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Archive for the ‘Resurrection Thought’ Category

I was reared in a New Delhi slum. There were no modern conveniences. Of course, the rich houses next to the slum had amazing things like TVs. So on Sunday nights, my friends and I would go outside the house of a kind, high caste, middle class family. They would keep their window curtains open so that girls and boys could watch the Bollywood movie from outside. This was a huge weekend treat for us slumdog-boys and girls.

Bollywood movies were always full of bad guys and good guys stories. The good guys were always from rich high caste societies. For some reason the bad guys always had western Christian names. The prostitute was always Mary or Helen. The bad guys were always John or Joseph.

I knew that my family was low caste. My father came from a low caste/tribal tribe of South India. My mother came from a low caste family of Lahore, Pakistan. They all had names like Mary, Helen, John, Joseph, etc.  When I watched those movies, it always bothered me, especially since I had to endure taunts from friends.

Is today any different? I open up to the New York Times and read about my brothers and sisters- Christians, all from low caste families, all called Mary, and John, and James Masih. They were killed, all because they were celebrating the resurrection of their Masih, in a children’s park in Lahore, Pakistan.

Why is it that the followers of Jesus, in the global south, are always targeted to be abused, and massacred? All this while western society, and the church in the global north just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, just another day!” And, all this while we are also celebrating Easter in the West!

So today, I decided to read the Resurrection account in Urdu, the language of my Pakistani brothers and sisters.

Reading the narrative of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we must come to realize that this is nothing new.

The story of resurrection begins with the description of women- women who are all called Mary.

Why were all the women called Mary?

Why was Moses’ sister called Mary?

Why was Jesus’ mother called Mary?

Why were all the women at the foot of the Cross called Mary? (Well, of all the macho disciples of Jesus, one was there! His name was John).

Mary Magdalene, who headed the other group of Marys, was delivered from demonic forces, early in Jesus’ ministry- quite a scar on one’s reputation, then and now.

The word Mary, (or Maryam, Urdu; Miryam, in Hebrew) means bitter. During the time of Jesus, girls from low classes of societies, were taken and owned as sexual slaves by the Roman soldiers. So when a girl was born in a poor family, the parents would look at this baby, and say, “I am so sorry you were born. Your life will be bitter. You are Miriyam, Mary.

So all the girls from these poor villages were called, Miryam.

Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin. How come, she was a virgin?

The Gospel narratives want to stress, that somehow, one Mary, of all the Marys was saved from the horrible sadistic clutches of the Roman soldiers.

Jesus must have seen many horrible things happen to the young Marys in his locality.

So, during his ministry, Jesus always touched and healed the Marys he encountered- women like Mary Magdalene.

No wonder the first person who encountered the Risen Lord, was Mary!

The Risen Christ looked at her, and gently said, “Mary!” (Maryam, in Urdu) (John 20:16)

She immediately recognized him and said, “Rabboni!”

Mary Magdalene immediately went, and proclaimed the first Gospel, “I have seen the Lord, (Khudawand, in Urdu, which means the Lord, God). (John 20:19)

In the Gospel of Matthew, the angel of the the Lord said to the Marys, “Go quickly and tell his disciples that He is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 28:7).

In the Gospel of Luke, they were told, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is Risen!” (Luke 24: 5, 6)

This was the Gospel that the modern day Marys of Pakistan were proclaiming, along with their kids, in the kids park of Lahore, Pakistan.

They were killed by suicide bombers.

Their voices were silenced.

But, were they?

Throughout history Marys and Josephs from low class and castes of societies have found salvation and hope in the Easter message, “He is Risen!”

Throughout history evil people have tried to silence these voices.

Thank God, these voices of Marys and Josephs, will never be silenced.

Wuh Ji Utha Hai! (Urdu)

!המשיח קם (Hebrew)

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! (Greek)

Christ is Risen !!!

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The reflection on the Sunday after Resurrection Sunday, in the lectionary of the churches of the East focuses on Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to the disciples at the time of the remembrance of the grand finale of the Passover-the eighth day. The focus of the disciples on this day, according to the ancient lectionary, was on Isaiah 11.  This prophecy talked about the days of universal peace and joy.  They read,

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips she shall kill the wicked.

Justice shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

“In that day the root of Jesse, the Messiah who shall stand as a Messianic Sign for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.” (Isaiah 11:1-11).

The disciples read this, indeed sing this passage. Yet, what was happening around them was quite incongruent with this prophecy. Their Lord had risen from the dead. They spread the news He is Risen! Yet, they still saw injustice around them. The wolf was not dwelling with the lamb . . . the whole earth was not full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

On this day, while the disciples were scared and disillusioned, Jesus comes to them, “Peace be with you all, Shalom Alechem.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hand; and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it on my side; not be without faith, but believe. Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28). Thomas was not there with them previously, when Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Abba has sent me, even so I send you!” (John 20:21).

The Resurrected Messiah makes it clear that the prophecy of Isaiah 11 will come to fruition through the Messianic Community, the Church. The work of the Resurrected Lord continues through the work and life of the Resurrection oriented community. This is the Missio Dei. This is the Missio Ecclesia.

There will indeed come a day, when the prophecies of Isaiah 11 will come true, when the same Messiah will return to establish the Kingdom of God. Till then, we must hear his call, “As the Abba has sent me, so send I you!”

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In the churches of the East, Easter is not just one day. The worshipper reflects on a series of passages from the Bible, which are resurrection oriented passages. The week following Resurrection Sunday is called the Havorae Week. The core theme is that of the brightness of resurrection light shining on the whole week. This shining of the resurrection light carries on into the next days and weeks. The crescendo is the Pentecost, when the Spirit of God descended on the early Christian community.

The Torah passage, e.g. on Thursday, is Exodus 34. Moses goes into the presence of God as second time, after the first tablets of stone were broken. They were broken because Aaron and the delivered community forsook their Redeemer God, and turned to injustice-oriented religions. This time Moses goes into the presence of God and comes back with a second set of two-stones. On these were written the Ten Words of God. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of testimony in his hand . . . his face radiated (with the rays of the sun) because he had been in the presence of God.” (Exodus 34:29). This is the aspiration of the Resurrection-oriented worshipper.

The Prophets meditation is Micah 4:1-7. In this passage, the reflection is on a futuristic time, when the shining presence of God will radiate from “mountain of the House of the LORD.” This is when people from all over the world will go up to the mountain of the LORD, and worship him. They will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Micah 4:3). This is the aspiration of the Resurrection worshipper.

Just like Moses goes up into the presence of God a second time, so will this Messiah who has risen from the dead, return a second time. He will bring about universal justice and peace. Until then the Resurrection community, the Church, is given the mission to shed the Resurrection light upon the world.

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On the morning of the day after the Sabbath during the Passover week, i.e., the first day of the week, Sunday, every individual in the Holy Land was required to bring into the presence of God the First-fruit offering. Both in the ancient Jewish lectionary and the ancient Christian lectionary of the East, on this day, the readings from the Torah come from Leviticus 23:9-14. It reminded the people of this First-fruit offering. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:9-11). This was a day of hope, recreation, and resurrection.

The ancient readings from the Prophets were also readings of hope, recreation and resurrection.  Isaiah 60-62, are verses full of resurrection hope. It begins with the powerful words, Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa. 60:1-3). These words would have been read in the ancient synagogue on this day.

But what do these readings mean?

This was the day on which the women and the men, the closest disciples of Jesus went to the tomb. It was supposed to be a day of joy, hope, recreation, and resurrection.  Yet, it was not, their Beloved One lay in the tomb. Nevertheless something happened which turned their mourning into joy. The Gospel reading of the churches of the East remind the present day worshipper of this- “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, the is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Rejoice!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:1-9).

“Rejoice!” That one word turned their mourning into rejoicing; death into resurrection; and hopelessness into hope.

The early Church was convinced that this is the hope and joy of all followers of the Risen One. The Resurrection worshipper is reminded of this in the readings from the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . . . Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 51-57).

The early disciples of Jesus were convinced that the ancient Torah practice of the Firstfruits offering was paradigmatic of the hope of resurrection.

He is Risen! This was the miracle experienced by the original women and men who witnessed the Resurrected Lord.

He is Risen! This was the hope of generations of people of old, before the time of Jesus, who celebrated resurrection Sunday every year.

He is Risen! This is the hope of those who follow the resurrected Lord, today. One day Resurrection will be the cosmic motif.

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