India Journal – a contextual approach to communion
July 13, 2008, 4:14 am
Filed under: India, missiology

Three weeks ago today, we were able to participate in a worship gathering called Satsung, with Truthseekers at their office in Delhi.  There were 35 or 40 people there – most of whom were seated in a circle on the floor.  Several worship songs were sung together, but they weren’t of a normal worship variety.  The musical style and language, were, of course, foreign to us Americans, but these songs also would be foreign to even most Christians in India.  Truthseekers has taken a number of well known Bollywood songs and used them as their own – most without even changing the lyrics.  When Sunil translated some of the lyrics for us, it was stunning to hear how very worshipful these songs really were – in a monotheistic sense.  It was quite surprising to hear these things, coming out of a Hindu culture.

An open time was made available for people to share how God is at work in their lives.  A few people talked about how God is working through family relationships – including some who were experiencing real strain, because of decisions to follow Baliraja and reject caste.  At one point, an older gentleman spoke for several minutes, about how much he loves and respects Jesus . . . and how much he loves and respects the Buddha.  Now, in just about any U.S. church, and the vast majority of Indian churches, this guy would have been hushed or corrected, but at Truthseekers, nobody jumped on his case.  He was understood to be in a process toward following Jesus completely – it wasn’t long ago that he didn’t pay Jesus the time of day, so this was progress for him.

The gathering culminated in a time of communion.  Pretty standard stuff, really.  Reading from scripture, talk about the sacrifice of Baliraja.  Passing of elements.

But it was the elements themselves that were distinctive.  In Hindu culture and religion, the gods demand sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  A typical sin offering is a coconut, presented to a Brahman priest at a temple.  The priest takes the coconut and smashes it.  As a means of embodying the gospel in that culture, at Truthseekers, the central symbol used for the Lord’s Supper is also a coconut.  The scriptural narrative about the broken body and spilled blood is used as a whole coconut is held high.  “This is my body, broken for you” – and with that, a hammer falls, crushing the coconut into pieces.  The flesh becomes the bread, and the juice becomes the wine.  Together, they become the body and blood of our sacrificed King.

The symbol of slavery in that culture has become a symbol of liberation.  I still feel the goose bumps from the jarring blast of the hammer.  My eyes well up to remember the horrible beauty of Christ’s gift, and the way it transcends culture, and redeems it.  That moment will stay with my soul for a long, long time.


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