Panel Presentation at Bhubaneswar


Text of my presentation at the Panel that talked about Church’s response to Kandhamal and similar situations

Friends!

We are now concerned of Church’s response to Kandhamal and similar situations. My opinion on this has already been expressed in my Bible study earlier. The primary question asked in this context would be, what is meant by ‘the Church’? To me Church is ‘an agency that tries to work out the liberation Jesus inaugurated in this world’. This agency, therefore, has no fixed or permanent structure or shape. It is ever dynamic and vibrant and at the same time local. The best and most effective model for the Church to adopt to be an agency of Christ’s liberation is ‘the incarnation model’. John 3:16 portrays this model very well. It says, “God so loved the world that He gave (away) his Son …”. (The emphasis and bracket are provided and they talk about the methodology of the model).

The Church today has become an institution with its riches in many areas and the structures that keep and multiply these riches. Unless, following the classic model, the Church is ready to give away and shed these engulfing structures and come out in to the midst of the people like Jesus did, it can not address the question raised here.

Jesus was called Son of God (by Peter), son of David (by the blind man on the road side), good teacher (by a ruler) etc. These were titles that would have put Jesus up on high pedestal. Indeed he was on the pedestal. But taking up the mission of his Father, he came down in to the midst of the people. During his time, any one who was called a teacher stayed in the temple or in the synagogue. But as Jesus himself put it, such teachers ‘put so much burden on the shoulders of the people and never cared to lift it even with their small finger’.  Son of David to them was one on the throne with political power.  Yes, he was Son of God, Son of God with us (the people);  he was son of David as a ‘good shepherd’, he was a master who taught in the streets with words and deeds.

The Church has not learned much from the incarnation model. Rather, it copied the old model of the Jewish leadership, which was irrationally proud of its Mosaic authority and Abrahamic heritage. But they forgot the fact that these two leaders were called by God to be ‘with the people and be leaders in God’s liberating act and be a blessing to generations’;  not oppressors and enslavers. They were called for a mission with the people. They had no right to make their calling a proud claim of exclusivism and authoritarianism and to distance themselves from God’s creation.  The Church today has become highly institutionalized and structured. It is primarily concerned of maintaining status quo and keeping the structures and protect its interests. This is what the Church need to shed to come down in to the midst of the people.

The early fathers of the Church said, ‘Jesus went through all the stages and situations of humans to liberate those stages and situations from bondage’. He participated in the life of humans with its most crude and concrete situations. He shared human’s times of joy, sorrow, suffering, hopes and every other mood in this world. This is what the Church is called for. The incarnate Word asks his disciples to ‘go out in to the world and be his witness’.

The response of the Church to situations like that of Kandhamal is ‘incarnation’, to be present in body and spirit in every situation humans are placed in. This presence is fundamentally and essentially liberative in goal and purpose. Only being incarnationally present can be liberative. The Church will ‘walk with those humans who ‘walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ and will help them to resurrect.  It is a participatory role. It will help people to face dangerous situations with determination and courage and to come out victorious and be resurrected. No one shall ever ask the Church ‘where you there when I was persecuted or when I was in jail or when I was hungry or when I was naked?’ Church’s presence and participation will help people take up the cross and to transform it to a sign of victory over every thing deadly. A Church that is tied up by institutional interests can not engage in such a mission. Hence, the Church has to first come out from its castle, then has to be present in the midst of the people. Situations like that of Kandhamal is a frequent possibility in today’s world that is under the powerful influence of evil forces. Only the way of the cross can win over such situation and for that the Church, the steward of Jesus in this world’ has to be present to bear that cross on behalf of the people.

Bishop Yuhanon Mar Meletius, Thrissur Diocese, Orthodox Syrian Church.

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