The Musings 29
Read: John 15
The great lent has begun. Lent is a very symbolic event in the life of a believer and in ministry of the church. A time for renewal, a time for self-evaluation and a time of purification, in the life of believers. Nowadays it is common for parishes to organize Lenten prayer meeting at residence of parishioners, every day throughout the Lenten days. Every parish in this way organizes its own unique way of observing lent. One of the mega church's in New Jersey has organized a unique event of observing lent. This church known as the Liquid Church and the leaders of the church felt that the people of the church needed to be connected to God's Word during the time of Lent. They have planned a Bible reading event for the next forty days. The plan was that every member would read the New Testament from beginning to the end during the time of Lent. When the Bible reading event was announced, they were surprised when more than 3,300 people signed up. The ages of the participant is varied. You have a kid aged 7 who has joined the bible reading plan along with a 70 year old adult. But it the child participants that is being encouraged and the children are being tempted with number of gifts and incentives to participate in this bible reading event. They have been offered an ice cream party where the number of toppings on the ice cream depends on how many day they have read the Bible during this challenge period. According to the leaders of the church, why such an event was envisaged was because they felt that in the modern world, spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible regularly is becoming a thing of the past. Carrying the Bible is also become a rarity. Moreover the Church feels that expression of one's faith in today's world has been reduced to showing our faith through bumper stickers on cars or wearing of religious bracelets and hence the need to go deep down into the truth of the Word of God. Thus in order to support this event, the Liquid church has distributed more than 4,000 copies of the New Testament to its members. Along with this, the church also trained more than 300 volunteers to host and also to facilitate more than 200 reading groups throughout the country who are going to meet through Google plus or through hangout video conferencing. These two hundred groups are going to devotedly study the Word of God, and are going to meet regularly for the next eight weeks. The meditation or the study pattern is being made simple so that every member is able to understand the truth as reveled in the Word of God. The members are encouraged to ask open ended questions like- What surprised you about what you read in the passage?, What did you learn something new in today's passage? Or questions like What bothered you about this week's reading?. For many of us when we read about this ministry of the New Jersey Church, we may consider this event as something not worth highlighting. But all said and done, if the church has to move forward faithfully in its mission and ministry, it is important that it has to find its spiritual mooring through ones connection to the Word of God. Looking to the reformation that has happened not only in the history of the western church but also at the eastern church especially Marthoma Church, it we the passion and keenness of the believers to delve in studying the Word of God that brought about changes in the life and witness of the Church. As we begin the observance of lent let us examine whether due importance is given to the Word of God and whether our lives are connected to the Word of God?.
In John 15, Jesus teaches some essential truths on how one can make one's life fruitful and blessed. He uses some powerful symbols like " I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener" [v:1], "Abide in me and I will abide in you" [v: 4], " I am the vine and you are the branches" [v: 5], " Just as I have loved you, remain in your love" [ v: 9]. Here is Jesus Christ teaching some of the essential of Christian life. For a believer to remain faithful in his/her calling and in his witness, one needs to abide in the Lord. Abiding in the Lord is a process that happens daily, a relationship that is strengthened daily. It is all about connections. How connected are we to the Lord?. In a world of today, when people travel, they are very conscious whether the place or the region that they travel has ample range or frequency of their cellular provider, so that they are not disconnected with the world. If there is no range in a particular areas, and people are not able to use their cell phones, many of us get not only upset but we get paranoid. So much importance to our cell phone connections. How about equating the same importance to ones connection with the Word of God, a connection that will strengthen our relationship and our commitment to God?. Today we are connected but not to the Word of God. We are connected to lot of other things that we think are important. We want to be connected with the latest movies, we want to be connected with the daily gossip stories and scandals, we want to be connected with the latest gadgets and we feel lost if we don't own one of them. But our Lord is teaching that if our life needs to be fruitful and blessed, we need to evaluate and re examine what sort of connections do we emphasize in life. We may be connected to different aspects of the world, but disconnected with the Word of God, connected in a vey feeble way in our relationship with the Lord. The ministry of the church in the New Jersey was a humble way to connect its members to the Word of God and ultimately helping the members to the living Word- Jesus Christ. As we observe Lent, let us also in the same way , take seriously our connections in life seriously. Connecting daily and seriously with the Word of God so that our connections with the Word of God help us to strengthen our relationship with our Lord and in our witness in the world.Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla