The Hindu festival called Thaipusam is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the god of war.  There's a long, colourful narrative behind it, but the brief story is that on this day, the Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Murugan an invisible lance which he used to defeat an evil demon army.   Today, devotees pierce their bodies with metal skewers from which they carry or drag things in a  4km procession to a temple.  They also carry pots of milk on their heads - all as acts of penance and thanksgiving.  It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. 

This morning at church, while all of this is taking place about a mile down the road, we also celebrated the victory of good over evil.  It's not a special day in the Christian calendar.  We sat in our usual seats, Ellis stayed busy distracting as many people as possible and taking swipes at the kid in the next row, and I spent most of the service in the nursery.  In other words, it was an ordinary Sunday!  But when surrounded by such acts as this, it reminds me of the true victor in our story - our Lord vanquishing evil not with a sword, but on a cross.  We don't have to pierce our skin, carry milk, or shave our heads to show our devotion.  We don't have to drag heavy loads to make amends.  That was already done for us.  

He was despised, the lowest of men, 
a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, 
one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, 
despised, for whom we had no regard.
Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, 
ours the sorrows he was carrying, 
while we thought of him as someone being punished 
and struck with affliction by God;
whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, 
crushed because of our guilt; 
the punishment reconciling us fell on him, 
and we have been healed by his bruises.
 We had all gone astray like sheep, 
each taking his own way, 
and Yahweh brought the acts of rebellion 
of all of us to bear on him.
-Isaiah 53:3-6, New Jerusalem Bible

Having a grateful heart should be an easy thing; we have much to be thankful for!  But sometimes the miraculous things turn into ordinary things and we forget.  This is one of the things I love about cross-cultural living: daily crossing paths with different faiths and different ways of life are in-my-face reminders of my own faith and what is truly important to me.  Today is a reminder of our amazing story: Jesus' bearing, carrying, and ultimately defeating the suffering and sorrows that really belong to us.

"The Bible is most of all a Story.  It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the one he loves.  It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!"  
- Jesus Storybook Bible

Sidenote: I took these pictures in 2009 - we didn't go this year.

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© Reuben + ErinMaira Gall