Question on second coming of Jesus


Question

Respected Thirumeni,

As far as the second coming of Christ is concerned, we believe that the coming is from East.  We have Mathew 24:27 to support this apart from the Book of Ezekiel, which describes the GOPURAM facing East and the light entering into this from East. At the same time, Psalm 75:6 and Ezekiel 1:4 hints at the speciality of North. A book let published by RBC Ministries, based on these, hints at the importance of North, but they are not arguing that Christ is definitely coming from North. However, this can create some confusion. The booklet provides some valuable information based the Book of Revelation.

Perhaps, Your Grace can throw some light on this “North” aspect.

Your spiritual son, ….

Reply

Dear ….
Thank you for the mail. East, west, north, south are all physical directions guided by the position of the sun and the magnetic field of the earth. These are subjective matters. Any thing that is beyond earth will have no relation to these directions. Matt. 24:27 is simply relating the style of the coming of Jesus. It will be a flash like thing. If you go to North Pole or South Pole how do you decide for sure which is east and west based on the position of the sun? This is a sort of symbolism created by people who live in equator region. For them east, west, south, north are clear directions. These ideas were formed when the people thought of earth having flat surface. Ezekiel 8:16 which talks about the sun worship has nothing to do with second coming of Jesus. The words of the prophet come as criticism from God against the practices of Israel in the temple. Psalm 75:6 talks about the lack of importance of any direction. What is so special to north? The book of Ezekiel comes from the sixth C. B.C. He is addressing the people in Exile in Babylon. The name of the prophet itself symbolizes the message which is ‘God strengthens’ or ‘may God strengthen’. It talks about the imminent defeat of Babylon by Persians and consequent experience of God’s strengthening of Israel to go back to Jerusalem. This has nothing to do with the second coming of Christ. The talk about the direction of the second coming Christ is purely cultural. Just think of Christ as the son of God who controls the whole world which is beyond the limits of this small earth. How can he be controlled by the earthly locations? There are people who believe that everything the traditional Churches practice is absurd and want to give alternate suggestions. They will keep on writing books on such themes.
Regards and prayers
Thirumeni

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Reflections at MWC Meet, Kuala Lumpur


Morning Reflection during the concluding worship of Council for World Mission: Mission with Children. Training of trainers of East Asia Region. on 23rd October 2010

Psalm  42:1  As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

Children were one of the primary concerns of Jesus during his ministry. He challenged his audience to turn around and become one like them. He continues to challenge us, Churches and people with a sense of mission. The question is, have we faced this challenge with due priority and importance.

Today as we have seen through our various presentations the past few days, the situation children are placed in and the turbulent situation they confront. Abused children, traumatized children at home, children forced to live in poor and unhealthy environment, both economic and social, abused children, children under peer pressure, children forced to take up employment etc. Etc.

Church has been mostly a community of adults. They went around winning over numbers and establishing power over human communities and cultures in the name of Jesus.

We believe that Jesus is the saviour of the world. Most of the time ‘world’ meant the world of the powerful, the world of the feudal lords and the world of the highly placed and the world of the hierarchy. Women and children were mostly ignored and sidelined. We claim that faith in Christ transcends all understanding. At the same time we insist that children should have proper understanding for them to share the table of the Lord. We claim that we participate in the table of the Lord with perfect understanding. But we, with our short of understanding, have made world which God has created and found good a less comfortable place at least for our children to live in.

In our search for power over the partner to have custody of the child we made children just a thing or property.

In countries like India, children are tortured and persecuted in the name of education, career, success and prosperity. We assume these are much more important than quality of life with intact relation with God and fellow being involving love, caring, fraternity and peace.

Children are precious gifts of God, created in his own image and likeness. God has been so gracious to entrust us with one of his most beautiful creations. We must know that we are only the caretakers of God’s pride.

It is a question of our calling and commitment to that calling what we should be doing with our children.

Jesus asked his disciples to free the children that they can go to their saviour without hindrance.

Psalmist said in 42:1 (As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God) children by instinct goes to their saviour and that child need to be children and to be children they need to be with Christ. Children need to be children and nothing short of that.

The Church need to work hard and put together all its resources for the cause of the children to be with Christ.

We need to start with a conscientization process that the Church be the voice of the children and adults may become more wise in the case of children.

Each child is created unique and hence we need to deal with them carefully and individually.

To study and understand each child, its life and purpose in this world is a challenging task before us. It is to enter in to the mind of God and see how we should be caring for the child. We claim that through Christ we are in the presence of God. Then why do we not ask God of his purpose with each child.

God through Christ has expressed his will regarding children. No matter what specific context and situation each child may be in, the purpose is to be drawn near to Jesus Christ. How it can be accomplished is to be decided by the cultural and social context the local community is in and where each child grows up. The local congregation has to sit down and assess the socio-religious situation and see how best children can be drawn near to Christ and not driven away.

Usually the immediate response of adults towards child instinct, which was expressed by the disciples, is to say No. Do Not Do that. Let us be alerted of that tendency. Instead help the children express themselves and come closer to their creator. Now, let us go out to the ends of the earth starting with our backyard and help ourselves turn around and become one like the little ones and help those little ones drawn near to Christ’s presence, where they wish to be and where they truly belong.

Now let us go out to the ends of the earth and be the apostles of the rights of children. That is, be the apostles to the Gospel of Christ. That is, be the apostles to the inheritors of the kingdom of God.

God help us. Amen

Bible Study: Single Parent Child Issue


THE ISSUE OF SINGLE PARENT CHILD

With the turning around of the events and the socio-cultural situation in our societies today, we are confronted more than ever with the issue of single parent families and children growing up in them.

In most cases it will be a mother.

How is it like for a child to grow up in such a home?

Our text talks about such a situation!

Matthew 1:18 – 25.

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is 7conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS for He will save His people from their sins.”

22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Question: Why was Joseph asked to accept Mary with child?

What is it like to be growing up as a child in a single parent?

What was Joseph’s role in the family and in the life of Jesus?

We see Joseph until he was 12 in the temple

God thought under the circumstance before the society Joseph had to be the husband of Mary and father of Jesus. It was necessary for the protection of Mary and of Jesus.

Considering the kind of life awaiting Jesus, Joseph had to be around until he became independent.

Marriage in Ancient Israel was not a religious or public concern, rather was a private contract. The contracting parties were the families of bride and groom only. If one had enough resources and wants to make it known, he could have a feast and then more people will be involved in the feast as in the case of the feast at Cana.

So no one may have questioned when Jesus was born whether of wedlock or not.

People recognized Joseph as Jesus’ father (John 6:42. Also see. Luke 2:33, 48 etc.).

It was certainly a matter of social stigma those days to have a child without father. Even today in many of the traditional societies, it continues to be so.

What is the definition? Single-parent families are families with children under the age 18 headed by a parent who is widowed or divorced and not remarried, or by a parent who has never married.

The situation: According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November, 2009, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today). Approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers.

One out of every two children in the United States will live in a single-parent family at some time before they reach age 18. According the United States Census Bureau, in 2002 about 20 million children lived in a household with only their mother or their father. This is more than one-fourth of all children in the United States.

Since 1950, the number of one-parent families has increased substantially. In 1970, about 11 percent of children lived in single-parent families.

Globally, one-quarter to one-third of all families are headed by single mothers, calling into question the normativeness of couple headed families. In developing countries also this will be the case in the near future at various ratios. The tendency begins with having fewer number of children, then nuclear families.

Of course I do not give much credit to the statistics as many a time they only represent the tip of the ice berg and can not make an absolute case out of it. How ever it will give a rough picture of the situation.

Role play with three persons each.

Three people each in one group.

A single parent for some reason

A child growing up in single parent family

A representative of the society.

Questions: What are the reasons for being a single parent?

1. What is it like to be a single parent?

2. What are the concerns?

3. What is it like to be a child in a single parent family?

4. How does the representative of the society look at it?

Primary Reason:

Death of the partner and remarriage has not taken place

Divorced mother or father (father fewer in percentage. Divorce is in the rise due to many reason in many parts of the world).

Unwed mother including mother due to rape.

Unwed mother by choice.

Father leaving the family for no valid reason without returning (sometimes religious reason: to become a monk or sanyasin)

There could be other reason too.

Impact on single parent

Over-load, when the demands for work to earn the living, household duties, parenting, deprived personal life, emotional overload etc.

The financial crisis is a major area of dread for most of single parent families.

The traditional society believes that a family with both parents is normal or predominant and the single parent families will be alienated from the normal interactions.

In many traditional communities, blame of the death of the husband will be on the mother (sometimes even blame it on the child too)

As in any other situation, there are advantages and disadvantages too.

Previously, women used to become single moms only by chance, due to divorce, death of the spouse, or unplanned pregnancies before marriages. Being a single mother was not an option to choose.

In India, there was a time when Neena Gupta’s (successful movie actress) decision to have a child out of wedlock without even disclosing the name of the father, was a major news. Today as families become smaller and smaller, single parent households are no longer as unusual as they once were. Of course single parenting is not a new phenomenon in India. The death of a spouse was the commonest reason followed by absenteeism, mostly on the part of the father.

In traditional communities more and more people become single parent. There is slow development towards this end. Families which used to have more than five children in the past are having only two or even one these days. This is primarily because of economic and career based reason. If the situation in the societies where currently single parent families are in the rise, we can realize that the present movement in the traditional communities are towards a single parent families.

The Murphy Brown issue.

Murphy Brown is an American situation comedy which aired on CBS from November 14, 1988 to May 18, 1998, for a total of 247 episodes. The program starred Candice Bergen as the eponymous Murphy Brown, an investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBS television newsmagazine.

In the show’s 1991–‘92 season, Murphy became pregnant. When her baby’s father expressed his unwillingness to give up his own lifestyle to be a parent, Murphy chose to have the child and raise it alone. This story line made the show a subject of political controversy during the 1992 American presidential campaign. On May 19, 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for “ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone”.

Response was mixed. Quayle’s remarks caused a public discussion on family values.  Some, seeing his speech as a moralistic attack on single mothers, responded by insisting that most single mothers work hard to provide for their children and to raise them well. Others considered Quayle’s view of the traditional family as nostalgic and unrealistic, out of touch with the social and economic realities of life in contemporary America. Some of course defended Quayle saying he represents American value. But if it was aired now, it may not have made so much noise as the situation has become common. Many also agreed with Quayle’s argument that the media and popular culture were to blame for promoting loose sexual values and immoral lifestyles. Actress Candice Bergen’s comment was, “What really defines a family is commitment, caring and love.”

The impact on children

According to some sociologist there several adverse impact on children

  • lower levels of educational achievement
  • twice as likely to drop out of school
  • more likely to become teen parents
  • more conflict with their parent(s)
  • less supervised by adults
  • more likely to become truants
  • more frequently abuse drugs and alcohol
  • more high-risk sexual behavior
  • more likely to join a gang
  • twice as likely to go to jail
  • four times as likely to need help for emotional and behavioral problems
  • more likely to participate in violent crime
  • more likely to commit suicide
  • twice as likely to get divorced in adulthood
  • According to Lloyd Eby, assistant editor of the World & I magazine, and Charles A. Donovan, a senior policy consultant at the Family Research Council, “The sociological evidence now available shows conclusively that children suffer when they grow up in any family situation other than an intact two-parent family formed by their biological father and mother who are married to each other.”
  • Many conservatives insist that because most single-parent families are headed by women, society is particularly threatened by the presence of large numbers of adolescent males who have been raised without the guidance and discipline that is typically provided by a father. According to David Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values and the author of Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, “Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women.”

However there are people who would say that these are exaggerated statements. While most people agree that children are better off in families with two parents (as long as both parents are non-abusive), many believe that the adverse impact of single-parent families on children has been exaggerated. According to Sara S. McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, concludes, “the evidence . . . does not show that family disruption is the principal cause” of many of the problems said to be associated with single parent situation. According to McLanahan, “If all children lived in two-parent families, teen motherhood and idleness would be less common, but the bulk of these problems would remain.”

For all to consider: How the Church can address this situation?

We see Joseph with Mary and Jesus until Jesus was 12. Can we make it a model?

Whether we like it or not there are single parents and children growing up in single parent families. The question is, is the Church sensitive enough to meet the needs of such situation?

It is a fact that life for both the single parents and for children of single parent families is hard for several reasons. So what shall we do, set a negative attitude to the every situation many of which are not under the control of either the parent or the children?

Every such situation challenges us to become Joseph to those parents and children who placed in such situations?

We have to see this not as sin or problem rather a challenge and a field for the Church to do mission.

Qurstion and Reply


Question and Answer

Dear Thirumeni,

Hope you are keeping fine by the grace of God. As always, can you please clear my doubt.

During our Holy Qurbana,the priest prays for the salvation of the whole creation (sarva srishtiyudeyum mochanam). What is meant here – Is it the whole of the mankind OR the entire nature – including men, animals and plants.

In this connection another question – do the animals and plants have souls ?

Regards …?

Dear … ?
Hope you and your dear ones are doing fine by the grace of God.
I am sorry I could not reply sooner. I had to attend to too many things during the past two weeks.
Any way to answer your question, we may have to deal with the issue of salvation. What is salvation? There are people who talk about salvation as some thing to do with after death experience. Again there are people who talk about salvation of the soul as if there are several unrelated faculties in God’s creation. Further there are people who talk about salvation as some thing applicable only to human. These interpretations do not do justice to the issue.
Salvation is setting things in the right place. Look at the creation story and read further the story of fall of human. Before the fall of human there was perfect relationship between God and human, human and human and human and nature. See the phrases used in that part of the Bible. Every thing in creation was related. But because of what human did, human went away from God, one human was against another, nature was against human. Relationships in all levels broke.

Thing created by God is primarily related to God and then to one another including human. This relationship keeps every thing in a saved mutually caring, loving and peaceful situation which is salvation. Once this relationship is broken, unjust dealing, rivalry, hatred, lack of mutual respect and understanding, love and salvation becomes impossible for all element in creation.
God’s  work in Jesus Christ was to reestablish this broken relationship. So salvation is to be understood as getting back to the original kind of relationship. Here the whole creation is to be involved.
Look at our situation now. Humans do not look for the will of God, humans are fighting between for no serious reason, nature is showing its fury on us. This causes suffering and death. This has to be changed. A change in nature can challenge our life. A tree can cause pain to our life, a fruit can put an end to our life. Look at the change of weather patterns now. It does not respect our dreams and wishes. We do not respect the dreams and wishes of God. Every thing in this broken world trying to make life safe and peaceful. But it can happen when the broken relationship is set right.  This is salvation. Read for clarification the dream of prophet Isaiah recorded in Ch. 11. No one in the world of Isaiah harm another. Every one including even the most wild beast live in perfect harmony with nature and in peace with the other.
Way back in history, even before these western theologians and philosophers ever thought about ecology and sustenance of this earth and its resources, before any organization started it mission to save endangered species, before any one who started programmes to speak against global warming, our Church father thought of them and made those concerns expressed in our liturgy. That is the richness of our liturgy. It is a pity that we do not understand and teach them.
Humans can not be saved if weather patterns are not favorable which will affect his agricultural crop and other livelihood activities. This is why ” sarva srishtiyudeyum mochanam” is voiced in our liturgy.
Regards and prayers
Thirumeni

Dear Thirumeni,
It is truly amazing, the richness of our liturgy.
Thanks a lot for your valuable time.
Regards, ?

Mission with Children: God’s Call and Our Commitment in a Postmodern World


Key Note Address: Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan

Council for World Mission: Global Consultation, Johannesburg.

Mission With Children: God’s call and our commitment in a Post-modern world

Thank you for your introduction. Good morning friends and colleges in the ministry of Christ.

Ever since I started reading news paper, South Africa, Johannesburg, Mr. Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, Vinnie Mandela and many others became very dear to me. It is now my long cherished dream of visiting this country got materialized. It was my association with CWM that made it possible. I thank the Council for that.

I slightly modified the theme title given to me to the effect that “in a post-modern world’ was added to it. This is not because I consider myself competent to discuss such a complex philosophical issue. I made this change because I thought we need to address this change from modern to post-modern in the world we live in. Christians generally are being criticized for not reading the writing on the wall of history, rather many a time want to be like an Ostrich that hides its head in the sand and assume every thing is just fine. This need to be corrected. I hope, my humble effort will not go fruitless. With this confidence I present this before you my sisters and brothers in the mission of our Lord.

INTRODUCTION

“Behold I create a new heaven and new earth and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind (Isa. 65:17). This is Isaiah’s words to those returners from Babylonian Exile. This is the ‘daily bread’ that we pray God to kindly given us, a new heaven and a new earth, a never ending progress of creation toward a better tomorrow (Note Heraclitus said, “You cannot step in to the same river twice”) .

The globe revolves and times change. Day after day new dawn occur. No day is a repetition of the old though we may call it with an old name. Christian theologian John B. Cobb Jr., following the famous philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, says; ‘God and his creation is on a continuous process’. Our faith proclaims ‘God’s salvation of creation at the fullness of time was inaugurated in Jesus Christ and is awaiting consummation’. Sociologists call this age, the age of postmodernism. Those days of modernity are gone, now is the time of post-modernism which influences all areas of human life.

“When we say, “Welcome Children, Welcome Jesus”, we are welcoming children who are already in this post-modern world and we are welcoming Jesus in to the midst of children of that age. This calls for an assessment, revision and revitalization of our approach and methodology in dealing with children of the time.

POST MODERNISM

The word post-modernism was first used in 1950s and 1960s in relation to a movement in architecture. Slowly it influenced every area of human life including literature, art, philosophy, sociology, and religion. People say, “post-modernism arises out of the disillusionment with the modern ideals felt by European intellectuals after World War II”[1] Though people use the term at liberty, they do not know yet what exactly is meant by post-modernism [2]

However, we will be able to identify few specific features of post-modernism. There is general agreement on three primary characteristics .

One: Deconstruction or Multiple voices. The basic presupposition and argument here is that meaning is not inherent in the text itself, rather it depends on the interpreter who is in dialogue with the text. This questions the method of deriving the meaning of the text by artificial mutual relationship imposed from outside.[3] So there is possibility of multiple meanings emerging from the text. “This means that there is no one meaning of the world, no transcendent centre to reality as a whole”.[4] Post-modernism affirms radical pluralism and rejects the possibility to synthesize stories in to one meaningful coherent system. This will have its impact on how we look at things that were presented in the past as having order, influence and power. It is not what one wants others to see in a text or reality, rather what one sees in it is what matters.[5]

Two: Rejection of Meta-narrative. This is some thing inspired by the first point. Post-modernism thinks meta-narratives marginalize or trivialize other experiences. What is told is what they want us to know and is not large and open enough to include the experiences and realities of every one. The way Biblical stories are told will be viewed differently under this system. Even Christ event and the stories of it will be understood differently.[6]

Three: Rejection of the claim of reason as absolute and universal. To post-modernism reality is contextual and fragmented.[7] No single faith or ideology can assert that it has monopoly over truth. There is a loss of control and shift in power structures. “With postmodernity, … comes a momentous change no longer can cultural and religious knowledge and value be effectively controlled by the intellectual and political elite”[8] (There is a shift from the time of parents controlled their children, teachers controlled their students, clergy controlled their parishioners, politicians controlled the citizens).

Post-modernism is a world “that has not yet discovered how to define itself in terms of what is, but only in terms of what it has just-now-ceased to be.”[9] They see modernism, as an ideology of Western culture, in serious trouble. It is a time of incessant choosing, where no orthodoxy can prevail because all traditions seem to have some validity”.[10] The modern world was committed to an objective and knowable world. This is denied by postmodernism.

A NEW CHALLENGE

Whether we like it or not, post-modernism poses a serious challenge before us. Every thing we considered until now basic, fundamental and important are being questioned. The influence of the Church in general has taken a serious and decisive turn. Yes, we can formulate philosophy and methodology for caring  our children. But the question would be, do they care and listen to us? If we want them to, we need to be up-to-date and understand the world they live in. They are not just our children or tomorrows Church members. They are rather children of the time. It is not the Church or its teachings that control their lives any more. It is the time and the trend of the time that moulds them and controls their lives.  This is where we are forced to reconsider our methodology of mission with children.

Our children are part of a generation that spends most of the time away from home with friends, teachers and others. The influence of all these on them will be much stronger than that of the family and the Church.[11] The world they confront is a post-modern world with manifold and different characteristics. They see family differently from what their parents and elders saw and lived in. They have not only single parent family and foster parents, they have same sex parents and never married parents. This will certainly influence the value system.

A CALLED OUT COMMUNITY

We believe that we are being called out; and that is what our theme says and also that is what Christianity as a whole claims. As a matter of fact the whole Bible talks about calling. The formation of a new community in Abram, who was called out to go (Gen. 12), was with two purposes; one, to be made a great nation and two, to be in a given land. These two can be seen paraphrased as promise of generations and promise of inheritance. The fundamental goal of both was the same: that he shall become a blessing to all. When God decided to incarnate and do things by himself, he sought the help of human and called them to participate. The content of calling of the disciples was the same. Christ called his disciples to go to the ends of the earth to make it an inheritance and to make every one a disciple (Matt. 28:18 f.; Acts 1:8), or in other words to make them children of God. The purpose was also the same, the Gospel or the blessing of God in Christ shall reach every one. The goal can be summarized in one phrase in classical terms “to establish the Kingdom of God”. Both these can only be actualized through our attitude to our children. In the Kingdom of God, through our approach to our children the whole world shall receive the Gospel and the whole created world shall truly become the inheritance of the children of God. Liberation of the whole creation shall become a reality or to paraphrase it as in the case of Abram, all families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:3) through the Church and its mission. This is the foundation of our ‘Mission with Children’. We are not looking at just the children in our back yard. Children of the whole world are in our agenda. There is a wider spectrum and goal.

KINGDOM OF GOD AND CHILDREN

We have no doubt that we are called to be co-workers with God for the establishment of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 10:7; Luke 9:2). Now the very phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ could be viewed as a matter of authority and power by those in the post-modern era. This is where our call for paradigm shift becomes crucial. How do we explain and how do others understand this concept? That is the question.

On the basis of this either a shift in the phrase or a change in attitude need to be introduced. The way Jesus understood Kingdom of God was unique. Of course he used phrases that were easily understood by people of his time. But what he meant by that was explained through parables. These parables told his audience that he was not talking about God as a monarch of the time or ‘Kingdom’ as a kingdom of his time. Those of his time were oppressive, dominating and enslaving. He gave new definition to the old phrases ‘king’ and ‘kingdom’.  Jesus presented the Kingdom of God as some thing to do with inclusiveness, freedom and openness (Matt. 13:3 ff. in the parable of the leaven; 13: 47 ff. the net that catches all kinds of fish etc.). It also raised questions against authority and any kind of dominance (Matt. 21:33 ff. – handing over the vineyard to better leaders; 23: 13 ff. criticism of Pharisees and scribes; Luke 6:20 ff. beatitudes etc.). He said “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11: 29, 30). This is the need of the time. It is not the word that matters; it is the concept and definition that makes the difference. If there is a possibility of misunderstanding, we may have to either change or re-formulate the phrase. Through the explanation he gave, he put confidence in the minds of people, children and the least accounted. Through his approach, he put new meaning to the old phrase.

JESUS WITH CHILDREN

Of course children were welcomed by Jesus during his public ministry. But our challenge is, do those who represent him today keep them with or keep them away for any reason as the disciples of Jesus did? It is not the old story or meta-narrative that the children of post-modern times are concerned about. What matters today is, does the Church allow the children to be close to him or not.

Children’s closeness to Jesus, I think, should include sharing of the Lord’s Table too (I say this without prejudice). Canon 913 of the Catholic Church which became basis for many Churches to prevent children from the Eucharist table has to be reevaluated.[12] Here the question of ‘knowledge’ will be questioned by post-modernism even if we ignore the contradiction in the Canon law itself with the presence of the word ‘mystery’ and understanding side by side. Post-modernism recognizes mystery over against too much emphasis on rationality.

“Somehow we have to tell the truth but to tell it as the liberating story, the healing story, the true story. And of course, as you might expect me to say, the best way we can do this is by telling, again and again, in story and symbol and acted drama, the biblical story, focused on the story of Jesus himself, the true story of the Word made Flesh. That is why the great symbol at the heart of Christianity is the symbol for the Eucharist; it is the symbol of the story”.[13] It is Jesus who should welcome the children, not the stories or theories about Jesus.

Post modernist is not so much concerned of what happened during Jesus’ time as to what happens through Jesus these days. What Jesus means to them today is more what they care. They do not want to accept him as a lord or some one who controls and imposes structures and guidelines in to their lives. Rather they want him to be one who is there with them, who will understand them and whom they can feel the presence of. The children need to feel that they are accounted as equal partners in establishing a new world for them. They need to be given freedom to draw for themselves details of the world in to which they shall enter. They need to own it for themselves. They would not accept Jesus because the Church wants them to or because the meta-narrative presents him as one who is concerned or that is what the Bible says (I know this is a statement that can be easily misunderstood. What we do in terms of critical and exegetical study of the Bible is what is meant here). They would accept him because he would accept them as they are.  For Walter Brueggemann, “the focus of the Biblical studies is the specific text, without any necessary relation to other texts or any coherent pattern read out or into the text.[14] In other words, it is the Word of God that is more important than words about God.

INDIVIDUAL Vs. COMMUNITY

There is a tendency in Postmodernism to deny community as understood in its traditional or modernist way. It is however, not the individualism that emerged after enlightenment that is brought back. Post-modernism believes that in the modern world individualism was promoted at the cost of cultures and indigenous communities. Individualism of Postmodernism affirms plurality. This is a positive attitude. Faith need to be interpreted, experienced and lived by each community differently.

What is local and regional becomes as important as what is individual and personal. This is not individualism, rather pluralism which is the strength of community. Struggle for recognition and re-establishment of local is highly honored and acknowledged. Each child, her/his purpose and role in this world, her/his potential to contribute to the welfare of the community, all become our concern.  We recognize that each family  understands salvation through Jesus Christ uniquely and differently. It is in this context post-modernism hails liberation theology of Latin America and independence struggle of South Africa. This makes our task with children more difficult, but challenging. Once we acknowledge plurality the immediate step would be to engage in dialogue to better understand each other.
Dialogue will foster brotherhood and a healthy community life. Paul talks about a body made of organs with different functions but working for the total welfare of the body (1 Cor. 12:18,19). I may add, ‘in dialogue’. One organ cannot say, ‘I do not need you’ rather can only say, ‘I need you all the more’. The picture I get from reading between the lines of Gen. 3:8-10 and Gen. 18 is of a God coming to human, for dialogue. God takes a stroll in the cool of the day and reveals to human the secrets of his creation. It was during those occasions God talked to human about the fruits edible and not. In that story of God bringing the animals he created to name them. I see the picture of a child bringing a project they undertook at school to the parents for their appreciation. At the dinner table God takes up issues related to Abram and others. This was later elaborated by Jesus during his life time on earth in a more profound, meaningful and effective way (I can bring innumerable examples to this). Borrowing a theme from Albert Nolan, I must say, we need to tell the children ‘it is not you who need us, rather it is we who need you’.[15] Mary E. DeMuth says, ‘authentic parenting involves engaging children in conversation’[16]

Some time back in the modern era, we said, human has ‘come of age’. However, we failed to recognize that our children had come of age. Today it is the children, with communication explosion, who have more ‘come of age’ than the adults. They are more educated than their parents. This has to be put in perspective. A respectful dialogical relationship in family and in the community will certainly create healthy situation of mutual respect, acceptance and caring. Taking the children seriously and in to confidence will help build better bonds. We have the classical example of Jesus asking his followers not to prevent children from coming to him. He said “I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). This will also help us look afresh in to our attitude towards children’s active and full participation in the Church life.

This again will open up the question of one single way of dealing with children. While in the past, there has been a general tendency to present what was Western as standard method ignoring many of the local and indigenous cultural elements as either pagan or not developed enough and modern. This attitude is not respected any more. “In the postmodern era it is no longer taken for granted that development is unlimited or even that certain kinds of development are necessarily good”[17]. One of the reasons for the spreading of terrorist activities around the world is, to me (do not misunderstand me that is not a Christian option), has something to do, to an extent, with ignoring indigenous and local issues and concerns and imposing alien and foreign dominant cultures.

MAKING OF A COMMUNITY OF GOD

We are here to establish a new world; a world of God which was traditionally called ‘Kingdom of God’. In the world of God ‘each according to its kind’ becomes crucial and one of its fundamental natures. It is this plurality and diversity that would make human truly free and happy. Being free is good and beautiful. In Orthodox theology we use the phrase ‘composite one’ when we talk about Jesus’ personality. In Hindu philosophy they talk about nethi or ‘not that’ when they try to define the divine. Bringing down some thing really complex and plural in to one single shape is actually narrowing down the possibilities and will only diminish its richness. Post-modernism resists this tendency.

Of course there is an element of uncertainty and lack of clarity when we say neti. But that will place the matter on the rail of dynamic momentum by evoking awe and at the same time openness and curiosity. It, I think, will also justify our understanding of God’s kingdom as a ‘small seed that falls on the ground and grows to fullness to accommodate all kinds of living creatures’ (Luke 13:19). This is the process of becoming a community, a community of God.

Children living in the post-modern world may not accept every story told in the Bible. It is not the story that will attract them, rather how that would help them in their life in this world would be their concern. In that respect Christ who is the centre of the Bible should get precedence over what all being written about Christ.

Children who are not able to accept the kind of authority that governed the society until the present, should be introduced to the authority of love, which is not in fact authority at all. This shall decide the shape of the community of God. They need to be told that the society is going to be one of participatory and not dominating and their participation is going to make parents and others richer in understanding. “Our task then is to work out general ideals guided by the importance of healthy and sustainable community, of individuality and individual freedom and responsibility …”[18]

A COMMUNITY OF HOPE

One of the objections raised against post-modernism, which I found a major one, is skepticism regarding human progress and future prospects in life[19] and lack of hope for a better future. No one is sure where post-modernism is taking us to. This, primarily is because they say ‘the world is in a period of transition’[20]

It is here Christianity has a greater mission to children. When God is presented as a loving God and Christ as the incarnation of that love, we need to re-incarnate that love in the life of the child to provide her/him with hope for future and assurance that what is good in human will progress. Only by being a caring community Christian Church can do praxis. But providing a free and comfortable atmosphere to express her/himself and be what she/he be and become will sure help the child see life positively. Our project and programmes need to be planned keeping this in mind. Hope in a new community where each individual is recognized, honored and cared for is the best thing we can give to the children. A community in which all are welcome and where no one will be excluded. This is the talk about the dream of Isaiah (Isa. 11). This in fact is a return to the Garden where we have a perfect fellowship with God and his creation even while each has its own identity respected and acknowledged. This certainly calls for continuous re-reading of the Bible, re-interpretation of our faith and re-formulation of our methodology in dealing with children with the change of time.

GLOBALIZATION AND CONSUMERISM

Another major criticism raised against post-modernism is its support of consumerism evangelized through post-modern economic globalization techniques. Actually the idea of globalization in itself is in contradiction to the post-modern ideology. But transnational corporations through cleverly manipulated media propaganda has presented consumerism as a matter of individual freedom and liberty of choice (this I see working effectively in India and probably in other countries too). This is why Fredric Jameson calls it “the cultural logic of capitalism”[21] This is a meta-narrative in itself. We need to present the individual stories in the Gospels regarding Jesus addressing this issue. Jesus who refused to perform a miracle to satisfy his hunger used it to provide food for thousands. Jesus’ caring love towards individuals who came to him in time of need can also be a lessons against consumerism. They need to be individual stories in the line of what Brueggmann says.[22]

CONCLUSION

Every child born in to this world is the fulfillment of God’s promise, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). We need to accept this gift of God with gratefulness for he has been so gracious to entrust us with one of his most precious and beautiful creations. He trusts us with his nature in potential. It is our responsibility to see each one of them in its own unique nature and to help God make that person grow to the fullness of that nature. We can do it only by accepting it as it is and in its own given environment both of space and time. God’s nature is beyond exhaustive human understanding. This inexhaustibility is displayed in the plurality of God’s creation that share his image. We shall explore in to the ways and means of making God’s dream come true to the best of our ability.

Postmodernism has a negativism inherent in it. Our children are growing up in this environment. The global economic crisis has made this negativism even more intense. This is where the challenge we have in this regard become even more crucial.

Before I conclude, let me raise few questions for myself:

  1. How much we, as a community of Christ aware and ready to respond to the socio-political-economic environment we live in and our children growing up?
  2. How seriously we take our children respecting their general context of existence and growth?
  3. How far we are ready to re-read the Bible and re-interpret Biblical meta-narrative to address the ever emerging context?
  4. How far we are able to accommodate other cultures and learn from them in our concern for children with an awareness that those cultures are also genuine cultures?

[1] David E. Kleinre, ed., Hermeneutical Inquiry, vol. 1 The Interpretation of Texts, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986, 19

[2] Tyron Inbody, “Postmodernism: Intellectual Velcro Dragged Across Culture,” Theology Today 57, no. 4 January 1995. 524. It is for many, “more than any thing else a ‘state of mind’ [Zygmunt Bauman, Intimations of Postmodernity. London: Routledge, 1992, vii.

[3] Michael Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sherridan Smith, New York: Harper Colophon, 1972, 191.

[4] Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Company, 1996. 6. Also see, Gergen, Kenneth J. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books, 1991. 174.

[5] This is some thing like what Sri Buddha [560 to 480 BCE] said, “Believe nothing merely because you have been told it or because it is traditional or you yourself have imagined it, don’t believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But what ever after due examination and analysis you find to be conducive to good the benefit the welfare of all beings that doctrines believes and   cling to and takes it as your guide”. “Postmodern life is like a carnival … a carnival that offers a myriad of sideshows calling for our momentary attention” (Middleton, Richard J. and Brian Walsh, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1995. 42). [This one talks about the content and its interpretation].

[6] See; Santhosh J. Sahayadoss, Prospects and Challenges that Engulf Christian Missions in a Postmodern Context, Paper of the 16th annual Centre for Mission Studies Consultation held at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, 2010; Daniel J. Adams, Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism, Metonoia, Prague, Spring-Summer 1997. (This talks about the meaning and formation of the text).

[7] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Theology and the Condition of Postmodernity: A Report on Knowledge of God,” in The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 10.

[8] Daniel J. Adams, Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism, Metonoia, Spring-Summer 1997, 4.

[9] Stephen Toulmin, The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, 213.

[10] O’Hara, M., and W.T. Anderson. 1991. “Welcome to the Postmodern World.” Networker, September/October. 27.

[11] Denick, L. 1989. “Growing Up in the Post-Modern Age: On the Child’s Situation in the Modern Family, and on the Position of the Family in the Modern Welfare State.” Acta Sociologica 32. 155-180.

[12] Canon 913 of Trent Council 1545 – 1563) session XXI, Chapter IV says, “For holy communion to be administered to children, it is required that they have sufficient knowledge and be accurately prepared, so that according to their capacity they understand what the mystery of Christ means, and are able to receive the Body of the Lord with faith and devotion.

[13] Wright N.T. The Bible for the Post Modern World, Latimer Fellowship, Orange Memorial Lecture 1999.

[14] Brueggemann, Walter. Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. 58.

[15] A. Nolan “The Service of the Poor and Spiritual Growth”, CIIR Justice papers, No. 6 1985. 7.

[16] Mary E. DeMuth, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. 1967. 59ff.

[17] Daniel J. Adams, Toward a Theological Understanding of Post-Modernism” – A Presbyterian theologian teaching at Hanil Theological seminary, Korea

[18] John B. Cobb Jr..

[19] Doherty, W.J. 1991. “Family Therapy Goes Postmodern.” Networker, September/ October.

[20] Daniel J. Adams, Toward a Theological Understanding of Post-Modernism” – A Presbyterian theologian teaching at Hanil Theological seminary, Korea.

[21] Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism or  The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Verso. 1991.

[22] Brueggmann. Opcit. 58.