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MESSAGE FOR THE FORTNIGHT
 



WHEN GOALKEEPER SCORES A GOAL…



“A Goalie scoring a goal!!! By the way did you recognize the “goalie”???


Needless to say, this kind of title is bound to raise many eye-brows & any media mogul with a nose for sensationalism is bound to capitalize on News as odd as the Goal keeper scoring a goal in this month, when the football fever globally has touched its peak what with the curtains going up on the Mega event in Brazil – Football World Cup 2014!!!

Keeping the core content of my message in suspense let me continue to dwell awhile on the media or to be more specific on the Indian electronic media. Those of us who grew up satisfying ourselves with the bland News coverage of DD were swept off the feet literally in late 1980s’ & mind you it was an enjoyable experience getting ‘swept off the feet’ when one suave bearded gent answering to the name Pranoy Roy appeared in the TV screen as an anchor for a programme which claimed to encapsulate all the World events of a week. News is News is News, so what was New about that News? Its slick presentation…Ladies and Gentlemen!!! Honestly it would not be an understatement if one were to affirm that the ‘The World this week’ with the creative flair of its producers oozing, revolutionized News presentation in the Indian Electronic media, like none before it. The News coverage would never be the same again in the History of Indian Electronic media. The icing on the cake as it were in this program was, it would invariably end with clippings of bizarre events…like for instance of a goalkeeper scoring a goal & what a goal it was! If I am not mistaken in late 80s’, there was that rare clipping of that maverick Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita (of the scorpion kick, flashy attire fame et al) in a local league encounter with his team staring right down the barrel-a goal down- in the dying minutes of the game setting out on an undulating run. Away went this freakish goalie dribbling and dodging his way past hostile, frustrated legs of the defenders and cutting into the box with a masterly gymnast-like-turn and slotting the ball in past the hapless goalkeeper. Now why did I introduce this interlude in my message? The reason is the stunning theme for our meditation GOD ‘PRAYING’ (permit me to unveil the theme) would sound just as bizarre to some of us with fixed mindsets.

Before, I go any further I would like to make it abundantly clear, the very purpose of me expounding this “rare” theme is to bring to the fore ‘the infinite love of God for his most cherished creation…Man’. Yes, I would like to herald that God condescends to this level only in order we -the faithful lot- ‘accept a rescued sinner’ and NOT FOR ANYTHING ELSE, lest a mistaken view emerge in our minds that the Creator has become weak.

While on the subject of ‘God in action’, some imaginary postures of God float in & out of our mind’s eye, most of which I ought to add here are those, which are ‘acceptable’ to the majority. No one would object to a poster depicting God in the posture of answering prayers to a man on his knees or for that matter to any poster which would portray Him as superior to man…which anyway is an undeniable truth, so how would we with refined spiritual sensitivities categorize a scene where God entreats puny, fallible, irreverent man. Even given His boundless love to man, would He ever lower Himself to such a level of pleading with flesh and blood man? Do we see such a scene in the Bible? If so, where?

Relate…

Welcome once again to the good ole’ Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11-32)! Welcome once again to this timeless, touching story which throws up new insights every single time we study it. Mind you since any complete Scripture exposition (thanks Inductive Bible Study) entails observation, interpretation and application of the same, first let’s get done with the observation part.

Some wise souls have creatively related this evergreen “Lost and Found” story thus:

The parable can be divided into 3*3 parts…firstly Madness, Sadness and Gladness. Now under the “Madness scene”, it can be said that the Prodigal Son… caviled (raised unnecessary objections), rebelled and travelled and under that of Sadness, it can be said our principal actor went with the dogs (his friends), lost his togs (property, mostly clothing) and ate with the hogs and finally under the climactic, culminating third scene-Gladness , it can be said of our hero that he “got back his seal (to transact business on his father’s behalf), danced the reel and ate the veal”. This witty and creative observation apart, is that all there is to this oh-so-insightful parable? NO, FAR FROM IT!!! Now let’s go to the interpretation and application parts which go hand in hand and may even appear inter-twined.

Role-reversal…


Even while pondering at the turn of events of this popular parable, let us never lose sight of the symbolic roles of each one of the characters in this memorable parable. If to the prodigal son belonged the role played by many a contrite sinner, then that of his forgiving father was representative of a loving God Himself. Period.

When the self-righteous elder son, who presumed inadvertently that he was the very definition of filial fidelity, refused to accept his penitent younger brother, what did the father do? HE PRAYED ENTREATINGLY TO HIM TO WELCOME HIS ERRANT BUT NOW PENITENT SIBLING (Luke 15:28)! Now, let us freeze this frame.

What does it teach us? What lessons does this moving picture of an infinitely superior God pleading with His followers’ harboring a holier-than-thou disposition, hold for us today? More than anything else, it screams that if GOD FORGIVES A SINNER, WE SHOULD TAKE HIS WORD FOR IT! WHO ARE WE TO HOLD OUT AGAINST GOD’S GRACE!

Sadly, when a penitent Christian comes back onto the right track & wants to make amends for his mistakes, we are often the stumbling blocks as it were, being the very last ones’ to reconcile with him. If by using our God-given common sense, we can make out that the penitence of our contrite brother in faith is genuine, we ought to welcome him with open arms, rather than giving him a cold shoulder. Shame on us, if we play the contemptuous elder brother! The fact that God himself is pleading with us on behalf of the errant one should melt our stony hearts.

Retention…

Now let’s take a loop line and look at a lesson within a lesson. Do not we see the regular Church goers’, Christians of many years, the ones’ of who have lost their “first love” for the Lord (forgetting that they too were once forgiven and received into the Divine family) ALL personified in the Elder Son, who though living “physically close” (in the same house) to his father, in his heart of hearts was living “miles away” from him? If his heart had been one with that of his father, would he not have shared the same sentiments his father had for his repentant brother? One litmus test for knowing that we are retaining the First love (so precious to the Lord – Jeremiah 2:2/2 Cor 11:2/ Rev 2:4) or not is to reflect deeply as to whether our priorities are same as that of our Lord or not. Mind you, sometimes we can be even in Ministry but yet lose out on our First “honeymoon” love for the Lord!!!

Responsibility…

Now coming back to the main track of accepting the repentant brethren…let’s look at the earnest plea of the James in the closing verses of his down-to-bootstrap, practical epistle ‘Dear Brothers, if anyone has slipped away from God and no longer trusts the Lord, and someone helps him understand the Truth again, that person who brings him back to God will have saved a wandering soul from death bringing about the forgiveness of his many sins’ (James 5:19-20-TLB). If so high a responsibility rests with the faithful lot of seeking & saving their strayed brethren, how much more it is binding on them to accept the strayed brethren once the latter come back on their own! Should we not celebrate along with angels on ‘the lost being found’ (Luke 15:7)!

Christians, even the devout lot amongst them unfortunately display a steely heart rather than the one of flesh, when it comes to immediately accommodating a rueful brother-in-faith, exhibiting in the process ‘an animal streak’ in them. Just to elaborate on the ‘animal streak’, has it ever occurred to us why the Shepherd (Luke 15:1-6) of the Lost & Found sheep, carried his precious rescued one to his ‘home’ (verse 6) rather than releasing it amongst its mates in the pinfold? Biblical scholars assert that he wanted to ‘build it up by showering more love & care’ which would not be the case in its pinfold, where this remorseful one would be welcomed not by warm hugs but by head butts of its scolding mates bad mouthing all the while ‘because of you, do you know, how our shepherd had to suffer?’ when ironically the shepherd himself would not have any complaints on that score! How this defines our relationship with our contrite brethren! They need to be built-up lovingly after a fall with all the care a nurse would muster whilst bandaging the fractured limb of a tender child (II Cor 2:5-8)! But how ironic it is that when our Lord himself has no complaints, we make a huge fuss of welcoming them with a reconciliatory hug, worse we compound their woes by emotionally head butting them for the troubles they have apparently caused the Lord by their erroneous ways!

Remain…

Now coming back to enduring image of God "praying" which would forever remain in our hearts…it melts my heart when the truth contained in the closing verses of Luke 15:28-32 strikes home. The story ends with the picture of the father STILL PLEADING WITH HIS ELDER SON WHO IS NOT BUDGING AN INCH as though to re-emphasize the point that our Heavenly Father for some thousands of years, now, is ‘still reasoning out’ with the stubborn louts like us, on the paramount issue of welcoming back our rueful brethren!

Oh, let our stony hearts melt at the scene of God ‘praying’….



Yours in His service,


Suresh Manoharan

An unworthy servant




Ps…if you recognized the “goalie” who scored the goal, you may write to me at smanoharan1@gmail.com