the Euro 2020 final. She says, “Football isn’t the problem. The problem is that we live in a society where sexism, racism, nationalism and violence are enabled, where not enough of us (including myself) actively work to challenge even the lowest levels of sexism, racism and nationalism. Jesus showed us that we should be peacemakers and showed us that we should love others as ourselves, showing the same grace and compassion that God shows to us.” By this statement, Phoebe is inviting the church to actively work on challenging issues of racism, sexism and nationalism in the spirit of Jesus offering love, peace and compassion.

 

In the epistle lesson for this week, Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul speaks to the early church at Ephesus about Jesus who has come to make peace by breaking down the dividing wall, transcending all kinds of barriers like uncircumcised, gentiles, strangers, foreigners, aliens and making all people of God as ‘one humanity’ and as equal members of the household of God. In the Ephesian context, the divisions among people were based on circumcision and uncircumcision, believers and non-believers, gentiles and Jews, foreigners and natives. In other words, the divisions were based on rituals, religion, ethnicity, and regionalism. Into such a divided and divisive context Paul was ascribing the public relevance of the gospel of Jesus Christ by encouraging them to strive for peace, reconciliation, and oneness of humanity, reminding them of Jesus’ mission of peace and peace-making, joining both the groups in peace. It is interesting to see Pauls’ public theological perspectives coming alive in this text as he engages with his context.

 

Firstly, Paul explains that peace is realised by creating ‘one new humanity’ in Christ. Paul says, “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace,” (15v) for peace in a divisive setting is possible only by creating ‘one new humanity’ in Christ. Paul was not offering a solution of creating a ‘one new church’ here, rather was emphasising ‘one new humanity in Christ.’ Humanity has been losing its credibility by falling prey to the divisions based on race, colour, ethnicity, religion and ritual. In other words, with the entrenchment of divisions, discriminations, oppressions, and marginalisation in the society, dehumanisation has taken over humanity since creation. So, when Christ has come in the form of a human, it is important to recognise that Christ was born as Jesus in a dehumanising world offering ‘salvation as humanisation.’ Though this sounds anthropomorphic, the idea is that when Jesus has come to offer peace, breaking the walls of division, he is breaking the walls of dehumanisation and has been creating ‘one new humanity’ which strives for a renewed creation order. To put it in other words, Christ has come to create ‘one new humanity’ by breaking the powers of dehumanisation, so that this new humanity in Christ will work together transcending all barriers for a new and renewed creation.

 

So, drawing a relevance of this text for our context, today we recognise racism, sexism and toxic nationalism have been the principalities of dehumanisation, that have been dividing the society, and the call for us as followers of Jesus Christ is to work towards ‘one new humanity’ where all these evils of dehumanisation will be dismantled. The call of the church is to partake with Jesus in creating ‘one new humanity’, where Christ offers the clue to understand what humanness means in Jesus, for love, peace, reconciliation, compassion and justice are the outward expressions of the ‘one new humanity.’ What have we as a church contributed towards creating that ‘one new humanity’ in Christ? The obsessions of the church today have been on numerical church growth, and the mission for ‘one new humanity’ has taken a back bench in our endeavours as a church. We as a church should be at the forefront of fighting racism, sexism, toxic nationalism, and addressing the needs of the people on the margins. By such activism and actions, new spaces and new places of Christian presence will be celebrated. We as a church should stand by Rashford, Sancho and Saka and many like them who have become victims of racism and engage with the issues in the public sphere, for only then we as churches will find our relevance today.

 

The public theological language of testifying about ‘one new humanity’ for our 21st century is all about engaging in ‘one new ecology in Christ.’ The ‘new humanity’ who have defeated dehumanisation with Christ, will work for a new creation, thereby a (re)newed ecology is created, in which space, humanity and creation live and work in peace and harmony, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone for such a ‘one new ecology.’  

 

Secondly, Paul explains that peace is celebrated as ‘one new humanity’ in Christ by growing into a new temple of God in Christ (20-22v). Here Paul offers a clue for the church to grow. When peace through Christ and in Christ is made, then all disparities and inequalities are broken down for this ‘one new humanity’ becomes the household of God built on Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. Paul proposes to the church at Ephesus that this ‘one new humanity’ where peace, equality and love are established, now becomes the ‘dwelling-place for God.’ In a way Paul was proposing a new definition for the temple of God, that God is not limited to the holy shrines and the temples, nor is confined by territory or building, rather the ‘one new humanity’ becomes the site where God’s indwelling moves, lives and happens.

 

The relevance of this text for us today is that when dehumanising powers of racism, sexism and toxic nationalism are broken down and dismantled, ‘one new humanity in Christ’ is created. In that new creation, peace, equality and love thrives, and such a new site becomes the new ground where God finds God’s new dwelling place. So as followers if we defeat these powers and break down the walls of division, then we collectively become part of the ‘one new humanity’ and we become the new temple where God dwells among us. Put it differently, if dehumanising powers thrive and dominate our lives, God is not living among us and we as humans have lost the purpose of our humanness. So, the call for us as a church is to find the dwelling place of God within us and among our communities. It’s time that we as churches should be working for a ‘one new humanity’ and testify that God dwells among us in that new humanity and community.

 

God doesn’t dwell among sites of dehumanisation, for all the powers of dehumanisation are anti-God. Let us therefore work together in breaking down the walls of racism, sexism and toxic nationalism and make ourselves, our churches and our communities as places of love, hospitality and inclusion, celebrating the fact that we are all part of ‘one new humanity’ in Christ.

 

Rashford, Sancho and Saka, we love you and we stand by you, for you have all made us proud. Together we live, together we fight against dehumanisation, and together we partake in the ‘one new humanity in Christ.’

 

Raj Bharat Patta,

16th July 2021


Proverbs 1: 20-33