Rev Raj Patta also has a blog: ThePattasblogspot
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.