Broken, fragmented and crushed
Written by Alison Judd
These Lent reflections are written to link with the 2016 Easter Offering Dedication Service, used by most circuits in the Methodist Church in Britain during the weeks following Easter.
Bible link: Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Caste discrimination is based on unjust concepts which label certain people as ‘untouchable’. Originally known as ‘the untouchables’ and still considered by many as below the caste system, the Dalit people chose this name for themselves because its Sanskrit meaning, ‘crushed’ or ‘broken’, so clearly describes their experience. Dalit Christians face discrimination in every aspect of life including education and employment. So they suffer extreme poverty in their society, despite the growing economy of India. Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged and forced to perform the dirtiest of tasks.
The Church of North India, largely consisting of Dalit people, teaches respect for all people and campaigns for justice and equality. Their Christian faith gives them hope. In prayers used at their synod, they felt able to say, ‘In the presence of the Lord, let us acknowledge our context. Our communities have been broken, fragmented and crushed. But we must not be discouraged. We find our inspiration in Nehemiah, who called God’s people to come and rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem.’ (Nehemiah 2:17)
The ‘Dalit Madonna’ painted by Indian artist Jyoti Sahi is part of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art. It depicts Christ as the kernel of wheat that is ‘broken, fragmented and crushed’ in the grinding stone in order to become flour for bread: the bread of life, broken for each one of us. (1 Corinthians 11:24)
The prophet Isaiah tells us, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5).
- Are there people in your community who might describe themselves as ‘broken, fragmented, or crushed?’ Are there those who are facing discrimination or exclusion?
- How might you respond to their sense of brokenness?
- How far does the message of Nehemiah inspire you to re-build relationships in your community?
- How do you respond to the words of Isaiah 53:5?
Hymn reference: StF 702 – I will speak out for those who have no voices
Praying with the Church of North India – Dalit Voice:
The caste system intensifies our pain. We are deprived of our dignity, dispossessed of our identity, discredited of our worth and excluded from opportunities to flourish. We are reduced to be untouchables and unclean, to do the servile work in our villages and cities. We ask what does the Lord require of us?
Lord, I am amazed that you were willing to be broken and crushed for my sake. Help me to respond to your sacrificial love by offering my life, restored and healed, into your service. May I always recognise another person’s dignity and worth so that, together, we might flourish. In Jesus’ name. Amen.