Adding a new medium blog

I joined a new course in theology. Ever since, I wanted to share my learnings with others, simply because it might excite them as much as it does me. There have been many new insights of late that have got me thinking such that I actually needed to put it down in keywords to keep track of them.

It would also help if I could condense my learnings and relate them to everyday life. Someone might be interested to have a look.

So I have begun a blog specifically for my theology related writings. On this blog, I would attempt to find connections with Theology and everyday life. It’s on Medium.com, where I had been running a copy of my former website.

The clean interface of Medium is perfect to just open and write, which made me tilt toward it. There is hardly any time to decorate my site or turn my post into a pretty Pinterest-able piece. So Medium won the deal.

My personal writings will continue here on WordPress, which has been my home of sorts for the past 12 years.

You can find my theology in everyday life blog here: www.medium.com/fruitfulness

As of now I haven’t added anything there yet. They’ll begin to appear by Monday and I hope to publish every Thursday evening at 8pm.

Hope to see you there too!

Molji : Who do you want to be after the lockdown?

“Are you Molji?”

“Yes,”  she said thoroughly surprised. “How did you know?!”

***

 The week before Maramon, a friend of mine named Binoy asked me suggestions for christian books. He wanted books that would help youngsters learn the Bible and study about the church in a deeper way. From my limited experience, I scribbled a few suggestions on a piece of paper and asked him to visit CSS, Tiruvalla, the favourite christian bookshop of Marthomites world wide. The staff in the shop are friendly and helpful, another reason why most clergy frequent the place.

 “Where do I find these books?” he asked, anxious to get hold of some good material. I named a person who was a staff and asked him to find her assuring him that she’d  ensure that he got everything. I told him how knowledgeable and helpful this person was.

The next week, Binoy called me after a visit to the crowded CSS book stall on the famous sand bed of the Maramon convention. 

“Did you get the books?” I enquired. 

“I got all except one. It was just as you said!” 

“What was?”

“ So I was at the crowded book shop unable to find where the books were among a sea of people. All the staff were very busy as it was the lunch break of the convention. Seeing me, a lady came near and asked what I was looking for. I showed her my list. She guided to me all the books I wanted and even gave me some suggestions. Then she led me to the billing. Observing the way she helped me out despite the busy day, I asked her, “Are you Molji?” She was shocked. “How did you know?” She asked, thoroughly surprised. I told her that an achen named so and so told me to ask you for help, but seeing that it was crowded I didn’t know whom to ask.”

Binoy said that she was happy to hear that. “Isn’t achen in Bombay?”

There are close to 1200 achens in the Mar Thoma church and at least half of them visit CSS. When it’s Maramon, add thousands more people who visit the place. Yet she remembered who I was. She would make a far better clergy than me.

On visiting CSS, whenever I had doubts regarding the location of books, or enquired whether a particular book arrived, she had an answer. Or a better suggestion. Or a date as to when a book would arrive . She knows her business well and she is kind, helpful and generous even on a busy Maramon convention day. Although I was helped by her at the shop many a time, it is my brother, Merin who told me her name. He was all praises as to her kindness and the knowledge she had on every book in the shop. I hadn’t cared to ask her name. Yet she knew my name.

By the time the lockdown is over, I’ve decided to become a Molji. I’ve decided to be a presence of Christ in the simplest of ways I can. God wants us to become like Jesus, the fulness of humanity. This world needs human beings that can make a difference  in peoples lives. We can make a first step by becoming a Molji. 

Paul said, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

2 Corinthians 2:15

During the lockdown, we have plenty of time to think, contemplate and change. Who do you want to be after the lockdown?

Monday Clues for Holy Week

C L O U DNo kidding, it takes a few mindfulness tips to actually say the prayers and recite the musical liturgy of Holy Week Sandhya Namaskarams (Evening Matins) in Malayalam. Sometimes the syllables are too little/much for the tunes. Then there’s the prostration. I used to look forward to them when I was a kid. Why? Because it used to be a secret race between my friends on either side and I who would do it and get up the fastest, without hitting your head too hard on the floor. Of course, it had its consequences when I got backhome, not to forget that your father was the one leading the service. 

Anyways, my point was, growing up, it was tough for people like me to pay attention to what actually is going on in the service or the worship order. What are all those songs? They all sound the same… well almost! And the prayers never end. But we ride ‘em, get through it and repeat! Church, prostrate, repeat. 

Take the first Monday of the Holy Week. It lands after the Hosanna Sunday (Duh!). According to Syriac tradition, which has borrowed a lot from the Jewish tradition, Monday begins on Sunday evening. Yeah. Don’t ask me. I didn’t start it. It’s an “Evening to Evening = a Day” system. So what are all these prayers that last a week long? How can you pray that much if it’s all about the cross, suffering and resurrection?  If we pray away all week, then what is left to pray on Friday?

So during this lock down, you might want to look closer at the prayers and see what on earth is going on. 

So, Monday. The prayers, one after the other seem to revolve around a couple of themes. 

The first few are introductory prayers on the suffering of Christ on the way to the cross. 

Some churches call it The Passion (Mel Gibson coming to mind, anyone?). It talks about the purpose, the goal and the future hope of what was achieved through it – our (hope of) salvation. 

 

One : Figs and Grapes

Repeating references to a fig tree that did not bear fruit which was cursed by Christ and mentions of a grape vine find a place there. Yes, fruits. Pretty eco-centric prayers, eh?

 

Actually, the evening Bible readings (Yes, there is something like that for those of us who need not know for various reasons) for the previous day is Isaiah 5 and Matthew 21:17-22. There God talks about having arduously planted a garden from hard land. He took care of it but what came of it? Wild (Sour) grapes. Those need no special care to grow. So when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, on his way towards his suffering, Matthew 21:17 tells us that he looked for fruit on a fig tree and found nothing but leaves. This reference to the fig tree and the fruit not being there appears again and again. Why? God looks for people who bear fruit of his work. Sadly, he looked for faith among his own people and found none. Especially, the Pharisees and the Chief Priests who were the most religious. But they simply didn’t get it. This metaphor of ‘no fig=no faith’ is superimposed over the prayers. 

 

Yet the part that moves us is the fact that he looked for godliness and fruit among us and found none, yet he went to die on the cross for us. It was undeserved punishment. The victory over evil displayed through the love shown on the cross, even when we did not bear fruit – that’s what Monday’s prayers are about, taking us to the other metaphor.

 

TWO: Abel

The prayers, then flow towards a Jesus who is likened to Abel who offered a pleasing sacrifice to God. He gave the best he had, while Cain gave ‘some’ of what we had had. Sorry, Cain,not that thoughtful of ya.  God looked with favour upon Abel, but not on Cain. The elder brother certainly wasn’t pleased with the filial partiality, ending up being killed. What wrong did he do? Nothing. That’s the thing. Goodness in all its goodness causes what doesn’t match up to be afraid of it, dissatisfied. So Abel was innocent and was killed for giving his best, for being good, for being favourable in the eyes of God.  Jesus is likened to this blameless Abel. And the issue? Best flock vs. random crop. In other words, the best vs. disinterested giving. Goodness vs. Evil. Jesus was not only disliked, but also rejected by his own (John: 1:11-12). 

 

Yet Jesus gave in.  He chose to give in to the Father’s holy will. He gave the best – himself – on the cross. And gave everyone the grace to be heirs of his promise of salvation, although they didn’t bear fruit and rejected him and shed innocent blood by killing him (John 1:12). The prayers end by talking about that sweet love of God and asks for mercy and grace. 

 

So that’s Monday. Next year, look out for the words “Athi” and “habel”” and you can worship without losing the plot. 

 

Hosanna (Save us) : Poem

Italy is crying out, Hosanna
Iran is crying out, Hosanna
Spain is crying out, Hosanna
USA is crying out, Hosanna
Doctors are crying out Hosanna
Nurses and medical staff are crying out Hosanna
ICU staff with children waiting at home are cry out Hosanna
Dwellers of a 10×10 in Dharavi are crying out, Hosanna
A struggling domestic help from Worli cries out, Hosanna
A daily wage labourer cries out, Hosanna
Migrant workers travelling by foot to the loved ones are crying out, Hosanna
Their families waiting for them at home are crying out Hosanna.
Countries with limited health facilities are crying out, Hosanna
The dead were crying out, Hosanna
Till their last breath went out they cried, Hosanna
Giving their ventilator to another who cried, Hosanna
The world cries out at the disaster that is COVID
And we cry out to the Son of David,
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna

  • Mathews George

A Safe Stronghold

In 1529, Martin Luther wrote the hymn, A Safe Stronghold Is Our God, which bore these words:

“With force of arms we nothing can,

full soon were we down-ridden;

but for us fights the proper Man

whom God himself hath bidden.

Ask ye who is this same?

Christ Jesus is his name,

the Lord Sabaoth’s Son;

he, and no other one,

shall conquer in the battle.”

More than at any point of time, these times of COVID-19 contagion has forced us to rethink the whole idea of power : Who is powerful? The USA has the largest stockpile of weapons and the most advanced military strength. China’s People Liberation Army is the largest military system on earth. Yet both countries have struggled to contain a virus, so tiny, which gave an offer no one could refuse. As my teacher, Rev. Eappen Varghese reminded, they had tanks but succumbed to the outbreak of a virus which they are still struggling to contain (at the time of writing). 

We might feel that power is in the hands of the seemingly powerful. It could be a military, a dominant country, a culture, an ideology, your boss or colleagues. It could even be the case that you believe that you hold the reigns of control in life.  Yet the symbols of power have been rendered futile, in fact comically useless at this time. More than ever, this moment makes one look to the heavens and say, “I lift my eyes to the mountains, where will my help come from? My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1). The earlier we are weaned from our perspective which mistakes the way we  see the world we see as the true state of affairs, the easier it is for us hold on to the one who is actually powerful. One of the names of God in the Old testament is Lord Sabaoth (Hebrew: Adonai Tzva’oth) which means the Lord of hosts, or the Lord of the Armies, the one who actually leads the battle and decides the results. I hope you place your hope in the truly powerful one, the true safe stronghold. 

#inspiration #hope #Gospel #Christ

Why the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church must resist the violence against students and be a prophetic voice of opposition in India today.

Why the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church must resist the violence against students and be a prophetic voice of opposition in India today.

Another episode of violence against students has taken place in India. On the 5th of January 2020, over 50 youngsters wielding weapons and wearing masks entered the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, New Delhi, terrorised the students and damaged property. Over 28 students are reportedly undergoing treatment for severe injuries.

Continue reading “Why the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church must resist the violence against students and be a prophetic voice of opposition in India today.”

Christmas and CAA : A message in times of a polarised nation

My country is burning. Various parties stoked the fire of polarisation over the years. Now it has grown into an uncontrollable wildfire. The government gave birth to a CAA and NRC as a result of a union with majoritarianism. The irony is, as someone tweeted, that the State is attacking its citizens in the name of people who are not its citizens. It’s a question of belonging. It’s a question of brotherhood. Who is my brother? Who is my sister? Who is an ‘other’? 

Jesus was once asked by an expert of the law, “Who is my neighbour?” 

Through a strange parable popularly known as that of the Good Samaritan (that would make a fellow Jews squirm in his seat), Jesus narrated who a neighbour is: 

The one you hate the most is your neighbour. The one you hate the most may have more goodness in him than in you. The one whom a Jew of the time seemed to hate the most (A Samaritan) was the protagonist in the parable. And he helped and cared for, which fellow Jews in the parable didn’t.

The parable is an introduction to the deep love that the Bible talks about. Often it doesn’t match our understanding of love. There is a redrawing of boundaries in this kind of love, when it comes to deciding who is in and who is out.

Jesus approves a summary of the whole of God’s law in two sentences. One of them talks about loving God with all of one’s heart, one’s soul, one’s strength and one’s mind. The other summary of the whole law simply says, love your neighbour as yourself.

And that’s what Jesus Christ came to show – that a new world, a new community is possible, solely on the basis of love. He told us that love is the only way for this world to be saved from… itself.

So God, who is love, came down and lived among us, died and rose again, showing that a community of love was the future, and that is the only community that has a future, lest we kill each other and die, believing our own lies. 

That’s also why he said that the religious laws were not enough. One had to have love – a love that knew Love (God); one that was in action towards one’s neighbour (the ‘other’ who is not you or like you). People followed him when he said that, because they felt they belonged there. And that got him into political and religious trouble, because more people began to believe in love, and no one could stop them being part of this invisible yet visible Kingdom. He was crucified for that love.

He called that community the Kingdom of God. That’s because he believes the real God is love. And true love, went to die for the world on a cross, and said, love is the only way. And the cross is an invitation to this community of love. Anyone who believes that love is the only way, like Jesus did? You too are invited, and called to be part of this community. In fact everyone who believes in love is. It’s called the Kingdom of God. 

It’s the Kingdom in which citizenship is free. It’s the Kingdom where your only identity is love. God is love. As a result, the name, Kingdom of God. Welcome to the Kingdom where your Aadhar card number or social security number is simply four letters : L-O-V-E. 

It’s the nation which has no borders. No one can be an illegal migrant in it. Some who flee to it are refugees from other nations that were founded on man-made constitutions which had a vision but lacked the heart and the will to implement it. You see, a constitution without a heart is persecution.

Luke 2 talks about Caesar Augustus conducting a census. Jesus’ father Joseph and mother Mary had to make the arduous journey of over 167 km from Nazareth to Galilee, just because the ruler wanted to count his people.  A census, besides providing date on a territory’s citizens also reveals information on who is not part of it. It includes and excludes at the same time. Just as the NRC and the NPR in India would (2019: you don’t need to be an urban naxal – God knows what it means – to know that). 

But anyone who believes in that love, “a love that loves so much that I will die for you kinda love,” can be a citizen of the kingdom of God, this nation, this community, which Jesus taught us about. And when one experiences that kind of love, one tends to realise: 

This is where I belong. 

This is the community I am a part of. 

I am a citizen of a nation of mad lovers.

So Christmas is about a Jesus Christ who was born to bring about a Citizenship Amendment Act – An amendment that would make us all citizens of this nation of lovers.

While the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that was passed in India towards the dusk of  2019 seeks to exclude specific communities, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of Jesus Christ through Christmas seeks to include everyone.

It seeks to tell everyone that we are capable of a powerful love which unites us, despite our differences. While the CAA of India causes fear, hatred, violence and riots, the CAA of Jesus gives rise to peace and love.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, went on to be a Character Amendment Act on the cross of Calvary. There, we were shown that love can save, love can transform, love is the way and that the heart of everything is love in the heart. From our outward displays, the focus shifts to a change in our hearts. Consequently that leads to a change in our character. We become people of nothing but love.

This Christmas, may I extend the invitation to be part of this community of a radical kind of love to each one of you, no matter what religion or ideology you belong to. 

May the blessings of Christmas be yours. 

Rev. Mathews George

mtwsgeorge@gmail.com | @mtwsgeorge

Christmas (A poem)

No, Saviour, there’s nowhere for you to be born, in India.
Hospitals are filled with the maimed, the brutally blinded, and the bleeding, and some dead,
Don’t even think about the cattle stall:
You cannot take the place of cattle in India today,
And, if you want to steal the manger that belongs to them,
(whether that was your intention or not),
You could be lynched by a mob who would just be reacting.
As for your parents:
“From AMU to Assam, from Jammu to Jorhat,”
There’s no guarantee that Yusuf won’t be shot at or jailed,
or that Mary won’t be raped, or perhaps, gang-raped.

By the way, did they get to register during Caesar’s census?
Luke told us that they set out,
but not whether they got to,
because if they haven’t, you are out:
Jews and Muslims are not included.
No, don’t you make it communal. There’s nothing religious about it.
It’s just that you don’t matter.
You can go to Pakistan or Israel if you like. But not India.

We wanted you to be born, again, this year,
we wanted to celebrate Christmas, which has become more about red suited Santa,

Anyway, whether it’s about Santa or not,
the clause in a hastily implemented law’s a cause for
the blood flowing on the streets, and in Universities, which match his suit and the Christmassy colours, this year, at least in India
Somehow it looks gory,
except to the State, to whom, it seems, more and more, to prefer a shade of saffron on their flags and clothes,
and stains of red on the clothes and  bodies of students, women, Kashmiris, Muslims, rationalists, or anyone with a voice

– Mathews George

Messi

Messi

He had a late start to the season. You could think that he would be worried about his goal tally not matching up to last year. But today (19 Oct 2019), he passed the ball, while in front of the goal. One more time.  He showed us not only why he is the greatest, but also why we all needed to be at ‘our’ greatest, every moment. Most of us say there will only ever be one Messi.

The truth is, there is a Messi in all of us.

You see, we are not at our greatest every day. The long journeys, the residue of the day’s arguments, the haunting memories of backstabbing that pop-up like ads during that stupid game on our mobile phones:  we can’t entirely blame ourselves for our bad days. But even then, we can choose to be at our greatest, day in, day out. That’s why I am a Messi fan. It’s not just about his goals. It is about his consistency to be his best, even when the odds are against him. He has had bad days, but he bounces back to being that selfless forward who has no qualms in passing the ball to Griezmann or Suarez. He did that this evening. And the other day he was awarded the Golden Boot for the 6th time. That is four years in a row. He also won FIFA’s The Best award earlier this year. Remember that when he started he was playing with the likes of Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry. Ten years later he is still giving his best. And on the field, he is no less gracious. Messi is the player with the most assists in La Liga in the previous season. He passed one today. And scored another one too.

There is a Messi in all of us – One who strives to do his/her best and is gracious to enable others to do their best. There is one who came to tell us that that’s what we are created for: the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Do to others what you would have others do to you, he said. Let your light shine. The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and be a ransom for many. That is why John says powerfully, prophetically, something that we often forget – “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Our body is capable of bearing the divine.

Choose and strive to be the greatest and to be at your greatest, at all times. I wish you a Messi life ahead.

Image credit : Google

Missing the point

Esther Duflo and Abhijeet Banerjee, Nobel prize winners in Economics have had the pluck and the experience to say something prophetic : that we have been missing the point.


“When a tree gets cut down in Nairobi, GDP counts the labour used and the wood produced, but does not deduct the shade and the beauty that are lost. GDP values only those things that are priced and marketed.” And who fixes these prices? The powers that be. At the end of the day it’s purely subjective.


When quarries shave off the earth of stones, which are natural resources that belong to the whole world, we calculate only the amount made on it, but not the damage it does to our planet. GDP markets and exploits the very blindness it creates.
This is because, says Banerjee and Duflo, growth is always measured in GDP. Using an index called Total Factor Productivity (TFP) which showed a jump in 1995 and began a permanent slow down since 2004 (the year Facebook began), they note the wane in productivity has not been factored in by GDP criteria. 


Since social media platforms are essentially free, using the GDP one can underestimate the well-being it may contribute to by helping upload videos, stay in contact, express oneself, as well-being is not priced. On the other hand, they say, ” if you are convinced waiting anxiously for someone to like your latest post is no fun at all but you are unable to kick the Facebook habit because all your friends are on it, GDP could also be over-estimating well-being.”


Environmental cost, the addiction to things like substances and social media are simply not counted. Yet GDP rules supreme. We have simply been missing the point, yet focussing on increasing something that has a gaping chasm between the number and reality. 


How many more such formulae have we adopted in our life that have made us more blind rather than wiser?

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