Thursday, January 13, 2022
Weddings – Celebrate love with Jesus and his disciples
Party – Dance with Jesus and his disciples
‘Out of hours’ – Listen to mother and act
Wine runs out – Do whatever Jesus tells
Jars with water – Draw from it and share
Wine is tasty – Compliment the host
Miracles – Happen as God works with us
Jesus and his disciples were at Cana attending a wedding party,
Wine runs out; Mother Mary informs Jesus; Jesus’ hour hasn’t come,
Mary instructs to do whatever Jesus tells,
Jesus gets the jars to be filled with water,
Draw from that jar and give it to the steward,
Steward tastes it and finds it to be best,
Questions the groom why do you keep the best to the last?
Out of hours Jesus works; Out of water wine splashes,
Out of faith there is sufficiency; Out of love there is no deficiency
In times of insufficiency – Do whatever Jesus tells,
In times of merriment – Do whatever Jesus tells,
In times of ‘out of hours’ – Do whatever Jesus tells,
In times of need – Do whatever Jesus tells,
In times of weddings – Do whatever Jesus tells,
Pic credit: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/218424650655321229/
Sunday, January 9, 2022
Friday, January 7, 2022
Epiphany is the manifestation of God to creation in God’s own ways and God’s own terms. God in Jesus Christ ‘who though was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness…’ (Phil 2:4-5) is a God who was born in the human body. Jesus was an embodiment of the divine in the human body. The divine, be it in the Ancient near eastern religions or in the Greek philosophical thought, or in the Hebrew Biblical context was understood as someone who was always transcendental, who was beyond the material human flesh, and away from human pain and suffering. In the mystery of Christmas, when God in Jesus was born as a child from a mother’s womb, that news was something which was very radically good news for their times. God was always understood as divine in opposition to earthly, fleshy humans, and was spoken only in terms of the ‘beyond’ to human cognition and body. But Jesus Christ came to pitch God’s tent among the creation as ‘body’ God, God who (be)came in the human body. God in Jesus not only divinised the material creation by his birth in the human body, but also humanised, body-ised the divine. The body of Jesus Christ, becomes the site of hope for the ‘fallen’ human bodies, where life and death find new meaning offering hope to the material bodies. The ‘body’ God identifies with the material creation including the human bodies, specially with those bodies that have been broken, beaten, bruised and buried, to breathe in a breath of fresh life, life in all its fullness.
If Jesus’ birth was a celebration of the ‘body’ God in a child, the baptism of Jesus is a celebration of the Spirit who descended upon him in a bodily form of a dove (22v). The Trinitarian God is an em’bod(y)’ied God, who did not shy away to reveal and manifest Godself in the materiality of life, be it a human body or in the body of a dove. What does the incarnation of Jesus Christ in a human body offer to our Christian faith and praxis today? What does the Epiphany or the manifestation of the Spirit of God in a bodily form of a dove inform our Christian witness today?
When God has created the creation in the space of God-self, when God chooses to manifest in the materiality of life, the body of a broken/disfigured/disabled human and in the body of a dove, the call for a Christian discipleship is to discern the sparks of the divine in the entire creation, in the public sphere, in the materiality of life, in the bodies of life. Celebrate life in all and among all of God’s creation.
Epiphany challenges us to break down the barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’, for God’s manifestation is to create an inclusive world, where the sacred and the secular, where the spiritual and the material, where the ‘insider’ and the ‘outsider’, and where the local and the stranger find a common home coexisting and cohabiting together in love.
Epiphany inspires us to celebrate the divine who comes in the bodily forms of the creation, inviting us to care for the birds, the animals, the flora and the fauna and the entire ecology, for God manifests through God’s creation. In the destruction of the ecology, we are destroying the means and methods of God’s manifestations. With the extinction of a species, are we paving way to the extinction of God’s epiphanies?
Epiphany provokes us to look for the manifestations of God among the sites of the margins. At the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit descended upon him in a bodily form of a wild dove in that wilderness. Why did the Spirit of God not choose a lion (ferocious) or an elephant (strongest) or a giraffe (tallest) or an eagle (who flies to greater heights) or an ostrich (which is a strong bird) but chose to descend in the form of a wild dove? The ‘body’ God’s preferential option is those weak, meek, common, ordinary, simple and the not so important bodies, and so the Spirit in this case chose to descend in the body of a dove. Led by such a Spirit of God, we are invited to explore the divine among the common, ordinary, meek, weak and on the margins, and work with those on the margins for a just and inclusive world.
May the epiphany of the ‘body’ God continue to be with us throughout the journeys of our faith, and help us to celebrate the freedom of God’s manifestations in the bodily forms, in the ordinaries and in the matters & materiality of life. Amen.
7th January 2021
Thursday, December 9, 2021
I was recently listening to the radio where the host was asking the listeners what was their favourite role in the nativity play that they have enacted at their school. Overwhelmingly many people who responded shared that their role as donkeys or oxen at the manger were their favourite roles. Last year there was a survey in the UK on how your kid’s nativity play role shows what they will earn in the future, and interestingly those who played the role of the oxen are likely to have earned more than the rest of the roles. I am sure each of you will remember the role that you have played at your school’s nativity. The story of Christmas is centred around the manger, and specially at the baby Jesus in the manger.
Allow me to reflect on Luke 2: 7 for Christmas this year. It is recorded as “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Because there was no place in the inn, the first ever Christmas, the birth of baby Jesus did not stop. Mother Mary found an alternative and laid the baby in the manger. If not an inn, a manger is the place for the child to be laid, and that is the Christmas message for this year. The last two years 2020-2021, have been pandemic years, perhaps the toughest years in the recent past, where life came to a standstill. Airports were closed, schools were closed, businesses were closed, places of worship were closed, and despite all the closures, the hope in the Christian faith is that God in Jesus has been working with the communities and the creation in overcoming this phase of the pandemic. If there was no place in the inn, God in Jesus did not stop failing to come into this world. God through Mary found a place in the manger to lay the baby Jesus. Christmas is a story of hope, for God in Jesus is unstoppable in God’s reaching out to the world, for God has always been with us, both in season and off season. In the context of the pandemic, vaccines and vaccinations came as signs of hope, only to recognise that God in Jesus has been with us, helping us to overcome situations of hopelessness and despair.
The child laying in a manger, then served as a sign of hope for the angels to share about the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The mention of a manger, at least three times in Luke in the story of Jesus’ birth affirms to be a site of wonder, a site where God pitches God’s tent to be a site of solidarity with the people on the margins, and a site of creativity informing the world that God is present even in such unknown, unthinkable and unexpected sites.
The story of the birth of Jesus is a celebration of God choosing to find alternatives in offering hope. If not an inn, then a manger, if not in a closed building, then on the street, if not in the sacred, then in the secular, if not in a religious place, then in a public sphere, if not in the faith communities, then in the neighbours on our street, if not in the rituals, then in the serving the needy, if not in the tradition, then in the reimagination, if not in the known, then in the unknown, if not in the expected, then in the unexpected and if not in the usual, then in the unusual, in all of this God in Jesus is offering hope, peace and love to our entire creation.
The calling for us is to envision Christmas as a living event, inviting us to recognise the birth of a baby Jesus in our localities and in our times, for Jesus is being born in the margins of our societies, and we are called with Jesus to pitch our tents with the margins, and strive towards transforming our societies offering peace, love and hope to this our world today. For me, Christmas is not the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, which we as Christians commemorate year after year, but Christmas is an opportunity to recognise that Jesus Christ is being born every day into our contexts offering hope, peace, joy and love to us, making the birth of Jesus relevant for our times. Christmas is not just a past thing, but is an event in the present where God in Jesus is taking birth in situations of poverty, exploitation and marginalisation of our times today. The story of Christmas is very radical that it unsettles the very idea of God who reigns from the realms of transcendence, but who came down to pitch God’s tent among the creation, being born as a baby, born as a poor baby, born in a manger as there is no place in the inn.
No matter which role we played at the nativity, be it a donkey, an ox, an angel, the shepherds, the magi, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, we are all loved equally by God, and we are called to share that love with others. May the hope, love, peace and joy of Jesus be with us all during this pandemic Christmas, inviting us to commit towards a free vaccination of all people in all places of the world.
Allow me to conclude with a drawing of my 11-year-old son Jaiho Patta, which he has drawn last year during the thick of a lockdown on the story of Christmas. In this drawing Jaiho reflects the nativity scene, ‘Jesus born in lockdown,’ bringing in the relevance of Christmas today.
Raj Bharat Patta
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