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Reflection on the theme by Pradip Kumar Lamichhane delivered on Wednesday 20th during the morning plenary worship organised by the Asia West Pacific section.

Good Morning Friends,

I am Pradip Kumar Lamichhane, 35 years old, living in the countryside of Kathmandu, Nepal with my wife, five years old son, father, mother and grandmother. Nepal is in between India and China and is popular for trekking and mountain climbing, with Mount Everest the highest peak in the world.  Currently I am working for an IT Consultancy Company which provides System Solutions, mostly in virtualizing corporate houses, cloud computing, solar systems etc, all green stuff. People love the word Green nowadays especially Quakers which is why Friends are active in projects relating to climate change and earth care. So in the computer field, I and my colleagues are working towards better and sustainable systems.

In around 1994 American Friends sent Indian missionaries to Nepal and I am one of the fruit from them. I am an Evangelical Friend but I dont do as some Evangelicals practice, e.g. I dont kneel down and pray for a long time loudly in the early morning. I dont go to preach gospel and do not do much Bible reading. Only I listen and speak to God silently as well as loudly, inwardly as well as outwardly. So you may guess or name to which culture of Friends I belong.

What do I do then, when I wake up lying in my bed? I thank God and ask mercy for the day. I believe God loves everybody. You may ask why I became a Christian? The Hindu religion into which I was born was not an easy religion. I would have to wake up early, bathe not in hot water - we do not have hot water in our village, but I would have to go to the river or public tap. In Hindu ritual worship there are many Gods - can you believe 33 billion! I cannot please all of them. Finally, I found worshiping the Creator is better than worshiping the created things like stones, rivers, trees, cows, dogs, you name it. So I chose easy way, just say thank you God from my bed. Was not this wonderful? As Jesus saidcome to me I will take your entire burden. So I went to him.

When I first heard the theme of the World Gathering I found it difficult to understand. It is a long hard sentence, not easy to understand all at once. After long silence and seeking I found my awareness growing and finally I knew how really important the theme is for all of us in this time and this world and for Friends. How good to be salt and light in these broken world. I believe you all have remembered the supporting verses by now by heart.

As an IT guy, I usually search Google to know what others say in this case about salt and light. Both salt and light can be very good and necessary for living and as well can be dangerous to life. Salt and light can be good and bad. When I was child shopkeepers used to put salt outside of shop in a big bag. Those salts are like stone. I asked why they put salt outside. They replied, no one will steal the salt. Sometimes I make a joke about why today kids are more brilliant than us? Because they eat salt, which has got iodine, which comes in a nice packet which the shop keeper will put inside his store. I also remember our grandparents used to say, I will beat you by putting you in big salt bag and hit you with my stick. I do not know why. If you know, tell me, I will be around here till 25th.

I was sitting in front of Friends at the 2009 IPC Planning meeting searching their faces anxiously and asking myself what this great variety of people are taking about. Finally all we agreed to choose this theme. This has got so much meaning and it is a living sentence. For Quakers this is a moving sentence; for evangelicals this is a gospel sentence; for liberals this is cool. You might wonder how come this young man was there. I was a young and silent co-clerk of this gathering planning committee. A clerk being silent? I was. I do not know why World Office chose me for this task, but I am thankful for it has provided me with great learning opportunities.

Let us come to the point; let me become a theologian for a while.

Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and Light

13"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste Godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Why did Jesus say that to this small group of Friends, Religious Society of Friends?

Are we Friends functioning like salt in the world? Are we alone different from the world? Friends are very small in number in the world if we compare with other denominations. Why have we chosen this Conference theme as “Being Salt and Light, Friends living the Kingdom of God in a Broken World”?

This is true of all us. In Ephesians 2:3-4 we read, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…”

We are to be in the world so that the world may benefit by our difference from the world and we must also avoid the error of being one with the world and embracing its values and ways.

These warnings are applicable to us today.

What do you think about this saying? “Evil has become good and good has become evil”.

I am asked often by many friends why I am still in Nepal as I have valid visa for the US and UK. People spend millions to go there. I tried to answer them that I am really OK here. They think I am a fool and I think they are mistaken. I am happy as I am, I will try to make a difference from where I am and what I have. I am happy to support my church as I can. I am happy I am able to send a few poor children to school. I am happy I am able to run small NGO to support poor people. I am happy I am able to feed my old parents. I am happy to play with my son. I am happy to give tours to Quaker friends who come to visit Nepal. I am happy doing Green IT stuff.

You might wonder why I am doing this because this shows a circle of human beings. I call this a sustainable project for mankind. Others helped me to be an IT guy, so I help others so they could help more people. It is like a gospel which keeps on spreading. I share this experience with others and encourage them to do the same - help others as you have been helped. During my childhood and teenage years, I have experienced poverty, crying every day for food, so I understand what a small help can change the life of people and bring peace and joy. Dont think if you are supporting one person he or she only is benefited. No, there will be several people who will be indirectly getting help. So let us try to make a difference together.

When Jesus said, “You alone are the salt of the earth,” this was a high compliment and great encouragement. This statement gives every Friend great dignity and self-esteem. Thus, I feel sorry for those are trying to be like the world in speech, in dress, in value, and in fashion

Let’s talk about how salt functions as a preservative.

Now we must realize that, like salt, Christians might irritate the wound at first. Remember, Friends are not sugar; they are salt. But I say, welcome the irritation that Friends bring about. Welcome the discomfort that the salt of the earth initially creates, because salt will greatly benefit you.

Salt is necessary for flavor. Salt is white, symbolizing purity. Salt also was used as a fertilizer. Salt causes people to become thirsty. So we must ask ourselves: are we functioning as salt in our society?

Worldliness destroys Saltiness my dear Friends.

Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” In the Greek text it is, “You and you alone are the light of the world.”

Who is the light of the world? Jesus was not saying that light is found in Plato, emperors, politicians, philosophers, plutocrats, technocrats, artists, or scientists. No. The poor, humble Galileans.

You and you alone are the light of the world.”

God Gives Light

Maybe we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. How are we supposed to live? - As children of the light. Jesus said he was the light of the world and then he told his disciples that they are the light of the world. In other words, the world is deep darkness - this world of professors, politicians, scientists, technocrats, plutocrats, movie stars, and religious gurus. But in this world of deep darkness, God planted his church/meeting/gatherings as light.

God will save some out of darkness just as he saved us.

We cannot benefit the world when we are like the world. We are to reflect the light of Jesus to the world. And what is this light? It is the light of salvation, the light of eternal life, the light of the knowledge of God, the light of the joy of salvation, the light of hope, and the light that shines in darkness. It is the light that opens the eyes.

Just as salt is known for its saltiness, light is known for its shining, and this shining is not optional. If we are children of God, shining is our business - our only business - in the world.

Paul says,Through us,meaning it is not through angels but through us. Many will not come to the light because their deeds are different, but some will come to the light through us.

How to Shine??

Do you remember the foolish virgins that we read about in Matthew 25? They had lamps but they did not shine in the deep darkness of the midnight. Why? They had no oil. We must be filled with the oil of the Spirit of God. Why? We are commanded to let our light shine before the world. We are planted in this world for the benefit of people who are in need, and they will be helped only when we shine. Thus we must make sure to trim our wicks daily through the practice of the beatitudes.

That is why we have beatitudes ahead of us: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the merciful, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We must experience a continuing poverty, a continuing mourning, and so on. We must look to the Light - that is, Jesus - daily so that we may daily reflect his light. Why? We are not light only in ourselves. We are light in the Lord too.

We can simply say, we shine by living a Spirit-filled life.

One of the friends in some reason returns from heaven, he said he only saw mouth everywhere no face no body. I wonder where body gone. This is only myth, but my friend this has got meaning.

Maybe Horses Will Fly

Let me tell you an Indian story about the Mughal Emperor Akbar and his witty minister, Birbal. One day, for some reason, Akbar became very angry with Birbal, and ordered that he be beheaded. Birbal pleaded for his life, but to no avail. Then Birbal hit upon an idea. He promised Akbar, that if he was spared for a year, he would make Akbar's favorite horse fly. Akbar relented, and let Birbal live. When a friend asked Birbal how he planned to make the horse fly, Birbal replied, "Anything can happen in a year; Akbar can die; the horse can die; and who knows, maybe the horse will fly." In a slightly different context, what this means is that, first and foremost, human beings need to achieve a certain minimum level of Spirit-filled life. And once this is achieved, who knows what wonders can happen. In this broken world, if the billions of impoverished people in the world can get widespread access to education, health care, and job opportunities, who knows what the unleashing of their talent and energy can achieve. Having met their basic needs, maybe they will start thinking about the environment, peace, justice and God Kingdom. Maybe new hope will burst forth. Maybe horses will fly.

Lets try to do something together, my dear friends. If we dont do, who will do it? Somebody said to me, dont worry God will do.Hakuna Matatameans no worries. What a wonderful phrase, Friends.

But I will do whatever I can till the end of my life to bring peace and joy to impoverished faces.

This has been a tough job and made my head heavy. I dont understand very well at all about theology, but this my small mind understands: that God loves everybody and he wants us to give saltiness and shine to the world.

I do not understand clearly about trinity, but I know God is with me.

I do not understand clearly about heaven and hell, but I know God is with me.

I do not understand clearly what is sin, but I know God is full of mercy.

I do not understand clearly about salt, but I know I have to be salty.

I do not understand clearly about light, but I know I should shine.

I do not understand clearly about FWCC, but I know I should be connected with it.

I do not understand clearly about unprogrammed Friends, but I know they are my Friends.

I do not understand clearly about programmed Friends, but I know they are my Friends.

I do not understand clearly about evangelical Friends, but I know they are my Friends.

I do not understand clearly about liberal Friends but I know they are my Friends

I do not understand clearly about different types of Friends, but I know they all are my Friends.

I do not understand clearly about Friends various beliefs, but I believe we are one

HAKUNA MATATA means no worries

Let us pray together,

Create in us a clean heart, God; and renew a right spirit within us. Cast us not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from us. Restore unto us the joy of thy salvation; and uphold us [with thy] free spirit. [Then] will we teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver us from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of our salvation: [and] our tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou our lips; and our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Amen.

Pradip Lamichhane

Nepal YM