Bible Reflection

MIGRANT GOD AMIDST MIGRANT PEOPLE

INTRODUCTION

Resurrection is a central theme in the Christian tradition and is celebrated every year as the Festival of Easter. There are two important reasons for the place that resurrection occupies in Christian consciousness and worship.
First of all, it is associated with the ultimate destiny of the founder of Christianity himself. ‘Resurrection’ means that the life of the first century Jewish rabbi from Nazareth did not end in hopeless failure and that there was something beyond his crucifixion.
Secondly, the mystery of resurrection is something that has given hope to millions of Christians in the course of two thousand years of history. There is more light and life on the other shore, beyond the grave. Faced with the death of their dear ones, generations of women and men have wiped their tears with the soothing thought that the departure of their loved ones was only temporary and that there is a meeting once again. It is enough to observe the Christian burial – grounds all over the world. The many inscriptions on the tombs are proof of the indelible hope in resurrection.
The Resurrection of Jesus has since been a point of lively controversy. It was triggered off with the polemics between Jesus’ disciples and their fellow Jews.e
Different theories were put forward to explain the claim of the disciples that “He is risen”:

a) the disciples themselves had stolen the body from the tomb which would explain why it was empty;
b) the gardener in whose plot the tomb was located, feared streams of visitors to the tomb who would trample his vegetable plants and so removed the body to save his vegetables;
c) the “swoon –theory” that Jesus only swooned but he revived in the cool of the tomb and after his revival travelled to Kashmir and died a natural death in old age;
d) the whole story was a hallucination;
e) if Jesus had risen, to prove that he should have appeared to his enemies and not to his disciples. The disciples of Jesus did not wish the life of their Guru to end in failure and therefore, floated the belief in resurrection;
f) that the very incarnation is a myth; it was unimportant what exactly happened on the third day after Jesus was buried. The importance is that, in our spiritual experience of faith, Jesus continues to be a living person and we acknowledge that his message has a universal and abiding validity.

On the contrary, there have been people who have believed in the fact of the Resurrection. In the ‘Acts of Thomas’, there is a story about Thomas, the disciple of our Lord..

King Gundaphorus of India sends a merchant called Abbanes to Jerusalem to find a skilled carpenter and bring him back to India. Jesus came up to Abbanes in the market place and said to him, “Would you buy a carpenter?” Abbanes said “Yes”. Jesus said, “I have a slave who is a carpenter and I desire to sell him”, and he pointed at Thomas at a distance. Thomas was bought by Abbanes and brought to King Gundaphorus.

King Gundaphorus commanded Thomas to build a palace and Thomas agreed. The King gave Thomas plenty of money to buy materials and to hire workforce, but Thomas gave it all to the poor. Always, he told the King that the palace was rising steadily. The King was suspicious and he asked Thomas, “Have you built me the palace?” Thomas answered, “Yes”. “Shall we go and see it?” the King asked. Thomas answered, “You cannot see it now, but when you depart this life, then you shall see it”. At first, the King was angry and Thomas was in the danger of losing his life but in the end the King was won for Christ. Thus, Thomas brought Christianity to India!

There are two types of FAITH – Faith without knowing and Faith with knowing. The latter is often better than the former. Thomas did not want to say he believed when he did not believe, he would never say he understood what he did not understand. There is honesty about Thomas. Thomas would not rattle off a creed without understanding what it was all about.

Resurrection is beyond all human faculties- devotion or emotion; reason or intellect; knowledge or ignorance. It is possible that we may fail to grasp the essence and meaning of resurrection even today. The very familiarity with the episode may prevent us from perceiving the significance and relevance of resurrection. It is here FAITH should help us. FAITH is nothing but absolute belief.

Peter’s words in Acts 2:23-24 echo the above: “This Jesus …you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up…because it was not possible for him to be held by it”. These life affirming words, indeed, came out of their conviction that the very God they served was a God of resurrection. These words further implied that if God has raised Jesus from death, God has definitely the power to raise up those who are trampled upon, to give dignity to the dispossessed, hope to the hopeless and peace to those in conflict and violence. In the message, Peter spoke to the large crowd of people, for whom life had no meaning, and in that message he declared to them that there was hope beyond shadow of a doubt because Jesus was alive. This conviction leads the faithful irrespective of space and time to be a community of faith over doubt; hope over despair; peace over violence, and life over death. Life in all its fullness – that is what Resurrection is all about. The real message of Resurrection is not about a distant past or about a new age to come in some remote future. The Resurrection is the affirmation that the transcendent God in Jesus Christ is breaking in into our lives and our times, in ways which do not always anticipate. It is the proclamation that God’s new age breaks into contemporary history making renewal of life a possibility today. Thus, the event of the Resurrection of our Lord becomes a relevant fact in our lives today as we can become a Resurrected community experiencing life in all its fullness. That is greatest challenge and call of the event of Resurrection of our Lord to the Church and the Bible Societies around the world.

 

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

Read more

DIGITAL BIBLE – A CHALLENGE ?

INTRODUCTION

Civilization has reached a point that technology has covered almost every part of human aspect ranging from what we eat,wear,see and so forth. Now, the Holy Bible being the word of God has also being digitized.Today, there are over millions of digital bible apps available for Christians world wide.It is sometimes called e-bible.It is gradually taking over the physical(book) bible we already know.Is it good for Christians to use digital bible?.This very question is hard to answer but from my point of view. I would prefer we consider the advantages and the disadvantages of using digital bible.We all use digital Bibles because we find it:

1.Easy to carry along(portability)
2. Easy to search for biblical keywords
3. Easy user interface
4. Fast in searching for topics
5. Easy bookmarks and reference
6. Easy to share with friends via text,emails and social media

I believe there are other reasons that people prefer digital bible to the physical bible.Honestly, I have much interest in the digital bible and I use it often than the physical bible due to the above reasons, but sometimes I feel like whether I am using the word of God in the right way ?The physical bible is most often ideal on my table.I believe many Christians are in the same canoe.Even some of the great pastors now use digital bibles on their Iphones,IPads, tablets and other phones.Some even read sermons from the phone to their congregations.

Let us consider some of the disadvantages of using digital bibles or the so-called e-bibles.

1. when the phone breaks down your bible too has broken down.Without the phone,there is no bible.
2. While reading from your bible pop-ups like advertisement will show to distract you.
3. You might be tempted to check your Facebook notifications or slip to any social media network.If you don’t take care you might forget that you are at church and do active chat with friends. Are you really serving God at church?I’ve once chat with a friend on Whataspp, and after asking her about where she is she told me she is at church. Can you imagine this?.
4.Digital bibles could be altered easily because the owner has direct access to the app and so can remove or add new words to the bible. It is very easy to alter it unlike the printed bible or the physical bible.
5.Incoming calls or messages can distract you from reading the Bible to understand it properly.

 

Desperate Christians will then ask, “So is it a sin to use digital bible?”.I do not see it as sin and I am not the one to define what sin is.The bible has made it clear that we have the freedom to do anything but not everything we do is right. Why would you take the digital bible to church and leave your physical bible in the house. Christians today feel lazy to take time to go through the physical bible page by page.Because we find it old-fashioned and boring. On the other hand, there are many who feel comfortable and satisfied only if they read the physcial bible and they devote time reading the physical bible. So, the question is whether Digital Bible is paving the way for a spirituality marked by convenience and pleasure than real indepth meditation and reflection of God’s Word ? For me, both can be equally valuable and helpful provided we approach and handle the same with deep devotion and expectation.

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

Read more

God The Marketer

INTRODUCTION

A few thousand years ago, God used a 4-step marketing process to get Moses to obey God’s will. From Madison Avenue marketing gurus to the simple neighborhood pizza parlor, businesses are still using this exact same 4-step process. While they may not be giving God the credit, the proof is in the scriptures, we just need to look for it. Rev. Dr. Mani Chacko looks at the book of Exodus to find the similarities…

If you do a word search in the Bible for the words “marketing” or “advertising” it will yield no results. With all the divine wisdom held in those pages, why aren’t these words found? Is God saying, “Do not advertise”? Is He saying, “Do not market the church”?

Before we can write this whole idea off as a waste of church resources, we need to take a closer look at what marketing is all about.
A few thousand years ago, God used a 4-step marketing process to get Moses to obey God’s will. From Madison Avenue marketing gurus to the simple neighbourhood pizza parlour, businesses are still using this exact same 4-step process. While they may not be giving God the credit, the proof is in the scriptures, we just need to look for it.
We will take a quick look at the process, then look at the book of Exodus and find the similarities.

1. The first job of marketing is to CAPTURE ATTENTION:

In order to offer solutions, services, or products you must first gain the attention of your audience. If you don’t do this first step, the whole process fails.
A common misconception in our society is that “sex sells”. Sex sells nothing; it captures people’s attention. Have you ever wondered why you keep seeing commercials pushing the limits of censorship with risk and often times even violent images? Unfortunately, it is because our society has become desensitized to the point that advertisers and marketers must continue to increase the shock-value to get our attention.
I once saw a church marketing piece that featured a graphic of a man’s large, muscular, tattooed arm (the tattoo was the church’s logo) coupled with a message that said “All of God’s people are welcome here ”. I was later told that it was one of the most successful campaigns they’ve run. They thought out of the box, untypical for “churchy” advertising. While this may not be the message or personality of your church, there is something unique about your church – share it through your advertising! Don’t be afraid to push the limits a bit; it might just reach people on a whole new level!

2. The second job of marketing is to ENGAGE the AUDIENCE:

Engaging the audience just means keeping the attention of your listeners long enough to educate them on what a particular product or service has to offer. It is important that these steps are carried out in the correct order. Once you get the audience’s attention, you need to keep it. The term “attention span” refers to how long you can keep someone engaged. While a great attention-getting image or headline may work at first, it still needs to engage (hold the attention).

3. The third job of marketing is to EDUCATE:

This is where advertisers tell you about all the benefits of their product and how it is guaranteed to make your life better. They establish “the need” and then meet the need with a solution! For example, you might not have thought you needed the product 60 seconds ago, but now that they have created a need and offered a solution, you discover you can’t live without it! If they weren’t able to keep your attention, they wouldn’t have been able to establish a need and pitch the solution.

4. The fourth job of marketing is to create a CALL TO ACTION:

A “call to action” is when marketers create an action step such as “Buy Now” or “Call Today”. By this point they have you. If they have done their job correctly then they have captured your attention, engaged you long enough to educate you on their benefits, and created a need for their product. If you listened to all the great things their product will do for you then you are ready to bite. All it takes at this point is a call to action, a way for you to respond!
Now that we understand what marketing is, we will look at the Bible and see exactly how God used this 4-step process in order to get Moses to follow God’s will. This is clear in Exodus 3 where the story of Moses and the Burning bush is narrated.

God uses the first step in the marketing process: He captures Moses’s attention with the burning bush.
(Exodus 3:1-3) “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father -in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (God captures his attention) So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’”

A bush burning on the side of a mountain would be a huge attention-getter for any one. Once God gets Moses’ attention, he then uses the second step in the marketing process: He engages Moses.
(Exodus 3:4) “When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’” (God Engages Moses) After God has his attention and has begun to engage Moses, He then uses the third step in the marketing process: He educates him on who He is.
(Exodus 3:-5-9) “‘Do not come any closer, ‘ God said, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.’” (God Educates Moses) Finally, God has educated Moses on who He is. He then uses the fourth step in the marketing process: He tells him what to do, or makes him an offer. God presents Moses with a call to action!
   
(Exodus 3:10) “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” God tells Moses what to do – God creates a call to action.
We can analyse story after story and see that God systematically used the principles of marketing to accomplish what He desired. If these principles are good enough for God to build his Kingdom, then why shouldn’t they be good enough for the Bible Society and the Church to do the same?

Marketing is a science and one that is equally applicable for the Bible Society and the Church as it is to any product, service, or business. When implemented correctly, these well -thought-out steps can effectively produce desired results.

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

Read more

Christmas – A Doctrine Or History

INTRODUCTION

We are again at the brink of Christmas! How soon yet another opportunity has come to us to think about the deeper meaning of Christmas! An appropriate verse for our reflection that comes to my mind is 1 John 1:1-4:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

These verses teach us that Christmas is neither only a doctrine nor only history but both! This is what I would like to explore with you.

A. Christmas is Doctrinal

What do I mean by “doctrinal”? I used the word doctrinal on purpose. I know it is a negative word. It is part of a family of words that have negative connotations. Doctrine or dogma connotes being narrow, being rigid or closed. It is bad to be closed. It is bad to be haughty. It is bad to not be open to reason. It is bad not to listen to others. But in our fear of being doctrinaire, we are not frank, we are not honest, about the fact we are all doctrinal.

A doctrine is a belief we base our lives on, and it is something we contend for, we insist on. In other words, a doctrine first of all is a faith position. It is not something we can prove scientifically. It is not something we prove empirically. Secondly, it is something we live on, we commit ourselves to, we base our lives on. And thirdly, it is something we push, we contend with other people over. That is a doctrine. And even though we should not be doctrinaire, we are all doctrinal.

Let us try not to be doctrinaire. But we cannot avoid being doctrinal. Everybody has faith assumptions about God, about eternity, about human nature, about moral truth. We bet our lives on them and press for them, and there is no way to avoid being doctrinal.

Christmas is doctrinal. The text says the invisible has become visible, the incorporeal has become corporeal. In other words, God has become human. The absolute has become particular. The ideal has become real. The divine has taken up a human nature. This is not only a specific doctrine, but it is also unique. Doctrine always distinguishes us. One of the reasons we are afraid to talk about doctrine is because it distinguishes us from others. Here is why the doctrine of Christmas is unique.

On the one hand we have got religions that say God is so imminent in all things that incarnation is normal. If you are a Buddhist or Hindu, God is imminent in everything. God is the divine spark in everything, and therefore incarnation is normal. God is incarnate in all sorts of people and things. Christians say Jesus is the God. On the other hand, the family of religions like Islam and Judaism says God is so transcendent over all things that incarnation is impossible. Jesus as God is blasphemous.

But Christianity is unique. It does not say incarnation is normal, but it does not say it is impossible. It says God is so imminent that it is possible, but God is so transcendent that the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is an event. Christianity has a unique view on this that sets it apart from everything else.

B. Christmas is Historical

Christmas is not just doctrinal; it is also historical. Look at what John says: we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Here is what he is saying: When we give you these accounts of Jesus walking on the water, of Jesus rising from the dead, of Jesus speaking these words, these are not legends. These are not things we made up. These are not wonderful spiritual parables. These are things we saw. We saw him do this. We heard him do this. We felt him do this.

In other words, the doctrine of Christmas is that God became historical. The manger, the resurrection, the story of Jesus is not just a story. It is true. It actually happened in history. The doctrine of Christmas is that Jesus came. If he did not come, the story of Christmas is one more moral paradigm to crush us. If Jesus did not come, I would not want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble, we need to be loving. All that will do is crush us into the ground, because if it is not true that John saw him, heard him, felt him, that Jesus really came to do these things, then Christmas is depressing.

Every year we see stories in newspapers saying Christmas is the time of year for depression. It is, but not if you believe these first two verses, not if you understand Christmas is not just an inspiring story we can live up to, but it is both doctrinal and historical.

Christmas is both doctrine and history. May the reality of Christmas govern and direct our thoughts, words and actions as we celebrate Christmas once again!

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

Read more

MIGRANT GOD AMIDST MIGRANT PEOPLE

We are greatly disturbed of the frequent protests that are taking place in our country due to the implementation of Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA), the proposed National Register for Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). People who have migrated from other countries long ago are living in fear as to whether the above exercises of the Government would affect their citizenship and if so where will they go to and what will they do? On the part of the government, they say it is a normal procedure but for many people who have no documents to prove their identity are living in fear as to their future! This situation in our nation led me to reflect upon an important and relevant theme “ Migration”. This made me to think further from a theological perspective and sharpen the theme as MIGRANT GOD AMIDST MIGRANT PEOPLE.

We live in a world on the move. In the global economy we voluntarily relocate for jobs, education, and social mobility, and people constantly relocate involuntarily due to oppression, conflict, and natural disasters. Sociologists have pointed out that displacement and migration have become the dominant themes of our age. This massive movement of people has given rise to all sorts of problems and fears. Assimilation has not always worked well: in some worst cases, multiculturalism has been accompanied by the emergence of xenophobic attitudes in segments of the population. Little wonder that the move now is towards various forms of protectionism and isolation.

Wrestling with these issues and undergoing positive social and political action is of paramount importance. However, I wish not to wrestle with modern issues of migration on a political level, but to explore the issue from a psychological and theological angle. I will begin with the psychology of the migrant experience seen through the eyes of the migrant, with illustration from my own migrant experience. From there, I will explore theological significance of migration, with the ultimate conclusion that our own experiences of migration should be understood in relation to the God who is himself a migrant.

In the physical sense, migration is simply the leaving of one place for another. But the emotional and spiritual reality—the inner shape—of the migrant experience is much more complex than the physical. Relocating a self that was formed and nurtured in one place to reside in a brand new environment will inevitably have a deep impact one’s sense of self. I am particularly reminded of my time in the United Kingdom to do my doctoral research. It was a different country in all respects and it was a painful experience for me and my family to adapt and adjust to the new situation in life, which was radically different from what we were used to in India. There were many occasions when we had to feel miserable due to our color and nationality. Even in the Church where I used to assist as a Curate, there were people who will not attend the Holy Communion Service if I were the Celebrant and there were people, even though they attended the Service will not receive the holy elements from me! There were many times during which questions like “ Who am I? “, “ Why am I here?” “ Why are people so racial and at times cruel in their dealings?” and so on. At the end of the day, we had to gather ourselves and reassess our priorities and move forward with complete dependence on God alone. Today, when I look back, I do not regret the experience of migration we had to go through in a foreign land. The experience taught us precious lessons in life, which we would not have learnt otherwise! Realizing priorities in life, facing people with different attitudes and perspectives with grace, accepting people as they are, discovering God as beyond but at the same time who is traveling with the dejected and the despised people, granting them the needed strength to move on in life.

Scholars have identified the first broad possibility of the migrant experience as being in-between two cultures. The idea is this: I will never be fully British and am no longer fully Indian: I am in the margins of both. Thus I am a “ divided self. This is basically a negative view and can lead to a problematic experience. The much more positive view is that I am in-both. Rather than seeing myself as being in neither, I live with the richness of complementarity and integration. Here is the beginning of the move towards new structure.

Living in-between can so easily lead to feeling alienated and marginalized, resulting in a victim mentality. But living in-both can lead to a celebration of a certain richness. The in-both mentality can allow one to view a new societal home from a different perspective—that of an insider-outsider. This applies not only to the migrant, but also to minority groups in a society. When I adopt the insider-outsider viewpoint, I don’t necessarily see things better than others—but I certainly attain a unique and valuable point of view.

Understanding the migrant experience from a psychological point of view is vital. But viewing the issue of migration from a theological angle is more powerful. I believe that we can and should call the God of the Bible a migrant God. A lot of our language about God is the language of distance: we speak of God as omnipotent and so on. But we also need to recognize the language of relationship. One-way to do this is to see God as the one who journeys with us.

The basic premise of a theology of migration is that God, in Jesus, so loved the world that he migrated into the far and distant country of our broken human existence and laid down his life on a cross so that we could be reconciled to him and migrate back to our homeland with God, and enjoy renewed fellowship at all levels of our relationships. Reading the Christian tradition from a migrant perspective involves perceiving what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ and understanding God’s desire to cross over the barriers that divide and alienate our relationships.

Bible scholars identify four foundations of such a theology: the Imago Dei, crossing the problem-per- son divide; the Verbum Dei, crossing the divine-human divide; the Missio Dei, crossing the human-human divide; and the Visio Dei, crossing the country-kingdom of God divide.

These foundations give expression to the ways in which God reconciles the world to himself, breaks down the divisions in our relationships and helps us understand God’s movement into our world and our response to God’s grace. The notion of the Imago Dei (Image of God) emerges in the earliest pages of scripture, where we learn that human beings are not just what we label them, but people who bear God’s own image and likeness. If people on the move are only seen as migrants or workers, or worse, as lawbreakers, aliens or criminals, then their suffering makes no moral claims on us.

At the core of the problem-person divide is the experience of dehumanization. What migrants often say is most difficult for them is not the pain and suffering of the physical journey, as horrendous as it may be when crossing deserts or oceans and stowing away in trains and cargo containers. What hurts them most are the indignities, when people treat you like you are a dog, like you are a piece of dirt, like you are worth nothing as a human being.

The second theological notion central to the immigration debate is the Verbum Dei (Word of God). In the Incarnation, God, in Jesus, crosses the divide that exists between divine life and human life. In the Incarnation, God migrates to the human race, making his way into the far country of human discord and disorder, a place of division and dissension, a territory marked by death and the demeaning treatment of human beings. In Matthew’s account God not only takes on human flesh and migrates into our world, but God actually becomes a refugee when his family flees political persecution and escapes into Egypt (Matt 2:13-15). Jesus assumes the human condition of the most vulnerable among us, undergoing hunger, thirst, rejection and injustice, walking the way of the cross, overcoming the forces of death that threaten human life. He enters into the broken territory of human experience and offers his own wounds in solidarity with those who are in pain. The Jesus story opens up for many migrants a reason to hope, especially in what often seems like a hopeless predicament. If the Verbum Dei is about God crossing over the divine-human divide, the mission of the church, or the Missio Dei (Mission of God), is to cross the human-human divide. This Missio Dei proclaims a God of life by building up, in a civilization of love.

Finally, the Visio Dei (Vision of God) is about looking at the world in such a way that the kingdom of God shapes our vision about who we are in the world. It acknowledges the role of national identities but recognizes that the deepest allegiances of Christians are predicated on a mission of reconciliation, meaning that the borders that define countries may have some relative value but are not ultimately those that define the body of Christ.

Theology offers not just more information but a new imagination. It supplies a way of thinking about migration that keeps the human issues at the center of the debate and reminds us that our own existence as a pilgrim people is migratory in nature. Christian discipleship leads us to overcome all that divides us in order to reconcile our relationships, reminding us that the more difficult walls to cross are the ones that exist in the hearts of each of us. We are unable to cross these divides by ourselves. Christian faith rests ultimately in the one who migrated from heaven to earth and, through his death and resurrection, passed over from death to life.

God self-identifies as the wandering God: “but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling” (2 Samuel 7:6). This wandering aspect of God is one of the reasons Samuel is so concerned about David’s desire to build a temple for Yahweh.

God is the God of the journey. This is most clearly expressed in God’s journey with his people as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:20-22). God is the exiled God: the glory of God leaves the temple (Ezekiel 8:1 to 11:25) and God joins his people in exile. God as the migrant God is clearly seen in the NT narrative: for example, Jesus’ refugee status in the flight from Herod’s killing fields; Jesus’ marginal status as coming from the rogue province of Galilee; his non-professional status in the hierarchical society of his time; his itinerant ministry in Palestine; his subsequent transition from outskirts to the Centre of power in Jerusalem; and, most centrally, his migration into human form in the incarnation.

The first and most obvious thing that should be said is that our life’s experiences are not to be negated but need to be brought with us in our reading of Scripture, our prayers, and our engagement with the wider world.

Some of life’s experiences are more significant than others and, therefore, have been more formative. We need to make such experiences productive. In my case, being a migrant has been a blessing. It has made me aware of loss and gain. It has made me open to the other, to those who are strange and different. It has made me somewhat comfortable with ambiguity and liminality. And, as I have already indicated, it has brought me into contact with the God on the road rather than simply the static God in the temple.

You may feel at this point: “what on earth has all of this to do with me? I am not a migrant; a migrant’s experience is his / her own.” So let me then make the point: any experience that disassembles us, strips us bare, and takes us out of our comfort zone can be approximate to the migrant experience. And whether that be a relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one, a job loss, or a health crisis, one can end up in a sort-of no man’s land.

It is at this point that we need a messy, rather than a tidy God. We need God in the tabernacle, not the temple. We need a God in the midst of our ambiguity, pain, lament, confusion, and questioning. We need a God at the margins. We need the migrant God. And we need to make our times of vulnerability productive—to allow them to help us realize our true condition in the world, and to open us to respond to others who are hurting or on the margins. God of the Bible is a Migrant God Amidst Migrant People!

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

Read more