A new start

 

A friend of mine recently undertook a challenge. In his long commutes everyday, he decided to spend time reading. And what he read he wrote about. Inspired by his efforts and seeing some of the interesting titles he covered in his one year journey, I’ve decided to follow suit, only more privately.

My new home is a long ways off from work and I see the long commute as an opportunity to read and think. But there is a mind block, to both reading and writing. But I shall force myself nevertheless to start.

In the past 4 to 5 years I’ve limited myself to reading non-fiction and the kind of books that take long to complete. Unfortunately, I’ve never had long spells to free time to complete them and so a lot of books have remained half read. I’m torn between completing the half read ones and starting new less heavier books to get the habit started. The latter sounds appealing but I don’t have one to start immediately.

I am looking forward to a book I had ordered recently ‘The Science of God’, based on a blog I had read. Until then I will probably continue to read ‘There is A God’ by Anthony Flew.

I’m also looking forward to starting a Society of some sort that discusses some of these fundamental ideas of identity, origin, meaning and destiny. I’d like to call it ‘The Socratic Club at Hennur’. That is still work in progress.

Here’s to hoping this season sets the tone to interesting readings and discussions!

Advertisements
Posted in And everything else.. | Leave a comment

At Banaswadi Bangalore…

In Banaswadi, Bangalore the church meets on Wednesdays at 8 PM in the night. The setting is different. I have grown up sitting in the pews on Sunday mornings dressed in formal attire staring at other pretentiously stern and solemn faces that are waiting to scowl at you if you misbehave, which amounts to smiling, talking, looking all around  restlessly or making faces at another kid sitting across the aisle. Name a motion and there was a high probability it was taboo in that setting.

But at Banaswadi, we gather in the living room of a house. No one is dressed formally unless they are arriving straight from work. We start with dessert and coffee or tea as people arrive. Worship is participative and so is the study. Each participant brings with him or her a hymn a psalm a word of instruction a petition or an experience to encourage others.

I picture Priscilla and Aquila and the church that met in their home. I would like to believe it would have been similar.

I have been asked questions when I share with people about the church at Banaswadi.

Who is the pastor?

Who distributes communion?

How many members?

What is the source of income for the pastor?

What order of service do you follow?

Is your pastor ordained?

Are you associated with any denomination?

These questions are debatable.

Maybe the reason the home church is the only form of church in the new testament was because there were persecutions. Maybe the home church is the fastest growing church model in China because most churches are underground. Maybe the flexibility and the non institutional structure of the home church does not appeal to those who prefer heirarchy, authority and power.  Maybe our pastor does not wear the right kind of cassock. Maybe there are no pews no altar no choir benches no parsonage no vestry.

Jesus during his ministry to the Jews consistently lashed out at one aspect of their lives. Their religiosity and ceremonial clinging devoid of any true worship. Which day of the week, what sacrifice to  offer, what food to eat, what rituals to perform what dress to wear, which place of worship to go to and such others were the primary questions that plagued their theology. These issues continue to plague many of our ‘mainline’ churches even today.

These are ‘non issues’, to steal a word from the IT industry, at Banaswadi. The focus is praise, worship, study, encouragement and fellowship. We are learning from the book of Genesis these days. The insights that each of us brings is varied and sometimes wonderful as we add the richness of our lives’ experiences to the understanding of His word.

Every Wednesday night I walk out of that home with a blessed feeling. It is not just an emotional experience. The two hours we spend together as a church, invades our thoughts, our perspective of God and who He is and our relation to Him and leaves us with a challenge to be true to His calling. It doesn’t stop there. The fellowship with believers holds us accountable in His presence.

We hope you will join us someday.

Andronicus, from Banaswadi Bangalore 🙂

Posted in My Faith.. | 1 Comment

Of longing and fulfilment

Dear Sam,

I hope it was not too much trouble having Alice spend the whole of last week with your family. She tells me time flew without so much as a warning until she had to return. And it was when I heard her say that, that I knew I had to write to you. You must pardon me for writing with a motive for I know how much you appreciate when I write without one. Truly those have been some of our most engaging exchanges.  

A friend described the 26th of December as being the most depressing day of the year. Can you picture my reaction to this? I had only to turn away and terminate my friendship for such a qualification on the day of my birth seemed so unfair and impolite. But it IS true, isn’t it? The morning after, Monday morning blues, First day of work after a vacation, Cleaning up after a party; The sinking feeling when the moment is gone and is in the past.

We hate those moments. We have always hated them. We will always hate them. Remember Sam, how we would be so depressed on the first day of school after the long vacations that we would travel quietly on that bus ride in the morning without so much as uttering a word of greeting. We’d be sharing a seat on that bus, but each of us looking outside the window at no particular object yet with our gaze focussed in a certain angle and sifting through memories of the past few days in our minds. We would live through those moments all over again in our minds, wouldn’t we?

Passionate as we are about our experiences in life,  this yearning for the present moment to last is naive, don’t you think? It’s one of those situations one must add to the “Better learn from your mistakes” list. But we don’t do that, do we?  I see Alice still walking around looking lost. I am sure she must have enjoyed herself thoroughly with you to have such an after effect.

The paradox is this. As much as we hate the after effects of ecstasy, we’d rather go through the depressions of the morning after than curtail our yearnings to indulge. You must be wondering right now where I am headed with this thought, if I have suddenly turned conservative and am launching an attack against all the “fun” in life. No Sam, that is certainly not my intention. I am as liberal in such matters as you are with the cheese on your toast.

All around Sam, people are searching for experiences that will thrill them. That is the modus operandi for weekend pleasure these days. They want to jump off a cliff and not die, they want to be thrown in the air and yet be safely caught when they return, They want to new stories portrayed in cinema every weekend and expect a difference that is marked. And at the end of all of this “fun” the Monday morning is still a pain. I wonder what we gain from our weekend indulgences.

You and I have been married for how many years now Sam? Its close to eight years. Remember how we spent that evening by the stream off River Shous eight years back? We had only then confided in each other of our love for our women and how we knelt down on that rock and carved out our commitment statements to God and them. I am sure you will agree that evening still lives fresh in our minds. Thankfully it worked out well and these women are our wives today. But what if that had not been the case? We did realize that the possibility of our relationships not working existed. Yet we plunged into them with faith. Even past failures in such relationships did not hinder our falling all over again. I wonder what gave us that confidence.  

There is a difference I suppose Sam that is evident. Was it not Solomon who had everything one could possibly imagine in life at his time and yet said “Ah.. this is all a chasing after the wind..” He was not satisfied.

Isn’t it ironical that as human beings we only “rest in peace” when we are in our graves. When we can feel no more.

Maybe this is the very reason Jesus referred to the peace he gives as one that surpasses ALL understanding. To the woman at the well he said ” You will drink and be thirsty again but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again!” He doesn’t stop there. He says “The water I give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We can keep searching all around for that novel feeling, the ‘never befores’ and yet be left wanting and empty. Notice how Jesus addresses this very issue with the woman at the well. He told her earlier “You have five husbands and the one you are living with now is not your husband.” Five husbands could not satisfy her need for love in life.  

Fascinating don’t you think? From being thirsty and never being satisfied to being fulfilled and overflowing. The transformation that only He can bring about.

I will be waiting to hear from you.

Till then

Andronicus

Posted in My thoughts.. | Leave a comment

Of Justice and the Law

Dear Sam,

Greetings.

My heart was strangely warmed by a movie I just saw. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this movie called “The Great Debaters”. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it to you as one of those that will stir within you a passion for truth and justice. There are few movies that capture the emotion and the zeal with which an entire community fights against racist oppression through the lives of a handful of people. But this is not just fiction. Far be it from me that I should recommend a fanciful decoration of the imagination as a definitive piece for discussion and deliberation. Ofcourse by saying this I do not mean fiction is inferior in any sense, as an art form. I have no right nor the credentials to pass such a judgement. All I say is that when you know what you’re listening to and reading about is true, the response it evokes is of a different nature. It is to this nature of yours that I intend to write to today.

I know what you must be thinking even as you dread the very thought of me going over the lines of the dialogues in the movie. You were caustic, I remember, in your reply, the last time I undertook this attempt at reviewing a movie for you. But I want to assure you that the purpose this time is not to review “The Great Debaters”, for I shall never do enough justice to its true measure. I only want to dwell upon a couple of lines that are used in one of the debates as they are powerful. The topic for the debate is “Civil disobedience is a moral weapon in the fight for justice”; The character is James Farmer Jr, a Methodist priest’s son, also an African American. This is from his final rebuttal. Responding to his opponent who says that nothing that erodes the rule of law could be moral, Farmer presents a stunning yet heart wrenching counterperspective. He recounts a first hand experience that their debating team goes through while driving through Texas, of a Negro being lynched right in front of their eyes. He talks of the fear and the shame that they felt and how no law in the land could prevent negroes from being subjected to such oppression every day in their lives. And in conclusion he says this, I quote Farmer now, “…But the Law did nothing, just left us wondering why. My opponent says ‘Nothing that erodes the rule of the law can be moral’. But there is no rule of law in the Jim Crow South.. not when negroes are denied housing, turned away from schools, hospitals and not when we are lynched. St Augustine said .. ‘An unjust law is no law at all’, which means I have a right even a duty to resist.. with violence or civil disobedience.. You should pray I choose the latter.”

I am sure you who so oppose civil disobedience of any form must find these lines attacking your theories at its very roots. I myself have always been indecisive about the glorification of civil disobedience especially when we have seen the outcome of such a weapon in the hands of the ethically perverse. But I’m left lingering in my thoughts. If not civil disobedience what else? Negotiations never work against a majority! They invariably and ironically end with a “majority consensus”. Violence? I’d rather live under oppression for many more years fighting an honest fight than ever suggest violence as a plausible solution to a social evil. Enquiry Commissions? They are a bureaucratic mechanism to dilute the effect of an issue. How then do you fight for justice against an oppressive majority?

Many of us, including you and I, hail the Law as a supreme authority. We do this, not so much because we know all our Laws and agree with them, but because we understand what lawlessness can create. It will lead to a society where “excess” becomes the authority. Excessive wealth and excessive power will eventually dominate. It is to protect the society from such a consequence and to ensure uniformity of treatment that Laws are put in place. Another key factor ofcourse is to maintain order. I am tempted to make a comment here. Maybe we should let chaos rule. In a million years, order will evolve! Sounds familiar? Darwin rolls in his tomb!

But jokes apart, what are we left with? On the one hand, Sam, we postulate the absolute importance of Law in the making and running of a society. On the other we feel the Law may even suppress injustice in favor or the majority. And this is not some far fetched whimsical paranoia. It is from the present and now.  

And if civil disobedience were to be a form of reproach, how do we prevent chaos? Or can we make our Laws perfect?

I am sure there is a resonant answer to that last question. And that it is in the negative.

But if laws can never be perfect what of justice?

I await your thoughts on this Sam.

Until then,

Andronicus

Posted in My thoughts.. | 1 Comment

What idols must we give up?

3765 BC (inaccurate…)

He had a tough time sleeping that night, Abraham, thinking of the tremendous task that lay ahead of him the next day. He turned around and looked at his son, sleeping in such calm and innocently letting out soft snores, unaware that his future was about to be shortened, and that, by his own father. His arms were reaching out to embrace even as he slept. Abraham wiped off that tear from his own eye.

Memories flashed across his mind of Isaac’s first words. It was a bright morning on the first day of the week. He was tending his cattle when all of a sudden a squeaky voice called out ‘Abba’ from behind the tent. How Abraham had run to lift him up in his arms and cuddle him close to himself. He had thought of the promise God had made about making him a great nation. Abraham overcome with joy repeated that promise to Isaac that day. Sure the kid could understand no word his dad spoke, but smiled gleefully just looking at the welcoming smile on his “abba’s” face. And yet all of a sudden today God had given him a completely different command. Abraham could not comprehend it. He lay there struggling to come to terms with his commitment to obey God and this extremely emotional bond that he had developed with his son over these few years.

The conflict was getting the better of him. He stepped out of his tent and decided to take a stroll. Darkness had settled in. Only a couple of tents had their lamps lit inside them. Most of his kinsmen had gone to sleep. He walked around, the thought still bothering his mind. He couldn’t understand why God would give and take. The promise God gave him was no small joke. The magnitude of what He had said would become of him and his generation was tremendous. I will make you a great nation. Your offspring will increase and multiply and occupy all these lands. Surely God had made him prosperous in all the wealth he possessed, but great nation… really? The only possibility of that happening was this child Isaac and now God wants to take him away. What does this mean? Sarah is beyond her days of child bearing. She had laughed even the first time he had told her about her bearing a child. Now when she knows that God had asked him to take Isaac and … She might just be furious.

A great nation… What could it mean?

He tried pushing the thought out of his mind… Just spend some time in prayer maybe. But he couldn’t concentrate. There was a sense of lostness and anger developing within him and he could feel it. He was unable to control it. He had questions he could not find an answer to. Why even give him a son in the first place and that too with a promise. He thought the promise was being fulfilled in Isaac. Oh he had showered all of his love on him, his loving son and now – God says ‘No this is not it’? Ah… the pain, he could feel it like a nail piercing right through his flesh.

He kept walking. He had to divert his thoughts. He knew he would never get over this situation if he kept focusing on the act. He reflected on his own relationship with God. How it had shaped over the years. God had been faithful to him at every step in his life. Oh even in places like Egypt where he had literally given Sarai away saying she was his sister, fearing death; God had protected Sarai and him and what was more, he had added to his number. He had made him wealthy and his cattle had grown in size. True… Oh but why couldn’t he just take away all of this land and wealth and cattle. Why Isaac? Why the one thing he loved the most? God’s plan seemed elusive to him.

But… he must obey. After all, Isaac himself was a gift from God. There was no way Sarai could have borne him this son unless the Lord had sown the seed in her womb. With a heavy heart he told himself, “My love for my Lord is above all… I must obey him, whatever be the cost. I must not allow my love for my son hinder my worship. It must not become an idol… Tomorrow I shall sacrifice to Him my most beloved.”

1908 AD (accurate…)

In the solitude of his cabin, aboard the ship, C T Studd was writing a letter to his wife. He had bid her farewell only three hours ago. But they had exchanged very few words the last two days they were together. For a minute he hung his head low and stared at the ground beneath… Scilla had been such a companion to him and together they had worked their lives out for His glory. “We must never make our love for each other an idol before the Lord”, CT had written to her, during their days in China. Passion for His work had brought them together, and passion for His work had driven him to this point today…

He was on board a ship sailing to a land which the Lord had set his heart upon, one very few had ventured to go to before him. He was writing a farewell note to Priscilla, his wife – “… You little dream of how I know you pay the greatest price… but I do admire you, darling and shall ever do so and God will give us his hundredfold and the result and honor must ever be according to the magnitude of the sacrifice…” he paused for a moment. He read what he had just written to himself. His eyes had become moist. But he would not give in to his emotions, lest the evil one would take the better of him. He continued writing… “Don’t be anxious. The Lord will be victor and He will bring us into a wealthy place. I have never felt the power of God more since the Shanghai Days. Truly this has been like the seven going out…” That last line brought a smile to his face and a sudden surge of hope to his being. ‘This is the Lord’s doing’, He said to himself, ‘and it is marvelous in our eyes…’

She was whistling a tune the previous night as she was packing up for him. CT tried recollecting the tune. It was a familiar hymn. Ah yes… ‘Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to war… ‘. He chuckled to himself. Trust Priscilla to hum a tune of such valor at such an emotionally pressing time. But now he was confident, in his heart he felt God’s comfort. He quickly penned down the last few words of his letter… “Good bye my darling Priscilla… We began risking all for God and we will end as we began, loving each other utterly and only less than we love Jesus.” He thought to himself, I shall make no idol of anything on earth, nor in heaven, before you, My God.

 – Present day

One man was ready to give up his own son while another, his wife. I cannot imagine anything dearer to a man than his wife and children. To many of us these relationships are the only meaning we have in life. But these men were ready to give up everything because they loved Him more who loved them first.

I wonder how many idols we hold on to in our lives. Material objects, our ego, our attitudes and relationships – all these can so easily hinder our worship. He says – ‘you shall have NO other gods before me.’ And elsewhere Paul writes – ‘Those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’

Now if the spirit is divided, worship can never be wholesome.

I ask the question, therefore, of us… What idols must we give up… to make our worship more perfect?

Posted in My Faith.. | 4 Comments