“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11: 3)

The turn of events in the recent past of synod appointing an interim administration with upright persons have been received by all with a sigh of relief. But again situation has changed dramatically with the synod reconstituting the interim administration by removing two honest and upright persons and inducting three nominees of Bishop Kuruvilla, thereby exposing its vulnerability. The synod has to deal with half a dozen bishops of the same category, who are facing the wrath of people and are mired in extreme forms of corruption. The synod and the dioceses are very much under the watchful eye of the Income tax Authorities. These factors may have played into this decision besides Bishop Kuruvilla’s obstinacy.

It has become clear that the synod and the moderator are guided by extraneous factors. Bishop Kuruvilla, unashamed as he is, may be considering this as a victory; he could buy time to cover up his misdeeds. But his temper tantrums and the legal actions through proxies have all exposed to the general public the fact that he has something to hide. It has also exposed the hollowness of his sermonizing on “ecclesiastical obedience”; he can threaten and disobey the moderator and the synod, while denying the same right to the clergy and laity. The bishop has proved himself to be unscrupulous, corrupt, greedy for power and money and pathologically and callously egotistic and narcissistic. He has no moral right to continue as a bishop. He has set in motion an irreversible process of self-destruction and nobody can save him from that except his own repentance.

A piece of purple cloth, an Episcopal staff, and a flag bearing top model car will not make one a bishop; even consecration has no meaning without genuine acceptance by the people. These are things one can buy. All clergy should know that reverence is not something you can claim by virtue of the cassock, it is something to be earned. We all know the story of Saul. He was anointed by Yahweh, through Prophet Samuel to be the king of Israel. But he became arrogant, avaricious, and disobedient to the Lord. The consequence is that God rejected him from being king of Israel. We read, “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16: 14) The diocese is suffering from a bishop tormented by an evil spirit.

Many pastorates, many clergy and laity had been fighting this corrupt regime and suffering under it and has been hoping for a relief. All the faithful who fear God and believe in a just and moral ordering of our society have been earnestly expecting that an end to this suffering would be around the corner. It is true that their hopes were belied. The recent developments surely are disappointing and it is natural that we sigh along with the Psalmist and ask the question, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11: 3)

This question arose from David as he was followed by Saul day and night; his life was under constant danger. “For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.”(Ps. 11: 2). The very office of the king, which they asked for hoping that it would provide security and stability and a moral foundation for the Israel as a nation, had proved to be the opposite. It became a source of torment and persistent threat. In the midst of this unpredictable threat to one’s life, David had the temptation to flee from the situation and look for a safe haven for himself. There were those in David’s own camp (the Righteous) who were saying to him that he should run/flee to his mountain, presumably Jerusalem (Mount Zion). “How then can you say to me, "Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Ps. 11: 2). Surely, it would be easier to flee from the arrows shot in the dark than to stand and face them.

But, Can we give up the fight and flee? Is that what the Lord expects from us? David throwing up his hand in desperation asks the question: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The question comes to us with all its pathos. The question may equally reflect all our pathos associated with what is happening in our diocese and the Church of South India in general. The moral universes we are familiar with, in which our ancestors pinned their hopes are crumbling. The word "foundations," here, refers to those things on which society rests, or by which social order is sustained - the great principles of truth and righteousness that uphold society, as the foundations uphold the edifice of the building. The reference is to a destruction of those things in a community that provides security and stability. When truth, justice and honesty do not prevail, and when integrity and virtue affords no longer any security, the argument is, there is nothing on which the righteous can repose his confidence. Is this not the situation we are in as a church, a Christian Community and a nation?

But the psalmist calls for a response different from that of fleeing in desperation; David’s response is different. First, He takes refuge in the Lord. (Ps. 11:1) The Psalmist repeats this affirmation in Psalm 46: 1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” In the book of Jeremiah we read, “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.”(Jer. 17: 7)

Second, the righteous has the firm conviction and faith that “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. (Ps. 11: 4) We read in book of Habakkuk, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”(2: 20) It is important that we realize that God is in control; His eyes see all that is happening. His eyes not only see but also examines (tries) the righteous but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. Lastly, we know that “our Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”(Ps. 11:7) The very character of our God is righteousness and justice. This is a time when we should recognize our sole refuge and strength is our Lord. Hence we shall not be afraid. We know that He is in control. God sees and examines. He will reward us accordingly. But it is certain that the upright will see his face.

What is the implication of this faith? This means that we cannot have our way. We cannot trust purely in worldly wisdom and resources. We should put our complete trust in the Lord. We must find refuge in God and God alone. Second, it means that we should be prepared to wait for God’s time. Thirdly, we need to work and pray for a true repentance and renewal within the church. But this should begin with us as individuals and congregation. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to sweep mightily over us and the whole of CSI. This will not occur through the bishops and the clergy, the “priestly class”. It can only come from the laity. What the bishops and the clergy would do is to contain the charisma, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and transform it into a manageable piety towards the institution of the church, instead of a costly following of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we do not want an educated and ordained ministry in the church. But such an ordained clergy is not to replace the laity and but equip them for their ministry in the world. They cannot treat laity as dirt and use the Episcopal staff to beat them into submission. It also means that the congregations must reclaim its autonomy and cannot be dictated by an upstart clergy or a bishop and thus by remote control, turned into a mere puppet in their hands.

This, in other words, will be an attempt to reclaim our “protestant” and “reformed” past. It is one of throwing off the yoke of Papal/Episcopal infallibility and challenging their mediation of divine grace through ‘sale of indulgences’. The freedom Christ has brought to us is the freedom from “dead works” to worshipping the living God through living sacrifices, actions that truly transform the world according to kingdom values. We become the light and salt by our witness in the world of the transforming power of the gospel. This is clearly a shift from ritualism, by which the priestly class try to hold sway over us and exploit us.

Lastly, as Christians, we should not just be working for victory; our victory comes through the cross of Jesus Christ; it is without its price. Our victories and achievements are not without the blemish of human sinfulness. Hence, for a true Christian his victories must also be critically looked at from the vantage point of our ultimate hope. That means we cannot consider as absolute our penultimate achievements, but we will still be striving for that perfect reality, which we will receive as a gift from God. We are not called to be successful, but to be faithful. Our joy and prayer should be that we remain faithful to God and may be found by him to be his faithful servants. We are called to be rebels - rebels for Christ and his Kingdom.


kurian philip said...

Excellent post ever read.All the points came from heart.Thanks to the author.

Post a Comment