Nesting Sunday

Homily – Sunday, the March 19, 2023

Greetings dear friends

As we are aware the fourth Sunday of Lent is celebrated as Mothering Sunday. Traditionally it was about the journey to your mother church from which you had moved for various reasons. In diaspora contexts it was called Nesting Sunday- since the churches were nests for people in faraway lands that nurtured and nourished them. Leaving the nest was an unavoidable aspect of life and people moved on. Nesting Sunday was an opportunity for people visit the nest, renew the bonds of friendship and fellowship, enjoy the time together and then get on with life. It is a service focussed on reunion, reconciliation and rejoicing together.

We meditate again on Psalm 23 today perhaps a Psalm on which we have heard the most number of sermons but at the same time one that comes with fresh insights each time we read the same. Today we read it in the context of half way mark of Lent. A time to look back and ask ourselves how is lent going and also to look ahead and ask if there is any course correction that would be required.

We look up- and ask- How is my relationship with the Lord going.

We look within and ask- How is my inner being doing.

We look to the neighbour and ask- How is our connectedness going.

We look to the world around and ask- How is our Christian life of witness going.

Review of our Relationship with the Shepherd

We began our service today singing Way Maker, Miracle Worker,

Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness, My God, that is who You are. For each one of us celebrate a very unique relationship with this wonderful God. We are confident Even when I don‘t see it you‘re working, Even when I don‘t feel it you‘re working, You never stop, you never stop working

You never stop, you never stop working in me.

In the gradual we affirmed our connectedness to the Shepherd of our souls singing Shepherd of my soul, I give You full control;, wherever You may lead, I will follow.

Yes we look back and realise that be it in quite pastures or gentle streams, the Shepherd of my soul is by my side. Should I face a mighty mountain or a valley dark and deep the shepherd of my soul will be my guide. Whenever we were wounded the Shepherd was by us binding the wounds. We take for granted the feeding and the tending, the caring and the guiding, the protection and the saving, the searching and the shielding.

O the shepherd has been really good to us.

 At the Wise Ones this week we had a profound discussion on farewelling someone dear. Three things stuck out for me as one of us shared about the homegoing of her dear brother and how connectedness to the shepherd helped her again, the same way or better than it helped coped with the death of her beloved years ago. First the attempt of the person to recollect the past and the humility to say sorry so that we can part in good spirits. Life is so precious and God does not want us to live holding grudges, Second, is the hope of the beyond. Go in peace. Do greet dad and mom and our dear ones when you see them. The shepherd who gives us hope and confidence in the life beyond. Third, was the profound understanding that this time when I go, he would not be there at the airport. I go into a different house and I do not know whether I would go again. But through it all it was faith in God that sustains me through. It reminds me of the temporariness of life here and the permanence of life hereafter.

Lent time we ask this deep question- What does it mean to say the Lord is my shepherd. It is a time of great thanksgiving. It is also a time wherein we review our relationship with our Lord. Do we rejoice in the presence of the Lord. Do we find joy praying and spending time with the Word. Do we enjoy the bliss of God’s presence when we come to church or engage in missional expressions of our faith.

Yes we finetune our vertical connection.

Review of the Calmness of our Soul

There are three words that always caught my attention . Green pastures, still waters and calm souls.

It is good to ask this question once a while- Are we able to sing- It is well, It is well with my soul.

How green is my inner being today?

It is quite possible that barrenness can be setting into our lives. We sometimes go through tough patches. No green anywhere in sight. Everything like a parching desert.

At our Lenten Bible Study this week we looked at the Saturday people. They did not have the benefit of hindsight to understand the cross in the light of resurrection. They were a broken and shattered people at the foot of the cross.

Today though we are able to sing Rock of Ages, Cleft for me Let me hide myself in thee there are many around us not able to find a hiding place. The beauty of faith is that we are able to sing

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress,

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly,

Wash me, Savior, or I die!

But friends living in this nothingness, in the shame of nakedness and in the helplessness unable to comprehend the possibilities of grace we might be struggling and we are reminded- The shepherd leads us to green pastures.

When we think of Water do we think of Stillness of our waters. Have we sailed through turbulent waters?  And when we do that we understand how agonising life can be.

My heart always goes out to the boat peoples- those who flee their nations seeking secure spaces but are chased away from shores where they try to enter. Turbulent sea is a powerful symbol.

The United Nations Water Conference is happening in New York this week and we had a preparatory session of Faith groups preparing our stake at the conference. Everyone agreed Water is Sacred and to have access to still, drinkable water is a blessing we many a times do not value as it ought to be.

I was always reminded of a story of an animal that was led to still waters. As it enjoyed the stillness saw its reflection on the water. It started stirring the water. It was thinking that the other animal should not get this clear water. It should only be for me.

As important is the Calmness of our Soul. The Psalmist says that He restores my soul. The root verb used here in the imperfect could literally mean- repair, refresh, repent or restore.

When does the soul become crushed? It happens when relationships are strained- spiritual relationships and human relationships.

One of the crucial aspects of Lent is restoration of relationship. Those of us who are following Dust and Glory for our daily devotions were reminded the last of couple of days very strongly- Forgive as God Forgives.

Lent is about reconciliation and restoration

It is laying down the burden that weighs upon the soul

It is all about reconnecting with God and with each other.

Review our Connectedness with our neighbour.

One of the affirmations that the Psalmist makes is about the Paths of righteousness in which the Lord leads us: It is easy to claim that the Lord is leading us in paths of righteousness and justice, but it always good to review if we are walking in pathways of justice and righteousness.

When we think about Lent as other-centric we are reminded

Several Around Us are walking through valleys of darkness. Were we able to be at least a semblance of the rod and the staff of the Lord that comforts people in contexts of darkness.

An elderly person among who has had a very painful childhood tells us of the story of concentration camps and transit camps which was marked by darkness. On one such painful nights when all hope was lost- she saw a fire fly flying past. That gave her tremendous strength and from that day her morning prayer was- Lord help me be a fire fly to at least one person travelling dark valleys today! I might not be able to comfort but I want to try.

Yes there are many around us concerned about enemies. It is ever so true in contexts or war, violence and corporatisation of governments.

A just free new world becomes a myth in such a context. But we need the prophetic courage to say that the new world is not far way. We can already smell it and see it beyond the horizon. We shall not rest until we reach there.

The Lord is able to give a new anointing to people whose oil has dried out. Last week at the Confirmation the Bishop used the Chrism oil for anointing and as I held it in my hand as the minister of the congregation- my prayer was anoint all of us of Lord with a new anointing that would fill our cups to an overflowing fullness.

Friends the real experience of Lent is to able to say- surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall live in the house of the Lord forever and ever.

Our concluding prayer today would be

As the deer pants_for the water so my soul longs after You.

You alone are my heart‘s desire and I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield,

to You alone may my spirit yield.

You alone are my heart‘s desire and I long to worship You.

We will now spent a few moments in silence

How is Lent going with us

How should Lent go with us

Shall we listen to Psalm 23 sung to us as we meditate on its words

Vinod Victor

March 19, 2023

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