The largest Hindu holiday of the year, Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is nearly upon us. Every year millions of Hindus clean and decorate their homes hoping that the goddess of good fortune will visit them bestowing her gifts. They buy presents for one another and, on the darkest night of the month, they clean themselves, put on their best clothes, light candles and offer pooja (prayers) to Lakshmi.
Ripe for Redemption
The symbolism of Diwali is ripe for redemption. Christ is the Light of the World. He brings good gifts to his children because he loves to do so. He cleanses us from our sin and bestows on us his robe of righteousness.
One week before Diwali, Evan and Nina, who work among Hindus, wanted to introduce their neighbors to Christ through a time of satsung. Satsung is the Hindi word for worship. In Nina’s words: “We pushed all the furniture back to the walls of our living room, and then covered the floor with area rugs. Everyone took their shoes off at the door, and sat cross-legged on the floor. There was a candle burning in half of a coconut shell. Candles and coconuts are considered holy items to the typical Indian, and so by incorporating these items we signaled to our neighbors that this was a holy place and time. It’s a bit like when we walk into the sanctuary and see the communion trays at the front of the church. They signal that the Lord’s Supper is coming. The candle and coconut were on a table, off to the side, and they were noticed. Giving these elements a “Jesus” twist is what the evening was all about. Jesus is the True Light of the World, and His Broken Body is the Ultimate Sacrifice, and so the typical “Hindu” elements point to Christ, but are familiar to the people, and so make them feel comfortable at our satsung.
“Anik led the service. He sat in a corner of the room. His Bible was laid on a little wooden pedestal to keep it off the ground. He had a saffron colored scarf around his neck. Saffron is considered a “holy” color here, and signified that he was the leader of this satsung (kind of like the priest’s robes at church).
We had Communion
“Sitting next to Anik on the floor were the musicians playing Indian instruments. We opened with worship songs sung in Hindi. Anik alternated between sharing from the Word and leading out in song. After about 30 minutes, we had communion with coconut, the coconut meat for the bread, coconut milk for the wine.
“After communion, Anik shared a bit more from the Word. He shared about the things that were on his heart: caste is bad, Jesus is the Answer for India, let us treat others as we’d want them to treat us. Albeit with an Indian twist, it was the same kind of message you’d hear at church: Jesus is the Answer, and you’re called to love your neighbor.
What did our neighbors think?
“The were blown away. They couldn’t get over how kind Anik was. He spoke with such passion. He obviously loves his country and his God. But, mostly, they talked about the peace they felt during the service. They couldn’t stop talking about how good they felt, how encouraged they were. And they knew it was Jesus they felt. Several days later, one of our neighbors was still talking about it, how she’d never felt a peace like that. “Jesus’ peace,” she said again. After the satsung was over, we couldn’t get them to leave! They stayed and stayed, chatting and eating. It was an absolutely wonderful evening. God was lifted up in our house by our neighbors. Never did we imagine when we moved here that one day we’d see our Sikh neighbors with their arms raised, singing praise to Jesus in our living room! Oh, Lord, may there be many more chances! “
Radical Thinking part of our Culture at Beyond
By incorporating local culture in a relational way Evan and Nina were able to make a real connection with their unbelieving neighbors. This kind of radical thinking, is highly valued to us as an organization and is what is opening doors so that people living in darkness will see a great light, and on those living in the shadow of death a light will dawn. (Matthew 4:16)
Please pray for more opportunities to share the true Light of the World with Hindus.