|OCTOBER 2006||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE
The Maramon Convention, especially the Ecumenical Meeting, which constitutes a dais with only the non-Marthomite Bishops, is one of the biggest contributions of the Marthoma Church towards ecumenism. Devotional attitudes within the Eastern Church caused a distinctive spiritual dimension developed within the Eastern Christian milieu. Due to this universality of Eastern Christian worship, West is getting more and more attracted and fascinated to the ideology, traditions, faith manifesto and worshipping practices of Eastern Churches. It is a very noteworthy factor of the modern era. Such a tendency of the western countries is a matter of proud for Eastern Christian traditions.
Though the concept of ecumenism commenced with mission outreach programs, the modern world ecumenists claim that the organizational root of ecumenism was paved through the modern ecumenical movement in 1910 and further the formation of World Council of Churches in 1948 at Amsterdam. However, as per the scripture reference, the seed of ecumenism was sowed by the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel according to the St. Luke, there it witness that the Scholars from East came all the way to Bethlehem to rejoice at the birth of Jesus. Angel Gabriel had proclaimed the event as; 'behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people'. Birth of Jesus was the rejoicing news of the entire religions of the world. So the ecumenism was first commenced and pronounced by the Angel Gabriel. This is the birth of the ecumenism. Inauguration statement of a universal fact that the living God is being offered to the entire nation and to the entire religions was through this event.
The Church, irrespective of its denomination is to respond to the great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all Nations (Mt. 28: 19-20). Mission and Evangelism is the backbone and focus of the Church. Such a Focus is a positive response to the Great Commission of our Lord to proclaim the Gospel to all Nations.
Many times, the crowd near to Lord becomes a hindrance for others to see Jesus and believe in Jesus. In the Bible we come across many illustrations of this. In the Gospels we read the episode of Jesus healing a man sick of the palsy. Four people were trying to bring the sick near to Jesus. Because of the heavy crowd around Jesus, there was no room to receive them; the people were so numerous, no not so much as about the door. When they could not get through the crowd at the door, they got by some means or other to the roof of the house, took off some of the tiles, and let the sick down upon his bed with cords near Jesus. The huge crowd near Jesus hindered him from the exercise of his faith. This is what is happening in our churches also. Those who are claiming to be near to Lord are becoming a hindrance for others to see Lord or become a blockade for others to approach Lord. This attitude is very predominant in all the sectors of the Church. Lord is considered to be possessive to each sect or a group of people. This attitude is prevalent in person, congregation s, parishes and churches. To demolish this blockade and make God visible to the entire world is the basic motivation of ecumenism.
Again, in the Gospel according St. Luke, in the chapter 19, we read about a short man by the name Zaccaeus. Zaccaeus wanted to see Jesus. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. One sentence written there is noteworthy. This is one of the important theme of the episode: 'was unable because of the crowd'. This is point all the ministers of the church have to analyze and put themselves to test. We need to think, because of our presence, any body cannot see the Lord. If the world is not able to see the Jesus it may be due to the actions of the crowd around the Jesus, nevertheless let them be of any ministerial level. We should think very seriously whether Jesus is seen through us when the world sees us.
Individual, congregations, denominations and Churches are keeping their own possessive concept about God and spirituality. God Lord told the prophet to go to Nineveh and preach to the people there. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship, which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. The prophet Jonah had his own concept of the Lord and His mission. He considered God as the Lord of Israelites and that of only Israelites. The concept of his God is not supposed to do any good to the non-Israelites. The inhabitants of Nineveh were non-Israelites and Jonah could not conceive the concept of God redeeming them or safeguarding them. He himself was determined that he will not preach to non-Jews even if it is the command from God. Ninevites were not worshippers of God and so they should not be saved. They should not receive message of Gospel. According to him they should be punished and destroyed. No mercy should be showered upon them. Lord wanted to teach the lesson to Jonah against his concepts. You are not the only one of mine. These people also belong to me. The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god.
Jonah was thrown to the sea and the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then he started preaching to Ninevites. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he lay his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. When God saw their deeds that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity, which He had declared He would bring upon them. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. This was because of his erratic concept of God. Eventually Jonah perceived a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. God revealed his compassion to more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals.
Ecumenism is a mission of reality and that leads us for the unity with God. The transfiguration, which originates in us for the unity with God, is the real work of Holy Spirit. The entire world is living in the palms of the safe maintainer and owner of this world. When the brethren live together it leads to a heavenly bliss. It leads us to be the partakers of the vision of unity that everything are under the arms of the creator. It will be a state of blessedness. It is the biggest blessing bestowed only through the goodness and Grace of God. The proclamation of ecumenism is that God is not communal and He does not belong to any sect of people. He is for the entire universe. Man should not restrict the universality of God. Selfish possession of God is the fight against the very concept of real ecumenism. The best way to help Ecumenism for you and me is to live the love of Jesus in our hearts, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2006
Original in Malayalam]
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