The Musings 31
Read: Mathew 12
The grief, horror and trauma that followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown was something that not only that people of Newtown experienced, but people who were miles and miles away also experienced some element of shock and grief. The whole nation was united in the moment of grief and at that painful moment people from all walks of life, people from different faith or no faith came together for the sake of humanity to show concern and to show solidarity with the grieving people of Newtown. It is at the time of crisis and grief that the Church can be a pillar of strength and hope for the suffering people. The trauma and the grief of the people in Newtown had not even died down, when one finds that the Church is raising an unwanted controversy in the name of faith, at a time when the Church should be helping the people to rebuild their broken lives.
The incident that is causing more shock and grief is the attitude and the way the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod[LCNS], has handled issues out of Inter Faith Prayer meeting that was held in Newton, in the aftermath of the shooting. This was a prayer meeting attended by President Obama and host of other different religious leaders. The controversy began when Rev. Rob Morris the pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church was reprimanded by the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod [ LCMS] for leading a prayer at the Inter Faith Prayer Meeting along with clergy from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Bahai faith. This was because the constitution of the church prohibits clergy from participating in meetings or services with people of other faith. Thus according to the President of LCMS, Mathew Harrison, the presence of Rev. Rob Morris at the Newtown joint worship and prayer violated the constitution of the church and his action offended members of the denomination also.
This being the case, Rev. Rob Morris apologized, but after stating that he believes that the participation in the joint prayer vigil was not act of joint worship but on the contrary an act of community chaplaincy. But now the action of President who demanded an apology from the pastor has led to an uproar and fresh bout of criticism from among members of the church. The members feel that the President through his action seems to be very intolerant and insensitive to the feeling of the grieving residents of Newton. Now with the President being criticized by the members of the denomination, it was the turn of the President to tender an apology at the way this issue was handled. He has been very genuine in his apology whereby he acknowledges that he had handled the issue in a very un Christian way and by his action, the pain of the grieving community has only increased. He has also sincerely asked for forgiveness and patience, to work together for the welfare of the community and also being faithful to Christ and the gospel message. At a time when the church and members of the church needed to be very prudent and wise, be a channel of peace and hope, we somehow seem to emphasize more on the laws and constitution that govern the church rather than thinking of how these laws could be used for the benefit of humanity.
Emphasis on the law or emphasis on the need of the common man?. This was also a issue that Jesus had to address in his ministry. The Jewish society was very structured in terms of how life has to be lived, strictly bounded by the laws of Moses. These laws were actually given so that human life is made holistic and there is order and harmony in life. But what really took the upper hand was the application of the laws without incorporating neither ethics or morality in its interpretation. In Mathew 12, we find a confrontation taking place between Jesus and the Pharisees. The confrontation happens on two occasions. The first occasion was when disciples pluck grains and eat them and secondly when Jesus heals the man with a withered hand. In both these cases, the Pharisees argue that Jesus and his disciples goes against the law. In this passage you find Jesus addressing two needs of human being. One the need to satisfy hunger and secondly the need to function fully in term of physical health. Jesus justifies the disciples action of plucking the grain to eat so as to satisfy their hunger. What Jesus was teaching was that it is good if human being can control one's appetite for food but that does not mean that if I eat when I am hungry, at times that some people consider inappropriate, I am guilty of sinning or doing something against the law.
Secondly you have a man who is not able to function because his hand is withered. Both the Pharisees and Jesus sees the man from two different perspective. Pharisees cannot see the pain or the frustration that the man is going through his life, on the contrary Jesus only saw the helplessness and the pain that the man goes through. It is his crisis in life the invokes Jesus into action, an action of healing where Jesus is not concerned what the law states, because He is the Lord of the Sabbath. What was important for Jesus is that if the law does not alleviate the suffering of the common man, then one should have no issue in overriding the rules of the law, but if the law is helpful in alleviating the suffering of the common man, it is ok to take refuge in law that has been laid down. It is this truth that the church, the community of believers need to reinforce in ones life as we observe lent. There are a number of believers who fast during lent, but let us not make fasting a law or a practice without truly incorporating its true meaning and essence and let not our laws and rituals force us to be insensitive to the needs of others. If our rituals and laws inhibit the church from being channel of peace, blessing and hope, then it is high time to either change the laws or it is high time to redefine those laws. Let lent be a season where we could be more caring and sensitive to the needs of others, rather than just certain observance of ritualistic fasting and other dietary laws.
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla