I read my newspapers to see what men are doing; and read my Bible to see what men ought to do – Saint of yore

This week in Jamaica an infamous gunman, Christopher Linton a.k.a “ Dog Paw”, who spent time in prison and was recently released after a judiciary review, died. Cut down in a hail of bullets by the police, after he reportedly alighted from a car in which he was traveling, and which vehicle was stopped by the lawmen, with a gun in his hand. Few tears were shed! Many rejoiced. But not everybody. Some in the community he lived, as reported by the newspapers, claimed he was a “ protector”. Chasing out intruders with evil intent who came to prey on the community. And a lady who I know fairly well, amidst the “ celebrations”, revealed that she and her friends had been benefactors for Christopher Linton, before he morphed into DoG Paw. Helped he and his three brothers to attend a fairly prominent prep school; after which Christopher spent a year at one of Jamaica’s most famous high schools, Jamaica College.

A school which has produced, among others, three prime Ministers and a Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. So what went wrong, has been a subject of great discussion in some circles in Jamaica. Whilst others are not only rejoicing but mocking those who were associated with this ‘celebrated gunman’. And the daughter of a very prominent Jamaican who has a child for Dog Paw, came in for particularly aggressive and even outrageous attack, “in song and in dance”.

The this morning the front page of one of our newspapers heralded the pain and grief of parents searching for a nine year girl child, reportedly abducted by a known criminal. No one slept last night we are told!

Are the two stories related? Absolutely! For Jamaica land we love, which was once a “ city on a hill”, has become for too many, a place where your worst nightmare becomes real. Almost akin to Chaucer’s ‘Paradise Lost’ !And thus goes up the cry, day after day, and night after night, in a highly religious society, “ God have mercy”. As Dog Paw and others like him wreak havoc on the nation. What can be done, is the national cry?

And so I turned to what the Bible says men ought to do. And wrote to church and others:

EMAIL TO MY CHURCH ABOUT SPENDING TIME WITH GOD – MONDAY

So I received this gift this morning, so I share it. Not only for the glory of God, but for the cause of suffering mankind. As God does not really need us to glorify him, as he is Glory in Himself; although he delights in our adoration. But all our love and mercy and grace received as a gift, from the One who “ thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me” ( sinful and suffering mankind), should be placed at His feet, to rescue suffering mankind. ….”Emptied himself of all but love”.

I was not even looking for this meditation, but en route to my early morning prayers in my Classic Devotional Bible, it popped up. And note I have long ceased believing in coincidence. So in obedience:

CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE

Brother Lawrence ( 1605- 1691)…..Nicholas Herman .. a Frenchman ….at age 40 founded the Carmelite order…although a Roman Catholic his orthodox mystical spirituality has been received more widely in Protestant churches than in his church….his writings, some of them, were published in English as The Practice of the Presence of God.

Verse : Proverbs 8:30 “ Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence…….

Passage : Proverbs 8:27- 31

There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God….

If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing but practicing the presence of God. If I were to be responsible for guiding souls in the right direction, I would urge everyone to be aware of God’s continuous presence, if for no other reason than because his presence is a delight to our souls and spirits.

It is however, also necessary. If we only knew how much we need God’s grace, we would never lose touch with him. Believe me. Make a commitment never to deliberately stray from, to live the rest of your life in his holy presence. Don’t do this in expectation of receiving heavenly comforts simply do it it of love for him.

Put your hand to the task! If you do it right, you will soon see the results.

Then this came to mind:

“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV

Praise God.

Peace, and in obedience.

LWJ

May the God of Jacob rest and remain with you, and in you, and renew his church beginning with you who abide in Him, and he in you; may this God of our slave forebears renew the church so that the church may renew the nation(s) where a 5 year old child is killed in her bed, and a 10 year left battling for life, as evil stalks our land. Almost unfettered!

EMAIL TO MY CHURCH – TUESDAY. THE MORNING AFTER DOG PAW WAS KILLED

The Lord woke me up, at minutes to four this morning, and led me through a fair section of Psalm 119. About the importance, nay, the life giving nature of His statutes and law written in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.

And then to Paul’s famous treatise, in the book of Romans, on attaining Righteousness by faith, in Christ Jesus. And yet we uphold the law!

So starting at chapter 2, which has two captions in my Classics Devotional Bible., “ God’s Righteous Judgement” and “ The Jews and the Law. I was then led through chapter 3, captioned “ God’s Faithfulness” and “Righteousness Through Faith”. And then chap 4, captioned Abraham Justified by Faith”, then finally the first part of chapter 5 captioned “ Peace and Joy”.

What was the take home message?

Part of one verse:

.”……….He ( Abraham) is our father in the sight of God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were”. Romans 4: 17b

A verse which was validated by the Spirit who brought to mind 2 Corinthians 2: 9:

“ Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who, who raises the dead.”

The God who raises the dead, then ought to be the foundation of our faith. For the One who raised Jesus from the dead is a miracle working God. A God who calls into being things which are not as though they are.

A God who according to the same Paul, empowered him so that “ Christ, (the Risen Lord) may be formed in us”. The reality expressed in the Word that says, “ Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

How then do we receive this Word in this dispensation? On a morning after a famous gunman was slain by the police, and people worry about retaliation. In a year when already close to 1000 people have been murdered. Yet again! And there is no end in sight. Not for the mother who lost her 5 year child recently. Not for the family of the three men slain in Montego- Bay recently, regardless of whether or not they were involved in a gang.

How do we receive this Word at a time when I just got a call from a relatively young man, aged 50, who I had to send for admission to hospital yesterday because he has Covid, and was having difficulty breathing. He is now on Oxygen in an isolation ward. I gave him my number to allow him to keep in touch with me. A story told a hundred times over across a nation which has so far lost over 2000 persons to this dreaded disease.

Receive it with the same faith that Abraham received the promise from the God, who according to the Word in Hebrews 11, the famous chapter on faith, “ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive back Isaac from death”. 11: 19 NIV

I pray God that we all receive it with the faith that God can change Jamaica, and rescue us from this “ culture of death”. And from the “ valley of the shadow of death” that is for too many persons, their experience with Covid. Literally and metaphorically- in the month when we celebrate the importance of mental health, which has been so badly affected by all that Covid has brought.

Then this morning this song came to mind and this verse:

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,

shielded thee gently from harm, or when fainting sustaineth:

hast though not seen

how thy heart’s wishes have been

granted in what he ordaineth?

This inspired word from the Lord meant so much to me, and I hope to you also. As the God who reigns in our lives, is a God who is faithful, and ever present and active in our lives, once we are obedient. Not for ourselves alone, but for the rescuing of suffering mankind. From evil! We only need to believe that He can do the impossible and wait upon Him to act.

A message in this video which just came to mind:

https://youtu.be/VxKuDu2Vu1k

May this God who can do the impossible renew His church beginning with those who trust in his unshakable promises in his Word; may this God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob and of Sam Sharpe, renew the church with power, so that the nation(s) may be renewed and rescued from evil and pestilence and disobedience and faithlessness.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

UPDATE: The police are reporting that a woman has been detained for questioning following the fatal shooting of reputed gangster Christopher ‘Dog Paw’ Linton. The woman was driving the car from which Linton reportedly alighted and opened fire at cops who had intercepted it.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND ABOUT CHRISTOPHER LINTON – WEDNESDAY

Old Testament

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

The Gospel

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Dear Diana,

I heard you on Nationwide yesterday. I heard the pain and the angst and the frustration which caused you to think, and express on public radio that, the system had failed, and that you and others had, ultimately, failed Christopher Linton a.k.a. “ Dog Paw”. Now deceased!

First of all, let me, as blasé as it may sound in the midst of the grief and introspection, commend you, for caring. And for deciding to serve another human being who needed your help. As it turned out, according to your story, not one but four brothers, living with a single mom.

I thought about writing you before I read the Old Testament and the Gospel reading for my church on Sunday, but I was persuaded against it.

The readings are familiar ones which even though I know you are not a believer, you might, as a Jamaican growing up in a highly religious society, heard about suffering Job, who was, ultimately challenged by the God he served, to an intellectual joust which turned out to be a very humbling experience, and ultimately ‘redemption’, with a common R. And of course the presumptuous James and John who too were led to humility, by the same God, yesterday today and forevermore, in Christ Jesus.

The lesson here of course, in this context, is the elevation of your desire to serve Christopher, or another child not of your own, to not just a human desire, but the will of the Sovereign God who according to Holy Scriptures, “ laid the foundation of the earth”, and who in Christ Jesus, the same God, a great mystery, “ emptied Himself of all but love, and came to serve, and not to be served.

So it is God who placed this desire to serve in your heart! And the reason why you admitted that, your efforts were not enough, as having served Christopher by day, other forces, outside your control, were messing with his head in the community.

Does it mean that religion, even the Christian religion, as taught by many pastors, provides in all cases protection for children against evil, in the inner city; and many have been helped by good people like you? My own experience of working as a Christian volunteer in my church in an inner city community for virtually all my professional life, tells me otherwise. Some have survived, whilst others have not. And fallen prey to evil forces just like Christopher Linton.

The difference I believe from my experience has been parents, sometimes mothers, sometimes fathers, sometime both – rare – who are determined and with the help of the church and other forces of good in the community, to shield their children from what they know is evil. And thus we have seen many young girls and boys, escape from the “ ghetto” and go on to become productive citizens. And I cannot help but to add, because it is true, with the help of God. The God who sends people into the inner city to help. To stay close to those they serve, and help the parents to persevere with the children under attack. Have there been failures? Oh without a doubt. Tragic ones. But the key is persevering, for the time being, and hopefully one day we can change the community itself. The ultimate goal, but for the time being, it is what it is!

I leave you with an exchange I had with another good person I know. They call him Peter. He was born into the Figueroa clan. Definitely not a Christian and we have differing views on many issues, but have remained friends for years. And not just colleagues as I have great regard for the work he does as a public health specialist. Serving suffering humanity !

We both attended the virtual memorial of arguably, and I came to this knowledge late, one of Jamaica’s finest intellectuals, the late Professor of Philosophy Charles Mills. Peter grew with him on campus; sons of two university professors. They both became members of the famous or infamous WPJ. I had the privilege of attending Jamaica College with this extremely bright young man with whom I lost contact until his untimely death recently. So Peter spoke and delivered up of himself this brief soliloquy:

POSTED ON THE JAMAICA COLLEGE PAST STUDENTS CHAT

⁃ THE SAME COLLEGE WHERE CHRISTOPHER LINTON ATTENDED BRIEFLY

Attending as I write a memorial zoo meeting for the late great Professor Charles Mills. And following a contribution from Professor Peter Figueroa  a personal friend of Charles Mills, and my own friend also, about an incomplete discussion that he and Charles had, I sent him the following note in the chat. Perhaps quite appropriate in this time when we are celebrating life;  and death also, in a sense:

“Morality without  a faith  based foundation. Interesting question Peter my friend. Maybe there is a reason why that discussion was incomplete. From a Christian. Smile. To a friend for life – Professor Peter Figueroa.”

‘Bonhoeffer, the famous German theologian once wrote in his celebrated book on ethics, that “ Christian ethics stands so completely alone that it becomes questionable whether there is any purpose in speaking about Christian ethics at all. But if one does so notwithstanding, that can only mean that Christian ethics claims to discuss the origin of the whole problem of ethics, and thus professes to be a critique of all ethics simply as ethics”.  One day we need to continue the unfinished discussion”

Also before I had inserted this into the chat:

Had the privilege of attending high school with him at Jamaica College. He was in the very bright class 1A. I was in the average group. 1C . Recall him well writing an essay on “ Going to the movies”. For which he received 10/10 from an excellent English teacher. Never knew that he achieved all of this fame and glory until he died. A pity! But he was always destined for greatness. From the very beginning. May his soul Rest In Peace with the God of his forefathers and our slave forebears.

The challenge Diana, and although I mentioned the late Errol Zaidie in the article yesterday, you too played your part in the early days of the NRSC, and hence this long term association, is that a life unattended by the life giving and life altering gift of not just Christian ethics, but the author of all that is good and wholesome, Christ Himself, will never be able, in and by him or herself, withstand the forces of evil let loose, not just in inner cities, but everywhere. Some do better than others. At least publicly! But the danger is always there. Do all Christians escape? No! But at the very least they know like Job did, “ that their redeemer lives”. And can turn to Him for grace and mercy in times of trouble. Otherwise they too will suffer the same fate, in different ways maybe, of Dog Paw. As ultimately it doesn’t matter if your life ends with a hail of bullets or in a comfortable bed in Tony Thwaites Wing of the UHWI. For it is not the manner of your death that counts, but who is your “ redeemer” when you die. Christ or no one. Which is in essence what Peter was struggling with when he and Charles had that truncated discussion about morality without a redeemer.

Peace, and keep up the good work. For who knows the God who sees and knows what you do, might in His mercy, touch your heart so that you take the next step and serve others in and through His Son, Christ the Redeemer and only Mediator between God and sinful mankind. Whether Christopher Linton or any other Jamaica College student including myself. And the late Charles Mills !

Your friend Lucien

EMAIL TO A GROUP OF CHRISTIANS ABOUT CHRISTOPHER LINTON TURNED DOG PAW

Woke up with this hymn below in my heart. Well, at least some of the verses. Not all! So in obedience for my early morning devotions I spent some quality time with the hymn. And this happened:

My God how wonderful thou art,

thy majesty how bright,

how beautiful thy mercy seat,

in depth of burning light.

Comment : What came to me as I read the verse was the experience the children of Israel had with God appearing on the mountain with fire and the sound of thunder. So terrified were they that they begged Moses for quiet. For mercy! The story as told, or repeated or explained in the book of Hebrews is sobering:

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.””

Hebrews 12:18-21 NIV

The challenge for mankind, sinful mankind, is that this is where, as the hymn writer conjures up the image, “ mercy” is located. In depth of burning light! We need to recall the other another verse in the same book of Hebrews which encourages us to “ approach the throne of grace and find mercy in time of trouble”, in and though the blood of Jesus:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

A reminder of the central role of Christ and him crucified, in our faith journey with this “ wonderful God”. And the debate about Christopher Linton turned Dog Paw, is a powerful reminder of our need for grace and mercy throughout the land, as young boys, and girls, are drafted into evil, by “powers and principalities”, and not simply by flesh and blood. Which is no doubt why our crime stats continue to be a source of fear and embarrassment to this Jamaica land we love. And non-Christians, and even Christians who forget the only source of their help, with every good intention in their hearts, end up, when things go awfully wrong, as in the case of Christopher Linton and countless others, who have been assisted in some measure, wondering what happened. The issue here is that too many of us in Jamaica underestimate the power and scope of evil, which has attended the human heart in association with sin. At the Fall. Which is why, in the fullness of time, God sent his only Son. To redeem the world from Sin, and to reconcile us with Himself, in and though Christ Jesus. We dare not forget our history and former identity:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV

And therefore the ultimate challenge is not simply, or even profoundly, to rescue the likes of Christopher Linton, and facilitate their escape from turning into a Dog Paw, as commendable as that goal is. But ultimately to guide people to Christ and him crucified so that they may, with us, I pray God, inherit the kingdom of God.

So yes, “ pray for the Lord for the city for if it prospers, you too will prosper”, as Jeremiah declared then. But recall that the prophet also said, “ I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to destroy you”. On a mountain with fire and thunder! In the place where you are not allowed to go and warn your brothers. The chasm is too great!

But not destroy you, but prosper you! Ultimately in the mercy seat. Where we can ascend only in Christ Jesus. With others in need and in faith!

In obedience. Actually I had in mind to comment on the all the verses. But not today!

Peace.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church with those who ascend to your mercy seat in Christ and him crucified; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) where many Christopher Lintons are being transformed into Dog Paws

I read my newspapers to see what men are doing; and read my Bible to see what men ought to do – Saint of yore

This week a young girl died in her house. The victim of a ‘stray bullet’. A tragic event which provoked a howl of indignation and condemnation on social media. And quite rightly so, as in any civilized country, no matter how poor you are, your house is supposed to be a safe place.

It’s just utterly distressing. Hearing the news now of the 5 yr old girl hit by stray bullet. DEAD. The pain of the mother is palpable. 1 a.m. in curfew gunmen trading bullets. My heart goes out to them. It is not to be normalized. Jamaica is unwell and we need to wake up – @TeddyAjones

A place where peace and quiet ought to attend your activities. A sanctuary even! And so her mother cries. Inconsolably!

WORTH MORE THAN A MILLION WORDS. #ICONIC

This week too, in the tourist capital of Jamaica, we had a virtual wild, wild, west shootout on the streets. And when the smoke cleared, three young men, 27, 20, and 18 lay dead. And a 10 year old young girl battling for life in the hospital. Triggering this response, among many, on Twitter:

Wild wild west in the heartland of tourism. Wild wild west as residents including children move about. We are in a state of civil war yet undeclared. As if that isn’t enough to get us off our green and orange pedestals, off our denominational high horses and all the other isms – @TeddyAJones.

Thus providing the inspiration for this hard hitting though at the same time a cartoon which is a source of much levity

So what is to be done about this madness. This ongoing madness. This rage against each other in a country not at war. A complex issue, admittedly. But one thing I am sure about is that we cannot continue to sing the kinds of songs that are so popular in the dancehall space (“let the music blow your mind” – a song for the ages which has so much meaning) and do any better. As we all have heard, the music of a people and how we treat the most vulnerable reveals a lot about who we are as a nation. Jamaica no problem! Not really. Out of many one people. Not anymore. Perhaps never was true! And so I tweeted this week:

The Gospel

Mark 10:17-31

‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother -Jesus. #package. And the most important ingredient is Jesus. Can’t wage war vs murder alone

A good segue-way to what I read in my Bible this week about what men ought to do.

EMAIL TO MY CHURCH ON MONDAY

The Gospel

Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Comment: The experience that the disciples had with Jesus, as recoded above by the evangelist Mark, was very challenging for them. And not just for the rich young man alone! So,accordingly, eventually, triggered by the cultural norms of the day, the question was posed. Who then can be saved? And Mark recorded for posterity, words which go to the heart of our faith. “ With mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.

But there is a precondition. To follow Jesus, this as the story unfolds. But where was Jesus going? Where was he leading his disciples? To Calvary, to die, is the only answer we need to know and accept. Which is no doubt what inspired the great theologian and Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to write in his famous book on Discipleship: “ When Jesus calls a man he calls him to die”. And as I thought about it, the story of Jesus and Nicodemus came to mind.

“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

John 3:5-6 NIV

One of the many manifestations of those who are born again, is the absence of self-love. An issue of great importance and discussed in two very profound meditations on which I have been pondering for years, and I am now led in this season of the Pandemic, and of the culture of death and the kind of immorality now being spread abroad in Jamaica, that provoked the prophet Jeremiah in another age to declare, “ they don’t even know how to blush”. No shame!

JESUS CHRIST – THE MIDDLE WAY

Blaise Pascal

Verse: Psalm 51: 1

Extract

……..The God of Christians is a God who makes the soul perceive that he is her only good, that her only rest is in him, her only joy in loving him; who makes her at the same time abhor the obstacles which withhold her from loving him with all her strength. Her two hindrances, self-love and lust are insupportable to her. This God makes her perceive that the root of self-love destroys her, and that he alone can heal.

The knowledge of God without that of our wretchedness creates pride. The knowledge of our wretchedness without that of God creates despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the middle way, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.

Comment: And as we recall our confession at church each Sunday morning, remember that it says that “ we have not loved ourselves as we ought”. And elsewhere, in long gone days we also recall, “ not worthy to even gather up the crumbs from under thy table”. Therefore an incorrect understanding of love of self, that is, without the knowledge of Christ Jesus and him Crucified for our wretchedness, not can be, but is the source of much of the trouble in this corrupt and dying world.

THE PROBLEM OF SELF-LOVE

Francois Fenelon

Verse: Leviticus 19: 18……love your neighbor as yourself. In a Pandemic. In season and out of season. Even the vilest offender. And those living in #wrongaddresses

Self-love must be uprooted, and the love of God take its place in our hearts before we can see ourselves as we are ( Which is where the problem with the disciples and the rich young ruler, and Nicodemus, was located. And even now in this age, within and without the church, after centuries of the Gospel being preached).

Then the same principle ( The power of the Holy Spirit…convict you of sin….reveal all truth to you) that enables us to see our imperfections will destroy them.

When the light of truth has risen within us, then we see clearly what is there. Then we love ourselves without partiality, without flattery, as we love our neighbor. In the meantime, God spares us by revealing our weakness to us in proportion to our strength to support the view of its increases. We discover our imperfections one by one as we are able to cure them. Without this merciful preparation that adapts our strength to the light within, we should be in despair ( Recall the second benefit of knowing that Christ is the Middle Way).

Those who correct others ought to watch the moment when God touches their hearts; they must bear a fault with patience till they perceive his spirit reproaching them within. ( be careful how you are anxious to correct others without perceiving your own need for correction …..Rev. Claude’s sermon on grace yesterday?) Then they must follow his providence that gently reproaches them, so that may feel it is less God than their own hearts that condemn them.

When we blame with impatience because we are displeased with the fault, it is a human censure and not the disapprobation of God. It is sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love of others. The more self-love we have, the more severe are our censures. There is nothing so vexatious as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are under the dominos of their own.

The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us the strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weakness, he waits for us.The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others.

We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open their hearts to receive it. If you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.

Comment: Only one! Mercy God. Mercy!

May this God of mercy who waits on us, who remembers our weakness, who in Christ Jesus died for us on Calvary, a great mystery, and with whom all things are possible renew his church with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; may this God of mercy renew the church that the church may truly know how to love self and to love neighbor, especially the “ wretched of the earth” in Jamaica, and the entire human race. And so spread abroad this amazing love of God in and through Jesus Christ.

Peace, and I pray that all of us will now see our neighbor, near or far, in a different light.

In obedience.

LWJ

EMAIL TO MY CHURCH ON TUESDAY – AFTER FACBOOK AND INSTAGRAM AND WHATSAPP WENT DOWN FOR HOURS AND ONLY TWITTER WAS LEFT STANDING. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THE WORD FO GOD!

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;

O my soul praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:

All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near, joining in glad adoration

#goingbacktochurchpostcovid #whatajoyitwillbe #OmysoulpraiseHim

#firstthinginthemorning #praiseHim #BlessedAssuranceJesusismine #praisingmySaviorallthedaylong #thisismystoythisismysong

Spent some time just praising the Lord this morning. This happened as I was led to start my early morning devotions with the words of the hymn above; the other verses are great, but this one got into my soul. Especially in these #only50inchurch times! And one thing led to another, as the late Bishop Herman’s song, one of his favorite hymns, came to mind, and which subsequent reflections inspired the facebook post above. Good thing it did not happen yesterday #Whatsappandfacebookmissing #Twitterrules I’m sure by now many of you would have seen the tweet from Twitter:

hello literally everyone

And the response from McDonalds:

Hi what can i get you

To which Twitter responded:

59.6 million nuggets for my friends

Praise God that he opens doors to allow His Word to go to the ends of the earth unfettered.

And so we can, without asking God for anything but Himself, spend quality time just praising him. For he is indeed our health and salvation. This indeed is our story, this is our song, praising my Savior all day long

Blessed assurance, Jesus in mine;

O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God;

Born of His Spirit, washed in his blood.

Refrain:

This is my story, this is my song,

praising my Saviour all the day long;

this my story this is my song,

praising my Saviour all the day long.

May this God, whose voice goes out to billions of people, as the very heavens declare the glory of the God of Jacob, day after day, long before any media came into existence, may he renew the church beginning with those whose souls recognize that Jesus is thy health and salvation, washed in his Blood; may this God of all comfort and mercy, renew his church, even in the midst of a lockdown, so that the nation(s) reeling from the effects of the Pandemic may come to know that with God, all things are possible. That this too will pass but that the Word of God lives forever. And ever. Amen!

EMAIL TO MY CHURCH ON WEDNESDAY

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.””

Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV

I was led to read this very well familiar passage of Scripture this morning in my early morning devotions. This after waking up with the hymn from yesterday, Praise to the Lord, the King of creation”. And on arriving at the final verse, fittingly, I was struck by, in this Corona lockdown times of not more than 50 in church, “ Let the amen sound from his people again”.

Thought of our organist Audley Davidson and him playing the majestic Amen at the end of Holy Communion, right after the blessing. With a whole host of us in church, in agreement. Let it be, O God according to your will and purpose.

Then this from the Gospel, not after the hymn, as the inspiration began yesterday, the question of the ages:

The Gospel

Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In other words, what is the nature of the promise from God to “ prosper us”, and to “ bring us back from captivity”. Is it not, “ Christ in you the hope of glory”! Is it not, “ that Christ may be formed in you”! For only in and though him is the promise of the inheritance of eternal life fulfilled. And which state of being Jesus spoke of very early in his High Priestly Prayer shortly before his suffering and death on Calvary, for the redemption of the sins of mankind, and reconciliation with God.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

John 17:1-3 NIV

What struck me about the Jeremiah prophecy is that this promise was given only to those who had been sent into exile. And not to those who elected to stay in Jerusalem, influenced by the lies of the prophets:

“You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:15-19 NIV

The key point here is the Salvation story, ultimately fulfilled in Christ and Him Crucified, and with power raised from the dead, but having many sub texts, always comes from the mind of God. And told to his people through his prophets. This matter of God saving his people, in many different ways, is not something you can work out, but only receive. With thanksgiving! And praise!

In this context then we need to consider well if there lying prophets around today, telling people not to take the vaccine? Are there lying prophets around today, in this age, telling people not to suffer but to expect God to make them prosper materially, and perhaps even politically, all the time? This when the Word of God says that “ Even though he was a Son he leaned obedience by his suffering…..”!

Are there lying prophets around spreading abroad a liberal theology which ignores the sins of the people, “ who don’t even know how to blush”, and place a focus only on the “love and mercy of God”? Are there lying prophets who encourage people to believe that eternal life is only attained in heaven, and therefore they are “ tired of the fussing and fighting on earth and desire to go to heaven and be with the Lord”. And thus ignore the cries of suffering humanity; people who cry out for justice, and mercy from the God who died for them on Calvary. Suffering humanity who because of their ignorance and disobedience find themselves in a hospital lying on the floor and begging for oxygen, and for life! Or unable to attend face to face classes. Or unable to gain employment or make a living, in a battered economy!

The challenge is to hear the voice of the God of all comfort and mercy and judgement, among the many voices that compete for our attention in this social media, google, do your own research, post modern world where media is king. Influencing what we purchase, influencing how we think, influencing who are our role models, and ultimately who or what we worship. Ignoring or blissfully ignorant of one of the most important and profound statements about life:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you – Augustine of Hippo

And so restless priests, and other influencers, who ignore the voice of God, lead people astray. But suffering Christ on the Cross redeems and restores and gives eternal life to those who seek him with all their heart. Which in essence means, dying to self and all else, and loving your neighbor as Christ loved us. Sacrificially.

Whether in Corona lockdown times, or in any other season, when and wherever suffering mankind is in need of ‘salvation’. Because in and through Christ our Saviour, we have eternal life and are thus empowered to “ bind up the injured, set the captives free, search for the lost, look after the widow and orphan in their distress, and bring back the stray”. Which is what Christ and him crucified did. Then we not only will say, but will become in him, for suffering humanity, the “ Amen”. Let it be, according to the will and purpose of a loving God. And therefore leave all judgement to Him!

Now on Beyond the Headlines with @djmillerJA, Anglican Archbishop Howard Gregory is urging the government to “embrace” mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. Also speaking with Elder Nigel Coke from the Seven-Day Adventist Church in Jamaica

#RJBTH

@RadioJamaicaFM

Elder Coke must listen to himself. He must be able to compare the response to polio outbreaks in the past to the Covid-19, and not be overwhelmed by popular sentiment. @lucienforJesus your Archbishop is being courageous.

Anglian Archbishop Bishop Howard

The two tweets above, one from the producer of the popular “ Beyond the Headlines” show on Radio Jamaica, Camille Williams hosted by award winning journalists Dionne Jackson -Miller, and the other from a former school mate at Jamaica College, Robert Phillips, together, reveal in large part what struck me in reading my “ newspapers” about what men were doing this week. Engaged in a serious and debate on the highly controversial issue of Vaccines Mandates! And this happening when other countries with most of their population vaccinated, were just getting along with their lives as reported in the video below:

https://youtu.be/_ItkYhFiGBI

The full account of Bishop Gregory’s position on Vaccine Mandate can be read in the link below:

https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Anglican_Archbishop_calls_for_mandatory_vaccination

This is not the first time that church leaders in Jamaica have advanced quite different positions on the Vaccines. Bishop Gregory as one of the leaders of a denomination, together with other leaders, had issued a statement encouraging Jamaicas to get vaccinated. This against the background of significant numbers of people getting seriously ill, dying and placing tremendous pressure on an already struggling health care system. Others church leaders were quite vociferous in their opposition to the vaccine, while some advanced the position that taking the vaccine was a personal choice left to the individual to make.

What is clear to me, as I read what the Bible told me what men ought to do this week, is that you really can’t work out what is the will of God in this situation. You just have to spend time in his presence and listen to what He is saying, through his Word, the Bible, and by his Spirit, talking directly in your heart. And inevitably both are at one, as God is not a God of confusion.

This was the context in which I wrote this week. Not to my church this time, but to leaders in different areas of national life. Political, church, business and civic.

THE FIRST EMAIL

One of the challenges we face in this country, and indeed the world, is a lack of understanding  of the essence of the Christian faith by many who profess to be Christians. Both within and without the church! Also at the leadership level in every aspect of our society. For the essence of the life of one who claims Christ,  is captured in the words of St. Paul quoted below,  in a message I am led to share with you at time of great crisis in our land, and indeed the entire world:

“ to testify to the Gospel of God’s grace”.

In word and in deed. In thought and in practice. In private and in public. By faith and with love. To the rich, and especially to the poor and the vulnerable and the marginalized, to those living in #wrongaddresses and to the “ wretched of the earth”. And to the “ vilest offender”. Without ceasing.

A message that will be included in the weekend blog this week, but one which the Lord instructed me to send separately lest it becomes lost in the blog.

In obedience.

Peace.

Lord renew thy church with the Truth who is Christ and Him Crucified and raised from the dead, so that in Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit,  we may become a “ new creation”.  To the glory of God, and for the rescuing of this nation

LWJ

I began my early morning devotions with the prayer from Jacob Boehme:

“Living Lord you have watched over me , and put  your hand on my head during the long dark hours of night……

And then I  spent some time thanking God for his mercies throughout my entire life. Going to bed and waking up for so many years. Going to work and coming back home safely for so many years. And told him that I couldn’t thank him enough. Then immediately this meditation below came to mind. And after reading it again, and reflecting on it, especially the final thoughts, I was led to share it with you. As it is only this kind of understanding of how much we depend on God, and God alone, who in Christ Jesus,  died for us and was raised from the dead, for our sins and for our salvation,  and to make us a new creation, in love and in faith, that will empower us to help to rescue this murderous and Corona infected nation. And promote justice in the wider international arena. #CorridorofStability #MiaMottley

SATURATED WITH THE SPIRIT 

Hilary of Potiers  ( 315–368 …educated in philosophy and converted to Christianity, a leader in the struggle to counter Arianism. Elected Bishop of Potiers. Exiled for his position on Arianism.) A favorite of the late BIshop ‘Freddie’ Clarke

Verse: Acts 20:24    However,  I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me – the task of testifying about God’s grace

HOISTING MY SAILS 

 The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you. The power of speech which you have bestowed on me can give me no greater pleasure than to serve you by preaching your gospel.

But in saying this, I am merely expressing what I want to do. If I am actually to use this gift, I must ask you for your help – ask you to fill the sails I have hoisted for you with the wind of your Holy Spirit, inspiring my mind and my voice. I know that I am often heavy with stupor, so that I am too lazy to speak of you. And I do not spend sufficient time studying your Scriptures, to ensure that my words conform to your Word. Give me the energy and the courage to share the spirit of the apostles, that like them I may truly be an ambassador of your grace.

SATURATED IN HIS LOVE

Although I am dust and ashes, Lord, I am tied to you by bands of love. Therefore I feel that I can speak freely to you. Before I came to know you, I was nothing. I did not know the meaning of life, and I had no understanding  of myself. I have no doubt that you had a purpose in causing me to be born; yet you had no need of me, and on my own I was of no use to you.

But then you decided that I should hear the words of your Son, Jesus Christ. And that as I heard his words, you enabled his love to penetrate my heart. Now I am completely saturated in his love and faith, and there is no remedy. Now,  Lord, I cannot change my attitude to my faith, I can only die for it.

In obedience.

Peace.

May this God who introduced the words of His Son Christ Jesus to Hilary of Potiers, and to all of us, renew the church beginning with those who are saturated in the love of Jesus; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s)  so that they may come to understand that the only corridor of stability in the universe is in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. All else is like sinking sand!

THE SECOND EMAIL

My experience in being obedient to the Lord, in listening and in writing, is that usually there is a part two. And sometimes three.

PART TWO

Can you imagine if these prayers which I am led this morning after yesterday’s message, to  share with you  below,  were to be offered up to a God whose love is :

New every morning is thy love,

 our wakening and uprising prove.

Through sleep and darkness safely brought, 

restored to life and power and thought.

Offered up to  the Eternal Father,  like incense rising up as in the book of Revelation, to bless our land. Offered up by our leaders in all sectors of the society. In faith, and in love. In the midst of a Pandemic with Vaccine hesitancy, and Vaccine fear, and Vaccine ignorance, and Vaccine fake news, threatening to derail the need to achieve herd immunity. Quickly! In the midst of the chronic reality  of Murder and Murder most foul, causing untold grief and pain and fear in our society,  and threatening to unravel the significant, although we ought to have done better,   developmental gains that we have achieved over the years as a nation. In a society where the staggering and ever increasing  gap between the rich and the poor has not happened by chance, by occasioned by institutional injustice, perpetuated by powerful forces over the years. And which injustice has spawned  the disturbing  but predictable phenomenon of increasing alienation by a huge swathe of the society; manifesting itself in much of the social ills about which many are concerned. Especially in the Pandemic! And worse,  directly related to, but not exclusively the reason for, “ Murderer, blood is on your shoulder”.

We all need to pull together and pool our resources to rescue our nation from this desperate hour in the life of our people. But the eternal message of the Christian faith, manifest in Christ and Him Crucified, is that sinful mankind needs the help of an Almighty God, ever merciful and ever faithful and ever loving God.

A quote  from the late Rev. Peter Marshall who served as Chaplain to the US Senate during the war years, late 1940’s, might  better help us to understand this need to depend on an Eternal Father:

PETER MARSHALL

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.

There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such a an hour?

May thy wisdom and thy power come upon the President fo the these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their  hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. 

Give them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone hast the answer.

 THE PRAYERS

JACOB BOEHME 

VERSE: 2 CHRONICLES 7:14. “ IF MY PEOPLE CALLED BY MY NAME…….

ON WAKING

Loving Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head, during the long,  dark hours of night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. To you,  Lord, I owe life itself. Continue to watch over me and bless me during the hours of day.

ON RISING 

Rule over me this day, O God, leading me on the path of righteousness. Put your Word in my mind and your truth in my heart, that this day I neither think nor feel anything except what is good and honest. Protect me from all lies and falsehood, helping me to discern deception wherever I meet it. Let my eyes always look straight ahead on the road you wish me to tread, that I might not be tempted by any distraction. And make my eyes pure, that no false desires may be awakened  within me.

ON GOING TO WORK

Give me dear Lord, a pure heart and a wise mind, that I may carry out my work according to your will. Save me from all false desires, from pride, greed, envy and anger, and let me accept joyfully every task you set before me. Let me seek to serve the poor, the sad and those unable to work. Help me to discern honestly my own gifts that I may do the things of which I am capable, and happily and humbly leave the rest to others. Above all, remind me constantly that I have nothing except what you give me, and  can do nothing except what you enable me to do.

In obedience 

Peace.

LWJ

THE THIRD EMAIL

https://youtu.be/h1c3m8mRb8g

My Bishop is a brave man. Based on his recent pronouncements heralded by these  two Tweets

Now on Beyond the Headlines with @djmillerJA, Anglican Archbishop Howard Gregory is urging the government to “embrace” mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. Also speaking with Elder Nigel Coke from the Seven-Day Adventist Church in Jamaica 

#RJBTH

@RadioJamaicaFM.

Elder Coke must listen to himself. He must be able to compare the response to polio outbreaks in the past to the Covid-19, and not be overwhelmed by popular sentiment. @lucienforJesus your Archbishop is being courageous.

The video above, by the wold famous Brooklyn Tabernacle choir, features Psalm 19:14: “ May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in thy sight…may the songs that I sing be pleasing to you”. It is one that I listen to most nights before going to bed. Either before  or after my late night devotions. Tonight while listening I remembered the tweet about Bishop Gregory.  And  was led to share. As it is not so  much what 70% of Jamaicans feel about the issue,  or for that matter what the majority of church people think about it, or what the PM will eventually decide on,  but what is pleasing to the Lord. What will bring him honor and  glory and what will assist the vulnerable and marginalized, the  suffering mass of people from unnecessary exposure to this “ raging lion seeking whom he will “ which is in essence, in this age,  the Corona Virus. May the God who died on the Cross for suffering and helpless humanity, under attack from the raging lion of Sin and death and Evil,  ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, continue in this and every age to speak a Word of truth and love, through His servants. Whether in the leadership of the church, or State or Civil society. Did we hear a prophetic word from the Lord today? One that is pleasing  in his sight!  The God  of Jacob! Only that  God knows, but coming from this anointed man of God, in this context, thus urging caution against any thoughts of “ Ex cathedra “,  we would do well to listen carefully and prayerfully. And not so much to  vox populi! 

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

“TheBenjamin E. Lippincott Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA), recognizes a work of exceptional quality by a living political theorist that is still considered significant after a time span of at least 15 years since the original date of publication.

Charles W. Mills is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York). He works in the general area of social and political philosophy, particularly in oppositional political theory as centered on class, gender, and race. He is the author of over a hundred journal articles, book chapters, comments and replies, and six books. His first book, The Racial Contract (Cornell University Press, 1997), won a Myers Outstanding Book Award for the study of bigotry and human rights in America. It has been adopted widely in hundreds of courses across the United States, not just in philosophy, but also political science, sociology, anthropology, literature, education, African American, American Studies, and other subjects. It has been translated into Korean and Turkish, with a French translation forthcoming soon. Cornell University Press will be issuing a 25th-anniversary edition in 2022, with a new foreword by Mills and an afterword by Tommie Shelby, that will also mark its attainment of sales of over 50, 000 copies. “

The extract above, and video cameo, describing, in part , the life of someone who went to school with me, entered Jamaica College in the same year, is what struck me about what my newspapers told me what men were doing. And like many 21st century individuals, I saw it first on Twitter. Posted by the Gleaner online, and then sent to me as a direct message, by another giant of that era, Professor of Anthropology Don Robotham. With whom, along with another stalwart of that age, though slightly younger, Civil Society head Carol Narcisse, I was engaged in a serious, beyond the headlines, discussion about the state of our nation. I had no idea, at that time, that my former classmate had gone on to become, one of the leading intellectuals of this age. Compared with another individual , known for his outstanding scholarship – H Orlando Patterson, Professor of Sociology at Harvard University

“Charles and self used to joke we were the JA posse in New York academia. David and I remain close. Charles would meet up regularly in the faculty dining room and have a good chat and laugh. Very popular and deeply respected. Probably the most eminent JA academic in the US, more than Orlando” – Professor Don Robotham.

And so my comments in the conversation, in one sense, was almost trite in comparison to what others had to say about this outstanding former classmate. But yet, in my mind on reflection, no doubt, opened the door to ultimately the most important evaluation of the life of Charles Mills. And for that matter, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley!

“One of a set of brilliant students at #JamaicaCollege: Mills, Mathurin and Webley. Lost touch with him after school. Met him a couple of times in sundry places – outside Megamart. Wrote an essay on going to the movies in First Form. Got full marks, 10/10 from a very demanding English teacher. Showed remarkable intellect from the early days. Brian Meeks Michael Martin Burke I hope he had a relationship with his Creator at the end.”

Thoughts which sent me down memory lane this week, as I pondered on the reality of how far we, as a nation, have, not strayed, but departed from that golden era. In the quality and message of our music! In social intercourse, how we live with one another, in public and at home; the most profound commentary of the latter, being the epidemic of intimate partner violence and abuse of our children by relatives and people close to them. An of course the pandemic of murder and murder most foul that has gripped this nation for years. The vision or lack thereof of the leaders in every sphere of national life; and so the people perish. The level of injustice, common assault, meted out to the poor and the vulnerable and the marginalized. With impunity. Almost qualifying for the term “ the banality of evil”.

The question, the million dollar question, is where did we go wrong. And when! And then, how do we rescue this nation? Questions which can only ultimately be answered by what I read in the Bible that men ought to do.

The most important message being this:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Psalms 127:1-2 NIV

And these messages sent to my church:

SUNDAY MORNING BEFORE, AND AFTER THE WORSHIP SERVICE

“but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:7-8 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/php.2.7-8.NRSV

The passage above came to mind as I read the Gospel for today in preparation for worship. And this also, starting a couple days ago! That the Bible is essentially a book that chronicles two stories. And among those two stories there are many subsets of those two stories. One main story, is about how God revealed Himself to his chosen people. Chosen not because they were special, or that he loved them more than anyone else in the world, but because he chose to do so. The other is how God in Jesus Christ, revealed himself, Father Son and Holy Spirit, co-substantial, co-eternal, and present from the beginning of creation, and before, to the entire world. And not just revealed himself, but redeemed humanity created in his image and likeness, imageo dei, from what took place at the Fall – separation from God, resulting in Sin, Death and Evil. Hence the purpose and mandate of the church in Christ Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit – Reconciliation. Available to all who believe in the Atonement wrought by Christ on Calvary. Which leads us back to the passage above, and forward to the Gospel story. For at the heart of the both stories is the God in Christ, who humbled himself, even to death on a cross, for suffering mankind. Held in bondage to Sin and death and evil, by Satan!

For until we brood and ponder and spend quality time listening to what God is saying to us about Calvary, we will forever by like the disciples, who did not understand who Jesus was, nor what he came to do. And thus fall into the trap of wanting to become first in the kingdom, elevating self, like the disciples. And if not first in the kingdom, special in the yes of the world. Doing all kinds of things in the name of Jesus, but having no power to effect real and lasting change to the glory fo God.

As we read again the Gospel for today below, spend time, I would recommend, thinking about the reality, the subtext of the story about God revealing himself to the world in Christ, that Jesus had to die before the disciples made sense of who he was and what he came to do. And that realization came only when “ power from on high “ came on them. At Pentecost! This subset of the story of revelation of Jesus came to mind:

Hard pressed on all sides but not crushed. Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed. From the famous passage in 2. Cor. 4. For we really have to “ carry around in our bodies the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ can be revealed us”. And in order to that, we must pass though all kinds of suffering.

Not like Christ! We can’t go there. But in the fashion of Christ. And in humility. So that we can truly, with power, and to the glory of God, and not self, serve suffering humanity. Wherever they are to found on earth. Whether at home or abroad !

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

The Gospel

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

I pray God that he may renew the church beginning with those who look not for greatness but humble themselves in obedience to the suffering Son of God, even Christ Jesus; I pray to this God that he may renew the church with power from on high, so that the church may renew the nation(s) where humanity made in his image and likeness is suffering so much. In a pandemic and because of murder, and murder most foul. And injustice. And ….

SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Two more things. Further revelation as I drove to church. One, in the eyes and minds of some, it might have appeared that I left out the important issue of God’s love for mankind, which is the heart of the gospel. It was corrected in two other mail outs, and placed in the caption: The story of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

Two, it might also have appeared to some that God’s revelation about eternal life in heaven, merits the introduction of a third story. But the reality is that eternal life in Christ Jesus is a continuum, which begins right here on earth, and not something which only awaits us in heaven. All of which makes the importance of what happened on Calvary so critical to our understanding of who is this Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Peace and in obedience to a reminder of the additional revelation which came on this Sunday. On a lockdown day when folks long to return to church to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy. Sad that we are all not allowed to especially at a time when we really need as a church to be in prayer for our nation. And Yes! I appreciate that we can pray outside the church, but what a joy to be in the house of the Lord, just praising his holy name.

LWJ

TUESDAY MORNING

The Gospel

Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

I spent some time trying to understand the essence of the message in the gospel reading for Sunday. Even went back to last week, and it is of importance, and looked ahead too. Sighed even, in a silent prayer to the Lord! The key, here after much logging to know, is to avoid being a stumbling block and causing others to stumble over you. As Christ has no special love for us in the Anglican Church, or in any church for that matter, who he has called to follow him, over anyone else. A mistaken thought which infiltrated the minds of the Jews, and provoked the disciples to enter into a discussion about who was the greatest! And the danger is that such thoughts are alive and present in the church today. A spirit of entitlement and exceptionalism! Very dangerous thoughts which the words of the famous hymn, “ saved a wretch like me”, ought to remove very quickly from our minds. And not only to follow him, but as Paul wrote with so much passion, “ that Christ may be formed in you”. Galatians 4:19 ! As this Christ being formed in you “ let this mind which was in Christ Jesus be also in you”, died for us, “ while we were still sinners”. His enemies!

It is in this context, of not being a stumbling block to anyone who has heard that Jesus saves, but has not yet become a disciple, not yet baptized, but deep in his or her heart, long to join the happy band, but is still living in sin, that we receive this message. That our lives ought to encourage and not condemn. That our lives ought set the right example of righteousness and humility, and be always be in pursuit of Justice, defending the poor and the vulnerable and the marginalized, lest if otherwise, we become “ traitors to Christ” and lead people to wonder what kind of Christianity we represent. That our lives ought to represent Christ and Him Crucified, willing to go the extra mile to bring back a sinner, according to the Epistle:

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

And cause “ rejoicing in heaven”! In this context also, words from Ezekiel are a propos as they reveal to us something of the mind of Christ. From the beginning!

“The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.”

Ezekiel 34:1-10 NRSV

A message for our leaders, in the wider church, no doubt, but also for anyone who is a disciple of Christ. A call for deep introspection on how we conduct ourselves as Christians, in a time of a Pandemic and at all times.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Good Lord renew thy church beginning with those who have a humble and caring heart, for the lost and the wretched and the outcast; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) where people who are “ lost in sin” reside.

THURSDAY MORNING

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

Galatians 4:19-20 NIV

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Psalms 127:1-2 NIV

Yesterday, when I was led to spend some time in Psalm 127, and to reflect on the message for us as children of God in this time in the history of Jamaica, I was so convicted, that I called a friend. And in essence said this to him: We have to start over in this country, and the process has to be led by the church, and the process has to start in the church. For what is happening in Jamaica now, has not been built on the solid foundation – the chief cornerstone – of Christ Jesus. Perhaps you may wish to have a look at the Gleaner or the Observer this morning to understand what I was led to read and report on:

https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20210922/clansman-gang-trial-witness-tells-court-powerful-people-funded-gangs

This is not the Jamaica that was built on the solid foundation of emancipation from slavery, the gift of free villages by the Baptist Church in the north, and the love and mercy of the Methodists in the south of the country. Thus creating the foundation for a society, comprised mostly of former slaves, being forever grateful to the God who not only set them free, but provided for them materially and socially. And so out that experience flowed the quest for justice and self government and caring for others, volunteerism, treating others with respect and love. The foundation for values and attitudes which characterized a once fairly peaceful nation. A kind of society that we can only dream about now, as upwards of 1000 murders are committed year after year. And our nation is populated with young people, most of whom would leave for another country in a heartbeat, if given an opportunity.

What the first Word above, to which I was led to contemplate on, repeatedly, over the past couple of weeks, reveals, is that the solution is spiritual, hence the need for the process of renewal to begin in the church, and to be led by the church.

Why! It is not manifestly clear and spread abroad in the kind of Christianity that is being practiced today, that Christ is the solid foundation of our faith. And that “ all other ground is sinking sand”. It is not spoken sufficiently loudly, and repeatedly, in the sanctuary and in the prayer meetings and fasting services and from the pulpit, that the goal of our faith is for “ Christ to be formed in us”. Or “ Christ in you the hope of glory”. And so we spend lots of time discipling people and praying “ in the name of Jesus “, and doing good in the name of Jesus, but not placing sufficient emphasis, with the kind of passion that Paul had, “ that Christ may be formed in you”.

The revelation continued as I spoke with my friend. A Baptist minister. A good and faithful servant of God. And discerning! During the conversation he called the name of another Baptist minister, as we agreed to continue to stay close to God, and listen to him, and trust him to guide us. A name which brought back memories of an email I wrote to another friend after the funeral service of his father. And in which missive, this issue of faith featured. For if Christ is being formed in us, daily, then our faith ought not to be a “ fingertip faith”, but rather a faith that moves mountains, in a time of a Pandemic and murder most foul, and …… This being just one example, and no more than this was revealed by the Lord, but surely our minds can think of so many other benefits of having “ Christ formed in us”

THE EMAIL

My friend: I know very well the reason why the Lord reminded me of this Psalm this morning.

It was the one that Burchell Taylor used as the basis for his sermon at your father’s funeral.

So in obedience I went back and read it just now and found great comfort.

I hope that it will be for a source of comfort also in these trying times.

The one thing I can recall, until now,  about the sermon was  Burchell’s exhortation not to use our faith in God to ‘ hang on by our fingertips’.

But rather to be reassured by our faith in an Almighty God.

Peace.

Lucien

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.  Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth.  They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.  But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Psalm 63:1-11 NIV

http://bible.com/111/psa.63.1-11.NIV

I close this email in obedience with a meditation which came into my mind as I wrote above about “ fingertip faith”. One from Peter Marshall ( 1902 – 1949) who was introduced to me by June Spence – by the book “ A man called Peter” many years ago. A former Chaplain of the United States Senate 1947 – 1949. Taken from my Classics Devotional Bible

BY GODS GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS

Peter Marshall

Verse: Judges 7:2 “ The Lord said to Gideon, you have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her……….”

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.

There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such a an hour?

May thy wisdom and thy power come upon the President fo the these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee.

Give them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone hast the answer.

Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a “ mighty fortress is our God” – not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength – the mightiest of all, who will march right beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.

O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need of thee! In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen.

FINAL COMMENTS

As I write all kinds of temptations come into my mind. Including sending this email to the Prime Minister and his cabinet and the Opposition. They may well read it in due course, but the instruction is clear; that this process of renewal, to build our country on the firm of foundation of the solid rock who is Christ, and doing so by accepting first for ourselves and then teaching others, that “ Christ is to be formed in you, the hope of glory” ( the combination of two verses) is to start with us and to be led by the church.

May the God of Jacob who placed these revelations in my head, and in my soul, and caused me to share, ensure that this message does not return to him void but achieve the purpose for which it was sent. May this Ancient of Days, renew his church beginning with those whose faith is built on a sure foundation, Christ our Lord; may this God of Sam Sharpe renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) in this desperate hour in the history of mankind.

What I read in my newspapers this week, that men are doing was very disturbing. And disappointing! As all of us who have long shed green tinted or orange colored glasses, the easily identified markers of the two main political parties in Jamaica, recognized the tremendous potential that former Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green, had to offer this country. As a leader and as a Minister! It was therefore shocking to me that he was easily identified in a video, participating in a event, clearly in breech of the his own government’s protocols and laws prescribed to deal with the deadly pandemic. And his subsequent downfall, which triggered this note to a couple of friends!

I weep for my country. If a bright young and obviously talented, and one for the future, young man like Floyd can be led to mock “ no movement day”, and celebrate disobedience, which is to pay, at the very least, scant regard for the suffering and sacrifice of so many, then one might legitimately ask, what does the future hold for Jamaica 🇯🇲 Thank God some of us will never be found ticked off in the hopeless column. I suppose after the disappointment the question is how to effect a repair job? Or is it!

Wish I could share the insightful responses. But it was a private conversation behind the headlines so I can’t. So the issue of forgiving and wishing this young man all the best for the future does not arise in the mind of a child of God. That’s a given! So we respect and find is easy to accept the apology offered.

https://twitter.com/floydgreenja/status/1438266985209552902?s=21

But the real issue is where was the adult in the room to say no, you can’t behave like this when people are suffering and dying from this terrible pestilence. An issue which seems to have escaped the thoughts and minds and hearts of his supporters, who flooded social media with calls for his reinstatement after being subjected to a less severe punishment than effectively being fired by the Prime Minister. There is no doubt that this bright young politician will be back in due course, but hopefully more aware of the pain and suffering of those who he plans to serve in the future.

Another matter which caught my eye was the bizarre case of a young rapper “ rudest little madam ”, is the caption I saw on her Twitter account, with over 22 Million followers, attempting to lead them all, like the famous Pied Piper, into following her and her anti-vax friends to refuse to take the life saving vaccine on offer to protect oneself from this deadly virus. The question in my mind is how does such a young woman with a twisted mind commandeer such loyalty and such a huge fan base?

Why would people believe #NickyMinaj when she tweets that the vaccine causes problems with the sperm producing part of the male anatomy, and can lead to infertility?

TWEET

My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied

What kind of power does she have why a sovereign government ruling Trinidad and Tobago, found it necessary to officially debunk such nonsense? Are people really so gullible? Is the chicken licken and henry penny and foxy locksy story that the world is coming to an end because an acorn dropped from a tree on her head, a metaphor for how easily people can be led astray in this disordered world?

In that context then people really need to read the Bible to see what men ought to do. And so I did and wrote. Letters to my church, and one to church leaders. To the glory of God!

TUESDAY

PART ONE – LAST NIGHT. A WHATSAPP MESSAGE SENT TO A PATIENT AND A FRIEND AND A CHRISTIAN WOMAN GRIEVING OVER THE LOSS OF THE HUSBAND OF HER GOOD FRIEND 

You asked a question today. ( How do you survive at work when the Delta variant is killing so many people?) And I answered reading Psalm 35 and Psalm 91 every night.  Which is true only if the words lead to trust in God. As, ultimately, it is God alone in his mercy who protects us, and not only because we dwell in his Word. Mercy is not gained by effort. Only because God choses to have mercy. And for which mercy we give thanks, with no sense of triumph because we have prayed. But only thanks because God chose to do so. A lesson the church ought to learn well in this pandemic and at all times. That we cannot work for mercy. Only receive it. Peace and be of good courage as thus far, the God of Samuel has carried you. And I. Ebenezer!

PART TWO – THIS MORNING

The challenge for us who are the recipients of such mercy, such love that passeth all human understanding, is to, in return, show mercy, to the unmerciful, and the wicked and the vilest offender. For before God in Christ rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, that’s what we once were. Ephesians 2:1-4. Therein is located the heart of the Gospel. Which is not all about personal Salvation, and personal holiness, that too, but, more than that, the sharing of God’s amazing love for suffering humanity, held in bondage by Satan to Sin. And ignorance and disobedience. And fear! In the midst of a Pandemic. Therein is located the need for all Christians to take the vaccine. To help to ease the pain and grief and suffering of a nation under seige. For we are not our own; we have been bought by the price of blood.

PART THREE – AS SAT I DOWN TO START MY EARLY MORNING DEVOTIONS

Our Rector posed an intriguing question on Sunday,  at the end of a sermon based of the text: Who do you say I am? A question posed to the disciples by Jesus. And after reinforcing the foundation of our faith, that we serve the suffering servant of God, the Crucified One, and from who we get our identity, our Rector after encouraging everybody to follow the protocols, and get vaccinated, posed this question. ” Do you think  that if Jesus were here at this time,  he would take the vaccine?”. The answer to which he left us to work out for ourselves.

And as I wrote, the following scenario came to mind. For us to ponder on. Jesus, ” knew no sin”, and yet, in obedience to his Father, and to set an example to sinful mankind, he commanded a very reluctant John the Baptist to baptise him. Listen carefully to the story and watch out for the reward. Does this help us to answer the question posed by our Rector. I don’t know for sure. But what I an sure of, is that ” flesh and blood” did not bring that story to mind, and in context.

Peace.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17 NIV

PART FOUR – WHICH IS  A VERSE THAT CAME TO MIND AS I WOKE UP AND THOUGHT ABOUT LAST NIGHT. A WORD TO PONDER ON DEEPLY. IN THE CONTEXT IN WHICH IT WAS WRITTEN AND IN THE CONTEXT IN WHICH IT CAME INTO MY MIND

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

IN THE NIV BIBLE THIS SECTION IS CAPTIONED – DOXOLOGY

 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:32-36 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/rom.11.32-36.NIV

WEDNESDAY

Jesus loves me, yes I know

For the Bible tells me so…..

Came mind as began reading the words of a hymn that greeted me as I woke up and got out of bed this morning.

So, yes the Bible tells that Jesus loves us, but so too does the rising sun of each morning. Shades of the Psalm appointed for last Sunday:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalms 19:1-4a NIV

1 New every morning is the love

our wakening and uprising prove;

through sleep and darkness safely brought,

restored to life and power and thought.

2 New mercies, each returning day,

hover around us while we pray;

new perils past, new sins forgiven,

new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

3 If on our daily course our mind

be set to hallow all we find,

new treasures still, of countless price,

God will provide for sacrifice.

4 The trivial round, the common task,

will furnish all we need to ask,

room to deny ourselves, a road

to bring us daily nearer God.

5 Only, O Lord, in thy dear love

fit us for perfect rest above;

and help us, this and every day,

to live more nearly as we pray.

A hymn that reminds us of God’s mercy. New every morning! A thought which reveals the heart of God, and is highlighted by James the brother of Christ. A revelation, and a reminder which also came into my mind as I pondered on the words of the gift of a hymn in the early morning.

“Mercy triumphs over judgment”. James 2:13 ; and the new mercies come as “ new perils are past, new sins are forgiven ( thank God for Jesus ), and even new thoughts of God and new hopes of heaven”. As without Him we are not able to please Him – the Collect for last week.

With this realization of God’s mercies constantly attending us each day, we approach every task and everything we do, for the glory of God – to hallow, and deny self – sacrifice.

And the seemingly common and even boring things of life are opportunities to deny self and bring us nearer to the God of mercy.

Finally, that as we pray to live more nearly – fit us for perfect rest above – to heaven, recall that this eternal life begins here and now in Christ. The Crucified and ultimately the merciful One. The suffering One who “ emptied Himself of all but love”, when He died for the “ vilest offender”. Of which we were the worst, until by mercy, we were rescued by the blood of Christ.

So ultimately God reveals His love in his mercy to us. We who are the are children of this loving and merciful God are therefore called to be merciful in all we do and say. And leave judgment to the Lord. Whether in a Pandemic or as life unfolds less dramatically; in the trivial round and the common task.
Peace and in obedience.

THURSDAY

LWJ

Lord renew thy church we beseech thee with those who act mercifully to others with the same love you have for the world; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) where people are in need of your mercy, even though they have rejected your Word that would set them free.

THURSDAY

The Gospel

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Last night as the shocking news of that which occasioned the resignation of the popular young Minister of Agriculture, settled in my soul, in my agony, I shared this note with two friends. From the 70’s!

I weep for my country. If a bright young and obviously talented, and one for the future, young man like Floyd can be led to mock “ no movement day”, and celebrate disobedience, which is to pay, at the very least, scant regard for the suffering and sacrifice of so many, then one might legitimately ask, what does the future hold for Jamaica 🇯🇲 Thank God some of us will never be found ticked off in the hopeless column. I suppose after the disappointment the question is how to effect a repair job? Or is it!

Then this morning as I was led again to ponder, in my early morning devotions, on the wonderful hymn we discussed yesterday, “ New every morning is thy love….restored to life and power and thought”, this memory came to mind. The late Herman Spence, with great wisdom, described sleep as ‘a little death’.

It is in this context that the Gospel for Sunday coming above, comes to life. For Jesus, in this passage, by inference, not revelation, at that time, made the teaching of his disciples a greater priority than healing the sick. As he “ did not want anyone to know “ that they were passing through Galilee. And what he taught them in two separate but related lessons, is the essence of the Christian faith. Lessons that our politicians, all of them and not just the “ fallen one”, our successful businessmen, the nation’s top journalists, our professionals, and all the influencers in our society, including the church, ought to learn well.

That Christianity is all about following a suffering servant of God, who died, hapax – once for all, for the sins of all mankind. And that in following this suffering servant, we are called and empowered, to become the servant of all; especially the weak and the defenseless. Child!

Where then, in this story, and in the falling from grace of Floyd Green, do we locate the wisdom of the hymn and the wisdom of Herman Spence of blessed memory. The answer is not blowing in the wind, but staring us in the face – Restored to life and power and thought. From a little death! Day after day. Night after night. By practice, constant practice, if we accept this reality, we give thanks each morning in the way recommended by the prayers of Jacob Boehme that I have been blessed to receive and to share. The first of which “ On Waking”, goes like this:

Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head,, during the long,dark hours of night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. To you Lord, I owe life itself. Continue to watch over me and bless me during the hours of day.

A prayer which is effect the sentiments expressed in the second verse of the hymn:

2 New mercies, each returning day,

hover around us while we pray;

new perils past, new sins forgiven,

new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

I have, more and more, in recent times, come to understand that life is all about many disciplines. A word which is an anathema to the modern 21st century anti-establishment anti – religious and anti- authority “ I am my own big man and woman “ mind. And one of the disciplines offered to us a gift, is the discipline of giving thanks to a merciful God each morning as we wake up. “ Restored to life and power and thought”. But this is a discipline, giving thanks to God in all things, which is only accepted by those who know that Christ died for us miserable sinners, the “ vilest offender” on Calvary. And set us free, to be the servant of all. During a pandemic! During a surge of murder and murder most foul in our country. Regardless of whether or not they are the victims of gang related crimes and whether or nor they were warned of impending danger.

So forgiveness of young Floyd Green is not the issue. As that is what people who have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness by the Son of God, do without hesitation. And quickly! The real issue is how do we rescue this gigantic ship, called Jamaica, damaged essentially by a code of behavior which encourages every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost? How do we as children of God, who are called to die to self, daily, and nightly, and rise again each morning, with love in our hearts for suffering humanity, share that love in the midst of many pandemics ravaging our nation. And not just in a crisis but in the “ trivial round and the common task”.

That kind of approach to life requires discipline. Day after day, night after night! Learning to depend on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ alone. Learning the hard lesson to become the servant of all. Blocking out all other activities in the early hours of morning, or late at night, or in the midnight hour. To concentrate on listening to what the Holy Spirit of God is saying to us. And then to serve mankind and give glory to God. This is what someone needs to say to young Floyd Green. This is what the church needs to encourage among its members. The discipline of listening to the Lord. Every morning as we rise from a ‘little death”! Every day as we ponder deeply on the death of Jesus and thus resist the natural, of the flesh, and of powers and principalities, to want to become “ first in the kingdom of God”. Or first at all cost, in the things of this world. And lose your soul! At one level. Or be forced to resign at another level.

So the lesson of yesterday is not for the politicians alone. But a warning for the children of God who lack, or forsake, the discipline of either brooding on the Cross of Calvary. Or accepting God’s grace and mercy as we awake each morning. And then pledge to be of service to suffering mankind! For without this framework young Floyd may yet return, but fail again, with greater consequences. For self and country!

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Good Lord, forgiving Lord, we beseech you to renew your church beginning with those who accept your teaching to become servants of suffering mankind, to your glory; Lord renew your church that the church may renew the nation(s) where giving thanks to you O God in the early morning has been replaced by an expectation and an entitlement to be alive, and to seek glory for self and family. To be first in the race called life!

FRIDAY

SENT THIS MESSAGE TO A FRIEND IN THE MEDIA JUST NOW.  AND THOUGHT OF YOU TOO.  CHURCH LEADERS

Came into my head this morning. Even before my early morning devotions. And in your kind of language;

“Silver and gold have I none. But in the name of Jesus get up and walk”. Translation in context! 

There is no doubt that as a nation we need to increase our productivity and earn more money so that we can lift the living standards of all our people. Assuming of course that growth of GDP translates automatically into ” setting the captives in #wrongaddresses free” from poverty. An ongoing debate amongst ambidextrous economists….one the hand…and on the other hand 😆

So that’s a given: the need for silver and gold. But that’s, the absence of a nanny,  not the heart of the problem in our nation. Which is what this debacle starring Floyd Green is highlighting. Or exposing for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The problem is of  an ethical and moral nature. That increasingly we have become a people  unable to feel and identify with the pain that others are going through. Which are  the words used by  Bonhoeffer the German Pastor and man of God, who paid the ultimate price for plotting to remove the evil that was Herr Fuhrer, to describe true religion. And what the brother of Jesus, James  said similarly about true religion: Look after the widow and orphan and stranger in their distress.

This is what troubles me greatly about Floyd. Where was the adult in the room? To say no, you can’t mock the no movement day. As it represents the pain and suffering of ” my people “.

A sentiment which flows over into elements in the church who declare that it is my body and a personal decision to take the vaccine. Even when people are going through the pain of losing their relatives and friends, and have had  their entire life  upended by this pestilence! No. A thousand times no. Otherwise you are of no help in ” getting people in the name of Jesus to be set free”. As the God we serve in Christ Jesus in his mercy sees not only our sins, but our struggles against injustice and poverty and disease and evil. Feeling our pain, even to death on a cross.

Need a new kind or morality and ethical considerations and religion in this nation. Better than silver and gold! As Julie Mango in her tick tock series said. I hope you ketch de levels. Appreciate the difference between apology  for wrong doing exposed, and feeling the pain of another human being made in the image and likeness of God.

Peace.

FRIDAY

One final revelation. Came to me just now as I was having breakfast before leaving for work. I was thinking about my friend in the media, and how this thing has gone past this individual and landed among church leaders as led by the Lord. And thinking about the division in the church over the vaccine and the struggles I have had with my very devout Christian patients, mostly women, trying to convince them to take the vaccine. When suddenly this verse came into my head: “ If I perish I perish”. 

We would all recall how Queen Esther was #hesistant when Mordecai sent her a message that her people, and he too, were in peril, in terrible danger, in fact existential danger,  following an order given by the King – of the Medes and Persians. An immutable order in those days!  But he prevailed and warned  her that if she did not act, and act quickly, irregardless of the danger to her person, very  real and  very present danger, she would perhaps survive, but that “ salvation  – that was never in doubt – would come from elsewhere. All of this is from memory so forgive me if I have omitted anything of consequence. 

And of course she acted, approached the king uninvited, and as they say, the rest is history. The question which arises in my mind, triggered by the receipt of the revelation in the context of vaccine hesitancy, not opposition, is whether or not, we have in our church, men and women, prepared to say, and feeling the pain of the nation under siege from this terrible plague, and knowing that the vaccine can make a huge difference – certainly not salvation – “ if I perish I perish “ and  take the vaccine, and go forth in the name of Jesus. For the sake of suffering humanity!

May the good Lord renew his church beginning with people who trust Him completely, are committed  to deny self,  who fear Him and have received His wisdom, and thus  are empowered to help to renew the nation(s)  in danger of perishing.

LWJ

Two things stayed with me this week as I read what men are doing in my “newspapers”. Or did! 9/11 and the discovery of yet another variant of this dreadful Corona Virus. As just like when President Kennedy died, I recalled exactly where I was when the news, I was listening to the radio – BBC news at 8:00 am – that the first and then the second plane crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York City. Recalled the horror I felt, that something terrible had just happened, not only to America, but all mankind. The growing concern about not being able to call my children who were both studying in the USA, as the country went into full electronic and flight lockdown mode. The shared grief that doctor and patients felt as I arrived at work after my usual one hour commute; and so we held hands and prayed before taking on a long and somber day. And the gong home to watch the replays on TV, again and again, of the absolute hell that descended on New York City ; people jumping to their certain death, the implosion of the two towers, the people covered with ash running for their lives. Could easily have been a scene from Dante’s Inferno – journey through hell! And the world, not just of travel, has never quite been the same again. All because of one example, extreme though it was, of man’s unending inhumanity to man!

The other news, the discovery, in Jamaica of the MU variant of the CoV2 Virus, was inevitable. For this is what Viruses are famous for doing. Mutating! In order to survive. And they can only mutate in our context of a Pandemic, in their non vaccinated human host. So essentially, those who for one reason or another, and there are plenty reasons including vaccine hoarding and selfishness, are not vaccinated, become virtually potential factories for the production of new variants. Some of interest and others of no consequence. Do people know this? Some, but not all. Do they care? Some but not all. Does it matter if they care or not? Not really, for at the end of the day, it’s the possible production of the variant that matters and not the intention of the host that so enabled it to come forth.

What’s the common thread connecting the two stories. That humankind is constantly in danger. Whether from highly organized attacks of evil, or from acts of nature! And for the most part, though to date we have found ways to deal with both eventualities, the day may come when, the resilience of mankind fails to counter existential attacks on the human race. Or when another force trumps all of this.

And in this context, death is a constant reminder of our limitations. Especially the death of a popular artiste, the late Karen Smith.

For further understanding of all of this, I turned to the Bible, to see what men ought to do. To counter evil and danger. Within and without!

MONDAY’S EMAIL TO MY CHURCH

The Collect

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

One of the many things that this pandemic in particular teaches us, and for some the grief and pain and terror have been almost unbearable (and the God who died on a cross to rescue us knows and comforts us), is how little strength we really have, despite man’s many and great achievements.

It’s a lesson that Christians in particular need to learn well. As our role in life, in response to the Mighty Salvation wrought for us on Calvary, that we may be rescued from all our enemies – Sin, Evil and ultimately Death – is to live to please this God. In thought word and deed! And the Collect, the collective prayer for next Sunday, reminds us that, “ we can’t even walk without Him holding our hand”; that we cannot even please Him and love Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth without Him. In and through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us by faith and by the grace of God. No wonder then that Holy Scripture reminds us that:

“ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. 2 Cor. 4:18 NIV. A passage of Scripture which I was led, awakened, to read in the wee hours of this morning.

For it is in this context that we face each day, each new trial, each new task, each new thing that we have done and what we have left undone, and for which we repent. For empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can please God: we can possess wisdom and understanding and insight, we can discern when we have sinned, we can be warned not to go that route or pursue that plan, we can love the loveless, we can forgive those who revile and persecute us and say terrible things about us, we can provide for the widow, the orphan and the strangers in their distress, we can resist the temptation to be angry, to be fearful, to be greedy. For we can “ do all things through Christ who strengthens me (us)”.

And even more importantly we can pray, and we can take action, to promote righteousness and seek Justice for all. To the glory of God, in and through Christ Jesus. For we are people who know that the unseen God is with us, and in us, in all situations, be they consequential – the Pandemic, or ( seemingly) inconsequential -what we decide to read or watch or listen to.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church beginning with those who fix their eyes on what is unseen and not on what is seen; Lord renew thy church the church may renew the nation(s) whose citizens are held captive by the immediate, and the measured, and by what they can see, and touch and feel, and fashion in their own minds – the temporary and not the eternal.

Pray for a church whose members “ always carry around in their bodies the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ may be revealed in them”. 2. Cor. 4.

THURSDAY’S EMAIL TO CHURCH LEADERS

https://youtu.be/h1c3m8mRb8g

This song ought to be come an “ anthem” for us at all times, but especially in these unusual times, when the nation and indeed the entire world is under siege from this multi-headed hydra like virus; now alpha, then delta and only God He knows what next! In the midst of this time of great suffering and anxiety, even dread, and confusion,  we are  called to cherish in hearts, words and thoughts and songs which are pleasing to the God of all mercy. Who only, ultimately,  can rescue a nation and a world from this pestilence.

But this God of mercy speaks to us, as he spoke to me, in the early morning, when our slave forebears used to arise and pray, at minutes to 4:00 am just now.. From history:

THE WORD OF GOD

BETTER THAN “COOK FOOD”

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.””

Isaiah 55:1-5 NIV

STOP DOING ANY RESEARCH, JUST COME

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:6-9 NIV

AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION MANY ARE ASKING. SILENTLY!  WITH TEARS. IN THIS PANDEMIC. AND IN LIFE!

“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV

FIRE DEY A MUSS MUSS MUSS TAIL……

““But you—come here, you children of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! Who are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars?”

Isaiah 57:3-4 NIV

MERCY SAID NO. TO HUMBLE CALF!

“And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.””

Isaiah 57:14-21 NIV

DO WE REALLY KNOW THIS “ FATHER GOD”? THE GOD OF JUSTICE!

““Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Isaiah 58:1-12 NIV

NOT THE BEGINNING, BUT AN IMPORTANT SEGMENT OF THE HISTORY OF SALVATION

“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 59:12-21 NIV

COMMENT

This is the context in which we receive with grateful hearts, as “ all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, the gift of the Mighty Salvation in Christ Jesus. A Salvation which is a priori, Redemption. But given the history, at a lower level, much more. And which deep understanding  of this Mighty Salvation, we who are the body of Christ, are called to share with the whole wide world. Whether in a Pandemic or not! As empowered by this God of Jacob 

LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS – OBEDIENCE WITHOUT QUESTION AND WITHOUT FEAR, WITH LOVE AND HUMILITY

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:1-11 NIV

May this God, who speaks to and through me, in the early hours of the morning, renew his church, beginning with those “ who find themselves abiding in Christ, and Christ abiding in them”, and humble themselves in obedience to the God of mercy; may  this God of Jacob renew the church with His Spirit ( Will thou not turn again and quicken us O Lord, that thy people may rejoice in you) so that the church may renew the nation(s) in deep distress, ultimately due to disobedience to the Mighty Saviour.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Sent from my iPad

You can’t live without Oxygen! That’s what we learned at school, and what we read about this week in the newspapers. Oxygen is what the Creator God provides in abundance on Planet Earth, and why, to date, this is the only one that we know is populated by human beings. Or for that matter, any living creature!

COVID-19 patients, when they get ill and have to go to hospital, invariably need extra Oxygen. Lots of it! For, as we all know by now, the lungs are targeted by this novel Corona Virus. They can’t breathe normal air. And if they do not get the extra Oxygen they will die. The front page of the Daily Gleaner today carries a story which suggests that eight people died over last weekend when the Oxygen level in the hospitals ran low. This amidst claims and counter claims, and then finally some agreement of the role that the only supplier of medical grade Oxygen, IGL, and the health officials, played in the development of the crisis. And the, so far, temporary, as the largest public hospital, KPH ran low again on Oxygen yesterday, resolution of the crisis.

https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20210904/baby-when-oxygen-coming

This is the story of a nation in crisis. Not similar in terms of numbers, to what we read about during the first wave which devastate Europe, especially Italy – which had to lock down the entire country – and France. But the terror that has come over Jamaicans is palpable. And driving more and more people out of the vaccine hesitant corner into the “ I need to get my vaccine right now”. But in many cases, the lines are long and far from home, and it requires them to reach the center at “ungodly hours” in the early morning to have a chance of getting the precious vaccine.

And yet, in the midst of the Pandemic as Jamaican’s, in their inimitable style would say “ Murder still a kip”. Again, this is what I read about what men are doing in my newspapers this week, that four persons were murdered over the lockdown period this week.

https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20210904/lockdown-murders

This is a story then of a nation in crisis for more than one reason. This as we have one of the highest homicide rates in the entire world, and one of the lowest rate of vaccination in the Caribbean. We are struggling to keep the ship afloat! For even if we by some herculean national effort mange to achieve herd immunity by administering lots of vaccines, thee is no vaccine against murder. At least not what we read about what men are doing in the newspapers!

That’s why it is always good to turn to what the Bible says men ought to do. And in a few emails to my church this week, in the midst of the crisis, this is what I read bout in the Bible. What men ought to do!

SUNDAY BEFORE WORSHIP

Old Testament

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Two points came to mind as I read the Old Testament lesson above as I prepared to worship the Lord in His Sanctuary on a morning when all our hearts are troubled on account of the COVID-19 report yesterday.

One, that God has called those who He has rescued with a Mighty Salvation, Emancipation,a nation whose National Anthem is a prayer to this God, who is close at hand whenever we call on Him. Called us to be a wise and discerning people, a great nation, that reflects the sovereign nature of the God who we serve. So we are not called primarily to be a nation whose area code is 1-2-3, whose identity is reflected in how well our sportsmen and women perform on the international stage. We are not called to be a nation whose identity is reflected in how well known internationally is the name of Bob Marley, or by how our culture “ punches way above our weight “ globally. We were not rescued by a Mighty Salvation so that Jamaica could be known as a land of “ no problem”, or a land of sea, sand and sun. Nor were we called by God to be a nation internationally known for our coffee, rum and bauxite. Yes, these labels reflect our reality and many, many gifts, but primarily we were called to reflect the wisdom and discerning of a great God, who is with us.

Two, that if by obeying the commands and instructions the Lord our God has given us through the Law, which in and by ourselves we could not obey, the promise is so great, how much more does that promise mean when we accept the Atonement offered by Jesus the only Son of God on Calvary. For in Him alone are the righteous requirements of the Law fulfilled. So if while we were still sinners, God called us to reflect his glory and wisdom, how much more responsible are we who have received the Mighty Salvation in Christ Jesus. And in Him achieve holiness and righteousness and enter into a Covenant of Love and Mercy with this Almighty God: “ yet I can love thee too O Lord, almighty as Thou art, for thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart”.

I close with the thought that the role of the church, the called out people of God, the ecclesia, the remnant ( Rev. Grace’s constant reminder) in this troubled land, in this land of delta variant surge and murderer, blood is on your shoulder ( Buju Banton), to provide guidance and direction, and to reflect God’s presence and wisdom and discernment to a “ corrupt generation” is awesome. We dare not fail. Lest we hear those terrible words in the gospel:

“ These people worship me with lips but their hearts are far from me”.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church beginning with those who accept the responsibility of reflecting your wisdom and mercy and discernment at all times so that your Name may be glorified; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nations, who, without your wisdom and discernment, are battling this Pandemic, seeking peace in Afghanistan and trying to capture murderers in Jamaica.

EMAIL TO SOME CHURCH LEADERS – MONDAY

2:30 this morning, the Lord woke me up to read Psalm 111:10 “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. And brought into my consciousness Proverbs 1:7, “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despite wisdom and discipline”. For immediate reflection and to be inserted into the draft statement. And for further reflection Proverbs 1: 28-33. For sharing with the nation at another time, and which begins like this:

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—”

Proverbs 1:20-26 NIV

This, because as a nation we have no understanding of what God in Christ has done for us – a Mighty Salvation. Rather than suffer from the wrath of God, which makes men stagger. A thought for a blog at another time. And who knows maybe this weekend!

TUESDAY

The Gospel

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Immediately on reading the verse highlighted above, this song, words which reveals one of the great mysteries and tragedies of life, came into my heart.

From : “ My song is love unknown,

my Saviour’s love to me,

love to the loveless shown,

that they might lovely be….

Why, what has my Lord done?

What makes this rage and spite?

He made the lame to run,

he gave the blind their sight.

Sweet injuries!

Yet they at these

themselves displease,

and ‘gainst him rise.

A great mystery indeed, as even in these times, perhaps especially in these times, the ‘rage and spite’, shown in what people have done and left undone, against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Crucified One, continues. In common action by mankind, and by the the philosophies and institutions of this world

Which brings to mind, even in these Corona times, the words of another hymn:

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown….

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word that should set they people free;

but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore thee to Calvary:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus;

there is room in my heart for thee.

Many years ago, Rev. Kuck, when asked after Good Friday Celebrations and the glorious Easter, posed a question in his sermon. After Easter, what next? His response! Back to Good Friday.

The reality then is that we are always living in Good Friday times, together with the Glorious Easter times, until our Lord comes again. Men and women in what Peter called this “ corrupt generation” will always reject the Good News of Salvation; and evil powers and principalities will always fight against the church militant. But thank God for Jesus, the Crucified and Resurrected One, whose purpose is to “ bring new life into all things ( Communion Prayer), we are on the winning side, in all things. In all circumstances. Even in the midst of the Pandemic when simple men and women reject the wisdom of taking the vaccine, and accept all kinds of conspiracy stories, over good news. Or give credence to the message of the evil one who introduce fear and misgivings into their hearts. Those who forget or reject the Word of God that says:

“ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despite wisdom and discipline”. Proverbs 1:7

And further:

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—”

Proverbs 1:20-26 NIV

A Word from the Lord from the ages that speak to our current crisis. Not just in terms of the vaccine, but more importantly the Mighty Salvation offered, and accepted by our forebears, but with “ mocking scorn and crown of thorn”, in this age, largely, save for remnant, Jamaicans have been guilty of “ bearing Jesus and his Words” to Calvary, all over again, in the decisions they make, and the gods they follow……up in the hills and valleys partying. Beyond the shores, in the cays and in the boats, partying. Shunning the house of God, rejecting the Word of God, whilst embracing all kinds of philosophies that they have researched and found to be true and relevant. But now of of no use in this crisis!

But we are not daunted by all of this, as in God we trust for our Mighty Salvation. And so continue without ceasing to do good, to pray and to worship our God, and to give Him all the honor and the praise, and continue to spread the good news that Jesus saves. Even as people breathe their last breath, because the oxygen did not come in time. And cling to the hope that one fine day this too will pass, but be forever assured, that the Word of God will live forever. This as we pray the words fo the collective prayer of the worldwide Anglican Church for this week. A word in season!

The Collect

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In obedience. Peace.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church we beseech thee beginning with those who trust in you with all our hearts; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nations where people who confide in their own strength forsake your promise of mercy, in times of trouble.

THURSDAY

““Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.””

John 11:39-44 NIV

The inspiration to write this message started yesterday. On Facebook!

FACEBOOK

Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Even at this hour! And one of the God Friday songs, a part of a verse, says it well. In my #earlymorningdevotions. And so I write:

…a murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay…bun fyah for Jesus….call on Father God, they will say…..respect, they will say, but a Kartel #theworldboss dem defend A whole host of Jamaican youth, not just in #Gaza idolize this murderer because of his “wicked lyrics”, and will go to any extent, even “ over the hills and valleys”, not an easy road, to go and party, to hear de music; even in Corona times, when death stakes the nation. And not only “ in the ghetto”, a mother cries, but in Sav a ( unwise but otherwise wonderful human being from all reports) Nurse dies.

And the Jesus who is the Living Word, that was with God from the very beginning says to nation: “ The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline””. But we as our own “ big man and woman” and having “ researched the matter”, chose unwisdom, and chose our own understanding, and reject the Mighty Salvation that this Jesus offers. A matter of far greater importance than taking the vaccine. For herein is located the reason why Corona is here, and has caused so much havoc.

Good Friday is being played out all over again in the world. Not just Jamaica. This post modern world has rejected that which our forebears accepted. That which large swathes of Europe and America and Great Britain and Russia accepted at one time. But now gone with the wind. Literally! And replaced by “ broken cisterns that can hold no water”. And so the nation mourns because “ Muderer, blood is on your shoulder”, is an accusation leveled not just at Kartel by his peers, the jury, and acted upon by the Judiciary, sentencing, and not to have a cell phone in jail, but all who “ the Prince of Life they slay”. In their minds, their actions and the philosophy they espouse. Because of their research! Instead of like their grandmothers “ trusting in the Lord with all their hearts, and lean not their own understanding…..”. A complicated business isn’t it! Thank God for Jesus, he has shown that he is a God of mercy. Until judgement comes. Peace!

EARLY MORNING DEVOTIONS

Then, this morning, just now, I woke up and a song, based on the verse of Scripture quoted above, which came into my heart. That Jesus will rise again. That if we believe Him we will see the glory of God! That we who died in Him, and just like how he was raised from the dead, with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, we too now have eternal life. Therefore we ought to take off “ the grave clothes”. Which in essence is saying that our lives ought to reflect “ if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation….all things are being made new”.

It’s one thing however, to know the Scriptures, it’s another thing to live according to the Word of God, as believers in an unbelieving world, which has largely “ a murderer they save, the Prince of life they slay”.

Listen to the hymn writer again, as the noise of the world, the urgency of the moment, the crisis on the land, overwhelms our senses, and stirs us to action, and allow the still small voice of God, to penetrate “ even to dividing soul and spirit”. In the soul of the hymn writer and in our very souls also:

…..O who am I,

that for my sake

my Lord should take

flail flesh and die

The reality is, as we trust in God who enables us to “ take off the grave clothes in Christ and Him Crucified”, is that only two things really matter in life. One, Good Friday, and thus we ought to spend quality time, and our lives ought to reflect the intensity of that constant reflection, brooding on what happened on the Cross of Calvary. Really, who am I, that for my sake the Living God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, where airplanes fly miles up in the sky, and the Sea and all that is in it, where fish swim deep in the ocean, should die? Who really am I? Such love…as another hymn writer declares. Such love indeed! This single reality is what inspired the entire life of Saint Paul. Listen to Him again:

“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV

And again:

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

Which then, as the end of the passage of Scripture above,leads us to the second reality. Easter! Yes, the glorious Easter. And so as quoted before, Rev. Kuck in a profound word years ago, spoke an eternal truth; we exist, those of us who have taken off the grave clothes, in an never ending circle of living our lives according to the death of Christ, and yet according to the glorious resurrection of Christ. And so St. Paul shares this revelation in a famous prayer:

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

2 Corinthians 4:10-12 NIV

This is the framework that guides all of history, ever since the birth and then death and resurrection of Christ. BC and AD! And therefore where we locate the Pandemic of Murder. The Pandemic of Corona. The Pandemic of Sin and its many consequences. For a world which has not yet “ taken off grave clothes”, and people who are alive but still dead in their sins, will produce all kinds of evil. And terror!

The challenge then for us,the constant challenge, is found in the words of another hymn:

O let me feel thee near me:

the world is ever near;

I see the sights that dazzle,

the tempting sounds I hear;

my foes are ever near me,

around me and within :

but, Jesus, draw thou nearer,

and shield my soul from sin.

( From O Jesus I have promised, to serve thee to the end)

I am tempted to write more. But this is enough to stimulate our minds, and commit God’s Words shared, to memory. And as James wrote, not to be simply to be gazed on, but to stir us to action. I close with the words of another hymn. Familiar words to many of us. This, as we gaze upon the Cross of Jesus, and celebrate the glorious Easter that empowers us to “ take off the grave clothes”: Of fear and doubt and impatience and disbelief, and unwisdom! Whether in Corona times! Or in times of “ Murderer; blood is on your shoulder”.

3 Nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to the cross I cling;

naked, come to thee for dress;

helpless, look to thee for grace;

foul, I to the fountain fly;

wash me, Savior, or I die.

And then Jesus says to us, the Easter People, “……. you will see the glory of God”. Even in the midst of grief and pain and sorrow, and seemingly no end to absolute terror and extension of no movement days. And “ escape from Afghanistan”!

Peace. In obedience.

LWJ

Good Lord we beseech thee to renew thy church beginning with those who believe that in Christ you have taken off their grave clothes; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) where people live in grave clothes, and in the shadow of death ( Benedictus).

On the night before he died…so that we might “ take off our grave clothes”.

What did I read in my newspapers this week, about what men are doing? What caught my eye? The third and most dangerous surge in the number of people infected with the novel Corona Virus, occasioned by the Delta variant – the latest of the many mutations so far. People, many people, many well known people, many whose names do not make the news, have died. Alone! No relatives. No comfort from a priest. Only God and tearful health care workers. Yes, the hospitals are overrun with people seeking help from the dreadful plague. Yes, the doctors and the nurses and all the members of the health team are tired. Physically and emotionally, as they try their best to help. And yet many people are dying. Day after day!

Yes, the arguments continue. Do I take the vaccine? What if it causes me harm! What if it does not protect me? Which one is the best, or better one? Should I wait for another one? What if I join the line, and “ bungle up” with other people and catch COVID”? Shouldn’t the government make it mandatory and ensure that we are all protected and thus reach herd immunity and get back to normal. Quickly!

The surge is truly on

And in the midst of the discussions, people continue to die, in record numbers, driving “the fear of God”, into the hearts of many people, who are now clamoring for the vaccine.

Yes, the vaccines and the protocols may help us to defeat this pestilence on the nation and on the world. But where is the vaccine for the wickedness in our hearts which has occasioned the violent deaths of so many of our people, year after year, for many years, long before COVID-19. With no end in sight. And so the land mourns! Without ceasing.

Here are the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates:

  1. El Salvador (82.84 per 100k people)
  2. Honduras (56.52 per 100k people)
  3. Venezuela (56.33 per 100k people)
  4. United States Virgin Islands (49.26 per 100k people)
  5. Jamaica (47.01 per 100k people)
  6. Lesotho (41.25 per 100k people)
  7. Belize (37.60 per 100k people)
  8. Saint Vincent And The Grenadines (36.46 per 100k people)
  9. Saint Kitts And Nevis (34.23 per 100k people)
  10. South Africa (33.97 per 100k people)

UN Study

The excitement of the duel between Shelly and Elaine! Everyone who did not know the double Olympic champion, 100 and 200 W, in 2016 in Brazil, is suddenly cheering on Elaine, as much as they have been rooting for Shelly, the crowd favorite, for years. This as #FastElaine has now established herself, after the stellar performance in #Tokyo2020, #doubledouble as arguably the greatest female sprinter in all of history. A title previously, in the minds of of journalists and Jamaicans, reserved for #MommyRocket Shelly Ann. So what an excitement this past week, as Elaine won in record time in Eugene Oregon in the USA, and then Shelly reigned supreme in Lausanne, Switzerland. With Shericka completing the now famous 1-2-3 in both races, and thus placing herself in the record books also.

Life could not be better, couldn’t it! Until first, storm Grace came and “ mash up the place”. And now we are just recovering from storm Ida. Truly, and literally “ trouble don’t set like rain”, as Corona, and other disasters, have taught us. Thank God that Elaine and Shelly and Shericka, all three give glory to God for their success. I hope in the midst of the hype, we hear them glorifying God.

Flooding caused by storm Ida

So what in the midst of the storms of life, and the excitement on the track, did I read about in the Bible, that men ought to do. In good times and in times of trouble!

FIRST LETTER TO MY CHURCH – SUNDAY MORNING

Woke up with this wonderful song in my heart. A hymn that has been with me through deep waters! And words which reflect the essence of our faith:

Hark, my soul! It is the Lord,

‘Tis thy Saviour, hear His word;

Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee –

“Say, poor sinner, lov’st thou Me?

Comment: Oswald Chambers whose meditations I read every night, for years now, before going to bed, once wrote that Mary Magdalene, who famously searched for Jesus after the Crucifixion, “ They have taken away my Lord”, couldn’t come near to any Pharisee when it came to knowing the doctrine of the time. But what was more important is that she loved Jesus. And Jesus knew she loved him! So after we have understood, and the second verse gives an insight why, and even taught (and even write often to the church) some of the mysteries of our faith, only one thing matters. Not how often we attend service and take part in Holy Communion, as important as that activity is! Not that we seek after Righteousness and do Justice on the behalf of the church or even God, as important as that mandate is! Not that we go to the uttermost ends of the world proclaiming the gospel, as important as that command is! But that we, ‘poor sinners ‘ love Jesus. With all our heart and mind and soul. Which is exactly, just came to my mind, the accusation leveled against first, of seven letters to church in the book of Revelations.: “You have forgotten your first love”. The importance of this is huge. For the church and for the nation in these lockdown Corona Virus, murderous times. As people who love Jesus, “ ain’t no mountain that they will not climb, ain’t no vaccine they will not take on behalf of neighbor and nation and suffering world, nor any ocean too deep, nor any task too hard, nor any fear too large to contemplate, not any instruction too difficult”, that they won’t do, quickly and without complaining and grumbling and blaming others, because of this love for our Lord and Savior. All because “ say sinner lov’st thou me” is how the Lord calls us to share in this love. Not come because your are good and faithful and bright and committed and talented! But because you know that you are sinner in need of grace! Not come, because as Rev. Claude rightly discerned in the sermon this morning, because we are in spiritual warfare against “ evil forces, and principalities and powers”, as important as that reality is. But first come, because we are sinners in need of grace. Then empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, after “ waiting on power from on high” we can go out and do all kinds of wonderful things, in the power of the Spirit and to the glory of God and the building up of His kingdom. Otherwise as Paul warned in the letter to the church in Colossae, we will “ lose connection with the head”, who is Christ and Him Crucified. An eternal danger against which we must fight valiantly.

“I delivered thee when bound,

And when wounded, healed thy wound;

Sought thee wand’ring, set thee right,

Turned thy darkness into light.

Comment: The Word of God, in so many ways, speaks to this central issue of our faith. Once lost. Now found. Once separated from God, without God and without Hope. But now in Christ Jesus the Crucified, Resurrected and Ascended One. Helpless, look to you for grace…says another song writer famously:

Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress,

Helpless, look to Thee for grace:

Foul, I to the fountain fly,

Wash me, Savior, or I die

And yet another reminds us that:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

fast bound in sin and nature’s night……my chains fell off, my heart was free.

I rose, went forth and followed thee.

One of the challenges, and Rev. Claude again was right on target, is to understand, and take action accordingly and consistently, that Christians face in this age, is the subtle, for the most part vis a vis the open confrontation and persecution of the past, temptation to “ give over our hearts and minds “ to evil forces. In what we read, what we listen to, what we watch and eventually share with others. Fake news that ultimately gets into our souls and causes us to forget about the mighty Salvation wrought by Jesus Calvary. In that context. Then , it is critical that we allow the hymns of the church to guard our souls against evil by reminding us, inter alia, of where we were before we met Christ. And why we should love him so much. Say sinner, lov’st thou me!

“Can a woman’s tender care

Cease towards the child she bare?

Yes, she may forgetful be,

Yet will I remember thee.

Comment: Biologically it is impossible for me to identity with this verse. Only vicariously through the eyes and heart of my wife, and the many mothers whose heartbreaking stories I have had the privilege of listen to, and praying for healing. “ She has cancer doc?”….”yes”! And it’s not good”…..” “So it is only a matter of time then?”……..” I don’t know, God can do all kinds of things, that is his business”. Then I placed her name and the child’s name on my prayer list. And prayed for mercy! For the child who the mother loved so much. And God loves us so much more than any mother, as he created us in his own image and likeness. And died for us on Calvary! Even when we were still sinners…his enemies in our hearts. “Then why O Blessed Jesu Christ should I not love thee well?”…asks another song writer…”not for the sake of winning heaven nor escaping hell”. Not for the sake of defeating Corona or Murder or correcting #wrongaddresses or helping a modern who child has cancer. Just “ say poor sinner lov’st thou me?

“Mine is an unchanging love,

Higher than the heights above;

Deeper than the depths beneath,

Free and faithful, strong as death.

Comment: Death as many have written is so final. No repentance beyond the grave…perhaps not entirely true…but that’s not the point here. But that God’s love is unchanging. Even when we mess up, bad bad. Not to taken for granted, as one of the challenges we face in this dispensation is “ Counterfeit grace”. Rev. Claude’s fake news people. Those who speak about God’s mercy and omit his wrath triggered by sin and injustice and disobedience. Which was fully expressed on the cross. Grace and wrath. AS sin cannot be tolerated by a holy God. And all have sinned! So God in His mercy, substituted his only Son, to pay the penalty …… when God his Son not sparing ……I scarce can take it in…says another hymn writer …for my sins. And yours! And if God’s love is with us, even at the grave, that love is with us in the face of COVID and the fears of the vaccine, and the gunman and cancer and and manner of things which come against us in this “ corrupt generation “. Including Hurricanes and earthquakes. That’s what he say when “ say poor sinner, lov’st thou me” makes a claim on us.

“Thou shalt see My glory soon,

When the work of grace is done,

Partner of My throne shalt be;

Say, poor sinner, lov’st thou Me?”

Comment: As I get older I fully understand that my time here left on this earth, is much less than the time I have lived so far. But what is ahead is eternity! The unknown if you don’t know God. But if you do, then “partner of the throne of Jesus” awaits us. If we share in his sufferings! That’s why St Paul wrote these words:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. To share in the fellowship of his suffering,becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to achieve resurrection from the dead….from memory. Hope I am correct. Philippians. So one day the work of grace is going to come to an end. Sooner or later. For all of us. And then it’s either “ young ones or chickens”. That’s why Jesus constantly says to us, “ say sinner lov’st thou me”. As if not on his throne, it is elsewhere that we will spend eternity. Not a time then for making any mistakes, and run the possibility of being accused of forgetting our first love. Because we loved something here on earth, or someone. More than Jesus! Whether parents or children or grandchildren or spouse. Or perish the thought, our bank account!

Lord, it is my chief complaint

That my love is weak and faint;

Yet I love Thee, and adore,

Oh, for grace to love Thee more!

If it were left to Sister Grace, Rev. Doctor Georgia Cecile Jervis this verse would become national prayer. For, “ O for grace to love thee more”, is the proper response to Jesus’ “ say sinner lov’st thou me. For we all know by now, and the gospel reading for this morning reminds us, “ that no one can come to the Jesus, except the father draws him”. Convicts us of sin! Flesh and blood cannot help us here. Which is exactly what Jesus revealed to us in the gospel. The flesh is useless. The Spirit gives life. And the words I have given you are spirit and they are life. I would recommend that you read the gospel for today again. This as we ponder on the reality that Jamaica’s positivity rate is now over 40%. And that we are on the brink of disaster as only God’s love and mercy can help us. Who knows, that this is one of the lessons, as a nation, taught by the church, that we need to take away from this terrible plague. That all of us ought to ponder on “ say poor sinner lov’st thou me”.

Peace. In obedience. May the Lord renew his church beginning with those who love him with all their hearts; may you O Lord grant us the grace to love thee more day by day, so that a renewed church may help to renew the church in Jamaica, Haiti and Afghanistan, the USA, the UK and across the world. Amen

Escape from Afghanistan

SECOND LETTER TO MY CHURCH

Woke up this morning with “ O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end”, in my heart.

O Jesus, I have promised

  To serve Thee to the end;

Be Thou forever near me,

  My Master and my Friend;

I shall not fear the battle

  If Thou art by my side,

Nor wander from the pathway

  If Thou wilt be my Guide.

2

Oh, let me feel Thee near me;

  The world is ever near;

I see the sights that dazzle,

  The tempting sounds I hear;

My foes are ever near me,

  Around me and within;

But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,

  And shield my soul from sin.

3

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking,

  In accents clear and still,

Above the storms of passion,

  The murmurs of self-will;

Oh, speak to reassure me,

  To hasten, or control;

Oh, speak, and make me listen,

  Thou Guardian of my soul.

4

O Jesus, Thou hast promised

  To all who follow Thee

That where Thou art in glory

  There shall Thy servant be;

And Jesus, I have promised

  To serve Thee to the end;

Oh, give me grace to follow,

  My Master and my Friend.

5

Oh, let me see Thy footmarks,

  And in them plant mine own;

My hope to follow duly

  Is in Thy strength alone.

Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,

  Uphold me to the end;

And then in heaven receive me,

  My Savior and my Friend

I am not going to go through the song in detail as I did yesterday. Not led in that direction. Just to reinforce the importance of the hymns of the church vis a vis gospel music of the day. They have different roles. One, the latter, is to set the stage for worship, and touch the hearts of unbelievers. The other, the former, is for discipleship: a deeper understanding of our faith.

For me, I was led to ponder on the words of the hymn in the context of the challenging sermon delivered in obedience by Rev. Claude yesterday – if you missed it you can listen, or listen again on the Youtube link.

https://youtu.be/xDYXYMW_JPs

The reality is that we really are in a war. And in this war we have no hope of winning unless by grace “ we follow Jesus”. “ My hope to follow is in they strength alone. Oh, guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end; and then in heaven receive , My master and my friend”. Reference here to the Gospel reading that “ No one can come to me ( Jesus) unless the Father daws him”.

And we desperately need to “ put on Christ”, who is the full armor of God, in the struggle, not against flesh and blood, for our hearts and minds, but against powers and principalities and evil. And as Rev. Claude highlighted, the messages from these evil powers are all about fake news. To let us live in fear and doubt and without hope. To tempt us to be satisfied with what this world offers, and forget about “ and then in heaven receive me”. To lead us to deny that Christ is the only way to know the Father and to receive the Mighty Salvation offered on Calvary. To lead us astray and to forget our first love. To make us believe that we can manage on our own and without each other. “ You pray for me, I pray for you…agree with me….. stand with me….we need each other to survive “ writes the gospel song writer. To lead us into a comfort zone where we forget the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 84 yesterday:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Psalms 84:1-2 NIV

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.”

Psalms 84:3-4 NIV

I stayed home yesterday and worshiped online with my wife. A very strange experience for me as save for one Sunday, I have been privileged to worship in church during the 18 months so far of the pandemic. And only because I chose to do so! My heart longed to be in church, in the courts of the living God. My soul longed for Holy Communion. And so I prayed that the Lord would remove this plague so that one fine day, soon I hope, we shall all gather together with joy, to worship God in His temple. Yes I know the theology, that the church is a building and not the essence of the church. But that was of no comfort to me, and there is a reason why for 300 years , virtually non-stop, we have been worshiping at St. Andrew Parish Church.

So back to the war! Rev. Claude rightly divined that in this war we have weapons. Faith, the Word of God, Salvation, Truth, Peace and prayer – in the spirit. Weapons that according to St. Paul, the world does not fight with nor have. Weapons that have the divine power to demolish strongholds. Weapons that can demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Weapons that enable us to take captive every thought and make them obedient to Christ ( 2. Cor. 10:3-6.

Therefore we are not at the mercy of fake news about the Corona Virus, and the prevailing wind of vaccine hesitancy resulting in untimely and unnecessary death by this plague that has come to “steal, and kill, and if we allow it, to also destroy”. We are not at the mercy of blandishments to engage in “ mindless watching of Television”, or forever seeking entertainment, whether in watching sports or listening to popular music. All useful gifts from God; the creativity of mankind! But not to be pursued in wild abandon when the times call for serious praying in the spirit, for calling upon the God who can do abundantly more than we ask or imagine, for lying down flat on our bellies, before the sanctuary of God, and appealing for mercy and grace, in times of great disaster.

Memories of “ let my people go” entered my mind this morning before I started my early morning devotions, and I wondered why. What was the connection to my experience today, when I should be going to work, to care for the sick and comfort the grieving and pray for the lost, but now under lockdown orders? Under lockdown because there is no Moses in the land. No Elijah. No praying without ceasing by the church, in the spirit – in purity and holiness – to an Almighty God, to set the captives free. Instead like in the days of Hosea:

“Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.”

Hosea 4:1-3 NIV

You say it’s not true. But flesh and blood did not tell me these things. This is not something that I could sit down and write on my own. I even thought about whether or not this was too harsh a Word. But who am I to comment on what the Lord instructs me to write.

O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end! If you are comfortable at home worshiping God, while the Psalmist and the sparrows hunger and thirst for the temple of the Living God, I fear that the powers and principalities are getting to you. If you are busy making yourself comfortable at home when a raging pandemic and raging gunmen pose a very real and present existential threat to the nation, I fear you are not putting on the full armor of God. If you are not part of the solution to the crisis we face, by protecting yourself and your neighbor from the marauding delta variant, with the vaccine, any one of them, I fear that you have become part of the problem.

O let me hear thee speaking, above the storms of passion and the murmurs of self will. O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control; O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.

I write out of my own struggles to resist the urge to spend time watching Netflix during this lockdown period. To resist reading a very exciting book, you remember the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, yesterday on a Sunday, when I ought be spreading quality time with family and with God. And planning to rescue people from death and injuries on our roads. Especially in this lockdown time, crying out for mercy. So let us not,as the saying goes, make the good an enemy of the best. As the best, and immediate concern at this point in our history, is to respond to Jesus the Crucified one who asked Peter famously , “ say sinner lov’st thou me”. And Peter answered famously, “ Lord you know I love you”. And what did Jesus say: “ feed my sheep”.

Oh Jesus I have promised, to feed thy sheep……I shall not fear the battle ..with powers and principalities, if thou art by my side. In times of COVID. In times of murder and murder most foul. In times of injustice in the land. But I cannot do so unless, Oh Jesus “ draw thou nearer and shield my soul from sin”.

Final thoughts. Not revelation. In the old and early days of the church, when persecution was the norm, loving Jesus for his sake alone was what kept the church pure. In today’s age, when overt persecution is not the norm, we need to understand better our faith, lest we forget to love Jesus for his sake alone. The hymns of the church I believe are sent to do just that. We ought to spend quality time with them. And teach them to our children; when they sit down and when they rise up. Otherwise the X Box and other games will become their temple at which they worship, and when they grow up, wild animals will attack them and they will have no defense.

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV

O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end….O give me grace to follow, my master and my friend.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church beginning with those who ask for grace, and who hunger and thirst for you, to follow you to the end; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nations under attack from evil powers and principalities – for their minds and hearts. Pray that thy word sent out by your servant Claude may not return to you void but achieve the purpose for which you sent it. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

THIRD LETTER TO MY CHURCH

Yesterday I was led to post the first message below on Facebook. The context was the need for us to use the gift that the vaccines are, to fight against this plague which is wreaking so much havoc in the nation. And the first part of the quote from James reminds of on our responsibility as Christians, who love and follow Jesus to always remember the poor and the needy – social justice. There is however a second part to the quote from James; “ to keep oneself unstained by the world”. After the posting on facebook I had in mind to develop further on that command. But the inspiration was not there, so I waited. Until this morning it came as I read the gospel below in for Sunday in my early morning devotions. Jesus provides us with a list of things that will overtake us, if we depend on our own strength and traditions, human wisdom – like the Pharisees – rather than on the Mighty Salvation that He offers in his “ flesh and in his blood” – real food that leads to eternal life.

I was startled by the accusation , referencing Isaiah, about hypocrites, and troubled by his words: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

I pray God that we never become so comfortable with our traditions and doctrines, and lose the sense of utter dependence on the Lord ( My help, all of my help, comes from the Lord, is still ringing in my head, as the song came into my heart this morning). Whether in good times or in terrible times like this pandemic! And place ourselves in a position where we may stand accused, not by Isaiah, but by Jesus Himself. For that which is in our hearts, as sinful mankind, can only come out, really and truly, by fasting and praying and repentance with loud cries and tears as we accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus, the Crucified One. And be free from being stained by the world, And look after widows and orphans in their distress.

Peace and in obedience.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church beginning with those who acknowledge the wickedness that lies in our hearts and turn to Jesus and repent; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nations where there so much evil and wickedness in the hearts of so many. Towards neighbor and towards you O God! In what we have done and left undone. Mercy!

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1: 27. Extract from one of the readings from the Word of God in the worldwide Anglican Church for Sunday coming.

What is the greatest immediate threat to orphans and widows and the marginalized and the poor and the vulnerable – in so many ways – in Jamaica today? Murder comes close! But the #1 very real and present danger is hospitalization and death from the delta variant ( and if we are not careful there is worst to come). And what’s the best way of caring for them? Is it not to so organize our society that we achieve herd immunity; or at least as close as possible. And what’s the best and most rapid way of achieving that goal? Is it not to take the vaccine, protect ourselves and prevent the virus from multiplying exponentially – it may get in our system but not able to multiply as much – and going on to infect others; and also not form more variants

And also to encourage as many persons as possible, and their children above 12, to take the vaccine.

The Collect ( The collective prayer for Sunday)

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

May this God, the giver of all good things, grant us wisdom to rightly discern the meaning of true religion, to His glory and the rescuing of our nation.

#EarlyMorningDevotions

The Gospel

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV

This morning after celebrating a major milestone in my life yesterday, and celebrating with family last night, I am led to look at the rear view mirror first, before looking ahead, in the blog for this weekend,. This, as I contemplate not only my own life, but the challenge that reading what the newspapers told me men were doing in country this week. And indeed around the world!

TRIGGERING THE SEVEN DAY LOCKDOWN

Consequently, what the Bible told me what men ought to do, even now as my country faces a #7DayLockDown – three next week, three the following week, and one at the start of the third week – is of primary importance. Even now, as the Taliban, with their dreaded Sharia law, threatening to eviscerate the gains made by women, and their desire for vengeance against those who sided with the “infidels”, the Americans, now hiding in fear, and being hunted down door by door.

FLEEING FROM THE TALIBAN

As a child, growing up in the country, life was not idyllic, but pretty close. You could walk freely at nights. Alone! Man or woman. Girl or boy. And not be afraid. Except for the dreaded “ rolling calf” or “duppy”! Evil spirits. There was no murder in my community. Not even the thought of it. If fact there were few accounts of homicide in the entire island. And if so, it was a “ big thing”. We had no electricity. No telephones. No running water. No inside toilets. No grills. Only “ hold dawg”! But most people went to church on Sunday. And almost everybody had a Bible in their house. And read it!

The we “ made progress”, as a nation and as a world. Now we have arrived! Everybody has a cell phone. We are all constantly connected to each other by WhatsApp, Facebook, IG, and Twitter. If there is a power outage, for any reason whatsoever, for anytime at all, doesn’t matter, storm or strike or failed technology, it’s a major disaster in our lives. No WiFi . No Netflix. No immediate connection to Abu Dhabi ( do you know where that it?) And the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Dean Daddy Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle, has been left behind, by so many of us, as “ back n the days”. So now we have a Pandemic of all kinds of illnesses: AIDS, COVID, and a Pandemic of Homicide, and a Pandemic of Refugees seeking Asylum all over the world, and a Pandemic of Squatter Settlements thrown up as the “ jetsam and floxam” of a capitalist system according to a former ArchBishop of Canterbury.

This is the context, the lens through which we need to view and try to make sense of the prediction of 200 person dying from COVID in Jamaica. All because we have become largely an unruly, and in some instances, an ungovernable people, who dont “ tek no telling from anyone”. And why the government has had to take the extreme measures of “ locking down the nation”, even whilst defending ( Daily Gleaner Headlines) its controversial decision to allow the beleaguered entertainment sector to “ open up”, and in the minds of some, contributed to the surge we are now experiencing. This is the prism through which light must be shun on the reality that Jamaica has one of the highest murder rate/100,000 population in the entire world. And where a convicted murderer, Vibz Kartel, the acclaimed and perhaps even self styled, world boss of the dance hall genre of music , still enjoys huge popular support and access to a television station in America, whilst in high security lock up.

I don’t know where this, Jamaica land we love under siege, is going to end up. But what I do know, is that unless we once again begin to trust the God of all creation, it will not end well. Neither for us, nor our children now and to come. And not for Haiti. Not for Afghanistan.Not for mighty, for now, America, nor Europe. For no country of God’s good earth! As one fine day, there will be a accounting. A judgement! And what I do know, it that this God who we serve, will relent from sending disaster, if we, the baptized, the Light and Salt in any Nation, appeal to Him in Christ Jesus. For Mercy!

This is the context in which I offer you what I read what men ought to do in the Bible this week:

MONDAY

Woke up this morning with a song in my heart. And went and spent time with this famous song. About God’s faithfulness! In making the sun shine again and wakening us up once again, even in the midst of the death and injuries caused by the earthquake in Haiti, and equally so the military and political earthquake in Afghanistan. Why! A great mystery. The suffering of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary for our sins, is also a great mystery. But this we know:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

sun moon and stars in their courses above,

join with all nature in manifold witness

to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

all I have needed thy hand has provided,

great is thy faithfulness Lord, to me.

Yes, God is faithful to those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ! But he also “ makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust”. Let us then, at the very least, “ consider all the world thy hands has made”, and wonder at “ How Great thou art”. This God “ His Son not sparing sent him to die…bled and died to take away my sin”. In Jamaica, in Haiti and in Afghanistan

WEDNESDAY – EDITED

I do not understand everything about the Lord. But I know that things that happen in my life are not determined by coincidence. So please help me to pray! And as I opened my iPad this message came up as a Word for the day:

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

Matthew 6:7-8 KJV

First last night, this plea, this message was posted on Twitter:

At 302 road deaths, with a fatality rate of 1.32 deaths per day on the year, with 137 days left in the year, with a top-end projection of 483 total. There are 181 people alive now who will be dead by December 31 – from @MGIMona Dr. Parris Lyew-Ayee Jnr. Unless we act quickly

Then Chris Tiegreen offered up these words of wisdom for my consideration during my bedtime devotions:

GOD’S AUTHORITY

Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. Acts 5:16

God has not worked so clearly in every age of church history. We wish the miracles of Acts were an everyday experience, but they are rarer than we hoped. We long for God’s power to be visible all the time in miraculous ways.

Or do we? We forget that these early days were more than about miracles. Yes, the onlooking world was drawn to Christians, but that was not a one-dimensional attraction. Before the miracles of Acts 5, there was the persecution of Acts 4 ( Maybe we ought to view the Pandemic through this kind of lens…before Corona what was happening), and the harsh elimination of Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonesty before God ( Acts 5: 1-11). The believers were in awe of God, not just because He healed a few people, but because His presence defined their lives. And His presence was more than a supernatural sideshow; it was holiness and love, power and purpose, an overwhelming sense that they were under authority from above. We often long for God’s miracles without His holiness and authority. We are on a futile search for a one sided coin.

When God works in our lives visibly, it’s in His complete presence. He doesn’t show up in power without showing up in authority. His love and His holiness are inseparable. if we want God, we have to want all of Him……

Then this morning, just now, at 4:30 am, the Lord woke me up to read His Word. This after teaching me this week to say, “ Speak Lord for thy servant is listening”. And leading me to post this ( extract) on facebook:

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if to the end he befriend thee – from “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation”. What the Almighty can do according to Holy Scriptures is “ abundantly more than we can ask or imagine”. Pray that this King of Creation will assist us in this great task of defeating the Corona Virus so that, among other things, we may:

“ O My soul praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:

all ye who hear,

now to his temple draw near,

joining in glad adoration.

What Word? This one:

In my distress I called out to the Lord and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I cried for help, and you listened to my cry……

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

But with a song of thanksgiving I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord. And the Lord ( who can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine) commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah on dry land. Jonah 2:2 & 9-10.

THURSDAY

Old Testament

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

It’s not just Haiti! Or Israel at that time. Or some other country, that is guilty of syncretism. And consequently have suffered the wrath of God. In fact a verse from Shakespeare entered my head, but only vaguely from so far back. So I went and googled it like any true 21st century person:

Cassius:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

…….On another level this phrase has been interpreted to mean that fate is not what drives men to their decisions and actions, but rather the human condition.

And the human condition is what is addressed by Joshua in an extended reading of the alternative OT reading for Sunday. Instructions which we here in Jamaica, guilty of syncretism in various ways – calling on Father God, but mixed up with all kind of ancestral practices, at one level; and calling on the name of Jesus and mixed up with Satan, even in the church, at another level – need to consider deeply. For, alas herein, the seeds having been sowed, is the reason why wicked gunmen can snuff out the life of a young boy selling an IPhone, without mercy.

Listen as Joshua continues, and the narrative extends into the book of Judges, as the Word of God explains clearly the antecedents of the troubles that have descended on this fair isle, where once our slave forebears trusted in the God who rescued them from “ hands too strong for them”. In an act of “ mighty salvation’, known as Emancipation. And now, elements of this generation know neither the Lord nor what he has done for Jamaica land we love.

THE WORD OF GOD CONTINUED

“Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.” On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.”

Joshua 24:19-28 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/jos.24.19-28.NIV

THE WORD OF GOD CONTINUED

“The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’ ” When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord. After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.”

Judges 2:1-20, 22-23 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/jdg.2.1-23.NIV

The Judges died, but thank God for Jesus, our Redeemer lives. As all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of this God, and done wrong.

But according to the hymn writer this God in Christ Jesus has:

……that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

and has shed his own blood for my soul.

So that I can sing without reservation:

It is well with my soul;

it is well, it is well with my soul.

The challenge for us who have accepted, offered to all mankind, for God so loved the world, this free gift of a mighty Salvation, is to share the Good News in word and in deed. In Justice and in Righteousness. In acts of mercy and God grace. In our livity and in our speech. In Corona times and in gunman times. To the glory of God who rescued us from worshiping our ancestral gods, and “ worthless idols that cause us to forfeit the grace that could be ours” according to Jonah, unto the Kingdom of God and the Light of this world who is Christ and Him Crucified, Raised from the dead, Ascended into heaven and soon coming one fine day. So that we too may have eternal life, beginning right now…that moment receive ….How great thou art:

Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,

To every believer the promise of God;

The vilest offender who truly believes,

That moment from Jesus a pardon receives

And so we who have rescued by God, and saved from all who hate us, are mandated to go like John the Baptist and give light to then that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Not just from Corona and from the gunman but from eternal separation from this God, where it will not be well with their souls. For what shall it profit a man or a woman to celebrate as first priority or even along with the Christian faith, their ancestral gods, or their wildest dreams, and yet lose their very soul. Mercy!

In obedience

LWJ

FRIDAY

Last night my “ song in the night “ was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego. Babylonian name given to Daniel’s three companions from the house of Judah who had been captured by Nebuchanezzar, King of Babylon.

And this morning before I sat down in my early morning devotions to see what the Lord was saying to me in through His Word, the Benedictus came to mind. And this message in particular:

That we should be saved from our enemies: and from the hands of all that hate us;

To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers: and to remember the his holy Covenant;

To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham: that he would give us;

That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear;

In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our lives:…..

Now remember this, we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies by a mighty Salvation might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness, as we read about Daniel and his friends:

“In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods. Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my Lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams. At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.”

Daniel 1:1-21 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/dan.1.1-21.NRSV

Several things jumped out at me as I read these two passages of Holy Scriptures appointed for m this day:

⁃ that God’s promise to save us from all our enemies is eternal and unchangeable. That He is faithful. You can “ put your pot on fire” on his promises.

⁃ That God’s promise to remember His Covenant made with us is eternal and unmovable and unshakeable

⁃ That unless God had revealed Himself to Abraham and through him to all mankind we would never have known Him

⁃ that His promises are to be believed, and so we are called and empowered by God’s favor, as Daniel and his friends were in the first instance, to serve him without fear, and in holiness and Righteousness, which includes Justice, all the days of our lives.

However ultimately God’s promises, and favor and the revelation of Himself to us, are to the glory of God, fulfilled in Christ Jesus. And thus we say the “ Amen”!

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV

https://2corinthians.bible/2-corinthians-1-20

For even though the whole world remembers that Daniel was a man who could interpret dreams, and that God saved him from the lions and his friends from the fire, and that Daniel’s prophecies are real, coursing though all of this story, is The Mighty Salvation wrought in and through Christ Jesus. The Crucified One.

The Word “ favor” stayed with me. And I hope it will stay with you today. To the glory of God. For in the midst of the seven day lockdown, in the midst of a surge in the Pandemic, for whatever reason, in the midst of a surge in the incidence of murder, in the midst of all the immorality and injustice around us, if we chose to trust God, and refuse to “ eat at the Kings’ table”, a metaphor for “ doing what the world does, what the unbelievers do and enjoy”, then He will always show us favor. And grant us wisdom and knowledge and understanding unequalled in Christ, to His glory, and for the rescuing on this nation.

May this God of favor renew the church by those who trust in His mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead; may this God of Daniel, Hananiah,Mishael and Azariah, renew the church that the church may renew the nations mired in Sin, in COVID, in unbelief and in disobedience.

LONDON — Herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current spread of the Delta variant due to it still infecting vaccinated individuals, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group Andrew Pollard said Tuesday. 

Pollard, who was involved in the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, told the U.K.’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus that, unlike measles — where 95 percent vaccination of the population would stop transmission — the same couldn’t be said for coronavirus spread by the Delta variants. 

“That does mean anyone still unvaccinated at some point will meet the virus,” he warned. Pollard said that vaccines may slow the process of transmission, with data indicating that people who are vaccinated and test positive seem to be shedding the virus for a slightly shorter period of time. However, given the circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant vaccination wouldn’t stop spread altogether. 

In the midst of a surge of the novel Corona Virus infections in my country Jamaica, the above extract from Politico – an online British publication – is one of the main things that struck me as I read what men were doing this week. https://www.politico.eu/article/herd-immunity-not-a-possibility-with-delta-variant/

The implication of which comment from one of the leading scientists in the UK, is, as the Americans are wont to say, ‘ huge’. And three issues in particular came to mind. One, is that the received wisdom here, is that at some point in time, anyone who is unvaccinated will meet the virus. With possible devastating consequences! Two, is that, many of those who are Vaccine hesitant “ because the vaccine does not prevent you from getting the virus” will find additional material here to bolster their arguments. Three, that if we don’t achieve herd immunity, this pandemic ( with all its inherently anti-social protocols, that has and will continue to destroy livelihoods) will be with us for a long time. Thus increasing the possibility of further and more deadly variants ( mutations) emerging down the road. What a conundrum! Or as we would say in Jamaica, more descriptive but beyond the English language, what a prekeh”!

ANDREW POLLARD OF THE ASTROZENICA GROUP

So from where is the ‘salvation’ going to come? The best bet is to have some protection from the virus by getting the vaccine. At least, you won’t have to go to the hospital, you will not contribute to the overwhelming of the health sector, and you will not die. And, maybe, if we are all vaccinated, we can return to some level of normalcy in maintaining our livelihoods. These are indeed troubled times, as we continue, as a nation and as humanity, to swim in very uncharted waters.

And then I turned to my Bible and read what men ought to do. Pursue the Might Salvation offered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Crucified One. From whom, Father Son and Holy Spirit, comes all wisdom that “ passeth all human understanding”. No, that in my view, qualifies as “ huge”. Don’t!

And so I wrote. To my church. To a leader. And to my Facebook friends. About the Mighty Salvation and about God’s Wisdom. In troubled times! And in fact, at all times.

TO MY CHURCH

I was on my way to church yesterday when I heard the host of the Christian radio show on RJR, featuring interviews with Christian musicians, ask his guest this question: “ Any further thoughts as we close the show”? It was about 7:55 am. Church starts at 8:00 am sharp in these covid-19 restrictions times which has spawned streaming of services on the internet, all over the world . The answer stayed in my head for a while, and then surfaced again at the right time this morning as I write: “ Just to let everyone know that we cannot manage, and need to depend totally on God to sustain us”, was the answer! Which is in summary exactly what I was led to read about, and share, this morning as the Lord woke me up, gently, at 5:00 am.

The message began with Jacob Boeheme’s ON WAKING prayer

Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head during the long dark hours of night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. To you Lord I owe life itself…….

At which point, and mindful of the end of ON GOING TO WORK prayer:

……Above all, remind me constantly that I have nothing except what you give me, and can do nothing except what you enable me to do…….

I began reflecting on this awesome truth that we depend totally on God for life, and then the third verse of this powerful and very familiar hymn came to mind. But with a new appreciation that herein lies “ Christianity laid bare open “ for the faithful to see. For indeed, as the gospel for yesterday on Independence Sunday, most aptly revealed , and which was the text for “ humble calf suck the most milk”, Sister Andrea Taylor’s sermon, “ Well fed or fed up”, that , I am (as Moses was told by God) the Bread of Life.

Read the words of this hymn carefully, reflectively and prayerfully, in these troubled times as I wrote about on facebook last night, and then prayed to the God of all comfort, and you will indeed find rest for your souls. On this August morn!

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Here , O my Lord, I see thee face to face;

here faith would touch and handle things unseen;

here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace ( just awesome if you think about it, Holy Communion carefully),

and all my weariness ( abut this nation) upon thee lean.

Here would I feed upon the Bread of God ( and remember the promise of eternal life);

here drink with thee the royal wine of heaven; here would I lay aside each earthly load ( what an invitation);

here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven ( Mercy Lord, mercy)

I have no other help but thine;

nor do I need another arm save thine to lean upon:

it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed, my strength ( to love mercy, and do Justice, and to fight valiantly against evil, and even to have faith to trust you, “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief”) is in thy might, thy might alone.

Peace. In obedience.

LWJ

Lord renew thy church beginning with those who know they have no other help but thine; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) populated by people who trust in their own salvation, until disaster strikes, and then they find that they really have no strength at all.

TO A LEADER

. Old Testament

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

An extract from the Old Testament reading in the worldwide Anglican Church next Sunday offers a profound solution for a troubled land. In these surging Covid -19 times which call for balancing livelihoods and balancing lives! In these Gleaner headlines times of a 8 year child killed by marauding unfettered gunmen. And his Grandmother cries !

GRANDMA CRYING FOR BOJO

In these troubled times when people from #wrongaddresses cry out to God and the church for Justice. In these times of mayhem and public disorder on our roads. In these times when the church is struggling to remain relevant in a post modern society, and remain attractive at a time when there are so many cases of rape – Gleaner headlines today – and wrong doing by pastors.

A message again highlighted by the closing words of the Psalm so appointed:

Psalm 111

Confitebor tibi

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; *

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

ON FACEBOOK

The Epistle

Ephesians 5:15-20

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

One of the challenges that Christians, and everyone else, although they may not readily accept that reality, face, is to be( very) careful how we live, as we live in evil times: of murdering a 8 year boy, and raping a 12 year old girl, and partying all night while Corona rages. The Epistle, the NT reading for Sunday in my church above speaks to that issue. The why and the how are explained if you go back and read the context in which that revelation is made. However, the Gospel reading below offers us the ultimate solution for living carefully in these evil times – ever since creation, and the Fall of man in the garden of Eden:

The Gospel

John 6:51-58

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

The practical challenge that this passage of Scripture poses in this Corona surging lock down times, is how do Christians ensure that we are obedient to this command to feed regularly on Christ, Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, when only a limited ( down to 50 now) number of people can attend church. Rotation? Home visits by one empowered by the church? Breaking bread and drinking wine at home – very controversial? Drive through Communion – How would the Lord consider such an extreme action? Once a year, twice per year, four times a year Holy Communion? Does it matter if in your heart you “ hunger and thirst for Christ”, and seek to do Justice and love mercy aand thus walk humbly with your God? May God grant us His Wisdom on these things in these evil times.

ON TWITTER

For the word of God is living and active; penetrating even to to dividing soul and Spirit; judging the attitudes of the heart. Let us then approach the throne of grace, with confidence, in Christ, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. #Corona

Whether it be climate change, Injustice on a plane, or anywhere, a grandmother grieving for her #Bojo, Corona surging in a hotel or in a community or #dreaming Christians are at war. Thank God for the #MightySalvation Who is #ChristandHimCrucified our Captain in the struggle

Whether it be climate change, Injustice on a plane, or anywhere, a grandmother grieving for her #Bojo, Corona surging in a hotel or in a community or #dreaming Christians are at war. Thank God for the #MightySalvation Who is #ChristandHimCrucified our Captain in the struggle

INJUSTICE ON A PLANE

CLIMATE CHANGE