Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Cornerstone – A Suggested Ponderable for a Sermon on Faith

When the good Presbyter, Revd. Ghazan, delivered a sermon about how it was on the basis of the faith of his disciple, that the Lord, built his Church, it set me wondering about how relevant the possession of Faith is to each one of us, especially if one has to maintain sanity while living in the midst of people whom we trust, but turn out to be backstabbers in the end! In a world where for some there might be a dearth of noble natures, one wonders whether one should not attempt to temper one’s Faith in human beings with one’s Faith in The Lord. Perhaps, the greatest challenge today is to be cheated by people who claim to be of the Lord and yet maintain Faith in the God they serve! I guess, the words, ‘Forgive them, O Lord, for they know not what they do!’ would serve to remind us that Jesus too,was aware of the presence of the dearth of noble natures and although He had been betrayed by one of his own disciples and others, probably known to him, He prayed for their forgiveness.  Does it mean then, that being betrayed and backstabbed and cheated by people we know should affect our Faith in God? Perhaps, the greatest challenge to Faith is being let down by those who are considered to be the anointed ones, the true messengers of the message of Faith, but who are themselves so bereft of the Grace and blessings of the Lord that they have no scruples in treading under their feet, the Faith, hopes, and expectations of the flock that they lead.
It is said that where one door is shut down, God opens two more, and I have strongly sensed this fact to be true. After a long stint in a Government School, in Delhi, I was requested to head a Mission School in the interiors of Haryana by someone I had known. When it became clear that I would not be a rubber-stamp or a mere chattel in the hands of an unscrupulous organization of like-minded fickle minded ‘Gentlemen of the Word,’ I had to somehow escape the clutches of this  group of people. The first two months were probably the worst that I have ever felt in all my years, but what upheld me was Faith in The Good Lord. Whatever happened, I just didn’t stop praying, and didn’t stop going to Church. After a good two months, I was able to land up a job in a prestigious organisation, and since then there has been no looking back for me. I often question my decision for trusting the Gentleman whom I had known for more than a decade, but little had I realised that the same person who had once adopted a mantle of humbleness and simplicity would himself become a shark with a bottomless pit for a stomach. If my Faith in this person was broken, did it mean that I should severe my ties with the Lord? The answer, when I think of it today, was and is a strict no!
When God shuts down one door, He opens two, and when a person you once trusted shuts down one door, he traps himself inside a room whish has no doors, and God Himself opens a thousand doors for you. Having served for a couple of years in a new institution, I finally got the interest and courage to collect all of the poems that I had written and get them published, that too by a well known international publisher. It was a heady feeling when I held that book in my hands, and there were tears in my parents’ eyes, and my children wept,  my wife wept,and my sister wept, they wept tears of joy! I, didn’t weep rather I wondered if the existence of that book in my hands, wasn’t a message from God, never to lose Faith? My parents had seen me go into depression, my sister, my children, my wife, all because of the betrayal that I had faced at the hands of someone we all knew. So, what the, what was it that made me go on with full positive energy, to take life head on and proceed in life in spite of all the tumbles I had taken? Was it just positive attitude? Was it that I had a better grasp of life skills, or perhaps even that I had been wired differently? The answer to all those questions is a single No! It was clearly Faith, Faith in my Maker that had given me the strength to forge ahead in life, and I hope that God will continue to strengthen my Faith in the goodness of my Maker!
An important take away for me, and something that I would like to share with all of my friends, is that no matter what you might be going through in live, never loser faith in God! Your beloved might have betrayed you, your close friend might have ridden roughshod over you, or the person you once admired for his or her so called spiritual strengths might have turned out to be a sham after all, remember, the cornerstone of your life, that keystone that you build your life on, that foundation on which you build your life on should be none other than Faith, unflinching Faith, unconditional Faith, Faith that knows no rewards, Faith that cannot be bought, Faith that can only built upon! I often think a bout Job from the Old Testament. If Job symbolizes patience, then Peter symbolizes Faith, while Judas symbolizes treachery and betrayal. Today, in everyday life we come across all three of them. We might come across more Judases than Jobs, but then when you have a dearth of Peters in life, then might it not be a good idea to build up a Peter in your own hearts?
This brings me to the Pastors and leaders who are themselves so bereft of Faith that they are ready to lead their flock astray, for thus it is written, “ Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord God of Israel…Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them : behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.” – Jeremiah, 23:1-2. Harsh words indeed, but then it is clear that those who have been given the responsibility of upholding the Faith of their flock in The Lord, and do not do so will face dire consequences. Faith, clearly is something that one feels, one holds on to, and it is something to be nurtured with the help of the anointed people whose have been appointed to spread the word of the Lord.To this effect, I would like to reaffirm in very strong words, that it was thanks to the Pastor of my church that I was able to strengthen my Faith in the face of so much depression and dejection. He, God Bless him kept involving me in Church Activities, he took time to talk to me, he prepared some of the best sermons I have ever come across, and this is what I would call a true follower of the Lord, a nurturer of Faith and hope in his flock! Of the person who would call himself, ‘The Anointed One,’ well, I can only hope that he rediscovers the Faith that he had lost in The Lord, and may God forgive him for he knows not what he does! The whole issue faced by many of us today, and those who have been given the responsibility of leading the flock and strengthening Faith may be summed up in the words, “ The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ,, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” – 1 Peter, 5:1-2. For those shepherds, who neglect the requirements of their flocks those shepherds whose acts of commission or omissions might lead to a dilution of Faith, the warning is clear!
The actual power and strength of one’s Faith, might however help the person to surf over his or her disappointments and losses. Ultimately, one’s Faith is the result of one’s convictions, beliefs, and being aware of the Word of The Lord. When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? and Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Mathew 16:13-19. This is what Faith is about, a strong belief that Jesus is “the son of the living God!” The name “Peter” is the Greek word for “rock” (Petra) and translates an Aramaic nickname (Cepas) that also means “rock”. All the Gospels agree that Peter had promised that he would follow Jesus even unto death, only to be answered with Jesus’ prophecy that he would in fact deny him three times. In spite of the occasion when he denied knowing Jesus, before Jesus was led away to the Crucifix, Peter continued to be the rock on which the entire Christian religion was built. What was it then that convinced Peter to leave material joys, a comfortable married life, and a house that he had in Capernaum? Simon – Peter had been a successful fisherman, and yet what was it that drew him towards Jesus Christ? What was it that made him “The Rock”? Well I guess the single word that come to mind is Faith. We as evangelists, and presbyters, and “Anointed Ones” have the divine responsibility of building up Faith in our flock, and woe betide those who wear the gowns of piety and commit acts that are meant to undermine the Faith of their flock! Ultimately, I can only add that Faith is an important cornerstone - it holds the two sides of a square, and prevents them from falling apart! The cornerstone has the ability to hold the structure together - no building worth its name can be built without a cornerstone. If our lives might be compared to buildings which are structurally strong, then I guess it would be because of that cornerstone tucked away somewhere, something called Faith!  My only Prayer to the Good Lord would be to never let my Faith  reduce in strength and instead to make it stronger than ever before, that, I might have the conviction that in spite of being surrounded by all kinds of people I have someone up there who will mend things for me. Amen!

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