Homily – Sunday, the 11th December 2022
Reading: Matthew 11:1-12
Its Christmas in two weeks’ time.
When we go through tough situations in life- does that strengthen our faith or does it challenge our faith
When we go through very easy situations in life- does that make faith take a back bench in our list or priorities
What would be a meaningful advent engagement in the context in which we live
I would draw your attention to three insights from the gospel lesson that was read to us.
Discipleship is a Risky Engagement
Are you the One, or Should we wait for another?
John the Baptist was in prison and he surely had that inner inkling that life could be at risk. He was clear about his mission and therefore wanted to confirm. He sent word to Jesus- Are you the One? Should we wait for another one
The Context in which we read this text today.
- The declining number of people professing organised Christianity with more and more people signing up in the No Religion box.
- The humanitarian catastrophe and crisis around the war in Ukrain and its ripple effect in every nook and corner of the world. Just a sign of the injustice, violence and pain the world around is enduring.
- The resilience of the Church at the grass root levels despite painful stories of undesirable practices at the helm.
- The ordinary people struggling to beat price rise and lesser income
- The continuing impact of the pandemic with the Winter coming again
The Story of John tells us that Discipleship is a risky engagement.
This text is personally precious to me because one of the last dancing performances of my mother that I saw before she stopped performing on stage was her dancing it out as Salome in the ruler’s court. The ruler was happy and announced that I will give you whatever you ask. And the last dialogue of the dancer is that- I want that head. The head of the Baptiser in prison.
This therefore is the last of the recorded questions of John in the Bible.
I asked my dad- Why did they kill him?
The answer was simple- He dared to stand for truth and he was paying the price for the same.
Is taking a position on the side of truth that risky
Yesterday was Human Rights Day- and we are all reminded Silence is the greatest human right violation.
There is no bigger apathy than the insensitivity to the suffering of the people around us- specially the last, least and the lost.
Friends, we today thank the Lord for each person who dared to take this risk of discipleship and remained friends of the poor- walking that extra mile so that others may have life and life in all its fullness
Friendship is a risky engagement and it is natural that we go through times asking
Are you the One?
Was that a question that emerges out of doubt in trying times or is not John sending his disciples for their sake asking- Go confirm with him that He is THE ONE.
Through it all- Through it all- the message is Jesus- he is the ONE
The Mary’s song that we sang as the Prelude today is worth noting here
I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy father, you have come
And chosen me now to carry your son
Breath of heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of heaven
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness for you are holy
Breath of heaven, breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Discipleship is a Transformative Engagement
Jesus tells the disciples of John to go back and tell him what they are seeing and experiencing around them
The Blind Receive Sight
The Lame Walk
The Lepers are Healed
The Deaf hear
The dead are raised
The poor receive good news
The offences for Christ sake are considered a blessing
Friends, quite a lot can be said about each of these.
Right from transforming structures of untouchability to education and health for ALL- ALL means ALL mission engagement has done much. I will keep it simple
I remember how mission was lived out in our local context- People affected by Polio came to our Polio Home crawling as children and went back walking- yes with the help of lot of technology but confident to live life in all its fullness. Forty years later the story of the contributions of the CRD is tremendous. Preaching in action. How many lives touched and transformed. They also pioneered the Polio Free World Campaign. Friends the Church was involved in several ways determinded that the Lame shall walk. When the Orthopedics department started the Prosthetic Clinic I had an email from our German partners- If you can make the person walk leave the cost on us.
I specifically remember one of our Youth Festivals. We were finalising the programme and I was told the children of the deaf school and the blind school must be given a space. How? Well how about a dance
I remember, We had a great dance performance at the festival. A dance by the deaf and the blind girls. We thought some of them could not hear and some could not see- but their choreography, the rhythm and the passion were tremendous. The deaf was telling us hearing is not what we think it is. Seeing is beyond what we presume it is. I remember the Chochlea and Cornea team deciding to work with the local communities. They told us deafness and blindness are something that can be attended to. We evolved the CFCDP- the Child Focussed Community Development Programme which had a great impact on the church being a space for all. Touching lives of the ordinary people.
Celebrating ten years of AsiaCMS we were listening to stories. One of the best I liked was from Ephatha. A person passionate about sharing the gospel came out of church and saw two people outside. He asked them why did you not come to church. They said we are hearing impaired and the church is never sensitive to people like us. This challenged the young man. He went on to study the sign language and with the pastors permission decided to start a service for the deaf which soon gathered over fifty people for a sign language service. I was invited to be part of a special event. A marriage. Two people with hearing impairment and the entire service in sign language only. I know people investing on cricket for the blind. I know the engagement of people during the Tsunami and the Pandemic bringing good news to the poor, life to the dying,. Mission has always been and is transformative.
Friendship is transformative life affirming engagement
Being the church in contexts like this is far beyond our routine programmes. It is being the transformative presence in the context we are placed in.
Compare this what Isaiah prophesied to a people in exile and pain. Jesus was living out the promises of hope
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come and save you.’
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
8 A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
This is the promise of the Lord. We are called to proclaim and live out this hope.
Discipleship is a Prophetic engagement
Let us listen to what Jesus said about John. He asked them what did you seek in the wilderness but who was John
- He was not a reed shaken by the wind- tossed to and fro with every changing situation. No he knew what and who he believed in.
- He was not someone dressed in soft clothes having palaces as abodes. He was not lured by the transitory attractions of worldliness.
- He was a Prophet- more than a prophet- greatest of those born of women. He had the courage to speak the truth.
- He was the one about whom it was written- Voice in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord.
This is the One and the Question Are you the One
When earlier John had seen Jesus he had said
- He was before me- Pre-existance
- He is greater than me- Pre-eminence
- He will baptise you with the Spirit and in Fire- Possibilities
- He has the winnowing fork in his hand-
- Behold He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Friends, this Wednesday the Diocese of Europe came together in prayer for people of Ukraine. Bishop Robert who accompanied Archbishop Justin to Kiev and Bocha shared experiences. Places were bodies of people shot dead, hands tied behind, marks of torture all over and dumped into mass graves, the gruesomeness of the winter that comes with no heating possibilities and the ripple effects of the catastrophe in each of our homes.
We were all told- Winter is Coming. Yes Winter is Coming
Katarina from Kiev said- thanks for being our friends. We see miracles around us everyday. Being alive is a miracle, being able to resist a mighty power is a miracle, being able to have friends at times like this is a miracle.
When another winter is coming let us be reminded Friendship today continues to be risky engagement, transformative engagement and prophetic engagement
Let us make Christmas meaningful
Winter is Coming
11th December 2022