Living Entities

“The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years…”, sang Julie Andrews in the 1959 Rogers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music”. And if the hills of Austria could live and sing, why not Indian rivers and glaciers? According to news reports, that has indeed happened just recently. The rivers Ganga and Yamuna and the glaciers associated with them have now become living entities and they are henceforth to be regarded as persons having human rights.

But this concept of life is not new. In the Bible, the author of Psalm 148 had exhorted not only human beings but all creation to express praise for God’s universal glory.

Praise the Lord!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
Praise the Lord!

For God Almighty, all things created by him are living entities. They not only have rights but also responsibilities, one of which is to praise God!

God is Always Near Us

Those who believe in God cannot fail to notice his constant proximity and companionship in their daily lives. In fact, it is impossible for them to run away from him even if they ever wanted to. “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”, asked David who felt so overwhelmed by the all-seeing God. (Psalm 139:7) God himself has told his people that he will never leave them or forsake them. (Hebrews 13:5) Particularly in the day of trouble, God has invited his people to call upon him and he has promised to deliver them. (Psalm 50:15)

In spite of all these assurances, however, there comes a moment when we feel that we are in deep trouble for no fault of ours, but God is not at hand. He seems to be somewhere far away from us, perhaps turning his glance away from the scene, not responsive to our prayers, not visibly using his powers to protect us. Why the God of love should allow hate, injustice, violence, sorrow, and disaster in this world, is a question that has always left people baffled.

That is why the same David in another of his psalms had to pray, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out but you do not answer.” (Psalm 22:1-2) David’s prayer takes the form of a complaint that comes out of his anguish. It is a cry that gives vent to his bitter agony.

But David was not making a case for himself. He had a vision of Jesus before him and so he could end Psalm 22 on a greatly optimistic and victorious note. His prophecy was fulfilled when Lord Jesus, as he was dying on the cross, uttered exactly the same cry in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The people around him did not understand him, while in fact he was praying on behalf of all humanity.

Jesus’ prayer did not go unanswered. It resulted in the gift of salvation for all humanity. God has not forsaken anyone. Through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, God has been coming closer to us all and he is always near us.



Celebrating Darkness

Since 2007, Earth Hour is being observed worldwide on the last Saturday of March. The event is growing in popularity as more and more individuals, communities, households and businesses join the movement every year to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time. In 2017, Earth Hour will be observed on 25 March.

In the beginning, says the Bible, there was darkness. But God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light, and God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:1-5) In God’s scheme of creation, light came first, life came later. Without light, there cannot be life. No wonder that scientists and historians refer to the era of primitive human life as the dark ages.

But while the Old Testament documents the creation of light and its goodness, the New Testament makes the admission that human beings loved darkness rather than light! So God had to send his own son to give light and life to the world. (John 3:16-19)

Jesus spoke about himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He also wanted his enlightened followers to propagate that light. “You are the light of the world”, he said to them, “a city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

God’s desire was to have his creation illuminated by his light. If our present generation is celebrating darkness, there is perhaps a need to ponder over our priorities, directions and definitions of human life.

The Vanity of Life

What is life like?

Solomon, in his Book of Wisdom (5:10-14), has tried to explain life in terms of what we commonly observe in the air and sea:

Life is like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, no track of its keel in the waves…

It is like a bird that flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found; the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions and pierced by the force of its rushing flight, is traversed by the movement of its wings, and afterward no sign of its coming is found there…

Or, life may be like an arrow that is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway…

It is like a thistledown carried by the wind, or like a light frost driven away by a storm, like smoke dispersed before the wind…

Solomon compares life to a rumour that passes by. Life passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day…

He summarises the vanity of life saying that as soon as we are born, we cease to be…

But that is not all. Solomon adds this optimistic note to a seemingly hopeless situation: But the righteous live forever, and their reward is with the Lord. (5:15)

Showing Mercy

Unlike love, mercy is not an emotion. One can love another person without ever expressing it openly. But mercy needs to be shown, it involves action. Unlike love which may not always be available from others, mercy can be asked for. Even a convict against whom the final judgement has been pronounced, can make an appeal for mercy to a higher authority.

“God, be merciful to me this sinner!” is the shortest but complete prayer that anyone can possibly pray. (Luke 18:13) It is echoed throughout the Book of Psalms. It is the petition with which many people approached Jesus and he heard them and cured them of their afflictions.

The concept of mercy was explained by Jesus through his parable of the unmerciful or ruthless servant. (Matthew 18:23-35) Briefly, the parable runs somewhat like this: “There was a king whose servant owed him a huge sum of money and he wanted the money back. The servant was not in a position to return it and he asked the king for time. The king was merciful and he wrote off his massive debt. However, this servant later met one of his fellow servants who happened to owe him a small debt. He grabbed his debtor by the throat, would not listen to his plea, and put him in jail. When the king learnt about this, he was greatly annoyed. He called him and said, ‘You wicked man! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ The angry king ordered that he may be made to repay his debt using coercive means.”

The lesson from this parable is that it is God’s requirement that we show mercy to others, else we will not be shown mercy by God. However, there is another positive law of reciprocity that is also in operation in God’s kingdom. As Jesus has said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)