Rev Raj Patta also has a blog: ThePattasblogspot
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist
Hope you are all doing well. Starting this Friday, we are now under Tier 3 restrictions, and let us continue to keep praying for one another and specially for those who are vulnerable and for those whose livelihood is affected.
On Thursday, we were at our local primary school opening a food pantry, providing food for families who are facing holiday hunger. Thank you all for contributing food towards this cause, thanks to the volunteers and friends who helped in carrying and distributing food at the school. It was quite a moving experience loading food in our cars and taking to school and then distributing to the families. We will continue doing this again for Christmas holidays, and look forward to all your support.
Our circuit online zoom services continue to happen at 3pm every Sunday. As I have written last week, we will offer this year’s Advent study in four sessions on zoom, and kindly pencil the dates on
your diary please.
On Sunday, the 25th of October, ‘Church at the market place’ will be happening once again and I seek your prayers and support. For those interested I invite you to meet with me at 13:00 at Tiviot Dale that day.
I will be on my annual leave during this half-term holiday, which is next week, and if you need any pastoral support please don’t hesitate to call either our circuit office or Tracy, for any help.
My God’s peace and love be with you all and may the grace of God embrace each of us during these uncertain times.
With warm regards,
23rd October 2020
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist
Hope you are all doing well.
Thank you very much for all those who are supporting with the worship on Sundays at our church building, which I sincerely appreciate. Thanks to the preachers, stewards, volunteers, musicians and those participating in the service. As all of us are aware, we as churches are given permission for worship only, with many restrictions including no singing, no worship books, no tea and coffee after the service, no fellowship etc. Thank you very much for all your co-operation thus far. May I take this opportunity to gently remind that as part of our guidance given by the church and the government we need to disperse once the worship is finished without engaging in conversations with our friends outside the church for a good practice and witness in the community. I appreciate your understanding in this regard.
I also would like to thank you all for your support with food to share with one of our local schools. I sincerely appreciate for all your commitment and support towards addressing holiday hunger in our own locality. We had our staff meeting this week and have discussed several programmes for our churches and will keep you informed about them, one of which has been discussing about holiday hunger issues during Christmas holidays.
As Advent is approaching, we as a staff team are planning some programmes for this season during these uncertain times, and will keep you updated on this. I will be leading an Advent study group on Zoom on every Wednesday at 7pm starting from 2nd of December 2020. The theme I have chosen for this study is “Peace, Panic and Pandemic”. You are all invited to join in this study sessions. As a circuit also there has been some plans for Christmas, and we shall share with you soon the details of those events.
Yesterday I was at a consultation on Asylum seekers and were encouraged to write to our MP in addressing the concerns of these people with compassion and justice. We are also encouraged to write to our MP about reset the debt campaign, and I appreciate your support in these initiatives.
Stay safe during these uncertain times. Wait on God and keep praying for one another.
May the blessing of our True God be with you all.
Have a blessed week.
16th October 2020
Hi Heaton Mersey Methodist Church
Hope you are all doing well.
This week as I went into my office at Heaton Moor church, I was pleasantly surprised to see my table with full of tinned food, cereals, pasta, biscuits, and several other food items placed all over the room.
I then realised there cannot be any better way for a minister’s office to be used than to be used as a space to store food items to be distributed to children and their families at a local school in an
effort to address holiday hunger. Many thanks to all those who brought the food items for children during the last two Saturdays, and may I encourage others also to kindly join in this initiative please.
This Sunday, our circuit zoom service at 3pm will be a special service observing the Black History Month, and may I invite you all to kindly join in this service please. Thanks to all our volunteers, stewards, musicians, and preachers who are helping with our worship services on Sunday mornings. We will have our harvest Sunday service on the 18th October.
Let us continue to pray for another during these uncertain times. May God’s grace and peace be with you all and grant you a blessed week.
Stay safe and stay blessed,
With warm regards,
2nd October 2020
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist Church,
As we enter into yet another season of Advent, allow me to share with you what Paul when writing to Roman church in Romans 13:11-15 appeals in urgency to the early Christians to wake up and put on the Lord Jesus Christ, which comes to us with even more urgency with a challenge for our times. We have heard of advent calendars, advent candles, advent wreaths, advent decorations etc., allow me to introduce you to an Advent Alarm, which has begun its ringing, for Advent raises an alarm for us to wake up from sleep, lay aside the works of the empire and to put on Lord Jesus Christ. During this season of advent, a time of waiting, we are called to listen to the alarm of justice and act on it. Let people that have ears will listen to this alarm and respond to the urgency.
1.Advent Raises an Alarm to Recognise the Momentous Time:
Paul in verse 11, calls on the Church ‘to know what time it is’, for the time is ripe and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Advent raises an alarm to recognise this moment in time, as the time appointed by God to act and work. It is interesting to note that the word for ‘time’ used in Greek is ‘kairos’ rather than ‘chronos’. It is not the ‘chronological time,’ that Paul is talking about here, rather it is the ‘appointed time’, a time where God intervenes into our times at our end, a time for action, a time for introspection, and a time for an audit of truth
2.Advent Raises an Alarm to Reaffirm in the Nearness of Salvation:
In verse 11b, we see Paul further exhorts that “for the salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” The distance and affinity to salvation becomes closer to people of God in their journey of faith, in relation to their initiation into the faith. Salvation is a journeying gift that comes closer and nearer to those that wake up to stand firm in their faith. Salvation oscillates between believing and discipling, and the call today is that salvation gets closer in our true discipleship to Christ.
3.Advent Raises an Alarm to Reject the Works of Darkness:
In verse 12, Paul further appeals ‘the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.’ Paul urges Christians to lay aside the ‘pyjamas’ of darkness and put on the ‘armour of light’, a vestment for the day, a vestment of the Kingdom of God, which primarily exposes those ungodly deeds, dispels darkness, and liberate people and communities with and towards light.
The relevance of Advent therefore is to swiftly act to the alarm that is ringing. The context of our times are so grim, for there has been a growing intolerance towards the other, increasing hatred against the stranger, increasing rise of consumerism where days like ‘black Friday’ are gaining their popularity forcing many people to invest on spending, increasing unaccountability of leadership in Church & society, an increasing refugee crisis, an increasing changes on our climate and planet, increasing poverty, increasing homelessness etc. and there is a sense of more urgency than ever to wake up to face and address the realities of our times. Paul’s words “The night is far gone and the day is near,” therefore conveys to us that this season of Advent raises an alarm to the church and to each of us as disciples of Christ to wake us up from deep slumber, to know the God’s momentous time, lay aside the works of empire and to put on Lord Jesus Christ onto our lives. Let us stop pretending to sleep and wake up with our eyes and hearts wide open to the ongoing acts of injustice and evil around us to raise an alarm for change, so that we can collectively partake and actively participate in transforming our world. Advent raises a justice alarm, hear O people of God, the alarm is ringing to go and act swiftly!!!
Rev. Rajbharat Patta, Ph.D
In Response to Philemon 1
Dear father Paul,
Onesimus, a liberated person in Christ Jesus, a freed slave from Philemon.
Grace and peace to you from God our liberator and the Lord Jesus Christ, who has freed us from all bondages.
Especially want to thank you for taking my debt on you and proved how important a Christian value it is to cancel debts on poor people as an important Christian discipleship marker. By taking my debt on you, you have shown me in practice the love of Christ who took my debts on him on the Cross, for I could experience it in my life. Thank you also for writing to Philemon to receive me as he would receive you, once again emphasising the importance of welcome and reception to anyone and everyone by the love of Christ. In that reception as exhorted by you my brother Philemon has received me as a brother, as a member of his family. I knew what it was to be a slave in his household once, and I also have experienced his love as a family member, which was because of the love of Christ. Ever since then Philemon has treated me as a partner in the mission of God, for we continued to work together for the realisation of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Many wondered what a beautiful sight it was to see the master and his previous slave work together as brothers and partners, which was just because of the love of and for Christ.
On a final note, dear father Paul allow me to appeal to you to call any practice of any form of slavery as sinful and unchristian, for in Christ we are all one. Any form of racism, casteism, discrimination, exclusion, oppression, patriarchy, trafficking, child labour and such other practices, which are modern forms of slavery does not fit with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and therefore we as a Church should resist such forms and stand in solidarity with those on margins and strive for justice in every given context. Christ has come to set people like me free and I will work to liberate all people who are chained in any form of bondage as a gospel calling for me.
Your fellow worker in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Raj Patta
October is Black History month
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist Church Family,
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Numbers 22: 28
We have seen films, where animals talking to each other in human language, like in ‘Finding Dory’ or ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox,’ etc. and for kids of this generation, who have grown watching these films, animals speaking in human tongue is not a surprise. In the early Hebrew times in Bible, God surprises God’s people with things they have not imagined, this time God opened the mouth of faithful friend of prophet Balaam, a donkey, who speaks back to Balaam for when he turned away from what is pleasing to God. It also interesting to note that in this passage, the angel of God is seen by a donkey and not by the prophet, for a donkey and the animal world is privileged to sight the presence of God, whereas it is concealed to humanity. When Balaam strikes his faithful friend, who had carried him all along at this instance thrice, donkey expresses his anger and exposes Balaam’s impatience and cruelty towards him. Towards the end, when Balaam’s sighted the angel of God after his donkey has sighted, Balaam repents that he had sinned.
This text from Numbers 22:21-35, is an invitation for us as readers to be prepared to be surprised by God, for God speaks to us not just through humans, but through his creation, more specifically through our pets, and the animal world, to expose our disobedience to God. The presence of God is sighted firstly by the rest of the creation and only at last by the humanity if at all they can recognise, for God’s presence is spread across the creation equally, not just the righteous and unrighteous, but also human and non-human (I confess that I am too anthropocentric in this usage.) This text calls us to treat our pets, animals, other creatures and humanity with respect and never mistreat them at any occasion, for we are all made by God as kith and kin in God’s creation. Be prepared for a surprise today, that God is speaking to you through the unspeakable, and through the unimagined.
Prayer focus: God of all creation, pets, animals, plants, all creatures and humanity, help us to be prepared to get surprised by you, for you are speaking to us through the unspeakable, and help us to recognise your voice among who we think are incapable of carrying God’s voice. Amen.
Let me wish you all a happy summer. May God go with you.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta.
Pentecost is a very significant period of time in the liturgical calendar of the Church, a time to renew our faith in Holy Spirit, a time to be refreshed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and a time to rejuvenate our dedication in making the relevance of Church felt by communicating in the tongues of the localities of our times. The first Pentecost as recorded in New Testament happened at a time, when there was fear, peace-less-ness, timidity, and perplexity among the disciples of Jesus Christ. At that very stroke of the Pentecost, as the resurrected Christ ascended into heavens, the Holy Spirit poured down on the creation, the disciples of Jesus Christ came open and the Church went out. It was noted that the day of Pentecost is a celebration of the birthday of the Church, for the genesis of Church as a communion of people in God, Church as a movement of people in God began from that very day of the Pentecost.
In the gospel of John, in 14th Chapter from 15th verse, we see Jesus promising to send Holy Spirit as an advocate to this world in the context when the disciples were troubled in their hearts after the last supper episode in the previous chapter. Jesus in 16-17 verse says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” According to the Johannine Jesus, Holy Spirit is the successor of his ministry of advocacy, for that is the reason it is recorded as ‘another’ Advocate.
According to Jesus, the characteristic of Holy Spirit is to be a successor of the ministry of advocacy. It was only in the early Church the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit came into emphasis, otherwise for Jesus, Holy Spirit is the successor of advocacy. Jesus’ life and ministry has always been on the mission of advocacy, advocating for the rights of the outcastes, the rights of the children, the rights of women and the rights of those that have been on the margins of the society. Therefore, Holy Spirit succeeds Jesus Christ in carrying forward the mission engagements of advocacy, defending the rights of the vulnerable and those that been pushed to the margins. Therefore, the promise of Holy Spirit is to see that mission is in progress, the reign of God is in progress, and that we as celebrants of Pentecost, are called to be part of joint heirs with Jesus Christ in the mission of advocacy, whom Jesus gave us to lead with.
The arrival and outpouring of Holy Spirit is to lead creation into an accession of intimacy with the Triune God, building intimacy among one another and also building intimacy among the Creator and the Creatures. Pentecost is a celebration of the intimacy that one enjoys with one another and with the Triune God. Therefore, the down pouring of Holy Spirit is to establish healing and intimacy among broken relationships between human beings and God, between human beings and creation and between human beings and human beings. Pentecost is a restoration of relationships, intimate relationships, which furthers the reign of God here on earth.
Pentecost is a time to implore on to the mission engagements of advocacy as part of our Christian calling, striving for justice and peace in our own localities and contexts. Wishing you all a very meaningful season of Pentecost
June 2019, Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist Church Family
‘Christ is Risen’, and yes ‘He is indeed Risen’, let me wish you all a blessed and a spirit filled Easter. As Christ has been risen from the clutches of death on the Resurrection Sunday, death was buried in the empty grave once for all. Until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death would have thought that none in the creation can conquer it, for it can swallow any person on this planet earth, irrespective of their identities. But when God raised Jesus Christ as the first fruit of resurrection, the poisonous sting of death has been broken and death had to be buried, whereby all who seek and believe the resurrection spirit would emerge victorious like Christ from death. And death no longer is a conqueror on life.
In Mark 16:3, we see “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” This was a question asked by the women disciples of Jesus Christ as they came in the early morning to anoint the dead body of Jesus Christ in the sepulchre. It was the Lord, who rolled the stone away from the entrance of the tomb and resurrected Jesus Christ from the bondage of death. This stone, which was cut from a rock (Mk 15:46) to lock the body of Jesus Christ, happens to be the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss” is a very famous phrase, which we often use and the meaning of this phrase is that, “Mosses need a stable and a moist environment to grow, and if a stone is rolling. it does not provide this environment, and therefore rolling stone gathers no moss”. And when I use this phrase in the context of Jesus resurrection, I mean to say that this rolling stone on the tomb of Jesus, when is rolled by the Lord during the resurrection of Jesus Christ, also gathers no moss and tramples the roots of sin and death to grow no more. The resurrection rolling stone gathers no moss, but provides an environment for new life, new strength and new hope to live in all freedom and justice.
If the resurrection rolling stone gathers no moss, and then what does it gather? Resurrection rolling stone gathered the activity of God, the attention of people and the allegations of injustice.
In Luke 24: 5, it is recorded, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” is a question that comes straight to us to think and answer. The living Jesus Christ can only be found among the living and not among the dead and death. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has meaning in relation to the living community. Easter is an opportunity to introspect the lively character of our community, for Christ is risen, so we see to it that we are living enough to promote life in all fullness.
May the God who raised Jesus from death grant us all a new life to live in a new way with a new hope of resurrection. Resurrection rolling stone gathers no moss but gathers new life and inspires all of us to witness and channel that new life to all around us. Christ is Risen, and He is risen indeed. Therefore, let us go quickly and share new life to those living in hopeless situations and in situations of lifelessness. Wishing you all a Happy Easter.
Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist Church family,
Grace and peace to you all and wishing you all a blessed 2019.
In the call narrative of Peter in Luke 5, we see an important trait of Peter, which I think impressed Jesus to choose him to be on his team. Having worked all night and returning with no fish, Jesus takes Peter again into the deep sea for fishing. On the word of Jesus, when they have caught a bounty of fish with their nets breaking, we see Peter and his team “signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so they began to sink” (5:7). This quality of Peter signalling their partners in sharing and helping with the bounty of fish, stand with distinction on Peter’s CV, and he was immediately called by Jesus to follow him. We notice in this pericope, the experience of nets being broken, heart being broken, and call made open. Making partnerships by transcending the boundaries is an important mark of Christian discipleship. Peter at that moment with a bounty of fish at his end, could have been selfish thinking he would be ‘great’ by selling that fish, or could have thought of ‘Peter first’ to take the major portion of that fish. On the contrary, Peter has the magnanimity of signalling and sharing with other partners, who might not be those from his same family, town, faith or identity. This text is very relevant for our times today, where hatred on the ‘other’ has been increasing, for striking coalitions and partnerships for the cause of the Kingdom of God is an important learning for us today.
Forging partnerships and striking coalitions are a major challenge today in the context of growing individualism. Specially as followers of Jesus, we as churches cannot be in isolation thinking all about themselves, their own growth and memberships. It is important for us to build partnerships with churches and community members around, for sharing our gifts and resources with others demonstrate our Christian discipleship today. The experimental clusters within our circuit is an available opportunity for us to signal and share our gifts and resources. Heaton Churches partnerships are other avenues to strike coalitions for the cause of God’s Kingdom. We are also called to forge partnership with one another in celebrating unity amidst diversity, respecting and appreciating the other as they are. As we are in the process of making a new five-year plan for our Church, let partnerships be on our agenda, where we can work together collectively and corporately for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
During this month of February, when love is the buzzword everywhere, let us be reminded that ‘love is selflessness and self is lovelessness.’ Wishing you all a love filled month and year ahead. May the love of Jesus empower each of us so that we shall transcend the hard boundaries in forging partnerships for the cause of God’s Kingdom here on earth and live out our Christian discipleship faithfully and lovingly.
Stay blessed and be a blessing to many around you.
Rev. Dr. Raj Patta
For God is Near, Here and Now
Dear Heaton Mersey Methodist Church Family,
At the very outset, as we enter yet another new liturgical calendar of the Church starting from the first Sunday in Advent on 2nd Dec 2018, let me wish you all a happy and meaningful season of Advent. People around the world are busy with Advent calendars during this season and are enjoying the flavours of the chocolates. As faith community, this season invites us to prayerfully spend this time of the season, affirming in the nearness of God’s presence in Jesus among us. Allow me to share with you from Luke 21, a reflection for Advent, so that we are charged to spend this season in prayer, in hope and in peace.
Luke proposes that “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” (21:27) Such a sign of Son of Man coming, is a sign of hope for the communities who are in deep distress and suffering. Advent, therefore as a ‘time of waiting’ is an affirmation in the ‘nearness of God’ for our time. The existing signs of our times in the world are not just ‘end of our times’, rather are ‘times at our end’, and ‘times on our end,’ which needs a recognition of the coming of Son of Man into our times. Advent is an adventure, rediscover it, recapture it and reaffirm it.
Rediscovering the Nearness of God’s Presence:
“Son of Man coming in the cloud” is a landing note for faith communities today, for the recognition of this Christological title, which was picked from the apocryphal literature of Daniel, is situating God in Christ amidst the dirt, dust and dawn of our contexts. There is a nearness of God’s presence among us and amidst us when God in Christ pitched his tent among the materiality of our contexts. Advent unsettles the God of transcendence, who was above the clouds and resettles it with a God of immanence, who as ‘Son of Man coming in a cloud’, coming near to the creation and the creatures. The distance between God and creation is reduced in this process of ‘nearness,’ where God’s velocity of coming down to earth is accelerated, with the brewing of signs of our times today. This serves as a sign of hope for communities longing and waiting for transformation.
The relevance of Advent today is to invoke the nearness of God’s presence, redemption and reign into our contexts, for the Son of Man has already come and pitched his tent. Reconciliation and reparation become the key in striving for justice to situations of our times. The nearness of God inspires communities to work for justice, for Son of Man as a co-pilgrim participates in the struggles of the creation, striving for its liberation. Advent is adventurous, get into it, work for justice and become channels of hope, for you are the hope that the world is in need of.
Rev. R Patta, Ph.D.
Dear Heaton Mersey Church family,
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like this child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-5
The disciples of Jesus Christ were debating ‘who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ Peter would have thought, Jesus may call on his name to be the greatest, for he will have the keys of the heaven as told by Jesus. James & John would have thought, Jesus may call on their names to be the greatest, for were well learned with a high-profile family legacy and the ones in the close circle of Jesus. Likewise, even the other disciples would have thought that Jesus would call on their names to be the greatest, for each had their own identity and capabilities. On the contrary to all their individual prides, Jesus Christ surprisingly called on a child, a ‘street child’, and said to them unless they become like this child, there is no entry into the kingdom of heaven, and who ever humbles like this child is greatest and whoever welcomes such a child welcome Jesus Christ. Jesus’ way of repositioning power is tremendously surprising to his disciples then and even to all those power mongrels today both in the Church and society. Jesus calls on a ‘street child’, challenging all of us to become like that little child, humbled like that little one and welcome such little kid into our houses.
How difficult it is to follow such a ‘street child’ in order to be in the kingdom of heaven? But Jesus Christ, de-centres the centre with those in the margins and makes those people in the margins to be at the centre stage. This way of re-positioning is a call to all the Christians and a challenge to all of us for a ‘street child’ is going to be at the centre and all who in all their pride thought would be at the centre will be in the periphery. Let us accept it and help the children to live their childhood in all happiness, for they are the cynosures of the reign of God. If we don’t become, if we don’t humble and if we don’t welcome the children, our Christian calling will be at stake.
Thanking God for the ministry of Family Church @10 and the Sunday club at our church. Looking forward to be challenged from the children at our Church.
Have a blessed October month.
Yours for the Kingdom of God,
Rev. Raj Bharat Patta
Dear co-pilgrims in the journey of faith,
Love God and Love Neighbour: Foundations for Kingdom of God
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely,
he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
In the context of Roman colonization, love for the emperor and the unquestioning submission to the empire were the dominant modes of spirituality, which the empire commanded and demanded from the colonizers. Therefore, Jesus in the first century Palestine, when asked to mention the foundational commandments by a scribe, he openly refuted and contested one’s submission and devotion to the empire by reemphasizing to love God and to love neighbour. The emperor was ascribed divinity and therefore everyone was commanded to worship the emperor. In such a context, Jesus displays an open public resistance to such commandments of the empire and projects the importance of love towards God and neighbour as a subversive anti-colonial spirituality.
The enquiring scribe in this text echoes to these Jesus’ commandments and further extends it by discounting the ritual practices of the temple on burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus then recognises that this scribe is nearer to the Kingdom of God. The reign of God contrasts with the rule of the empire, for in the former, love of God and love for neighbour takes centre stage and becomes foundational in its composition and practice. Kingdom of God is located in the acts of love for God and love for neighbour and is nearer to all such practices and performances.
It is time for us to resist the commandments of the modern empire today, where market, profit, consumerism, individualism, secularism, pride, etc. takes centre stage. Love of God and love for neighbour is all that is required in our Christian discipleship in making the Kingdom of God a reality for our times today.
This text also calls us to look out for people who are ‘not far away from the Kingdom of God’ in our own localities and communities. Speak to them, pray with them, collaborate with them in sharing God’s love, and inspire them to taste and see the love we have in Jesus Christ. May we during this month think of those people whom you recognise as those ‘not far away from the Kingdom of God’ and start sharing the love of God with them. In this process it is also a time for us to reflect ‘how far are we in the Kingdom of God?’ This question might seek a confession on our part and might offer new avenues of God’s love for the Kingdom of God around and amidst us.
Let us therefore resist and defeat all forces of empire of our times and allow ourselves to stay nearer to the Kingdom of God by loving God and by loving our neighbour, unconditionally.
Wishing you all a blessed summer.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Rajbharat Patta (July 2018)
What is Good in ‘Good Friday’?
During this season of Lent, when thinking of ‘good Friday’, I always thought, for the person on the Cross to whom Jesus said that ‘today you will be with me in paradise’, it was a ‘good Friday’, and to the other person who mocked Jesus it was a ‘bad Friday.’ What is ‘good’ in ‘good Friday’ has always been a perennial question that people of faith communities across the histories and contexts keep interrogating with. How can the brutal killing of Jesus on the Cross be called ‘good Friday?’ What is the politics of ‘good Friday?’
‘Good Friday’ is not about ‘romanticizing Jesus suffering and his death,’ rather a call to locate God among the crucified. There was a political bargain from the courts of Pilate, whom to crucify and whom to leave scot-free, and we know that the community chose ‘Barabbas’ (Bar Abbas in Hebrew means ‘Son of God’), which lead Jesus to his crucifixion. Good Friday, the day on which Jesus was killed is highly political, for Jesus died a political martyrdom. Therefore, one cannot unthread the political aspect of Jesus’s death on Cross from his holistic act of salvation. ‘Good Friday’ also calls us to unpack it from the colonial enfleshments that it carries, for this ‘good Friday’ is also understood in contrast to ‘black Fridays’ (very colonial term) where consumerism is celebrated to its core. Here is a subversive reading of ‘good Friday,’ which serves as one perspectives among many, that helps us in problematizing the same for our times today.
1.‘Good Friday’ is about exposing the unjust political systems of the state that represses and criminalises Jesus for believing and professing in an alternative value system which is the Kingdom of God, for he was nailed on the Cross with an inscription ‘King of Jews.’ Jesus’ disapproval of a military state led him to be branded as a ‘political insurgent’ and eventually led him to be killed on the Cross.
2.‘Good Friday’ is a day where an innocent Jesus was falsely implicated and was taken to be crucified on a Cross, along with two other bandits of his times, at a public criminal execution place, which was ‘outside of the camp.’ It was a place where the soldiers gambled on Jesus’ clothes, spit on him, and rebuked him with all possible insults. Jesus died as a political martyr.
3.When Jesus cried ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ many around his Cross mocked him saying that he was calling on Elijah for help and rescue. To that question, we see that there was silence from God’s side. We run a risk of translating God’s silence as God’s absence. The politic of this saying needs to consider that God joins in the suffering of people, where God grieves along with those that are suffering to lead them into the resurrection experience.
4.The politics of ‘good Friday’ is always related to the ‘best Sunday’ to come, the ‘Easter day’, where God raised him from the death. It displays a politics of hope, for death and regimes of oppression are defeated and chained in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Resurrection of Jesus from death was a huge blow to the empire that believed that there is no opposition to their force, for on that day death died and was buried.
‘Good Friday’ therefore challenges us humanity to locate crucified Jesus’ among us, among our histories, among our contexts, who are opposing the repressive regimes of our times, and stand along with them in their struggles for justice, the highest good. ‘Good Friday’ finds its fuller meaning not in religious sanctuaries, not in our cosy comfortable zones, not in our parochial colonies but on the public streets where people are time and again crucified by the unjust systems of violence. ‘Good Friday’ comes alive and becomes meaningful ‘outside the camps’ of our times, in the refugee camps, in the excluded zones, in the prisons, etc. ‘Good Friday’ becomes relevant by disavowing hegemonic powers and principalities that suppress and marginalize people and communities and by standing for justice and peace of our times. The calling of our spirituality is to become politically sensitive to our contexts and attempt in relating our faith to the times of our times.
Wishing you all a meaningful observance of Lent.
Rev. Rajbharat Patta
January Reflection from our Minister
Explore and Situate God among those that are standing on the margins:
Shifting Locales and Changing Landscapes of the Church
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard as found in Matthew 20: 1-16 narrates about the land owner who hires workers at 6 in the morning, at 9 in the morning, at noon, at 3 in the afternoon and at 5 in the evening. Those that were strongly built, who were well experienced and had a very promising CV were employed in the very first round of interview. Those that were less qualified, but who had some other strengths were later employed at the next hour, those that had even lesser qualifications, but probably had some other skills like communication or so were later employed by the employer to work in his vineyard. In verse 6 we see the studious land owner goes into the market place even at five in the evening to see some people standing around to seek some work for the day. He then asks them, ‘why are standing here idle all day?’ and in verse 7, they replied, ‘because no one has hired us.’
Why is no one hiring these people? What could have been the reasons for their not being employed? Probably these people standing at 5 pm could not have been able to compete with the competitive world around, for those high class in the society define merit and thereby determine the norms for merit, describing them as incapable to work or so. Probably these people who are still standing eagerly to employed even at 5pm could have been people with disabilities and people who are mentally challenged, for no one wants to employ them because of their disabilities, for all those abled-bodies were preferred and given work in the earlier hours of the day. Probably these people still standing eagerly to be employed even at 5pm could have been women, for no one wants to employ them because of their being branded by the patriarchal society with their gendered stereo-types and prejudices as incapable to work. Probably these people still standing eagerly to be employed even at 5pm could have been homeless persons, for no one wants to employ them because of their class and discriminate them from all works. Probably these people still standing eagerly to be employed even at 5pm could have been people from migrant and refugee communities, for they do not have the same nurture as the others have in their upbringing, and are denied chances of employment in many cases. The writer of the parable in verse 7 even brands these people standing at 5pm as ‘idle’, implying the rest of them who were employed earlier seem to be smart and meritorious. In such a context, the land owner shifts the locale from that of the tradition and exercises justice by not only employing these people who are still standing at 5pm but also by giving equal wages to all of those that have started to work from the first hour till the last hour, making it a matter of eye soar to those that came early. Economic justice is ensured based on equity and equality.
In our times today, where the mantra of globalisation is sheer profit without any importance to human worth, where forces like patriarchy, caste, class, race, fundamentalism, etc rule as principalities and powers preferring those with so called capabilities and employing them at early hours, the parable calls us to shift our locales to those that are still standing at 5pm to be employed and recognised. In the changing landscapes of the church and society, the calling for all of us is to shift our focus to those that are standing at the 5pm eager to be employed, for no one hires them because of the stigma and discrimination they face.
May this New Year therefore call on us as a Church to look for and locate God among those that are waiting still at 5pm, and recognise the worth of life that has been equally granted by God to all. Unless we shift our locale to those friends and communities on the margins and make them the epicentre of our missioning, our faith may not have its savour and relevance. Shall we therefore raise up to the occasion of affirming life in all its fullness among those that are being pushed to the margins by the forces of class, caste, race, gender etc. and strive to break down these cruel forces, for God stands among those that are still waiting at 5pm to be employed and to receive equal wages like others.
Wishing you all a Blessed New Year.
Rev. R. Patta
November Message from the Desk of the Raj…
At the very outset, I rejoice in our God, who through God’s abundant grace has found me to work with the Stockport Circuit of the Methodist Church with a pastoral charge of two Churches, Heaton Mersey and St. John’s. It is indeed a matter of great delight for us as a family to be welcomed into the Circuit, and take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for all your love, reception and friendship that you have been extending to us.
As I reflect on my appointment, I cannot but acknowledge how wonderful are God’s works, for God acts are on God’s own terms and not on our terms, for God’s acts are mysterious and miraculous. As I am prompted by the Spirit now to work in Stockport, all I can say is, “I do not know what the future holds for me, but I know the One who holds the future,” and in that strong faith I look unto God as I begin my ministerial engagements. In this pursuit, I seek all your support, co-operation and collaboration in working for the deepening and widening of God’s reign here at Stockport.
To introduce myself, I am an ordained minister of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, and began my ministry as a minister at a local congregation of 150 families. It was such a learning and blessed experience to work in a local Church administering pastoral and missional duties. Later I went on to work with the National Council of Churches in India as an executive secretary for Commission on Mission, Dalits, Youth. Then I served the Student Christian Movement of India as its national general secretary working among college and university communities. I moved to Manchester to pursue my doctoral studies at the University, during which time I also worked as an Honorary Chaplain at St. Peter’s Church and Chaplaincy ministering the higher education community in Manchester. I love cricket, badminton, football, composing music and enjoy watching films. I am married to Shiny and we are blessed with two sons Raj Indeevar (Jubi) and Raj Sangheebhav (Jai Ho).
31st October 2017 marks the 500 years of Reformation in the history of Christianity, when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the doors of Wittenberg in Germany, initiating a great change in the nature and character of the Church. His clarion call of “Scripture alone, grace alone and faith alone” reverberates into our post-secular society today calling people of God to be guided and led by Word, grace and faith. As a Church, this is an invitation for us to rely and ground ourselves in Word, grace and faith, encouraging one another in prayer so that we as a Church can make our presence felt in our vicinities and neighbourhood.
As we march into November, and towards the end as we enter into yet another season of Advent, may we as a Church participate in transforming our communities, so that we can reflect the love of Christ to people around. Allow me to leave you with a thought for this month, which is from the writings of Archbishop William Temple, for his book Christianity and Social Order, where he says, “the Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.” May the Holy Spirit help us reflect and act on the very being and becoming of our Church today, and help us to actualise the salvation of Jesus Christ among our communities.