For years now, I’ve writing a Saturday morning blog. But tomorrow, July 4, in addition to being America’s “ birthday “, is Virtual Healing Conference Day. And I don’t know if I will have time to write. Perhaps that’s why the Lord placed the refrain of the song below, “ It is well with my soul”, in my mind early this morning. Not really a “ Song in the Night” as I was awake. But an important message nonetheless !
A question which arose this week, in retrospect, as a friend, a good friend, a colleague who had journeyed with all of us of the class of ‘76 in med school, for 42 plus another 5 years, died at his home in the USA. Not of COVID-19, but of another ailment. He knew that death was coming one day. So we had time to talk and to reason and to share. He had migrated after retiring, but we kept in touch, and whenever he came, he made sure to come by me. He died with his wife, a believing Christian woman, holding his hands while he took his final breath. She prayed. He listened. And that was it. Gone! And on his own to face the Creator. The Lord God Almighty!
Dr. Douglas Mossop
For the existential question, the great challenge that all of life poses, after you have done your bit, after you have become a father/mother and grandfather/grandmother even, of many, whether or not you have been blessed with children, whether or not your role in life has extended past your home, into the community, and has had a national and even international impact, the same question remains, “ Is it well with your soul’?
My friend was not famous. But Superintendent Clunis was. He was from all reports , highly regarded by his peers. He and his men made the news recently when gunmen with high powered weapons opened fire on his team who, armed with intelligence, went to capture these alleged criminals. Two policemen died on the spot. Superintendent Leon Clunis was shot multiple times, and was rushed to the hospital for urgent care. There was even a report that he had died! But by the grace of God and the skill of the doctors, he survived. Then suddenly disaster struck. For on the day he was to be discharged, with his wife and family outside waiting, no doubt with great joy and anticipation, to take him home, he collapsed, lost consciousness and died. What tragedy! What a shock! And now, only God in His mercy can offer comfort to that family. And he alone is now with his Creator. To be judged. “ For it is appointed for all men once to die and then the judgment “ – a Word from Holy Scriptures.
Tomorrow we shall hear a Word from the Lord about Healing of Relationships. A Word that shall no doubt touch our souls in nation where relationships are in desperate need of healing. A nation where the relationship between our men and their children and other women, the matter of sexual abuse of our women and young girls, is now a raging issue; stirred up by inappropriate comments made by a Minister, and for which an apology has been offered. A nation where the relationship between the governed and those who govern, is also a raging issue, as howls of protest have attended the latest revelations by a watchdog government agency that a former Minister at the very least ‘lacked good judgment” in actions taken, and worse displayed “ dishonesty “ in another case. A nation where communities are in turmoil, and relationship shattered. on account of gang related violence ; with revenge and retaliation prevented only by police and soldiers sent in to keep order by acts of SOE’S and ZOSO’s.
And thanks to the technology many Jamaicans living in the USA will tune in on Zoom, Facebook and YouTube to listen and watch in a nation under siege from COVID-19, a second wave after opening up too early and with less care than recommended. And a nation where at least some are wondering if America in this instance, at this time of crisis, would have been better off without a President! A thought which no doubt reflects the enormous chasm between the 45th and the ordinary American more mindful of survival than making America “ great” again! Or promoting white power or defending institutional racism.
The challenge is that whether you are a supporter of #BLackLivesMatter or White Power, individually or institutionally – which whether they accept it or not, is how, on the backs of enslaved Africans, Europe, in large measure, not only built their societies, but according to Walter Rodney, “ underdeveloped Africa”, one day, one fine day, this question will arise, “ Is it well with your soul”?
And the same question will apply if you are Laborite or Comrade. Chinese or Buju Banton browning! Natural or the ones who “ rub”! Indian or Negro! Live in Norbrook or between #BullBaytoSixMiles. Whether you had COVID or Cancer. And whether you are Adventist or Roman Catholic! The words of this song demands an answer. And better, an acceptance of the need for salvation in Jesus Christ! The One who “ has regarded my helpless estate and shed his own blood for my soul.
1 When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Refrain (may be sung after final stanza only):
It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.
2 Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. Refrain
3 My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Refrain
4 O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul. Refrain
Psalter Hymnal, (Gray)
On reflection, this week I was inspired to write an interesting email to my church. Interesting in the light of what transpired after the missive and in light of the call for healing of relationships.
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
After Sister Andrea Taylor’s excellent teaching Sermon yesterday, mostly on the Gospel, which included this extract:
“There are two categories in this passage: first the disciples, Jesus and God; and the second is prophet, righteous and little ones
…..The second category of relationships – prophets, the righteous and “ little ones” – also might imply a hierarchy within the community, for prophets and righteous seem much more important than “ little ones” who in Matthew chapter 18 include the most vulnerable members of the community, the last and the least. These categories often focus attention on the third member, whose identity comes as a surprise. People might have expected this list to include prophets, the righteous and probably the wise or the holy ones.
The identification of the little ones, who are in need of a cup of cold water, elevates the least powerful members of the community of disciples into a position equal in importance to that of the prophets and the righteous ones………
The three designations – prophets, the righteous, and the little ones – do not differentiate members of the community so much as they describe interrelated aspects of Christ – discipleship. The prophetic dimension has to do with proclamation and miraculous demonstration of divine power. Righteousness is the enduring pursuit of justice and of the healing and restoration of relationships. The vulnerability of the little ones demonstrates that the mission is whole dependent on God’s power and presence. The power at work in this mission is fundamentally different in kind and in form from other forms of human power. Dependence on God is crucial to integrity and the distinctive character of the community Jesus is building ……” :
After this wonderful sermon, this Prayer by Jacob Boehme which I use most mornings, came to mind:
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 kinds of 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 who are 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.
Please pray for the Virtual Healing Conference and Healing Service this weekend. Pray for the Theme. Healing of Relationships: Lord, we need a Word from you.
It can’t be by coincidence that Sister Andrea Taylor’s Sermon was essentially about Christian relationships and the importance of those in the community who need a cup of cold water. In Majestic Gardens. In Kencot. At the Girls Home…..
One HC committee member suggested that we pray for :
⁃ Committee Members
⁃ Music Ministry Participants
⁃ Prayer Partners
⁃ Support team
⁃ Technology to be used
⁃ Internet Providers
⁃ Holy Spirit Outpouring on all connected to this healing event
⁃ Anything The Holy Spirit reveals to you.
The links for ZOOM and FaceBook are available. After today the link for YouTube should be available also. I will send them out to you shortly, so you really don’t have to do anything except, like the facebook page and the YouTube page, and click on the Zoom link depending on which platform you choose to use. I would suggest, however, that if you wish to use Zoom, the demand might be so much that it would be wise to join early.
Lord renew thy Church beginning with the least among us, those who know that they are in desperate need of your grace and mercy; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s); people who are in desperate need of your grace on account the COVID-19, institutional racism, food shortage, battered economies, Crime and Violence, and sexual abuse, and broken relationships.
Please pray for Majestic Gardens Clinic that is in desperate need of medical supplies, as the NHF has abruptly terminated the relationship which we once enjoyed with that Government Agency. And which provided medication to the least of those in our community!
Final Comment: If you seeking to make it well with your soul, the following then ought to be of interest :
The Links for Saturday and Sunday. You have three options in case any one of them is full or if any one is having technical issues, you can switch. For those wishing to gain access to the zoom platform I would recommend that you join early. In any case the pre-event starts at 8:30. I will send out a full program for both days in due course.
July 4 , 2020 Hosted by Anglican Healing Conference Committee
8:30 am Identification and Introduction 8:33 am Recorded Music 9:00 am Official Welcome and Instructions: Arch Deacon Patrick Cunningham 9:05 am Opening Prayer: Bishop Daniel 9:10 am Worship songs: Reverend Grace Jervis and Harold Davis 9:25 am Reading: Bishop Daniel 9:30 am Reflections: Bishop Daniel 9:40 am Song: Harold Davis and Reverend Grace Jervis 9:45 am Introduction of Speaker: Bishop Daniel 9:50 am Address: Bishop. Rose Hudson Wilkin 10:25 am Song Shine Jesus Shine live 10:30 am Questions and answers 10:45 am Closing remarks
AFTERNOON SESSION 3:00 pm Welcome: Arch Deacon Patrick Cunningham 3:05 pm Worship songs 3:10 pm Prayer: Lucien Jones 3:15 pm Introduction of Speaker: Karen DeSilva 3:20 pm Presentation: Dr. Barry Davidson 3:55 pm Song Shine Jesus Shine 4:00 pm Questions and answers 4:15 pm Summary: Claudine Heaven 4:25 pm Closing Devotions: Reverend Paul Sharp
Many years ago, long before this inspired weekly blog, now sent out mostly on Whatapp, Facebook, and Twitter, email was the chief distributor. And continues to be part of the program! Back then the introduction was like this:
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) – a prayer
I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – from a Saint of yure
Because we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men – a verse from Holy Scripture
This week in particular, it came home to me how important it is read the Bible, and spent time with the people of faith, in order that we may better understand current events – about what men are doing. So walk with me with Joshua, the one who took over from Moses, the most famous prophet in the Bible. Recall that Moses lost temper, he was provoked to wrath, on account of the behavior of the now freed children of Israel. All because they too became impatient with God, their provider. And so Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. That was the job given to Joshua to lead the people of God to “ cross over the Jordan”, after the death of Moses.
But before Joshua was given the “ insignia”, the badge of office, untainted and devoid of any controversy, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, warned him on the one hand, and encouraged ( and therein a warning too) him on the other hand. Listen:
The existential challenge for all human beings, and in our case, Jamaicans, is what are we doing on earth? Literally! Are we based on the news this week, just creatures inflamed with the lust for fame and pleasure that we would sell our souls for the love of money. And what it can purchase!
“No one shall be with you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. be strong and courageous; ……be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from the right or the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, you shall meditate on it day and night……be strong and very courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Joshua 1:5-9 NRSV.
A problem for Commissioner Anthony Anderson and the nation as reported in the Gleaner and “ blown up “ by Emily Shields aka Rev. Sharpton, on RJR’s Hotline program yesterday:
WESTERN BUREAU: Three western Jamaica cops were charged on Tuesday in a sweeping narcotics operation involving high-profile United States law-enforcement agents in two American cities. All of the police personnel operate within the St James Police Division. The arrested cops were reportedly intercepted by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta and Charlotte. They have been identified as Woman Constable Shermain Latoya Gooden, Constable Dremar Graham, and Constable Trevonne Davidson. The fourth cop, a woman constable, was flown back home and is now in the custody of the St James police. She has not been identified. Dennis Brooks, a communication specialist for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), confirmed that the four had interactions with security agents in the US.
This story largely about Crime, also has resonance with Crime’s twin brother, Violence. For this unholy couple, Crime and Violence, in a sense define the problem that Jamaica faces more than any other, and is the greatest threat to our existence as a civilized and democratic country. For unless we find a solution to why Janet Deen has gone missing for well over 100 days, and, closer to home, one of our Sunday School students at St. Andrew Parish Church Melissa Bartley – pray for her please.
…then as the well now Jamaica saying warns “ Dog nyam wi supper”. Things look extremely bleak – translation for the non Jamaicans.
What are we doing here also connects with #BlackLivesMatter and Mother Africa ( and other ethnic groups too, but right now the focus is on the “ knee on our necks”). For if anyone thinks that the wholesale movement of millions of Africans from the continent to the “ New World”, as it was then named ( although nothing was new about it; a novel experience only for the Europeans) despite the attendant wickedness and murder and now institutional racism, for which reparations are justly due, that all of this happened by chance, then that person would be guilty of being simplistic. Why would a Sovereign God allow such an atrocity, on par if not greater than the Holocaust, to take place, is a question for the ages? But the reality is that we are here. Forever! Until “ thy kingdom come”. This is our home, and we must make the best of it. For despite what Jah Rastafari chants, there is no “going back to Africa”; not for those in the Caribbean nor for for those in America or Brazil… An assertion, this is our home, speaking for herself, but no doubt echoing the thoughts of most of us, made by one of our leading journalists and Talk Show Host of RJR, BTH, Dionne Jackson-Miller, while discussing this matter with a Rastaman this week.
This then is where the story of Joshua then connects with 21st century Jamaica. And the USA! For ultimately we have two choices in trying to do what Michael Jackson famously immortalized in song “ How to make this world a better world”. Either we trust in Puppa Jesus (tek de case) and Massa God, or we trust in our own ability to reason and think and act. No doubt we need to do both, as the God of Joshua, and Sam Sharpe and Marcus Mosiah Garvey, certainly does encourage sloppy thinking, but He demands that we place all our trust, no longer in the Law, that’s the Old Covenant, but in Jesus Christ the crucified One. The One who He promised to send – greater than Moses.
So whether it be :
The COVID-19 Pandemic or the effects of the Sahara Dust, or Crime and Violence, there is no easy fix. As we depend only on the mercy of God:
What then shall we do about Crime and Violence? And other related issues. The ( many) responses to a tweet I posted this week, which went in several directions, highlights in my mind the main problem.
Compared to the Jamaica I grew up in our country has become an arena of violence, aggression and violent behaviour. The problem of violent crime is really the tip of the iceberg -Carl Stone 1992 @EarlMoxam @owenjamesja @FaeEllington @dondee_don Things have gotten worse?
Yes, the raw figures have increased over time, but beyond that, the underlying factors still need to be addressed – Earl Moxam Journalist and Jamaica’s unofficial historian
Yes, as root causes remain in fact get worse – Don Robotham ( former UWI Professor now living in New York)
There are so many issues to be addressed. Sometimes when I think about the complexities of this matter I have to work hard at not feeling helpless and hopeless – Fae Ellington ( dog ha money ‘im buy cheese – and set puss fe guard it) everybody knows Fae. Just below Miss Lou!
Values! Which is where the story of Joshua, in one sense, climaxed for me this week. In the home of a prostitute! Rahab. For this woman of unsavory character, welcomed the spies that Joshua sent out to find out how to destroy Jericho, which they had to pass in order to reach the promised land. So why Rahab. I can only read into the text. She feared the God of Israel, for she like all the people of Jericho had heard what He had done for the Jews at the Red Sea. Pharaoh drown(ded) – according to the well known negro spiritual.
But she did more than “fear the Lord”. She was prepared to act on behalf of this God. She was prepared to risk her life. She was in fact an informer. And worse, a traitor to her people. Why! Because deep in her heart, she was moved to do more than believe in “ Father God”, as is the popular ( but often unattended by action) talk on the street, but commit herself to loving and working for the people of this God. Was it transactional? No! By no means. There was no negotiation no coercion. She acted first. Gave them food. Hid them. Lied about them, to the King. Long before she asked for mercy when they came. All because she believed that “ Your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. As the song says:
We need to get back To the basics of life A heart that is pure And a love that is blind A faith that is fervently grounded in Christ The hope that endures for all times These are the basics, we need to get back To the basics of life
The basics of life which includes more than anything else, endurance! For the big underlying problem in all of human history is impatience. We want change now – the undoing of Michael Manley. Among other things! We want money now – the undoing of the police officers and many others. We want a woman tonight – the genesis of rape and murder and missing girls. We want power now – so we create garrisons not only to give us political power now, but if possible forever. And in the meanwhile Jah children go to waste #FromBullBaytoSixMiles……and beyond. We want the fruits, all the fruits of salvation now – the underlying message of the Prosperity Gospel adherents which has led so many to grief, and caused the name of Jesus to be ridiculed – purchasing price jets in the name of the Lord, and “ healing in the barnyard – sexual abuse.
In this context then I wrote, as one who fears the Lord, to my church this week and now to the wider community of humankind, this note, this week:
Extracts from two reflections from 2 Timothy by Chris Tiegreen. Both essentially saying the same thing. Encouragement!
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead ( a descendant of David – that is my gospel ) 2 Timothy 2:8
We forget very easily that Jesus endured hardship. Somehow we got the notion that He suffered that we wouldn’t have to. But that’s not what He told His disciples. He suffered the penalty of sin so that we wouldn’t have to, but He never told us we wouldn’t have trials. In fact just the opposite. He guaranteed tribulation ( John 16:33), and He assured the disciples that they would follow in His painful footsteps ( Matthew 10:22-25). If wanted comfort, this was the wrong Master to follow.
But if we look into eternity, if we want glory and blessing in spite of whatever hardships it costs, this is the right Master to follow. We are told that He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy should keep us going too. If we’ve been discouraged, if we’ve lost heart, we’ve lost sight of the joy. There is a promise at the end of this long, hard road, and it’s worthwhile. The glory,says Paul, will outweigh the trouble ( 2 Corinthians4:17). The benefits will outweigh the the cost……
Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all of this. 2 Timothy 2:7
It’s God’s will for us to endure. We may have trouble believing that sometimes; it may seem that He is out to make things more difficult for us. But that’s not God. That’s the way of the world, and the strategy of the enemy; and a weak prayer life and lukewarm discipleship will ensure that we are victims of both…….
That’s hard to remember in a microwave society, when the other coast of the continent is only hours away, where a thirty second traffic light is excruciatingly long ( Some Jamaicans sadly, have found a solution), and where dinner will be ready in ten minutes. But discipleship? No, that’s hard. It’s long. It’s not for the faint of heart. Do what Paul says: Reflect on what he is saying. And God – the God who is on our side, cheering us on from the throne of heaven, and spurring on from within – will convince us to never give up.
We conquer not in any brilliant fashion; we conquer by endurance – George Matheson.
Lord renew thy church by disciples who have learned to endure; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) -affected by the Sahara Dust, the surge in the new cases of the Corona Virus, the continued reports of missing girls and women, the corruption in high places and the injustice being meted out to the poor and defenseless
Remember Melissa, a member of our Sunday School – missing since June 22
One of the, many, uncomfortable truths about life for those who don’t believe in the God of the Bible, is the globally accepted practice, enshrined in the criminal justice system of all countries, at least in the 21st century, that “ thou shall not murder”. And if you are found guilty, various forms of punishments are meted out. Why? Because all human beings are equal – in the sight of God. It may not be expressed the way it was declared in the USA:
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776 The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness……
but nonetheless the germ of the idea that all men have equal rights, as the late Ian Boyne argued relentlessly and passionately, comes from the revelation in the BIble that “ God created all men in his image and likeness “. The Imago Dei truth that has been the guiding principle of how men ought to treat each other for centuries. What is also now very uncomfortable for some, including those who benefited from how “ man to man has been so unjust” in the days of slavery, is that not everyone held this truth to be “self evident”. Including alas, a very uncomfortable truth for the church of Jesus Christ in this present age, the reality that at the very least, elements within the church, not only were part of the system of slavery, but used God’s Word to justify their action.
All of these issues are now emerging from the BLM movement. #BlackLivesMatter. Including the largely unknown historical fact of Juneteenth.
The day, June 19th, 1865, when, finally all black people in the USA – the enslaved people, including those in Texas, finally “ got” their freedom from the white man – the enslavers. And so a domino effect has led to the removal, or defacement, of formerly ‘iconic’ statues in the USA and Britain. And helped to fuel a discussion about renaming streets and other names associated with slavery in Jamaica and across the world.
Tomorrow however we will, at least here in Jamaica and certain parts of the Western World, celebrate Fathers Day. And this week, the guns continued to ‘ bark’ in Jamaica leaving many families in grief as they mourn the loss of their dead. While one of our celebrated journalists Wyvolyn Gager keeps up a one woman vigil on facebook for the missing Jasmine Dean – the blind University student who has gone missing now for 112 days
So what went wrong? Has the world gone mad, or just the people in it, as the late great singer Lou Rawls crooned back in the day – oldies but goodies. What were they thinking back in the day, and sadly still in this present age, when the white man in Europe, with the help of other Africans, another uncomfortable truth, captured black people and brought them half way across the world, and forced them to work without pay to help build the kind of first world societies that they now enjoy? The truth though, is that slavery did not begin with the Europeans. Mankind has always had this tendency to enslave others. The Biblical story of the children of Israel held in bondage by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, may the most famous, but is only one of many such instances in history. From “ Whappie kill Phillup” this heinous crime has been visited on humankind. In fact from Cain killed Abel! Or from Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and “ let in the pirate” the evil one, into the lives of all mankind. Sin!
Is there a connection then with Fathers Day? Yes! But it depends on who is your Father. My biological father was a well known man. A road and a school were named in his honor. But that’s not why I loved him. Dearly! Because he loved my mother dearly. That’s why. You know the old adage that the best thing a father can do for his child, is to love his mother. So my dad, not a saint by any means, loved my mother. And I loved my mother dearly, because she more than anyone else, taught me to love Jesus. In her lap, I can recall as a lad, listening to her reading from then the small books of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All separated for ease of movement and teaching I suppose.
Not any more! Everything is in one big Bible now. Or on line. Of course I loved her for lots of other reasons, despite her facility with the belt, or the hanger, or the strap. My dad did’nt spank often. One look, and you would shape up. No! You did not want your dad to beat you. Definitely! It happened only three times. And my mom would intervene. Can you imagine…lol. But this gentle soul, more than anything else taught me abut the love of Jesus. Praise God. And because of Jesus, and his death on Calvary for my sins, which He willingly did, despite the agony He faced, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”, I have come to love my Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be His name indeed!
Does not that make me a saint? Absolutely not! I thought about inserting here, “ ask my wife”, but maybe I ought to leave well alone….shh. Does that mean that I would be less likely to become a bigot and a murderer, and cause people to go missing, and an enslaver of other people. Without a doubt! That is if you understand that loving Jesus means loving Justice for all and making Righteousness the twin of Justice. Does that mean that those who don’t love Jesus cannot help to rescue this country, or America? No! By no means. But rescuing Jamaica and the USA is not the end game in life! That’s not what my Father in heaven taught me by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. In this context then I believe I was led to write three short emails to my church this week.
Early morning thoughts:
There are two verses of Be Thou My Vision that open the Vision for the other verses to become our reality. And it takes time and discipline 24/7 for those two to become real. Then the others will flow naturally. Like streams of living waters, to the glory of God, and for the renewal of the church and nation in these SOE times.
(1)Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; be thou my best thought in the day and in the night ( in the trivial round and the common task), both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
(4)Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise; be thou mine inheritance now and always; be thou and thou only the first in my heart; O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
These two open doors for the others:
(2)Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word, be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord; be thou my great Father, and I thy true son; be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one ( the assurance that Jesus taught us about His Father and the gift of Holy Spirit….how much more will your Father who knows what you need grant you the gift of the Holy Spirit) . (3)Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might; be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower; O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
(5)High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright Sun, O grant me its joys after victory is won; great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.
One of the things to consider in these COVID-19 times, when the world came to a stop, literally, is that civilization and its many advances, the speed and widespread availability of air travel, the speed and availability of communication, the widespread availability of entertainment, of all that the heart can desire, if one is not careful, leads to “ languid prayers and dim faith”.
The counter of both of which, desperate prayers and unshakable faith, are not just necessary, but vital, for the Vision of God to be formed in us, “in the trivial round and common task”, where we live for most of our time. Not on the mountaintop!
So if in the day to day aspects of our lives, when not at church singing, “ My God how wonderful thou art”, which is how our forebears who suffered much use to live daily singing, “ nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”, then if for nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic and its fears, and suffering, has brought us back to reality. That literally:
“ I have no help but thine; nor do I need another arm save thine to lean upon: it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed, my strength is in thy might, thy might alone. A good place to be! In fact, according to Hebrews 11, the only place to be if God is our Vision. For without faith – in every situation – it is impossible to please God.
Peace and may the God of our Vision, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Jacob, renew our church, that the nation(s) may be renewed after COVID-19 by placing Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, Risen and Ascended, as our Vision. And naught else! LWJ
THE SECOND EMAIL
The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”
There are three great monotheistic religions; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All three have as their “ father”, Abraham. A man who God called unto Himself, and through this “ called out people”, revealed Himself to humanity. And we know, of the connection between the children of Israel, who sprang from Abraham, and the Church in this dispensation, hence the term Judaeo-Christian faith. We also know from the Bible that Apostles were sent to the Jews – Peter notably, and the Gentiles – all none Jews – notably Paul. But what of Islam ? Do they fall into the category of Gentiles, and therefore what Paul taught us, applies to them too. In that sense then, does the church have a mission to the children of Hagar, today’s Islam, in the same way that Paul was deeply concerned about the children of Israel, Romans 9-11. For despite the fact that the promise by God to Abraham would be fulfilled though Isaac, God did not abandon Hagar, but through her son promised “ a great nation”.
What do we make of this as children of God who believe in the “ Imago Dei”. That all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Don’t we then have a compulsion to be on mission to those who are of the religion of Islam, in the same way that we ought to be on mission to those who are of Judaism. Even though to them we are the “ goyim”. And perhaps to the some of those of Islam we are “ infidels”. I have heard of missionaries going to China and India, but, and perhaps I am not sufficiently well read, a dedicated mission, with a story to tell, to Islam has not come across my radar. Father Kitson specifically referenced people of the faith of Islam on Sunday “ When Jesus looks at people, who does He see – children of His Father”. Perhaps we ought to be first in deep prayer for people of other religions during our Intercessions on a Sunday morning; but first begin with other denominations. Call them by name! For everybody needs to know Jesus Christ and him Crucified. “For it is appointed for all men once to die and then the judgment.” And woe to those who don’t have on “ wedding clothes” at that time! In this context then, the final verse of Hebrews 11 is very instructive :
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV
Together with us, who are in Christ Jesus: The Crucified, Risen, Ascended and soon coming Savior. Lord renew thy church beginning with all of us who claim Christ and Him Crucified; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s); even Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and others where the Religion of Islam has its stronghold. And from where so much tension between the “Christian West” and some of those who believe in the prophet Mohammed has arisen. And still festers! Peace. In obedience LWJ
THE THIRD EMAIL
The Collect O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your lovingkindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Before reading the Collect for Sunday, and recalling Bishop’s Daniel’s experience with these prayers, one of the prayers I use in the mornings, resonated well with The Collect, as it inspired me to read again, prayerfully, John 17. The prayer of our Lord and Savior on the night before He died, and according to the theologian John Stott, a few hours before achieving the Mission for which He was sent:
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” John 17:11-12 NIV https://www.bible.com/111/jhn.17.11-12.niv
Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head, during the long dark hours of the night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. To you I owe life itself…..
I have discovered more and more each day, that calling on the Name of Jesus, in every situation, constantly, and even before anything hapens, just spontaneously, brings peace in my soul. Especially when under attack from the evil one. Not necessarily immediately, but as sure as night follows day, eventually. It’s not magic, but as the Bible says “ shielded by the power of God”. This in reference to our inheritance in heaven, but equally so, the Name of Jesus, called upon in faith, brings peace. Not the absence of any trouble, for that’s magic, and nowhere in the Bible is there any promise of the absence of trouble. But peace in the midst of the storm. Psalm 91 is but one of the many references which we all know well:
“ Those who love me, I will deliver, I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honour them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
Psalm 91:14-16 NRSV.
And as I write strains of the melody of this wonderful song comes into my heart, in addition to the words of Jesus after He “ rebuked the wind and the rain”, and there was quiet in the midst of the storm. “Where is your faith”?
…O what peace we often forfeit , O what needless pain we bear – all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. In the Name of Jesus!
I pray God, the Holy One of Israel, “ The Lord is one”, according to the first and great commandment, that He will renew His church today, this very day, and whenever we call upon the Name of Jesus Christ, Crucified for our sins, and Raised for our Justification ( counted as if we had never sinned). And we pray that this same God, Yahweh, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will renew the church, the “ called out ones”, so that the nation(s) may be renewed whenever, as a people, we call upon the mighty name of Jesus Christ in good times and in times of trouble. In season and out of season. In COVID-19 times and in times of States of Emergency. As we wake up and before we go to sleep. In the midst of illness and as we recover from illness. And even and especially, at the hour of death; and with great joy when we are with Him forever receiving our inheritance “ shielded by the Power of God”. Peace. In obedience LWJ
Last night I watched a movie. Selma!
A history lesson, in essence about, in one town, in one period of history, the 60’s, of how #BLackLivesMatter has developed into the what we witnessed on the streets of America over the past couple of weeks. Ever since that awful moment in time when #GeorgeFloyd was murdered by, not just a police officer having his knee on his neck, but what most well thinking people have come to accept, by that which was inspired by institutional racism. Rearing its ugly head, once again, though the actions of that police officer and his co-accused. What then is the genesis of this terrible reality of institutional racism in the USA? A good question, that has many layers of answers.
I would suggest that we approach the events which unfolded yesterday, that dark day in our land when gunmen killed two police officers, and caused serious and life threatening bodily harm to three others, with the same critical thinking. Otherwise, after the prominence given to “ condolences”, and prayers, and the PSOJ’s “ The GOJ and the Parliamentary Opposition need to be at one in fighting crime and violence in Jamaica”, and the “killing of one of the gunmen”, we may sadly, find ourselves back to the same position a few years or even months from now.
For like #BLackLivesMatter, what has been let loose in our once fair and peaceful isle, and which has now become one of the most violent counties in the world, what has been visited on a once honest and hard working people, who fear God, has a history. And main actors! For as I pondered deeply on yesterday’s events, Professor Carl Stone, that brilliant and acclaimed by most to have been one of, if not the best analysts, back by research, of the Jamaican political, social and economic situation, came to mind. I had written a whole blog on his publication, “ Poverty and Violence” many years ago and in it the late Professor shared a history lesson on the development of this “ massive behavioral change” ; occasioned by convergence of factors. Carl, also a well established columnists , no doubt another of the recently deceased Oliver Clarke’s brilliant choices, wrote the following piece on March 24 1992, and which I incorporated into a blog some time ago. I would commend it to anyone who really wants to find a workable solution to this now dire emergency of Crime and Violence in our society:
Something suddenly happened in the early 1960’s to generate a new and unprecedented wave of violent robberies and increased homicide. Jamaica and particularly the Corporate Area became overnight the Caribbean crime capital. The wave of violence crimes started slowly in the 1963-64 period and took off in the second half of the 1960s, accelerating further in the 1970s and stabilizing but at a very high crime and victim rate in the 1980s
Jamaicans have always been poor. Poverty did not begin in the 1960s, so poverty by itself cannot explain these escalating increases in violent crime. Nor is Mr. Henry’s alternative theory about the impact of weak family an adequate explanation. All comparative research on social violence has demonstrated that there is more violent crime in among the world’s middle income Third World countries. India and Haiti have far more poverty than Jamaica yet our level of violent crime is way above theirs.
Twenty years of comparative social science research has taught me that when massive social behavior changes occur in societies over a short time periods ( as was the case with the social violence in Jamaica after 1962) there is usually a convergence of factors causing the change, not just one factor, and it is the interrelationship between these factors that fell the whole story. Family disintegration accelerated by migration was just one of the factors contributing to the problem.
The difference has to do with how people respond to poverty and the strength of the factor shaping that response. Values, culture and social institutions are the factors that make the difference. Values determine the response of societies to poverty and institutions like the family provide the social contract, conditioning and learning of values that makes the difference.
It is not any single factor but the interaction between all of these powerful social forces ( social, economic, and psychological ) that triggered the massive change in violent behavior after 1962. ( Carl listed the following and expanded on them:
Exclusive suburbanization in the middle class and upper levels and ghetto-ization of the bottom set the classes apart and created a climate in which these value changes occurred.
Massive outward migration destroyed families and family structures which have been weak sine slavery leaving behind a new generation of youths deprived of nurture, love and adequate parenting
– Increased youth unemployment among males with secondary education created new formations of young people with intelligence, leadership potential and enormous confidence in themselves and aspirations for middle and upper class lifestyles but without legitimate opportunities to achieve them, hence the resort to guns and violence
– The huge inflow of guns from the USA empowered ghetto youth to ‘ dis’ adults and traditional community leaders and to literally take over communities.
– Links between street gangs and political leaders legitimized and empowered the gunmen to defy the law and created a whole culture of lawlessness.
Increasing inequality between rich and poor as uptown society flaunted affluence while poverty increased and opportunities for upward social mobility among the poor declaimed substantially.
And then Carl Stone closed his piece with this sobering thought:
Twenty years ago a Jah T who went to Wolmers ( my old school) would have tried to acquire a profession or to enter a legitimate business as a young entrepreneur. He would have aspired to become a High Small, or an Ian Ramsay or a Cliff Cameron. His father Jim Brown is a wealthy man and in the past, he would have, like the Kennedys, motivated his son to to love upwards into the higher reaches of the social ladder by professional education or legitimate business. Young Coke chose instead the option of becoming a ghetto Don which is telling us how the value system of the sub-culture of violence has taken over the youth…… In any society where badness and the appetite for money destroys traditional values and sidelines education, professionalism and the impulse towards moral and intellectual growth, decay and is inevitable. ……If we don’t change these values God help us in this country.”
In this context then of what is the Lord, the same God who Carl Stone, in essence prayed for mercy for his country many years ago, saying to us during this dark period of our history. In this hour of trial and tribulation! In this of grief and pain for the families of the fallen police officers! In this moment of confusion about what is to be done! For surely it cannot simply be more of the same, only with greater resolve and more cooperation between the political parties and civil society. For surely it cannot be only to define better protocols when approaching gunmen, as important as that may be. Or with improved weaponry. Or increased deployment of the army. Yes all of those things and more are needed. Urgently! But just like the question, yet unanswered, posed about the deep antecedents of institutional racism in the USA, so too we must ask the same question about the ever increasing violence in our country. Otherwise God help us. Hopefully some of us may be sufficiently discerning to see the answers in what the Lord led me to write this week:
TO THE CHURCH
It’s a good thing when the Spirit of God moves and something really gets into your head. Bishop Daniel spoke once about the importance of ‘listening ‘ carefully to the words of the collect. In the same way many years ago the late Bishop Herman Spence taught me to spend much time in the hymns of the Church. Of course we will always be grateful to Bishop Robert for “introducing “ us, explaining the history and the meaning, to the wonderful hymn:
Be thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me, save that thou art, be thou my best thought in the day and the night, both wakening and sleeping, thy presence my light
The Collect Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
So this morning as I prayerfully read the Collect above, and arrived at “ proclaim your truth with boldness”, Words from The Acts of the Apostles, familiar words which I have committed to memory and prayed often in various circumstances, came to mind:
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:29-31 NIV https://www.bible.com/111/act.4.29-31.niv
And in the mix we may even consider the famous words of St. Paul, “ ..for whenever I am weak, then I am strong”…….
For the reality is that as people of God, as the community of faith, the Koinonia – people in fellowship with each other and with God – as mentioned yesterday by Bishop Howard, in his scholarly Sermon, we are in a war zone. That is, if we are faithful to the God who in Jesus died to defeat evil, death and Sin. So we will always be under attack by the world which does not care to understand the Triune God : Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And as Bonhoeffer, who was quoted by Bishop Howard, asserts, we need, in the context of this world, promote the concept of “ religionless Christianity “ – which the world does not care for. That is a Christianity which does not offer Jesus or God, as a deity to be called upon in times of crisis, like COVID-19, and therefore placed at the boundaries of our lives. But rather, One who occupies the very centre of human existence here on earth. And the world which wishes to have its own way, and do its own thing, and have no limits set by anyone, will always push back against, and persecute , those who declare that Jesus is Lord and Savior; not only of Christians but of the whole wide world. Whether or not COVID-19!
In that context then, we will always need God’s grace to ‘proclaim His truth with great boldness”. The reminder of the Word from Acts, is that, once we remain faithful and speak, and act, in boldness to ‘set the captives free’, through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, this same God, will “ stretch out his hand to heal, and perform signs and wonders in the name of his holy servant Jesus”. Therefore always remember when we are under attack, and are in a sense weak, it is then that we are really strong in Christ Jesus, and often some of the most wonderful things flow out of that weakness. So that we not boast! A constant struggle for Christians in the corrupt generation. May the God of all creation, this Triune God that we worship in spirit and in truth, grant us boldness to proclaim His truth in a dying world that brutalises men and women because of their skin colour, and forgets about others because of where they live. For in Him we have the promise that “ the gates of hell shall not prevail against us”. And “ no weapon formed against us shall proper”. For we, in Christ Jesus, “ we are more than conquerors”. But we have to believe these things, that God can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine, perform signs and wonders, in the name of Jesus, and seek to escape from the trap set for us: that the only reality is what we see on CNN.
Peace. In obedience O God of Jacob, we pray in the Name of Jesus, the Crucified One, in the power of the Holy enabling and indwelling Spirit, for the renewal of your church, through your grace; that the church renewed in this same Holy Spirit may renew a broken and dying world, because of sin and death and evil, by boldly speaking your Truth, who is Christ Jesus. And Christ alone. And not Jesus plus anything else! Otherwise God is not your Vision, but only your protector in times of crisis. Which is religion in action, and not “ religionless Christianity “ as advocated by Bonhoeffer. LWJ
We can’t think of history as a closed system of natural causes anymore. We can’t think of any human system or tradition or authority as inevitable of absolute anymore. Jesus has come; anything can happen now – Rev. Timothy Keller writing about his choice of Mark’s Gospel as his focus. “ Jesus is not merely a historical figure, but a living reality, a person who addresses us today. Hmmm? #BlackLivesMatter. #Trump – #Dominate
Into this seemingly inexhaustible currrent of words and thought about Jesus, I gingerly lay this volume. It is an extended meditation on the historical Christian premise that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection form the central event of cosmic and human history as well as the central organizing principle of our own lives – Jesus The King by Rev. Timothy Keller. New York Times Bestselling Author of The Reason for God.
If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself -Augustine. For the you can’t shout #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeForNoelChambers and engage in fornication, greed, lust, revenge and have an unforgiving heart -Sin; things which don’t reflect the Holiness of God, and authentically call yourself a Christian. For The God of Justice is also a God of Righteousness. A God of wrath and of Love
Am I learning how to use my Bible? The way to become complete for the Master’s service is to be well soaked in the Bible; some of us only exploit certain passages. Our Lord wants to give us continuous instruction out of His word; continuous instruction turns hearers into disciples – wisdom from Oswald Chambers #BetterthanNetflix
COMMENT: So all of this speaks ultimately to values we espouse. And for many years Christian values shaped the culture and thinking of our nation. Sadly in recent times other influencers have emerged. Not the least of which are people like Vybes Kartel and others in the entertainment industry. Community Leaders a.k.a Dons and their agendas. Political parties and their agendas. University Lecturers and other liberal and critical thinkers who “ bun fyah” for Christianity in general and Jesus in particular. The google culture who believe that unless you can ‘research it “ it doesn’t exist. The mindset that “ the ends justifies the means” – in business, in relationships, in politics, and God knows even in the church. And so like America, we in Jamaica, face an ethical and moral tsunami invading our culture where there are no longer any absolutes, just what makes sense to us, and what seems right, and what works for us. And to hell with everybody else. Literally in some cases. The challenge for mankind and for Jamaica and for the USA, is that this moral and ethical freewheeling has its roots not just in 400 years of slavery and colonialism but in Sin. And only God in Jesus Christ can solve that problem. And has done so. On Calvary!
Many years ago, far from the cameras of CNN, and Commentary by Chris Cuomo or Don Lemon, during the war to liberate Mozambigue, and Angola too, from Portugal, the colonial masters, the ralying cry was “ A luta continua” ; the struggle continues.
This ralllying cry came to mind as I began writing this weekly Saturday morning blog, and as I recalled a similar call to action, but quite different context, by Emily Shields, the very passionate Radio ( on The Big 94, RJR) Talk Show Host, Journalist and Lawyer, while she was in “ full flight “ yesterday on Hotline; this as the news broke about Noel Edwards, who had died, after having been locked up in prison in Jamaica for forty years and was never charged with a crime. And so Mrs. Shields delivered of herself on public radio, an unforgettable able call to action by all Jamaicans, so that this would never happen again, “ if you dont wake up with fire in your belly to change the world, go back to bed”.
Also in this context, about struggles and freedom and liberation, I watched a video, ( in the link above, on Instagram and Facebook…you can like her on facebook to watch if you are not on IG) just by chance, put out by MP Lisa Hanna, as she tried to place the whole #BackLivesMatter movement in context, and shared a brief history of Jamaica’s involvement in the Pan African Movement led by Michael Manley, and Bob Marley and his freedom songs, together with the “ Free Mandela” rallying cry, from way back in Norman Manley’s time, one of our National Heroes and former Premier of Jamaica. Thus this former beauty queen and now Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs concluded, a la Rev. Al Sharpton that: Power & Purpose Is In Our Jamaican Identity 🇯🇲 So if anyone asks why we act the way we do? Tell them – It’s in our DNA !
Then I started watching Rev. Al Sharpton “ blow up #BlackLIvesMatter #GetYourKneeOffOurNecks and thought about our own situation here in Jamaica. Where creative and bright and ambitious people livng in Etana’s #WrongAddress have been prevented from achieving their full God given potential in life. All because of an unjust educational system, inadequate health care system and Political Tribalism which has spawned garrison type communites often under siege from “area leaders” aligned to the a particular party. Where people like Noel Chambers get lost in the system because nobody cares, while the lot of the powerful and the priviledged is always protected. And some would argue, even in COVID-19 times as we struggle to open back our country so that we can get our economy going while protecting ourselves from the Virus.
So we have all seen the pictures and watched the videos and listened to the commentary by Chris Cuomo et al on CNN, or BBC, about the wickedness that is insitutional racism which has been visited on our black brothers and sisters in the USA. For over 400 years! And which latest chapter of evil has claimed the life of George Floyd #Icantbreathe and sparked demonstrations across the USA and indeed the entire world.
The question then is quo vadis, from whence cometh the fire in the belly, which would make a difference here in Jamaica, first, and then export Justice and Peace across the world? Are we, as a people, really in a struggle to put an end to classism and privilege and the greatest threat to nation building, and justice for all, which is political tribalism? Is it really in our DNA, to fight for Justice and Freedom. Or are we quite saitisfied with things as they are as long as our party is in power. Or things are looking good for our party in opposition so that we can once again be in power!
Aren’t we very satisfied about life, and really hoping and praying that this COVID-19 thing, along with the annoying and uncomforatble masks, will just go away, so that we can get back to enjoying live shows featuring Doctor Beenieman and BountyKilla. And once again “ get on baad” on the streets! Have we really learnt anything from the lackdown, the screeching halt of mankind’s normal activities across the world, that is COVID-19? Have we ever contemplated the awesome possibility that COVID-19 has come for a season. For a time! So that The Almighty God, The Creator of heaven and earth, the sea and everything that is in it, can get our attention. And say to us “ This is my beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Listen Him.
Last night I was moved to post this Truth as it came to me on FaceBook:
God is sufficient for all our needs, for every problem, and for every difficulty, for every broken heart, and for every human sorrow – Rev. Peter Marshall former Chaplain to the US Senate #BlackLivesMatter #JasmineDean #NoelChambers #GeorgeFloyd #AlSharpton
This as I struggled to understand the role of the Chrstian, one who has, not just fire in his or her belly, but the power and presence of the Jesus Christ the Crucified, Risen and Ascended One, who died because #AllLivesMatter, in our souls. In this context, that we are created and shaped in the likeness of a God who in Christ demonstrated His love for Justice and Mercy, and Redeemed us, all sinners, by the Blood of Jesus, Lisa Hanna is right. It’s in our DNA to seek this God, and find Him, and in Him pursue Justice for all. For Noel Chambers! For George Floyd! For Nelson Mandela! For the people in Zimbabwe – Bob Marley, the people in Mozambique and Angola. For #AllLivesMatter!
So when I wake up, do I go back to bed! No, for better than fire in my belly guides me. These are the prayers I open up my mind to every morning. Well, most morings, unless something happens to shift my focus.
A MORNING WATCH Jacob Boehme
Verse: 2 Chronicles 7:14
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
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 that which 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 this context then, with the gift which God gives me, I write you my church regularly during my early morning devotions. This week the following is one of the emails. One which places the #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter in context. For not until and unless we understand and wage war because #AllLivesMatter which is Salvation’s history, then we will never really have to fire in the belly and the DNA in our souls to, in a sustained and vigilant fashion ensure that #BlackLivesMatter and that the life of Noel Chambers matters. Otherwise we will forever be on “ cruise control” as a people and even as a nation, forever compromising when it is to our advantage to do so. And therefore not directed by God’s Word in our minds and His Truth in our hearts. Jacob Boehme!
Two thoughts were coursing through my mind as I began reading Chris Tiegreen’s The One Year Wonder of The Cross Devotional and the reflection for today June 4.
One was the ongoing #BLackLivesMatter campaign in the USA. Again! As those of us who lived though the 60’s and 70’s can well recall the exploits, and outrage , and militancy of The Black Power Movement, almost deja vu, featuring Huey Newton and others. Many of whom ended up forgotten in jail, or had to run away to another country. And not much was done in respect of curing or even a push back against institutional racism. Until Martin Luther King had a dream. A dream that only the God who in Christ died for #AlLives could have placed in his heart; where little black children and little white children and all other races could live together in harmony.
Sounds like a pipe dream doesn’t it? Something that only happens in heaven, given today’s reality and headline news. But MLK stuck to his dream. And died in obedience to His Savior fighting for that dream. The question is what dream has the Lord placed in the minds and hearts of His people, the church, in this time of Institutional Classism in our country – where big money can purchase influence and secure personal dreams – while “ Jah children go to waste” in places like Majestic Gardens, where some folks still perform their necessary ablutions in a non private manner.
Further, how have we pursued or defended righteousness in a country heavily influenced by the culture that is exported from up North; where moral absolutes are now passé and everyone is doing their own thing, sexually, socially and politically within and without the White House?
There is only one Sunday during the lockdown that I did not go to church. In protest! Even had to sit outside repeatedly, at the start until Father Kitson told me to come inside and sit around the back where the risk of giving or receiving COVID-19 in a huge almost empty church was very low. I speak the truth. And the Lord knows my heart. Was my protest justified! Or was I led astray ? Only God knows. And He knows that these are vey challenging times for the church.
In the midst of all of this, the Lord would have Chris Tiegreen write a searching meditation to the church this June morning.
I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Revelation 2:13
Jesus’ words to the church in Pergamum could have been spoken to anyone of us. We may not live in where Satan’s “ throne “ is, but we live in territory that is heavily under his influence. No matter how many churches we have on the street corners of our communities, our culture is saturated with the philosophies of this world and the deceptions of our enemy. Until we are in heaven, we are living in a war zone.
It’s comforting to know that Jesus is aware of where we are and that he will affirm us for remaining true to His name, as He did with the believers of Pergamum. it isn’t easy to stubbornly insist on our identity in Him where the culture is trying to pull us in every other direction. We find pretty quickly that we can’t live the Christians life on cruise control; it’s a constant choice and requires consistent focus on who we are in Him. It requires a certain degree of stubbornness to swim upstream.
The church of Pergamum did that to a degree, but then they were rebuked for compromises they had made ( viv. 14-15). They lived in a pagan atmosphere in which believers could easily be tempted to twist truth and indulge in sin. Jesus warned them that their lack of diligence could prompt Him to step into their mindset to divide the faithful from the unfaithful with sharp words of truth. We aren’t sure what that would look like, but the point is clear. If we don’t defend the truth of God, there will be consequences.
Some Christians take Jesus’ warning as license to use the Bible as a weapon and attack everyone who doesn’t agree with us. That spirit isn’t found anywhere in Scripture; in fact, it would probably draw the same rebuke Jesus gave to the Ephesians about losing their love (2:4). Our real calling is to be stubborn abut who Jesus is and what His character is like. We are to refuse to compromise the integrity of who we are in Christ. Jesus knows where we live, ( and where Satan lives too … I know where you live, and how you rage against me) and He wants to live in us unwaveringly right where we are.
Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace – J.C. Ryle
For those who have persevered thus far, may the Lord who inspired this second email bless you richly.
The Gospel Matthew 28:16-20 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
At first blush, on reading it for the first time, the key to a struggle that I have been having, may not be immediately obvious. However, when combined with what I read on Wednesday night, and read again on Thursday night, before retiring to bed, it came home to me what the Lord was revealing. My struggle has been, how does Jesus, and more importantly, where do we locate Jesus and Him Crucified, in the midst of all the events and discussions attending the, latest, #BlackLivesMatter protests? And in all of this, keeping in clear focus that Jesus died on the Cross because #AllLivesMatter – a phrase which evokes passionate objections, and perhaps rightly so if discerned superficially, when juxtaposed with what happened to George Floyd #Icantbreathe.
So what’s the key message that I discerned: Jesus and the father of the little boy who had been terrorized and occupied by a demon since birth, were having a conversation as reported by the evangelist Mark. And the dad asked a question which astounded Jesus . At least that’s the impression we get when His response is considered. So the dad said to Jesus, innocently and hopefully, in essence , “ can you do anything to help”. Can you help my son, is what the dad asked The Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in it. The One, who was the Word from the beginning of time ( The OT reading), and this same Word was with God, and in fact this Word was God, and though Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made, according to another evangelist John. And so this same Word made flesh, responded to the dad’s question by saying, “ If you can? And you can hear the amazement in His voice, that anyone could question whether or not God can do anything. Of course He can! And so Jesus delivered up of Himself an assertion that the world has never yet comprehended, not even the Christian church of today, nor even all his disciples after the resurrection, for as recorded in the Gospel reading for Sunday, “ some doubted”, while others worshipped. “ Everything is possible for him who believes “
Recall even Jesus’ words to the disciples and presumably the crowd when He came upon the scene of the boy with the demon and the distraught father, and asked “ What are you arguing about”. For there was a great discussion, then, and now, in essence, almost deja vu, what is to be done?
And if I may take licenses and insert into the argument the contemporary question, “ how can black people get Justice in America”? How can people descended from slaves in Jamaica sit at the same table with those who have ruled our country on account of class and money? How can people in Majestic Gardens receive Justice, or even the sad case of the man who was locked up in jail for 40 years, and now we are told that he was not even charged with a crime.
I won’t go any further with this, except to say, that we serve an awesome God. A God who can do “ abundantly more than we can ask or imagine”. But we have to believe that this is the God we serve. A Supernatural God, and not just some local deity, who can do somethings but not everything. A God who has the ability to answer all the yearnings of the hearts of Black people in the USA. A people brought from Mother Africa, beaten, scourged even, raped, lynched and despised by some white folks in America. A people who have made significant contributions to the American Dream and prosperity. Fought in their wars, cleaned their bedrooms, looked after their children, planted their farms, produced in the factories, educated in their universities, risen to great heights as professional and scientists and innovators, and one of them even became the President of America.
And yet, and yet, still the color of the black man’s skin, continues to be an offense, to many white folks in America. And not just on a personal level but deeply rooted in the psyche and institutionalized. So racism is not simply going to roll over and die because thousands of people are marching, as they have done over the years. And yes, maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. Who knows! Only God. But what I am certain of, which is where I have been struggling, if all of this can be reversed, in America, and classism and privilege can be eradicated in Jamaica, without Jesus being in the midst of it, then our faith, is of no practical use in the face of evil. And that is not my understanding of why Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary. For we are clearly taught that Sin death and evil were all conquered on Calvary and that fact announced on Easter. The world then, including America and Jamaica, is waiting to to hear the good news of Christ and Him Crucified, in the midst of the pathos and pain and angst evoked by Injustice and institutional support of this evil. The question is, do we believe that Jesus is the answer to every situation, every pain, every broken heart, every distressed human being in the world? If the answer is yes, then we must accept our commission from this same Jesus to insert ourselves wherever injustice rears it’s ugly head and make a difference as God’s chosen people. That’s what Martin Luther King did on a grand scale. And even lost his life. That’s what we must do in every situation, as recommended by the hymn writer which is where I began my devotions this morning:
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.
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.
Which is the reason why “ new every morning is the love”, that wakens us from sleep and darkness, and restores us to life and power and thought. That we might act in belief and in obedience and, “ act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. As taught to us by one of God’s faithful servants. Herman Spence of blessed memory. One who believed God.
Turn up the volume and listen to Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir perform “ Nothing is impossible with God” in the link above.
Lord renew thy church as we believe more and more that Jesus is the Almighty God, and part of the Triune God: Father Son and Holy Spirit. Lord renew thy church in this faith, that the church may renew the nation(s) in turmoil because of centuries of injustice and neglect of the least of your children. Peace In obedience LWJ
So much happened in my country this week. But the most talked about one, Beenieman #versus Bountykilla, the lyrical clash from last weekend, was still trending; the term used on Twitter, one of the many social media platforms. I suppose even more so on IG, where it all happened, but since I am not frequently on the “ Gram”, I can’t comment.
Music has always been, and I suppose will always be, until “ thy kingdom come”, of great importance to Jamaicans. The lyrics, the beat, and the mood which the songs evoke, have shaped and influenced for good or for bad, in some cases very bad, how we think, how we relate to each other and how we understand and enjoy life.
Can’t ever forget, and I suppose there are many others, but “ To be young gifted and black”, by the late ( died earlier this year) great Bob Andy and the legendary Marcia Griffiths, comes readily to mind; a song which became almost like an anthem for young people in my era.
A song which together with the Black Power movement in the USA led by people like the Caribbean’s own Trini born Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, the must read book “ Soul on Ice” about the Black Panthers, and “ The Wretched of the Earth “ by Franz Fanon, and others, helped to “ free our minds from mental slavery”. Which of course was Bob Marley’s seminal gift to, not just black people, but to a world struggling under oppression of any kind.
Music which no doubt, although the fervor and passion has been muted somewhat by the ‘rat race”, until stoked again by the murder of yet another black man by the Police, helped to spawn the very relevant and current #BlackLivesMatter movement in the USA. Perhaps that’s the lens through which we need to see the brutal murder caught on camera of George Floyd, by a white policeman, whose heinous crime went unchallenged by three other colleagues; and who, therefore, in the minds of the protesters, and the world, were accomplices to the fact of murder. How did the culture, no doubt influenced by what they read, and what they listen to and how they interpret life, create such a monster who could calmly kneel on a another helpless human being’s neck, while he cries out “ I cant breathe”? And dies! Is the question of the ages.
Perhaps that’s how we should evaluate the awesome event which attracted the attention of over 350,000 Jamaicans, last weekend, and which was viewed worldwide by over 4 million people. And counting! How has the music, and in this case dancehall music, contributed to the development of our society, in this age of “sixteen ” and nine” and “ marrow flying” and “ romping shop” on the one hand; and “pure niceness” on the other hand, “ dweet for the love and not for the like”?
Perhaps a song which came into my head as I thought about #versus this past week, from way back then “ There is a girl…. living in my neighborhood…they call her sweetie…sweetie come…” captures the “niceness”, as they call it, that is the essence of the music, or used to be, in my country. But the fault lines which has accompanied the music in recent times is there for all to see. And none greater than the one, who even in prison continues to be more popular than #versus. And more influential in certain quarters #Gaza.
This week, just yesterday, we said goodbye to a well loved by all, and on both sides of the political divide, based on the many tributes, to the late Minister of Labour and Social Security, Shahine Robinson.
A reminder of the inevitability of death for us all, regardless of our social standing or how well we have served or not. And she served well. This very gracious and charming woman who I met only in passing from time to time at the Office of the Prime Minister. But always impressed by her ready smile and acknowledgement of another human being occupying her space, even temporarily. May her soul RIP.
But all these worthy of comment events, and happenings, ultimately find their relevance and understnding in the event which many Christians, but not all – and herein is the makings of another and much more serious #versus – will celebrate tomorrow. The Day of Pentecost. The birthday of the Church. The day on which, as Jesus, forever a disturbing figure in human history, promised, “ Power from on high” would come, as his disciples, “waited upon the Lord”, in Jerusalem.
This same Jesus who had been crucified on Calvary, and raised from the dead on the glorious Easter Morning, now on the day of his Ascension back to His Father, having been glorified, promised to send The Holy Spirit, “ Another Comforter”, to “ guide all who beleived in His Atonement for Sin, into all truth”. And what is this truth! Certainly part of the truth is that Benieman and Bountykilla, and Addie, and George Floyd and that wicked policeman are all sinners, and in need of salvation. Another part of the truth is that Shahine, if she was a child of God, washed and sanctified by the blood of Christ, has now, in Christ, overcome death, and is with Him in glory.
So in this respect, all of life, all that we do, all that we achieve here on earth, all that we learn, all that we enjoy on earth as “ pure niceness”, and therefore how we are formed, and not just informed, is in preparation for “ it is appointed for all men to die once and then the judgment”. It is instructive then that part of the truth is that The Holy Spirit comes to “ convict the world of Sin, Righteousness and Judgement”. This is what Jesus declared to His disciples, on the night before He died, for He would soon be no longer with them.
So Christianity then is very much #versus Islam or any other religion, in that The Holy Scriptures reveal that “No man cometh unto the Lord God except through Christ”. In this respect then the Evangelicals and their influence on right wing politics and attitudes in America #Versus Christians whose eyes are fixed only on the Cross of Christ, is a matter that is of great moment. As the brand of Christianity which is influenced by the old adage that “ the enemy of my enemy is my friend “, which can be the only explanation why some of the Evangelicals continue to defend Donald Trump, has lost its focus entirely and is in danger being cast into fire. So too the Liberal Wing of the Christian church #versus the remnant which has not bowed to Baal, has lost its focus in advancing a gospel that speaks only of God’s love and mercy, without mentioning Sin and God’s wrath.
I would hope and pray that in the midst of the terror that is COVID-19, as a people under siege, we take the opportunity to celebrate, and welcome, the coming into the world of The Comforter who is The Holy Spirit, Who alone can rescue us from the evils, and there are many in our culture and circumstances, of that which is #versus the love of God which is manifest most completely on the Cross of Calvary.
In this respect I pray that the words of an old Saint, from a reflection which came to my mind as I prepared for this weekend’s blog, will enter into our hearts and quicken our minds to love the only One who can rescue us from this corrupt generation, that snuffs out black lives with impunity, and cause Jasmine Dean, and so many others, to go missing. Even Jesus Christ!
SATURATED WITH THE SPIRIT
Hilary of Poitiers
Verse: Acts 20.24
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 to actually use this gift, I must ask you for your help – ask you to fill the sails that 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 accord to your Word. Give me the energy and the courage to share the spirit of 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 bonds of love. Therefore I feel 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 of myself. I had 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 on no use to you.
But then you decide that I should hear the word 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 live for it .
Comment: Even now, having read this reflection many times, the breath and depth of the saturation of Poitiers love for Christ, affects my soul deeply.
Finally a message to my church forms a bookend to this week’s blog. A message about formation and not just information. A message about from Whom our strength to overcome, resides. The Comforter, The Holy Spirit the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ.
EMAIL TO MY CHURCH
I have been led over the years to understand that when the Lord speaks to you, it is for your own spiritual formation ( thanks to Sister Grace for the currency, and deeper understanding, of that word); and aslo to share with others for the same reason.
So my “ song in the night last night was:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
This from the Apostle Paul who was rejoicing that the Saints in Phillipi had renewed their concern for him, not because he was in dire need, but because it was good for them to share in his troubles. For as Paul declared, he had learned the secret of being content in any and all situations, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. And then finally to explain his ability to rejoice in the Lord always, a lesson he taught them earlier on in the chapter 4, a lesson which highlighted the call not to be anxious about anything, but rather, in everything, to present your requests to God and experience the peace that transcends all ( human ) understanding.
So why is the Lord saying this to us through me , as I believe He is, this morning. In my context, yours may be different, it speaks to the caution to avoid having the need for distractions in your life; to pass the time. Or even as a way of life. What am I talking about ? Beenieman versus Bountykilla! The virtual dancehall clash over the weekend which attracted the viewership of over 400,000 Jamaican and to date, a worldwide viewership of over 4 million persons and counting. All of this at at time when the very existence of mankind is under threat. When every country in the world is in some kind of lockdown mode, and people, “ young and restless people”, tired of being isolated from each other and not being able to party, came up with a distraction which has filled the void in their hearts and souls.
And they are not alone! But we must do as they do. For many Christians, if truth be told, myself included, are either tempted to, or have engaged in, either binge watching of movies, or serials, on Netflix or Amazon, or just watching TV a lot. I will guarantee you that only the faithful few have been spending a lot of time on their knees praying to the Lord for mercy. Or wrestling with God for many reasons! Especially for a Prophetic Word in these unusual times. Praying for mercy for devastated New York! Mercy for the vulnerable in Nursing Homes! Wisdom for our leaders as they try to negotiate the treacherous path between “ Not dying from the Pandemic and not being devastated by the Recession”! Wisdom for our Church Leaders at a time when people are reluctant to re-engage in corporate worship but the witness of the church must continue unabated if we are to faithful to the One who died so that we may live, and be witnesses to His Resurrection Power!
Mercy, and Justice, for the family of Jasmine Dean; whose “missing status “ serves as a metaphor for the reality that there are other ills, other imperatives in our land, other than COVID-19. Mercy for those who have been scorned by their families after having contracted and recovered from the Virus! Mercy for the huge numbers of ordinary people who have suffered financial loss and who have no “ nest egg” on which to depend and carry them though these hard times!
But that kind of steady focus on the needs of others, and others far away, and to share in their troubles, comes only when God has been formed in our hearts by faith and by grace. Comes only when we have truly learnt to be content in all situations, and have stopped grumbling and complaining about every trial in our lives which comes along. Comes only when we can truly declare like Paul, “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. For in a sense as some theologians have argued, “prayer is the greater works “ which Jesus promised and which Sister Grace highlighted on Sunday.
Why? Read again, as I was led last night, how Jesus declared that his leaving the disciples was good for them, for if he did not leave – and return to the Father – the Holy Spirit would not come and be with them. And which historic and ever present reality we are about to celebrate this Pentecost Sunday, would, according to Jesus, result in our being led into all truth, and people being convicted of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment. John 16:5-15.
This as Jesus declared that He had much more to tell his disciples, more than they could bear, but all would be revealed when the Holy Spirit came.
The spiritual reality then, is that when the Holy Spirit is truly formed in us we will be able to do all things by the Power of The Almighty God living in and though us. We will be able to bear all things, and rejoice in all situations, even during COVID-19. Not because our distractions have given us time and space not to think too much about the terror which is COBID-19, but rather because Christ has been formed in us, and in Him we are conquerors in every situation, as our minds are not on earthly things but our citizenship is in heaven, as Paul declared late in Chap 3.
And those in whom Christ is formed are continuously in conversation, in prayers and in supplication and requests, to the Father, in the same way that Jesus was alway in touch with His Father. Does this mean that we have no time to enjoy the many gifts and beauty that God has showered on this world! No, but we are not to allow them to serve as distraction from the greater work which is prayer. Especially in a time when the world is confronted by an existential threat to its survival!
Peace and in obedience.
Lord renew thy church beginning with Pentecost – will thou not turn again and quicken us O Lord: Lord renew thy church that the church may renew with Power a hurting and confused nation(s)
It is fatal to the carriage of justice if the judge only hears one side of the story. And what is true of justice, carries even more weight in the journey of life. Especially life affected by the great disrupter, which is the COVID-19 pandemic!. Therefore if all we have heard, and intend to do, is that our economy has been dealt a heavy blow, that there is a hole in the budget to the tune of 120 Billion dollars, unprecedented in modern history, triggering a return to a borrowing relationship with the IMF, and that it is now time to open up back for business in Jamaica, we have only heard one side of the story.
If all we have heard is that unless we continue to maintain physical distancing, keep our distance from others by at least six feet, in church, at work, on the beach, in the airplane ( some would prefer even more space, or perhaps not to be on board at all), and in the restaurant, preferably al Fresco -outside in the breeze – then the Virus will return and cause more sickness and even death, then we have only heard one side of the story.
If all we have heard is that for Jamaicans , some 30, 000, of our people, to return safely, whether by plane or by boat, the proper protocols must be in place, lest we let in people who have Corona, and we return to the Alorica situation which almost derailed our, up until that time, fairly good response to the Virus, then we have only heard one side of the story.
If all we have done then is to listen to the “ pressers”, the press conferences conducted by the government, read the Gleaner or the Observer or the The New York Times online, or watched Cumo live on CNN every night, or watched the “ millions” of videos circulating – I delete most of them – or spent much time lurking on people’s Instagram page – that’s what one of my young female patients admitted to doing – or posting and reading stuff on Twitter and Facebook and WhatsApp, then we have only heard one side of the story.
◦ If our only concern is for the scientists to find a vaccine for this thing, and so allow our children to go back to school safely, the tourists to return, and family to be able to travel, and for us to to be able to gather for Christmas later this year, then our thoughts are definitely not God’s thoughts, nor our ways His ways.
◦ So what then is the other side of the story? In a nutshell, and to cut a long story short, words from the Psalmist, to which I was led this week, tell the whole story in fact and not really the other side of the story
◦ “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it on the rivers”.
◦ And then my ‘song in the night’ -when the Lord speaks a word in your deep sleep – last night was another Psalm. One which has been corrupted by the secular world, “ you too bad mind, you too bad mind”, but yet one which speaks a true word from the Lord in this COVID-19 Pandemic. At least to those who have ears to hear. And for this, it was the King James Version etched into my memory from a youth, which emerged from my soul and into my consciousness in the early hours of this morning; I woke up shortly thereafter :
“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.”
Psalms 61:1-3 KJV
For if we don’t hear the cry of the thousands of people who have been brutally murdered in our country, those whose blood cry out to nation; if we don’t hear the cry of the parents of Janet Deen, longing for a word of comfort or even closure, about their missing daughter, then we have missed the point of all of this plague on our nation and on the world.
If we don’t hear the lament of the 30% our population, created in the image and likeness of the Creator God who owns the world, those for whom Justice and a share of the goodness of God’s earth, are a hope and a wish, then we have not heard the message that this Corona Virus which has brought the world to its knees. Suddenly! And if we are not careful. For a very long time.
If we have not heard the cry of Jesus from the Cross of Calvary “ Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. In the midst of our former way of life, rushing here, doing that and being as big and as bad as we can be, with no regard for the owner of the house in which we live. Then for us, Corona is something to be feared, gotten rid of, and “moving right along’ back to our former way of life. Being politically tribal, taking talk from nobody, bashing the church, longing for Beenieman versus Bounty Killer, juggling on the one hand and on the other making money in the stock market, and minding our own business generally with little or no care for our brother or sister in need.
If deep in our soul there is no sense of shame and repentance even, about what we have done or left undone in this nation: if our hearts are not overwhelmed by where we are as a nation and what we have become as a people; if as church we have not learned from this pestilence on the land, to cry out to God for mercy, lest worse things befall our people, and the church whose prayers in large measure, but thank God for the Remnant, has become languid and faith dim, then may God have mercy on our disobedient and distracted souls.
In that context then, of yearning for the prophetic Word of God in the midst of the most terrifying experience that mankind in modern history has faced, that I believe I was led to write to my church this week. About the value of hymns and of being obedient to the Living God.
THE FIRST EMAIL ON MONDAY
The passage to which I was led this early moring is entitled in my Classics Devotional Bible Restoration and Protection Promised.
And begins with these words:
“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV
“Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.” “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?””
◦ Isaiah 43:8-
“This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen,….
◦ “Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.”
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Your first father sinned; those I sent to teach you rebelled against me. So I disgraced the dignitaries of your temple; I consigned Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn.”
◦ Comment: The COVID-19 pandemic, and how it has consumed our thoughts and brought the world to a screeching halt, and from which it is now trying to ‘recover’, when viewed through the lens of Scripture, teaches us that, ultimately, we are not in charge of our lives.
◦ And more, that:
Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”
Comment: Therefore, for the Christian, which is the message from this early, 5:00 am revelation, the emphasis is not to be on how carefully are we going to manage the transition back to normal worship service at church, and in doing do, follow the protocols laid down by the state, and which laws like those of the Medes and Persians are inviolate. But whether or not we are going to be faithful to a God who has sustained us in the midst of the “waters and the fire”. For He who only is God, and there is no other, has promised, and He who has promised is faithful, “ there is no shadow of turning with him”:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
◦ And since we know that “ Every promise that God has made is “ Yes” in Christ Jesus and then we say the “ Amen” ( 2 Cor. 1:20), this promise, all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ and Him Crucified, Resurrected and Ascended.
◦ “ The new thing” promised !
◦ Which brings to mind words of a meditation from Oswald Chambers which I posted on facebook last night:
◦ The Wisdom of Oswald Chambers – The unvarnished, undiluted, but no doubt uncomfortable, Truth, about the essence of Christianity. That’s why we believe the Word of God which reveals that we can enter into the very presence of God the Creator, through the Atonement wrought for us on Calvary. And ask for grace and mercy in times of trouble. With confidence!
His Ascension and Our Access
It came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
◦ LUKE 24:51
We have no experiences in our lives that correspond to the events in our Lord’s life after the transfiguration. From that moment forward His life was altogether substitutionary. Up to the time of the transfiguration, He had exhibited the normal, perfect life of a man. But from the transfiguration forward— Gethsemane, the Cross, the resurrection— everything is unfamiliar to us. His Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to anyone, and by His ascension our Lord entered heaven, keeping the door open for humanity.
The transfiguration was completed on the Mount of Ascension. If Jesus had gone to heaven directly from the Mount of Transfiguration, He would have gone alone. He would have been nothing more to us than a glorious Figure. But He turned His back on the glory, and came down from the mountain to identify Himself with fallen humanity.
The ascension is the complete fulfillment of the transfiguration. Our Lord returned to His original glory, but not simply as the Son of God— He returned to His father as the Son of Man as well. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God because of the ascension of the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ deliberately limited His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. But now they are His in absolute, full power. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ now has all the power at the throne of God. From His ascension forward He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Comment: Finally all of this is assured, not in any deep theology but by a poem I was led to read in the midst of the storms of life over the weekend – you must realise by now that Satan never rests from attacking God’s people. A message not for me personally but for all of us who are fearful at this time, because of COVID-19. Or, anything else. Even death, which seems to be in the air:
BE STILL, MY HEART!
Verse: Hebrews 10:22
Be still my heart! these anxious cares
To thee are burdens, thorns and snares;
They cast dishonour on the Lord,
And contradict his gracious word.
Brought safely by his hand thus far,
Why wilt thou now give place to fear?
How canst thou want if he provide,
Or lose thy way with such a guide.
When first his mercy seat
Thou didst thine all commit;
He gave thee warrant from that hour
To trust his wisdom, love and power.
And he refuse to hear thy call?
Did ever trouble yet befall,
And has he not promise passed,
That thou shall overcome at last?
He who has helped me hitherto
Will help me all my journey through,
And give me daily cause to raise
New Ebenezers to his praise.Though rough and thorny be the road,
◦it leads me on, apace, to God;
◦ Then count thy present troubles small,
◦ For God will make amends for all.
◦ May the God of Jacob renew His church beginning with all who trust in His faithfulness, fully and completely manifest in Christ Jesus and Him Crucified, Risen and Ascended, so that the church may renew the nation(s) in these post the initial shock of COVID-19 times.
◦ In obedience.
◦ N.B. Ebenezer – thus far has the Lord carried us. Samuel!
◦ THE SECOND EMAIL ON TUESDAY
◦ The Gospel
◦ John 17:1-11
◦ Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
◦ ”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
◦ Comment: One of the questions which surely exercises our minds in this age, and has no doubt been the subject of many a debate over the ages, is what does it mean to be one in Christ. A question which may be legitimately posed – to each other, clearly not to God – after reading the Gospel for Sunday coming.
◦ Two thoughts came to mind. One that the behaviour of the disciples before Christ was crucified and rose from the dead, not only the fact that they all fled when Christ was captured and “ tried”, and not only Peter, but how they squabbled and schemed and doubted also, was dramatically different from after the resurrection and Pentecost – which cometh soon. Truly then they became a “ new creation”. And spent time together in the Word, the breaking of bread and assisting the poor and needy!
◦ It follows, therefore, assuming my theology, understanding of God is correct, that true biblical unity in Christ is not something that we as a church can work for, but comes naturally, or rather supernaturally, when children of God truly become a “ new creation “ in Christ Jesus. And are therefore protected from the world – the forces and temptations of a culture that does not acknowledge the Sovereignty of the Creator and Redeemer God – by the “ Holy Father”, by the precious Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The prayer of Christ on the night before He died. On His deathbed. Literally! And we know from Holy Scriptures that “ the Father always hears what Jesus says”.
◦ Of course all of this begs the further question “ how do we become a New Creation’? And the very profound words of Hebrews 11 come to our rescue. By faith Abraham. By faith Moses. By faith Gideon. By faith.
◦ There is another twist to the story this morning. The second thought! From last night. Oswald Chambers placed this idea in my mind. And it is very apropos, very relevant to this early morning discussion:
◦ OSWALD CHAMBERS
◦ MAY 18
◦ Living Simply— Yet Focused
◦ Look at the birds of the air….Consider the lilies of the field…
◦ “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”—
✓ Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”— they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon— all of these simply are as well— yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful.
✓ Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
✓ We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.”
✓ The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.
✓ If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him
✓ Who knows then, in this context, that COVID-19 has come to teach us to focus , to concentrate, on God alone, in and though Jesus Christ, rather than on our circumstances. And then the unity we crave as a church community and as a nation, who knows, may then “ flow from us like living waters”. Into our homes, our communities and our work places! Perhaps even into our politics. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful!
✓ All because Jesus prayed for us. On the night before He died. Over two thousand years ago. And that prayer is being answered by The Holy Father, even now in this age, and in the age to come.
✓ It’s all a mystery. As John Wesley wrote famously in his wonderful hymn! And it’s all the work of The Holy Father and not of our own desires and needs. We just need to believe and trust in a God who is faithful. And He has proven this by raising Jesus from the dead. This same Jesus who prayed for us as recorded in John 17 – the High Priestly Prayer.
✓ Praise God.
✓ Lord renew thy church as we place our trust in, and concentrate on this same Jesus Christ, Crucified, Risen and Ascended; Lord renew thy church that streams of living waters may flow from your “ New Creation”, and renew this embattled Corona Virus infected, and Sin infected, nation(s)
✓ In Obedience
✓ THE THIRD EMAIL ON THURSDAY
Song bird Savanna James and the choir master Audley Davidson posing. after church
✓ Corporate worship is now allowed for more than 10 persons. What a thing! God’s people are given permission to worship Him in His House. Shades of Moses demanding of Pharaoh that He allow the children of Israel to go and worship Jehovah God in the desert. But it is what it is, this disrupter named COVID-19.
✓ So I know , especially from the few who turned out last week, that the time is not yet right, that folks still, quite rightly so, have reservations about being exposed to the Virus. Yes, we all long for the fellowship and to worship together in God’s house ; “ we go celebrate O Israel”. But no, we are not quite ready as yet. Some!
✓ Then last night this encouraging song came into my heart in the dead of night when I was fast asleep. My “ song in the night” last night. One of Heron Wright’s favourite songs!
✓ In obedience, here it is:
✓ We have come into this place
✓ And gathered in His Name to worship Him,
✓ We have come into this place
✓ And gathered in His Name to worship Him,
✓ We have come into this place
✓ And gathered in HIs Name
✓ To worship Christ the Lord
✓ Worship Him, Christ the Lord ( make you feel like crying don’t. With joy!)
✓ So forget about yourself
✓ And concentrate on Him and worship Him,
✓ So forget about yourself
✓ And concentrate on Him and worship Him,
✓ So forget about yourself
✓ And concentrate of Him
And worship Christ the Lord,
✓ Worship Him, Christ the Lord.
✓ He is all my righteousness,
✓ I stand complete in Him and worship Him,
✓ He is all my righteousness,
✓ I stand complete in Him and worship Him,
✓ He is all my righteousness ,
✓ I stand complete in Him
✓ And worship Christ the Lord,
✓ Worship Him, Christ the Lord.
✓ Let us lift us holy hands
✓ And magnify His Name and worship Him,
✓ Let us lift up holy hands
✓ And magnify His Name and worship Him,
✓ Let us lift us holy hands
✓ And magnify His Name
✓ And worship Christ the Lord,
✓ Worship Him, Christ the Lord.
✓ Couple of thoughts came to mind as I wrote. That clearly I did not recall the entire song. We have come into this place, and He is all my righteousness, were the ones that featured in this song in the night. Except for the first verse, we can do all of these things, and continue to do them, at home. This is not a call to be be reckless, “ forget about yourself “, but I offer it for what it is worth, since I did not go to bed thinking that I should write to my church encouraging them to come back to corporate worship.
✓ That will take some time. This Word is just an encouraging Word.
✓ Two more encouraging words. One from two patients on consecutive days as we discussed COVID-19, the great disrupter. “ I have three friends and everywhere I go, they are there with me. Father Son and Holy Spirit!” The first time I heard it, I remarked, “ wow that a good way to express your faith”. But the second time meant that the Lord was encouraging me. And I hope you too.
✓ The other from the Daily Bread reading yesterday. My lunchtime devotions! Sometimes. Remember Sennacherib the awful Syrian leader who terrified Hezekiah and uttered all kinds of blasphemous words about the Living God. Threatening to destroy Israel. So King Hezekiah, after putting on sack cloth and ashes, sent to the man of God, the prophet Isaiah for a Word from God.
✓ This was part of the Word in 2 Kings 19 from the Lord to the wicked.
✓ ““ ‘But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.’”
✓ As I read the Word I trembled inside. For the reality is that God knows where the wicked live. Those who rage against Him and against God’s people. And more importantly God knows where you and I live. And when we come and when we go. The exact address. This same “ Three friends” of ours. So be of good courage, for the Living God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, not only knows where we live, but lives in us. Praise God!
✓ That’s why we sing! Like no other religion. That’s why worship. Like no other religion. “ So forget about yourself ( in that context) and concentrate on Him and worship Him. Worship Christ the Lord.
✓ Lord renew thy church beginning with all of us as we lift up holy hands and worship You, in and though Christ the Lord; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) that everyone may “ Gather in His Name and worship Him”.
✓ THE FINAL EMAIL YESTERDAY
◦ Christians, church people, the called out people of God, like those who are not regenerated, not born again, have real problems. Sickness! O God, sickness of so many different types and levels of severity. And death that rudely steals away a loved one. And if we are not careful our Joy! Forever! And ever! O what pain we bear.
◦ Financial challenges – to put it mildly. Especially in these COVID-19 times! Divorce, separation, marital troubles, disappointments – descending levels of trials. Mental health problems. Again especially in these unusual and uncertain times. But for some, long before the terrors of the pandemic arrived. For me, it has been a revelation, the amount of patients who have been afflicted by panic attacks, anxiety and even depression, in the past couple of months. And are likely to be so stricken in the months ahead.
◦ In the midst of all of this, I woke singing “ Draw me nearer,nearer, to thy precious bleeding side”. So I went and found the hymn, “ I am thine O Lord”, in the hymn book. And as I reflected deeply on the words, again, as it is one of my favorite hymns, the theology the understanding of God, came home to me most forcibly. In a new way.
◦ When I arrived at “ I commune as friend with friend”, immediately my mind went to another great hymn, “ What a friend we have in Jesus” And the words, on this morning when COVID-19 is still the “ talk of the town”, went deep into my heart. O God, if we, as your church, who need to believe in a God like you who is so faithful, could only believe and practice these things, what a renewal would happen in this country. To your glory. So Lord, help us as we learn new things from the saints of yure, who must have suffered so much to be able to write about your love and faithfulness like this:
◦ I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice
◦ and it told thy love to me; ( In Jesus we learn so much about the love of God)
◦ but I long to rise in the arms of faith, ( for even though we love thee Lord, our faith is often so dim and our prayers languid)
◦ and be closer drawn to thee. ( the ultimate goal of this life)
◦ Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where thou hast died, draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side. ( as only as we contemplate always what your the cross represents, will we be able to truly love you Lord, and others for whom you died also)
◦ Consecrate me now to thy service Lord,
◦ by the power of grace divine;
◦ let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
◦ and my will be lost in thine.
◦ Oh, the pure delight of a single hour that before thy throne I spend, when I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God, I commune was friend with friend…..
◦ What a friend we have in Jesus,
◦ All our sins and griefs to bear!
◦ What a privilege to carry
◦ Everything to God in prayer! ( O Jesus everything )
◦ O what peace we often forfeit !
◦ O what needless pain we bear ! ( These two gentle rebukes got into my very soul)
◦ All because we do not carry
◦ Everything to God in prayer.
◦ Have we trials and temptations! ( All of us, bar none)
◦ Is there trouble anywhere ? ( Everywhere Lord, all over the place)
◦ We should never be discouraged ( Not by COVID-19, not by any circumstance)
◦ Take it to the Lord in prayer.
◦ Can we find a friend so faithful ( One of the favorite things my patients say, mostly Evangelicals, is, “ we don’t find any fault with Him”)
◦ Who will all our sorrows share?
◦ Jesus knows our every weakness
◦ Take it to the Lord in prayer.
◦ Are weak and heavily laden,
◦ Cumbered ( gave spell check severe problems) with a load of care?
◦ Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
◦ Take it to the Lord in prayer.
◦ Do thy friends despise thee, forsake thee ( a double whammy this COVID-19 is; sickness and when recovered scorned, because of fear, by friends and even relatives – a terrible but real problem).
◦ Take it to the Lord in prayer:
◦ In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
◦ Thou will find a friend there. ( Thank you Jesus).
◦ I close with a story I read last night for my bedtime devotions. From Mark. A familiar story. But this time read with fresh insight. One I haven’t quite worked out. Or rather the Lord has not revealed the fullness of it to me as yet; why did Jesus intend to pass them by? The other, “ their hearts were hardened”, and so they could not fully comprehend that when Jesus fed the five thousand, the Almighty God was at work in their midst. In the same way, many of us still have “ hardened hearts”, as we don’t fully understand, fully grasp the awesome reality that the Almighty God lives within us; and His mighty Spirit is poured out of us who believe. To rescue this COVID-19 world, this world of injustice and immorality, this world of sickness and death. #FromBullBayToSixMiles and beyond.
◦ Jesus walks on water:
◦ “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake.
◦ He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
◦ Lord renew thy church beginning with all of us who in faith “ take everything to you in prayer”; Lord renew thy church that the church may help to renew the nation(s) post COVID-19. And even during this terrible plague on the world.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
I watched the original ( 1966) version of this highly acclaimed movie, last night. A script taken from a book of the same name, which I gather was at one time on the reading list for high school students right here in Jamaica. A movie in which a principled British Stateman stood to a King who would have his way. A true story of KIng Henry V111 and the Royal Chancellor of Britain, a man of God. The King won and the man of God lost his head. But not his soul! While it’s a moot point if the same assertions could be made of the King, and his vassal, Oliver Cromwell.
I had no intention of inculding this very profound commentary on British society during that long past era in this week’s blog on the Jamaican society in 2020. But I couldn’t help wonder if the famous lines “ what does it profit a man to gain so much and lose his soul’, directed at Thomas Moore’s accuser, who assigned words to him which were patently untrue, if those words aren’t accusing us today.
This as we struggle to open back our economy after, if that’s what flattening the curve means, or during if we are wrong, the most terrifying event that any Jamaican of this age, has had to live through. For that’s the most graphic message that my patients have conveyed in their description of how the virus has affected their lives. Absolute terror! That’s why many of them, some over age 90, others in their 80’s defied government orders and came to see their doctor. And were eternally grateful that I had not abandoned them in the midst of the most difficult period of their existence. They came to talk. To reveal their anxieties and even depression. They came to be assured that they did not have the virus. They came for other more mundane reasons. To refill their prescriptions. To get a check up. But mostly they came to share their fear of, and talk about, this pestilence on the land. Thank God we have been spared the horrors that have been visited on New York and London. Places where many of my patients, in the inner city in St. Andrew and in a fast growing rural town in the midst of the island, have many relatives and friends.
So after despite the Popcaan #unruly crowd, those who failed to maintain social distance, for whatever reason, many who did the right thing and stayed home ( except for the ‘misdemeanor’ mentioned), made the sacrifice, are now facing the threat, unless a vaccine is found quickly, of a resurgence of the virus, as the country, as it must do eventually, tries to open back the Economy. For while man ought not to live by bread alone, it cannot ignore the need for to put food on the table. Which is what the Government is valiantly trying to by seeking to bring back the tourists, shortening the curfew hours, and cranking up back the productive sector. Nothing working with that! In fact they are to be applauded for trying to balance people’s lives while balancing their pockets!
So why am I ( being led to ) resurrecting the ghost of Sir Thomas More and warning a nation about losing its soul? The problem is to found in the words of another famous piece of English Literature: “ It was the best of times. It was the worst of times”.
As before COVID-19 descended on Jamaica, and I dare say the world, but this morning we are concerned primarily but not exclusively, with Jamaica land we love, the normal to which many are now yearning for, as we open up our economy, was not a good place. Yes, as a people we have achieved much, and for which we are forever grateful. But, going back to over 1000 murders every year is not a good thing. Going back to 30% of our people living on Chronixx #Captureland is not a good thing. Going back to land where political tribalism of the worst sort, has helped to carve out enclaves known as “ Garrisons “ with the attendant and well now social ills, is not a good thing. Going back to an educational system where so many of children emerge barely functionally literate and thus contribute to our famously low levels of productivity, is not a goof thing. Going back to the kind of toxic masculinity, whatever the genesis, which has occasioned so much pain and angst in so many relationships, and death, is not a good thing.
Going back to a culture, where in particular one aspect of the genre of music, despite its claim to have currency in international circles, stands accused, for a long time led by one of the best minds in the land, the late Ian Boyne, of misogyny, of producing gun lyrics, of gross sexual immorality and of undermining the very moral foundation of the land in general and “Gaza” in particular, is not a good thing. Going back to a land in which privilege and power and hubris, all combine, in an unholy combination, to not only successfully engage in acts of corruption, but has arguably resulted in the kind of inequity which has plagued and stymied the development of the lives of ordinary Jamaicans #FromBullBayToSixMiles and beyond, is not a good thing.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, and who knows the source of so much which has occasioned the “ worse of times” in Jamaica. Going back to a church divided not only by denominational cleavages, but more importantly by doctrinal differences. Not the least of which is the wholesale capture of large swathes of the church community by the “ prosperity gospel”. Which is no gospel at all, but an attempt, as one of my Bishop’s once said famously “ an attempt to sneak into heaven incognito”, by avoiding suffering, and dying to self with and in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, for all these reasons, and more, Jamaica, and the world, which before COVID-19 arrived was behaving very much like in the days of Noah when the flood came. Marrying and being given in marriage! Completely oblivious to the great sins of the time which “provoked “ God to bring disaster on the world. And to start over again. A world which had completely lost its soul!
A country and indeed the world – think climate change, world poverty, and how according to the classic Walter Rodney’s book, “ How Europe underdeveloped Africa, the build up of nuclear weapons – which in the solemn and accusatory words of The Encounter by John Newton was guilty of :
An evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame of fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career …..
For if truth be told, before COVID-19 struck, Jamaica, as described above, was guilty of being on a “ wild career”. Whether we like to admit it or not! And whether we would try to sugar coat the truth or not, and paint over the cracks with evidence of progress.
But there is a worse, and perhaps final accusation, from yet another great English writer. None other than T. S. Eliot in his seminal poem “ :
………But it seems that some thing has happened that has never happened before; though we know not just when, or why, or where.
Man have left God not for other gods, they say, but no god; and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first reason,
And then money, and power, and what they call life, or race, or dialectic.
The church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what do we have to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressive backwards.
For truly if we examine critically, and with the discernment of the Holy Spirit, what obtained before COVID-19 , we will find a world and Jamaica sucked into its vortex, “ advancing progressively backwards”.
Question is, do we accept the accusation that COVID-19 is, or do we just ignore the realty, that one of the most terrifying experiences that our people have gone through, or still passing though, has come as a wake up call. And thus plan for a better Jamaica in the future under God. Or just return to our version of normality with the nation’s soul still at risk; like the children who live in the inner cities.
Questions which I posed to my church this week in a couple of emails and which thoughts embodied in them might help us on this Post COVID-19 journey.
THE FIRST EMAIL
G. Campbell Morgan
Verse: Exodus 10:26
“Not a hoof shall be left behind”. This was the final word of Moses in a persistent conflict against anything in the nature of compromise. Pharaoh had attempted to bring this about since after the fourth plague.
Note the the stages of these attempts. At the beginning he had declared that these people should not go to sacrifice to Jehovah their God. After the plague of the flies, the fourth, he suggested that they might sacrifice, but they should do without going away from the land.( Exodus 8:25).
This Moses at once refused. Then Pharaoh suggested that if they must go, it should not be very far away(8:28). On this Moses entreated for him, and the plague was removed, but he would not let them go. He proposed later, after the eighth plague ( that of locusts), that they should leave the women and children behind(10.8-11).
Moses refused. After the ninth plague ( that of the darkness), he suggested that the cattle be left (10:24). Then Moses spoke this final word: “ Not a hoof shall be left behind”.
That is the attitude of the man of faith. Evil is always suggesting some compromise. To listen to it, is to remain enslaved. The only way into liberty is to leave the land of evil; to go accompanied by the women and children; and to take the all property also. It is when that attitude is assumed, that men pass out from all bondage, and find the liberty which is in the purpose of God for them.
Comment: Many years ago, I ceased believing in coincidence. Therefore, for the Lord to ‘open up ‘ this meditation in my Classic Devotional Bible, on a morning when Jamaicans awake to learn, if they didn’t hear last evening, that we are opening up again for business, having been locked down by COVID-19, cannot be coincidence. But in a sense divine intervention!
So what do we make of this message? Is COVID-19 a plague sent, or allowed by God, to arrest us, as a church, and as a nation, and as a world, from compromising with evil. For a people who are to be a holy nation, read again the words of the epistle from last Sunday:
1 Peter 2:2-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light……:
Cannot compromise with evil. And God knows that, not only have we been guilty of compromising with all kinds of evil things in our land, but in some instances, O Jesus, we have been the very Pharaoh. Have mercy O God. Have mercy!
So I would suggest, and this meditation from the very heart of God, demands that, as we go forward, at the very least as a church, pray God as a people also , although we have limited control over that part, that “ not a hoof is left behind”, as we enter a new phase of our relationship with a Holy God. After what is, was, continues to be, a virtual plague upon the land.
Of course I could give examples, and perhaps begin with me first, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, God have mercy, but each one of us needs to look deep within our souls, and ponder on how much we have compromised with evil. And I am not just talking about the big ticket items, although that is without doubt a part of it – promoting same sex marriage, downplaying the evil of intimate homosexual relationships, flirting with, sailing close to the wind of legalizing abortions. But what may appear to be little things, little sins, white lies if you will, all add up in the mind of a Holy to rank disobedience. The meditations yesterday, or the day before, warned against “ fraternizing with bad things”. The one today is even more explicit in the warning: “ Not a hoof is be left behind”.
Finally note the injunction to “ carry the women and children and all property”.
We cannot be mindful only of “ rescuing ourselves individually “ from evil, but we must be responsible for our family, and extended family and church family and national family too. “ Not a hoof is to be left behind”! Really!
As I write St. Paul’s famous words come to mind, “ I am not guilty of the blood of anyone.” A passage of Scripture that bears much reflection:
THE WORD OF GOD
““Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
And there is one in Ezekiel also about the people of God being appointed watchmen to warn the nation. And if we fail to warn them them we too will be under judgment. A passage Father Michael Elliott highlighted in my Bible many years ago.
I leave it there. Much more is in my mind, but I leave it there. For if we don’t spend the time reflecting on what the Lord is saying to us in the midst of the greatest and most terrifying event in the history of our world, then we are guilty of believing in coincidence in a world where God is always sovereign. And who knows might stand guilty of the blood of others.
Lord renew thy church beginning with all of us; Lord renew thy church as we are determined not to leave one hoof behind, and flee from evil, so that the church may renew the nation(s) who are so mixed up with evil, they can’t discern right from wrong “ ah nuh nutten”.
THE SECOND EMAIL
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
The words of Psalm 133 greeted me as I opened my Bible this morning. And brought me back to “ Not a hoof is to be left behind”!
For to “dwell in unity” is to be one with Christ Jesus. A prayer that our Savior prayed on the night before He died. The “ High Priestly Prayer”, recorded in John 17. But to be one with Christ is to be Holy. Yes, to have fellowship with one another in God’s house. Yes, to share in the sacraments. Yes, to share God’s love with the poor and the vulnerable, and what one former Archbishop of Canterbury termed , “ the refuse of human society “. Those left behind in then, the Industrial Age!
So to be holy in Christ is to leave behind literally and metaphorically, more than what we normally consider important. Thoughts which came to mind as I went for my morning walk yesterday while reflecting on “ Not a hoof is to be left behind”.
Post COVID-19, we must not continue to fret. And to be fearful! For Scriptures teaches us that such activity “leads only to evil” Psalm 37:8. These evil things, like anger, and grumbling and worrying, are sinful for they individually or in combination, tell God that He cannot manage our situation. The same God who in Christ, assures us that “ I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but let not your heart be troubled I have overcome the world”. The end of John 16!
Perhaps we have forgotten, in this dispensation of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, that many died in the desert during the Exodus, because of such evil things. Grumbling and complaining! And worse, when these things provoked Moses to wrath, it led to Moses being rebuked by the Lord, and being prevented from going into the promised land.
This list is clearly not exhaustive, and we can consider so many other things. But the essential point is that, one of the benefits that ought to flow to God’s called out people, which is what we are in Christ Jesus, is that after this kind of plague upon the land, we really need to consider how much we have been faithful as a people in pursuing holiness. Or have we been guilty of being disobedient to God’s eternal instructions to His people, in Canaan , and now in “ Babylon”: “ Do not do what they do”.
Are we, therefore, easily identifiable as Christians in this “ corrupt generation”? Do people see us as different? Do they see the Christ in us? Or more profoundly, do they see us at all? Or have we merged into, and become one with, the tapestry of the world.
A prayer which I send up to God with my grace in the mornings before breakfast, comes to mind as I write:
“ Consecrate me now Lord, with the power of grace divine. Let my heart look up with a steadfast gaze and my will be lost in thine. Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord to the Cross where thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord to thy precious bleeding side”.
Many of us will recognize it as a verse, and the refrain, from the well known hymn, “ I am thine O Lord, I have heard thy voice, and it told thy love to me; but I long to rise in the arms of faith, and be closer drawn to thee…
I am not sure when and why this prayer came to my mind. But it did. And did a long time ago! Perhaps the Lord knew that I needed it, as like so many of us, “ I am so prone to wander, wander from the God I love”.
And who knows, that God determined by His Sovereign grace, that the world needed a wake up call. Calling us, a people who are so prone to wander from His love, back to being a :
chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light……:
My friends in Christ Jesus, unless we ponder over these things, I would suggest that it will profit us little, if we seize the opportunity to return to church as it was before COVID-19, and make little or no change in our lives as God’s people. Called in Christ Jesus to “ dwell together in unity”. Then and only then will the blessedness of:
“ It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”…….be our experience. And help to renew this nation!
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church, renewed in unity in Christ Jesus, may renew the nations(s) that have wandered from the God who created and sustains them in Christ Jesus and the Power of the Holy Spirit. Whether they know or believe it or not!
Remember the Scotts who are Anglicans and who are in so much grief this morning, on account of the headlines in the Daily Gleaner.
May the God of all comfort envelop them with His love and mercy and power to persevere. This God who in Christ Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary so that in Christ Jesus and Him Crucified, we may become holy and be assured of the victory over Sin, death and all evil. Not a hoof is to be left behind! Truly in Christ and Christ alone.
At St. Luke’s Church October 2017. Dr. Paul Scott to the right, definitely, and I think his wife to the left…is that correct Archdeacon?
THE THIRD EMAIL
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
It is still one of the tragedies of human history that the “ Children of darkness”, are often more determined than the “children of light” – Martin Luther King jr.
I found this quote at the end of a very instructive passage of Scripture ( above) in my Classics Devotional Bible this morning. And what I get I share.
Comment: That’s the context in which we, the children of Light, must vow to “ not leave one hoof behind”. In Majesty Gardens! In St. Clements. In the Girls Home. In Ambrook Lane – helping Minke. Everywhere that injustice and inequity and suffering and hunger and anger and that which causes an assault on human dignity reigns; wherever the image deo is marred but not unrecognisable to the Creator and Redeemer God. There should the children of this God be, in rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying and going after the stray, and seeking to know God’s will in these COVID-19 times; in addition to , not rather than, turning our attention to opening up back the economy.
For indeed, what shall it profit a nation to welcome back tourists and plug the gaping hole in the budget and yet stand to lose its very soul because we have, ‘’ left our children – children of the wretched of the earth who have now become our nemesis as gunmen and those who don’t take telling and filled with thoughts of revenge and driven by toxic masculinity, as obtains elsewhere also – and aged and vulnerable, left them all behind”. Before, and now if we are not vigilant, also after COVID-19.
So is MLK jr right, are we asleep, or is his vision of the mission of the Christian, the child of Light, too ambitious or too demanding?
Lord renew thy church with a clearer vision of what it means to follow Christ; the One who died on the Cross to save the wretched of the earth – those in need of salvation. And not those who are very comfortable with their sins and their situation!
Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) who ignore the plight of the wretched of the earth. In Fanon’s Angola, in MKL jr America, in Wilberforce and Wesley’s UK and in Sam Sharpe’s Jamaica. And in the whole wide world for whom Christ died. So that men may not perish but have eternal life. In India, in Pakistan, in China, in Italy, in Spain and in Germany
Ultimately, only the reality of death helps to coral the limitless possibilities, that life on earth has to offer. Yes, illness may achieve the same end. But it has to be something serious. Otherwise mankind, with gay abandon, pursues his or her dreams; most times selfishly, with not much thought, for another fellow traveler. Relatives, yes, friends and co-workers yes, king and country maybe, God or a divine being, yes, in some cases. At least in this generation! As it wasn’t always like that. Not in Jamaica. Perhaps forged out of a common history of being the descendants of former enslaved people, or indentured laborers, the sense of community ran deep in the country in which I grew up as a young man. Sadly now , for many reasons, we have become, what the late very talented writer and journalist, Ian Boyne, termed “ an atomistic society”; fragmented, not cohesive, doing our own thing, and the ‘devil take the hindmost’.
COVID-19, did not cause the fragmentation of our society. It has only exposed the reality. Some are always a’at risk’. While others, not so much. And the two parts of our society, for the most part, live separate lives. Then death intervened this week and took away two prominent citizens of our country. Both of whom had contributed much to national development. Others died too! The ‘at risk’ in Denham Town. Murdered! Two teenagers. The ‘at risk’ in other parts of the country. Murdered!
A 2007 Picture. Michael Gordon and Patrick Virtue. Two childhood friends. One left us shortly after. The other this week #Gonetoosoon
Michael Gordon, a childhood friend and a renowned photographer whose work touched the lives of many, died of natural causes this week. And so did Professor Freddie Hickling, a colleague, and internationally acclaimed Psychiatrist and Pan-African advocate -and of black consciousness in general.
Death is a great leveler. For, according to the ‘Good Book”, the Bible, “ it is appointed for all mankind once to die, and then the judgment”. If that is the reality of life, and is what Christianity teaches, then what is this life on earth all about. A question that ought to cause us to cease pursuing life with gay abandon here on earth, largely ignoring the plight of the people ‘at risk’ around us, except for the occasional, and captured on social media for good effect, giving of gifts to the poor.
I don’t know where Freddie Hickling, my colleague has gone. Nor Michael ( Curly) Gordon, my friend! Nor the over 1000 persons who were murdered last year; or the over 400 who lost their lives in a motor vehicle crash. But what I do know, is that no matter where you live on earth, or how you have lived, or how you have suffered, and were not able to fulfill your God given potential, death welcomes all to a common destiny. A common “ for ever and ever Amen”!
It is in this context, I believe, that I was inspired to write and send two emails to my church. One inspired by a well known hymn. The other by a verse of Scripture which reminded me, once again, just in case I had forgotten, and tempted to go off and pursue my own dreams, that life on this planet is war. Between Satan and the unsuspecting! And even more so between Satan and the child of God. Both are ‘ at extreme risk’. But one has a Savior. The other is without protection. That’s the “ breaking news”, for this week. For like it or not, and believe it or not, there is a supernatural world out there. And a supernatural battle for our souls. The “ forever and ever “ part of us! So COVID-19, in that context, is not the real war; not really a skirmish, a battle perhaps. But definitely not the story of life!
THE FIRST EMAIL
After we both woke up this morning, thank God, and on going outside to pick up the newspapers, thinking about Christ and the power of His resurrection, I sat down to begin my early morning devotions. And once again “ New every morning is thy love”, came into my head. So I opened the hymn book but never got to that song of praise, as this other hymn arrested my attention. And taught me all kinds of things. God indeed, is quite mysterious:
1. God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year,
God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
Comment: Places things in sharp perspective doesn’t it. Lest we forget. That the purpose of God, in all this majesty and beauty and fascination and wonder that this world has for us, is that one fine day, His glory shall cover it all – as the waters cover the sea. And that the song writers of yure must have been people who had great discernment into the mind of God. No doubt, therefore, they experienced much suffering. It certainly doesn’t appear that way now, that soon the glory of God will cover the earth one day. But in these COVID-19 times, when the entire world is under some kind of lockdown, and struggling to open back up, who knows, we have a glimpse of the power of God and even in a sense, the glory of God. Winston Churchill once said famously, after the defeating of the Germans in the Battle of Britain: This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is certainly the end of the beginning. Many of my patients, mostly fundamentalists, although I am not quite sure what that term means anymore, are quite sure that these are “ end times”. And so there is no “fixing it”. Who knows! Only God.
2. From the utmost east to the utmost west wher’ e’er man’s foot has trod,
by the mouth of many messengers goes forth the voice of God,
‘Give ear to me, ye continents, ye isles, give ear to me,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea?
Comment: Even now we can discern the voice of the missionaries who came to the isles and the distant continents from what was once a place where Vital Christianity took hold. Where the Methodism of John and Charles Wesley stirred the conscience of a nation. Where William Wilberforce and His friend Prime Minister Pitt, planned and plotted and executed God’s plan to rescue African slaves from the clutches of evil. From being transported to the West Indies in a ship hold in 4ft by 18inch spaces for six weeks. From 600 in the ship on loading to 200 on arriving. Watched the movie Amazing Grace last night!
And now in these COVID-19 times when the UK is being sadly ravaged by death and sickness, and so too France and Italy and Spain, all countries that once sent forth Christian missionaries to the utmost east and utmost west, but now all experiencing serious loss of faith in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, what do we make of it? I think I read somewhere that over 90% of young people in the UK, perhaps teenagers, do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
There is a Poem that has often intrigued me and it came to mind just now as I am writing. The Moment of Time by T. S. Eliot. No doubt a profound reflection on the state of his beloved country, and thus this extremely gifted poet wrote a poem which ends like this:
………But it seems that some thing has happened that has never happened before; though we know not just when, or why, or where.
Man have left God not for other gods, they say, but no god; and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first reason,
And then money, and power, and what they call life, or race, or dialectic.
The church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what do we have to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressive backwards.
No doubt Thomas Stearns Eliot, born in the USA, but who then migrated to the UK, wrote prophetically if not sadly about the state of British society, and if truth be told, Europe too, and despite the veneer of Christianity which gives the impression that the USA is still a Christian country, it too may very well be counted as “ advancing progressively backwards”. At least spiritually!
Jamaica should tek sleep and mark death. Lest we too fall under judgment. And COVID_19 may just be a wake up call to a world, which one day will be covered by God’s glory, that despite the appearance of progress, it is going backwards.
3. What can we do to work God’s work, to prosper and increase
the brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time, the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea?
Comment: Serious question isn’t it, for you and for me. And for all children of God in this COVID-19 age!…the brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of Peace. Social distancing and brotherhood at first blush seem mutually exclusive. But God looks at the heart not at the physical distance between people. Where is our heart in all of this? What is our desire? For the thing to end and for us to go back to normal? But was normal, promoting the glory of God? Was that which obtained in “normal”Jamaica, the murder, and murder most foul, the toxic masculinity, the wrong addresses, the corruption in the body politic, the sexual misconduct in the very church of the Living God promoting the brotherhood of man and the reign of the Prince of Peace? So what can we do, as church, as washed and sanctified to do God’s work, in this “ corrupt generation”, advancing progressively backwards? What!
To be continued. Have to go to work.
Lord renew thy church as we “ stand with empty hands with our palms turned upwards”. Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to the cross I cling……
Cont’d……what can we do to do God’s work, to prosper and increase the brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of Peace
Before I left for work, on arriving in May Pen and this morning the following thoughts came to mind; that’s why theology, an understanding of God – before we can properly, and give Him the glory, do His work – is important. Inherent in what was revealed to me, as I make so such claim. But not as a study in and by itself, otherwise our faith will lose its vitality, and why so many seminarians, and prominent ones too, in the USA and elsewhere, can admit that they don’t believe in the resurrection nor the Virgin birth. But as one who is diligently seeking to know this God of Jacob!
First point. The Old Testament knowledge of God. Remember what Moses ( on arriving in May Pen this one came to mind) said to the children of Israel when Pharaoh’s army suddenly threatened them at the Red Sea; and terror came into their hearts – in the same way perhaps that many of my patients are absolutely terrified by this COVID-19 pandemic?
“ You only need to be still”.
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.””
Part of the challenge, and this Word from the Lord is repeated throughout the OT, “ Be still and know”, is that, many are in this New Testament dispensation, are still of that OT understanding of God. That He will do everything, we just have to have faith and to pray, and worship Him.
Consider then the “ more and better particulars” of the New Testament. And as I write another passage comes to mind. In addition to those already lodged there:
“He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.””
As we consider this passage, we must be cautious, as Elijah and others, including David “ and the power of the Hoy Spirit came upon him”, had power. The same Holy Ghost Power which was promised to the disciples, and to all of us who are baptized. But in these last times, God’s power has been poured out on all flesh…those who are baptized, who have died with Christ and raised in Him to be a “ New Creation”. So we have been given Power to do the works of God, “ to prosper and increase the brotherhood of all mankind and the reign of the Prince of Peace”.
Consider further this reality – glory to God. Every time I read this Word, unbelief knocks at my door.:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
So the same Power that God used when He raised our Savior from the dead, is available to us who believe. No wonder our forebears coined the phrase “ Belief kills and belief cures”.
Finally, and there is no finality here as the Scriptures are littered, filled is perhaps a better term, with similar instructions, this Word came to me. A Word that has been with me for some time now. Truthfully, more the first part than the second. But I am being obedient:
“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.”
What does all of this mean? How does this answer the question that the hymn writer posed, and answered? “ Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin, to set the captives free, that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea”.
So the first order of priority as St. Paul said famously, is to preach the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. This is what the Power from on High, the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead, has been given to us to do. Primarily! That’s what the promised Holy Spirit has been sent “ to reveal all truth””; the same One who will “ convict men of Sin, Judgment and Evil”.
So that like John the Baptist in the blessed song of His dad, what we know as the Benedictus, may be fulfilled in us. With great Power!
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel who hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David ……..That we being delivered from the hands of our enemies: might serve him without fear; In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our life……To give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins……..To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death……
Yes, there is a lot more for us to do, in keeping with God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we must never forget, even in these COVID-19 times, when the focus is perhaps on loving our neighbors whose lives have been devastated by the downturn in the economy, and affected by the virus itself, or family members, that we are called to “ fight the fight with sorrow and sin”. For inherent, not even inherent, explicit in the Word of God, is the sorrow that “ the wages of sin is death”. The eternal sorrow from which we are called to rescue “ the brotherhood of all mankind”. Jews, Muslims, atheists, New Age people, people who don’t care about a relationship with our Savior, but who are in danger of being under God’s righteous judgment if we do not obey His Word.
As the reign of the Prince of Peace is only for those who accept the Salvation which His Atonement on Calvary offers.
So we have been given the Power to preach the Gospel. The Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, for the forgiveness of sin, and the blessed Hope and present reality, of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.
I said finally, but another well known passage comes to mind. Not as a bookend. But as an instruction for a life in Christ. One that I quoted already. For, and the final verse of the hymn, tells the same story, “ All we can do is nothing worth unless God blesses the deed, if our desire is not for Christ and Him Crucified, we cannot do God’s work, to His honor and glory – as the waters cover the sea. It will involve sacrifice, even death to self. And it certainly will involve suffering with Christ. Not in the same way He suffered, but in His company. As a servant is no greater than His Master. AS St. Paul admitted, we are not quite there as yet. But this must be our goal. Before we can renew this COVID-19 country and world of ours; with its many and varied problems. Including Sin and sorrow!
“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.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
Lord Jesus Christ Son of the Living God, may you renew thy church beginning with all who are baptized, with Power from on high this day, and at this time, so that the church may renew this troubled country. And troubled world. Even in the midst of COVID-19. Amen.
THE SECOND EMAIL
You know how it feels when “ a light bulb shines suddenly in your head”. A kind of Eureka moment. But not quite, as it is the Lord who reveals these things to you, and not that we have discovered them. I was at my desk, having lunch. A chance to read the Word of God, and to take off that mask! An opportunity to read a commentary on God’s Word. But this time the Word was alone sufficient. No explanation necessary. This is the Word:
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.””
There is a lot to, what the Americans term “ unpack” in this Word. But for now, the key message which got into my soul yesterday, was the Word highlighted.
That “ woe to the earth and the sea…………He is filled with fury”.
What does that mean? A lot! But in this context, in this message from the Lord this morning, it means that we Christians are in a war with Satan. For it is his intention, sole intention, sole purpose, to “ steal, kill and destroy”, the people of God. How? By enticing, by seducing, by encouraging them to become disobedient to God, and to forget all His promises which are “ Yes” in Christ Jesus and Him Crucified and Raised from the dead. And not only the people of God, although principally so, but all mankind. So as the Word of God says, “ because we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men”. And save them from being destroyed! For that is why Jesus was sent by His Father, and willingly accepted His Father’s will, to die on the cross of Calvary – to grant us victory over, Sin, Death and Evil.
Therefore the war against COVID19, and the war against poverty, and the war against injustice, and the war against immorality, and the war against inequity in our society, and the war against Crime and Violence, the war against drug abuse, the war against scamming, all have their locus in this war with Satan, who is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short. For in Christ, we have the victory over him, he is still active and powerful, and will be until the Lord finally comes again to judge the living and the dead. The Parousia!
Therefore is it critical that as children of God, we are made aware, and never forget, that there is a supernatural world, and that supernatural things are happening in that world, which affects all of us in our pursuit of the national development plan of Jamaica :
The comprehensive vision of the national development plan is to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
A plan which is eerily familiar to what was happening in the world before God acted decisively and brought about the flood which killed off all mankind. Except Noah ( and his family) because he found favor with God, in the midst of a world which had become wicked and disobedient:
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
So we who live in a world where, “ people are eating and drinking, marrying – even same sex marriage now and babies being born to surrogate mothers and ‘given’ to same sex couples with great fanfare – and giving in maarriage”, that is living our normal lives, as we see fit, need to remember always that we in a war with Satan who is like a roaring lion seeking to devour people. That is, get them to be disobedient to the Living God.
That is the context in which I believe I was led to read this mediation from Chris Tiegreen this morning and to share:
Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace – Romans 6:14
It’s a nice theory. In principle, we died with Jesus, the law is no longer our master, therefore sin is no longer an issue and grace rules. There is only one problem with it; we still sin. And though we try not to, it happens a lot. While Paul assures us that sin is no longer our master, it often seems so…well masterful.
Why is that? Is this passage of the Bible wrong? Of course not. Or as Paul is fond of saying, “ By no means!” When the Bible declares us free from sin, it means that we are free from sin. It isn’t just a removal of the label from the same old disobedient acts. It isn’t just an imputed righteousness that means that we are clean in God’s eyes but still filthy in our own. It means that sin has lost its power. Really.
That means, of course that any time we say we couldn’t help this or that sin, we really could have. It doesn’t mean that the temptation wasn’t real and powerful, or that the flesh wasn’t really weak, or that the enemy wasn’t incredibly deceptive and persuasive. But we can’t get away with implying to God that our sin was unavoidable. He won’t buy it. A Savior died to free us from it.
How can we tap into that freedom? We’ll explore that in the next few days, but it begins with grace. When God freed us from the law bu fulfilling it for us, he freed us to something else. Instead of being preoccupied with legalities, we can be preoccupied with Him. And the holiness of His very present Spirit will fill us with everything we need to follow Him well.
Many Christians have given up this battle, assuming that victory over sin is theoretical rather than practical. Avoid that temptation. Somehow in our unity with Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are really free. We may struggle with how to appropriate that victory, but we should never assume it isn’t available ( That is Satan’s plan). It is. Believe it. We have a much greater Master than sin.
Let grace be the beginning, grace the consumption, grace the crown – The Venerable Bede.
Lord renew thy church beginning with all of us who are aware of the enemy’s plans to sow unbelief and promote unawareness among your church; Lord renew thy church in tue knowledge of your Son Jesus and Him Crucified, so that your church may renew the nation(s) under attack by the evil one.
The roaring lion who seeks to steal, kill and destroy – especially our most vulnerable, the children.
I found her on the ground. Bawling! Around her, a set of women held her tight, trying to console her. But she was inconsolable. I had just reached home ( safe) in Kingston, when I got the call, that a member of my staff’s – who I had know from she was a teenager – child had died. So I spun around and went straight back to Clarendon. Thank God for the highway! But I was of no help to her. We could only pray for mercy, and for comfort. Thank God her mother was, gone to glory now, a woman of deep and unshakable faith. And with her help and the help of others, in due course, by the mercy of God, healing took place. Not totally! But healing nonetheless.
I can’t begin to imagine how Jodiann Fearon’s mother is feeling right now. In the midst of the controversy swirling around her child’s death! But what I do know, is that only God can comfort her. Not the Minister of Health, not the Prime Minister, not the family’s lawyer, nor the doctor who appeared on their behalf at the Post Mortem. Not whether or not protocols were followed, not the news of the cause of death, not even the outpouring of love and shock and disbelief that in Jamaica in 2020 – whether COVID-19 or not, whether her personal doctor was at fault or not – a cry, a desperate cry, for help, was the subject of debate for so agonizingly, and who knows maybe fatally, long. Only God!
I pray God that her family’s faith is God is not shaken. And if so not irreparably! I pray God that others who have died, or missing, as in the case of Janet Deen, under different circumstances, may not be the last straw that kills faith, not just in Jamaica as a place to raise children, O God what a irony now, do business and thrive, not just survive after COVID-19 #EmilyShields, but in the God who loved us, even unto death, in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, on a Cross.
Last night I read, what perhaps was, if not the beginning of the end of faith in Europe, where once faith in God once thrived, and was exported to the “ New World”, then at least a serious contributor to the decline:
Suffering and Glory, the second to last chapter in the late Rev. John Stott’s Seminal Work – The Cross of Christ:
“On 1 November 1755 Lisbon was devastated by an earthquake. being All Saints Day, the churches were full at the time, and thirty of them were destroyed. Within six minutes 15, 000 people had died and 15,000 more were dying. One of the many stunned by the news was the French philosopher and writer, Voltaire……he first expressed his protest in his Poem on the Disaster of Lisbon, which asks why, if God is free, just and beneficent, we suffer under his rule. It is he old conundrum that God is either not good or not almighty. Either he wants to stop suffering but cannot, or he could but will not.”
Stott then goes on to build a case to counter that kind of misunderstanding of God, admittedly the position adopted by a great many people in the Western world, including some of the popular intellectuals of the day right here in Jamaica. A case which in my mind was summed up in a post I shared on facebook last night :
The fact of suffering undoubtably constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation ……the cross of Christ is the proof of God’s loving solidarity with us in our pain…For the real sting of suffering is the apparent God-forsakenness of it all…I could never myself believe in God were it not for the cross – John Stott #JanetDeen #JodiannFearon
This week, I was inspired to write three emails to my church – one is very short. ( smile). About a nation in crisis. Because of COVID-19! On account of the growing lack of faith of the church, and even apostasy! On account of the great divide between rich and poor; and the glaring lack of care, even disregard, in the minds of some, about this national crisis! On account of murder most foul, and a precipitous decline in, and erosion of – a nuh nutten – our moral foundations! Many rivers to cross indeed, and over hills and valleys! Thank God for Jesus that “ Father forgive them for they know not what they do” is withholding God’s wrath from this land. But for how long! And certainly Christians “ ought to know what they do”. And what not to do:
Thoughts which triggered two posts on Facebook this week:
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. No one shall be found among you who who makes a son or a daughter pass though fire, or who practices divination, or is a smooth-sayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. Deut.18:9-11 #Syncretism
For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You must remain completely loyal to the Lord your God. Although these nations that you are about to dispossess do give heed to soothsayers and diviners, as for you, the Lord your God does not permit you to do so.” Deut. 18:12-14 God’s people cannot become #unruly Lest they too will be driven out.
THE FIRST EMAIL
Psalm 1:1-3 opened up itself to me this morning. Just like that! I wasn’t searching for it. Longing for a Word, especially a prophetic Word, from the Lord in #COVID-19 times, yes. But this was totally unexpected! Advice is the key word here. Like “ Whose report shall you believe. We believe in the report of the Lord” – Ron Kenoly! Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked – says the Psalmists.
So who are the wicked, whose advice we have followed over the years? What is the path that the sinners tread, and who are the scoffers who have led us astray? Intriguing questions aren’t they for a nation in crisis. And when you take the long view, from Independence until now, what went wrong, why we have arrived at regularly, over 1000 of our people being murdered, and “In 2008, then housing minister Dr Horace Chang said that about 30 per cent of the population lived in informal settlements or had no security of tenure”. Why does this almost vulgar inequity still haunt our land and not sear our collective consciences! Why!
Why are so many people “following “ Kartel on Instagram – over 1 million – and worse, his lifestyle on the ground. This convicted murderer and unapologetic destroyer of morals! And yet dare you say anything about him on social media, or in Gaza where he, the self-styled world boss, rules supreme! Why all of a sudden bad words, expletives, that one could not dare to utter in my home during my youth, why have they become “ fashionable”, and styled adhesively “ creative language”.
Why has our economy failed to grow, meaningfully, not the anemic growth we’ve come to expect, under successive governments? And thus the steady loss of our most skilled people to “ greener pastures”! Why has so much of what passes for church deteriorated into almost cult like activity led by modern day Apostles, and their wives; and in so many cases why has the so called prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all, taken root in this country? While at the same time, those churches that ought to know better given their history, many of them have not escaped the dangerous influence of the liberal theology now sweeping much of North America and Europe. A great reversal of the Vital Christianity that the Wesley brothers and Wilberforce et al, in obedience to, and based on their “ delight in the Law of the Lord”, once championed.
So who are the evil ones that “ planted the weeds in the midst of the tares”, and despoiled a once fair land? I don’t think anyone of us can honestly say that “ I was not there when they crucified my Lord”.
Nor can we claim that our hands are clean, in the appraisal of why the steady decline in the nation’s moral and social and economic history and current state.
The question is whose advice we are now following. Yes, after repentance and cleansing of our souls. Hopefully! If not, then certainly COVID-19 I believe presents us, as church, and as a nation, with its almost existential challenge, to reflect on whose “ advice” are we following. And if we can honestly say that “ I believe in the report of the Lord”, what next? If we as church, “ meditate of the Law of the Lord day and night”, and in this dispensation “ I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection”, what “ fruit in season “ are we bearing, as church, in this barren and desolate land,
For we can easily point fingers at the politicians and entertainers and “ village lawyers” in the media and at our Universities and Big Money, and miss the eternal message from the Psalms. “ Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked”. The question then is, “ what advice have we as church, given to this nation”? Have we truly reflected the suffering Christ to the poor and vulnerable and marginalized? Have we spoken truth to Power, or have we protected our party and highlighted the ills of the other. Which is the MO of the current age on Twitter! Have we then behaved like them, the wicked who don’t know the suffering Christ. And forgot what the Lord God of Israel said, “ Do not be like them”. Are we so absorbed with ourselves and our worship and our salvation, that we have failed to notice, and be prepared to be Salt and Light, in the midst of the steady decline in the nation’s moral and economic and social life?
I am ( continuing to ) reading again, John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. And one of the clear messages towards the end of the book, is that there is no glory with Christ, without first suffering with Him. Not like Him, clearly, but with Him. For a servant must be like his master. I fear we have become too comfortable in this land of wood and water, and hurting people; and people led astray by scoffers and the wicked. And perhaps as a result a pregnant woman died because there was only fear and no compassion. And a blind girl is robbed of her life, and yet life goes on, without missing a beat. Until COVID-19 comes and everybody is fearful of their lives. A great leveler is it not so. Perhaps the Lord allows these things to happen so that we might take the time and think. About what it means to be a Christian in this Fallen World. He didn’t think about the privilege of being like God, but humbled himself, and in obedience died on an old wooden cross. For Jamaica land we love. And for the whole world! I wonder what He is thinking now of us. Who clam to follow His advice! May God have mercy on our souls.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) who follow your advice to repent, and your example of grace and mercy for the even the wicked who turn to you.
THE SECOND EMAIL
Two things are acting in concert in my office during these #COVID-19 times. I have lot less patients, and most of them are seriously stressed about the Virus, and welcome an opportunity to talk; which under normal circumstances might not have been possible, or at least, not for any great length of time.
One of the things we talk about, and many of them are committed Christians, is how this Virus has affected their church life! And one in particular shared the, “ silver lining”, that these unusual times facilitate, demand even, that we engage in deep personal reflections. And guess what I read on the way to my early morning prayers in my Classic Devotional Bible, this morning:
Contemplation is like sleep in the arms of God – Bernard of Clairvaux ( a favorite saint of yure of the late Bishop Freddie Reid).
Also as I began my prayers “ What a friend we have in Jesus “ came to mind as I realized once again how faithful God is in watching over me night after night:
“ Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head, during the long, dark hours of might. Your holy angels have kept 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 the day.
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…….
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…….
So what Word did the Lord place in my heart yesterday during my early morning devotions – reflections? One for the ages. One that all Christians, early in the faith – even in Sunday School – and mature, ought to commit to memory and pray without ceasing. This is the introduction from the night before:
Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts— He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you.
THE WORD OF GOD
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
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.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
I am ( continuing to ) reading again, John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. And one of the clear messages towards the end of the book, is that there is no glory with Christ, without first suffering with Him. Not like Him, clearly, but with Him. For a servant must be like his master.
And as we read the very Word of God this morning about wanting to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, one cannot fail to notice that, part of the process of knowing Christ, is “ participating in his sufferings” and “ becoming like Him in His death”. But perhaps the most instructive part is the bookend ……the mystery…and so somehow to attain resurrection from the dead. Immediately Peter’s first sermon comes to mind:
“ save yourselves from this corrupt generation”.
Part of the problem I believe why many of us, and I am the first to cry “mea culpa”, don’t grow in Christ, don’t proceed to maturity, is that one, we don’t Ike the suffering part…we instinctively rebel against the thought, and two, we really don’t believe deep in our hearts that we are all that bad. Certainly not part of this “ corrupt generation”. And consequently, our desire to get to know Christ, in the way that Scripture demands, is at best, lukewarm. And even in our best times, unsustained. As elements of this sinful world entice us to ‘dethrone God from our hearts’! And there are many, including what Oswald Chambers warned against, “ wanting things from God”, instead of desiring God Himself in Christ Jesus.
This is not just theological musings. This kind of personal reflections has resonance for how we live in this “ corrupt society”. For how we treat one another as brothers and sisters, made in the image and likeness of God, with sacrificial love. Even how we react to, or if we had been in the situation how we would have treated, the plight of that young girl who died shortly after delivering her baby this week? Where was the compassion, where was the singular determination to save a life, in fact two lives, rather than “ following a protocol”. And as a physician I am aware of the reasons why protocols are put in place, but for God’s sake, how can established rules and regulations override the need to save a live, regardless of whether or not somebody else is at fault; if in fact that were the case, as we don’t really know.
This desire to know Christ, and participate in His sufferings and even become like Him in His death, would surely, if the church were a militant church, demand and agitate for, and become involved in, the provision of adequate housing and better living conditions for the 30% of Jamaicans who live in squatter settlements. And out of which “ evil’ has arisen all kinds of wickedness and crime and suffering, even amidst the good and pure and encouraging signs, that has caused the nation so much pain and angst. For make no mistake, the blood of Jasmine Deen is not only on the hands of her killers, assuming the worst, but on the hands on those of us who claim Christ, but are not willing to suffer with Him in order to build a more just society. But join in enjoying the ‘ delights of this world”, like everybody else in this corrupt generation.
And if sacrificial love is demanded of us, for those made in God’s image, how much more it is required for those who have been washed and sanctified like us, in the precious blood of the Lamb – the church. What a scandal then it is that we, as a rule, the exception may exist, don’t relate much to those outside our denomination, nor even pray for them on a regular basis. Or closer home, don’t relate well to those in our own church who we don’t know well, nor make the effort.
Indeed these unusual times call for an unusual preoccupation with the things of God. Including God’s Word and Sacrament! And since in a sense, we have not been participating in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, although we celebrate the death of Christ in our hearts, and His glorious Resurrection also in our love for Him, we need to delve deep into God’s Word in these times. Hopefully then, when COVID-19 would have passed, we will emerge a more mature and determined church, anxious to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. And to have this power manifest in our individual lives and in the collective witness of not just the Anglican Church, but the Church of God everywhere.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) through the suffering church.
THE THIRD EMAIL
Whose report shall you believe, is a question posed, and answered, in a song by popular Gospel artiste Ron Kenoly.
A conversation which ought to lead us to examine who are we listening to, as Christians living in this “ corrupt generation”?
It’s a vital, and almost existential question for the people in America, as they seek to open up their economy ravaged by COVID-19. Whose report shall they believe? The scientists, or the Governors, or the 45th? The same challenge confronts us here in Jamaica! To whom shall we turn, for advice, in these unusual times? I would suggest that the meditation written by Chris Tiegreen below, poses a more serious question? How much have we, the people of God, been listening and obeying God throughout the generations in Jamaica, in America, in Europe; and therefore in this time of serious challenge be guided by the One in whom we should have placed our absolute trust?
You must listen to Him. Deut. 18:15
Two verses earlier, Moses told the Israelites that they must be blameless before God. The practices of the Canaanites around them could never be allowed to rub off on God’s people:
( in fact when I read the preceding verses, I was moved to post this on Facebook: thinking about how syncretism, and Obeah is one such example; and there are more subtle ones…new age philosophy posing as church is another; liberal theology – the reinterpretation of Holy Scripture in defense of man’s desire to be popular, and current, is yet another.
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. No one shall be found among you who who makes a son or a daughter pass though fire, or who practices divination, or is a smooth-sayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. Deut.18:9-11 #Syncretism)
The law God had given through Moses had to be fully integrated into the lives of those who believed it. The righteousness taught be God had to be passed down from generation to generation. These people were to be blameless.
As we know from Scripture ( and from our experience, sadly, here in Jamaica and the world), the practices of the Canaanites did eventually rub off on God’s people. The law was never fully integrated into the national life of Israel – only periodically and through a few good kings and priests. The righteousness of God often skipped several generations ( hmmm), as fathers and mothers neglected to teach it to their sons and daughters. The people weren’t blameless at all.
That’s why another prophet was needed. The laws and the prophecies of Moses pointed to Jesus, who would implant life and righteousness into the hearts of of those who believed in Him. The fulfillment never came from external rules but from an internal Spirit. That’s why God spoke to the Israelites through Moses and said: “ You must listen to him”. There would be no other way to fulfill God’s requirements. Jesus is the only means by which human beings can become holy.
Many Christians, however, believe in Jesus without ever really listening to Him. We read His words and try to follow them – a futile attempt unless His own Spirit is given free rein within us by faith. We become religious followers of Jesus without spiritually fellowshipping with Him. We listen to God’s words and miss His heart.
Moses emphasized to Israel how important it was to listen to another prophet/Messiah who was to come. In Him all humanity would see its true Savior, a teacher/deliverer/miracle worker who would show us the way to the Father. He would not dismiss God’s rules, but fulfill them within us. Our spirits would be made alive together with Him, and our character would be changed. But only if we listen – obediently listen – to Him.
How many observe Christ’s birthday, but how few His precepts! – Benjamin Franklin.
Comment: So the point is that, if we are accustomed to listening to Christ, when the crisis comes, and it is very much here with us, and with the whole wide world, then knowing whose report to believe, is so much easier. And many more crises, and mini-crises, will come. Those who have been obedient and accustomed to hearing the Word of God, will know what to do. And not be in any doubt and follow the wrong voices. Whether it be our own inner voice, the voice of the 45th, or any other “ Caesar” whose authority we need to respect, while ultimately “ giving to God what belongs to God” – listening and being obedient to Jesus His beloved Son.
Lord, renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church ( Anglicans, Methodists, United, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Moravians, Church of God, All Evangelical Churches…..in Jamaica, in Cuba, in Antigua, in Guyana, in Belize , in Barbados, in the UK, USA, Spain, France, Italy, Nigeria, Kenya, China, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama …that the worldwide Church of God, may renew this COVID-19 infected world. In and though obedience to Christ and Him Crucified!