I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. My country, which does not have the resources to deal with an EVD ( Ebola Virus Disease) outbreak, and even the USA which does, and other countries across the globe, are in a state of panic about this modern day plague. So Ebola continues to be big news, not just locally but Internationally.
Meanwhile the good news is that the Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, who died in a Texas hospital, his girlfriend and others who were quarantined for 21 days, are now free. Free to inhale fresh air. Free to grieve properly. Free to continue their life in church and in community. Further afield, the British Nurse, William Pooley who also survived, is now back in Sierra Leone training other nurses and providing care for patients suffering from EVD. And also the ‘blame game’ continues.
From Obama to the WHO. From African leaders to those who ‘spread the disease’. From the CDC head to the Texas hospital which misdiagnosed the James Duncan’s illness case. All of this contributing to a world in a ‘tizzy’ on account of EVD.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of the real fears and panic, what message did the lord send through his Word and inspired word this week.
FFIRST MESSAGE(S) – sent to my prayer partners, reflect the state of mind that Christians ought to have when confronted by life’s challenges. Of whatever nature! For in there somewhere is a lesson, or lessons, or an opportunity to have our faith grow and develop, even though the circumstances might seem overwhelming and terrifying. think back to that doctor who survived, only by God’s grace and mercy, the EVD.
For as the Scriptures reminded me this week, in the midst of the Chik V disease,
” It does not depend on man’s efforts or desire, but on God’s mercy”.
http://bible.com/111/jas.1.2-4.niv Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
1 Peter was my ‘ song’ on the night last night. And nestled in the midst of it were these profound words, which are in accordance with a meditation from Brother Lawrence ‘ The Comfort of The Sovereign Physician’……I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray earnestly that he would give you the strength to bear them as long as he pleases….which has impressed me greatly.
Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in his skill and thank him for his prescription – John Newton
” Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourself with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” 1 Peter 4:1 NIV
THE SECOND MESSAGE – ENTITLED Of Ebola, and other anxieties and seeking The Kingdom of God in and through faith in Christ Jesus. Sent to members of my church, is all about the basis for not succumbing to panic in any situation. As we are children of a God who can indeed, ‘do the impossible’. Further, anxiety about our life ought not to be a primary concern for the child of the One who gave His life so that men could live – even Christ Jesus. A wonderful story told at the end in the letter from Bishop Frade in South Florida
……Then a man named Jairus,a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. Luke 8:41-42 NIV.
Lord Jesus, the people in Liberia are dying…little Mercy is dying. Lord the people in Sierra Leone are dying. Lord Jesus people in my country are dying in their sins. Lord Jesus the people in my country are suffering so much from the effects of Chik V.
…..When Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, ” Your daughter is dead,” he said. ” Don’t bother the teacher any more”.
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ” Don’t be afraid, just believe and she will be healed”.
Comment: Does this mean that Jairus’ daughter’s healing somehow depended on his faith? But then the Word says later that , ” Her parents were astonished….”. It certainly was an act of faith to approach Jesus in the first place…for healing when alive….. but to continue to believe in Jesus, even when, Jairus was told that his daughter was dead, was another matter altogether. What came into my mind just now, as I pondered this question, is what does belief mean in this instance? Belief in Jesus’ power to raise the dead? No, as they were astonished that He did. It can only then mean belief in Jesus Himself; that when He tells us not to worry, not to be afraid, we must trust Him no matter what, and continue to walk with Him.
O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end,
Be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend.
I shall not fear the battle, if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou be my guide.
Lord Jesus, the people in Liberia, in Sierra Leone are dying from Ebola……Come Lord and heal. Lord Jesus, the people in Jamaica are suffering from Chik V. Come Lord and heal.
Now to my ‘song in the night ‘ last night.
No doubt triggered by Andrea ChinSee’s very thought provoking sermon on ” The Antidote for Anxiety in The Church”, my title, I am inspired to share with with you a meditation by Bonhoffer – he who paid the ultimate price for remaining faithful to His Lord and Savior when confronted by the evil of the Nazi regime which ruled Germany during World War 11. A meditation which I have read time and time again, and which has changed my life, as I am determined, despite the tremendous difficulties, which God will help us to overcome, in fact only He can, to ‘ seek ye the kingdom of God first’, despite the many and varied temptation to first, look to the ‘all things will be added’. In short to reverse the order of this most important Biblical injunction; and which Satanic temptation has been the cause of much of the dilution of the Christian witness and power in our time.
The second reflection is a letter from Bishop Frade to the Diocese of South Florida: sent in the midst of suffering and pain brought on by health concerns sweeping West Africa, The Caribbean and the USA. All of which conspire to provoke anxiety in our souls, but which reaction should be compared with those of the early Church in times of trouble many years ago – a most amazing story. Sent out on Twitter by Holy Family Church, where Canon Horace Ward, our former curate, is the Rector.
1. THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL
Verse: Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything…..
Anxiety is characteristic of of the Gentiles, for they rely only on their own strength and work instead of relying on God. They do not know that the Father knows that we have need of these things, and so they try to do for themselves what they do not expect from God. But the disciples know that the rule is ” Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” ( Matthew 6:33).
Anxiety for food and clothing is clearly not the same thing as anxiety for the kingdom of God, however much we should like to persuade ourselves that when we are working for our families and concerning ourselves with bread and houses we are thereby building the kingdom, as though the kingdom could be realized only through worldly cares.
The kingdom of God and his righteousness are sharply distinguished from the gifts of the world which come our way. That kingdom is none other than the righteousness of Matthew5 and 6, the righteousness of the cross and of following Christ beneath that cross. fellowship with Jesus and obedience to his commandment come first, and all else follows.
Worldly cares are not a part of our discipleship, but distinct and subordinate concerns. Before we start taking thought for our life, our food and clothing, our work and families, we must seek the righteousness of Christ…….If we follow Jesus and look only to his righteousness, we are in his hands and under the protection of him and his Father. And if we are in communion with the Father, nought can harm us. We shall always be assured that he can feed his children and will not suffer them to hunger. God will help us in our time of need .
2. @HolyFamily1: Friends,
Please take a moment to read this letter shared to our diocese by Bishop Frade…. http://t.co/Qsj0QXp6r4
THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent to my prayer partners, is self-explanatory especially in this context, and adds to the kind of conversation we should be having, instead of panicking about Chik V and Ebola
There is no reality without struggling. If you not called to wrestle, it is only because the wrestling is being done for you. Dr. Forsyth
When a man is at his wits’ end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality – Oswald Chambers
There is nothing to be valued more highly than to have people praying for us; God links up His power in answer to their prayers – Chambers
THE FIFTH MESSAGE – SENT TO A FEW PERSONS INCLUDING MY CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN THE USA, IS A STARK REMINDER OF THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE MAJOR PUBLIC HEALTH DISEASE. THAT PEOPLE ARE JUST PEOPLE AND NOT VIRUSES. AS THE VERY DRAMATIC AND TOUCHING VIDEO TELLS US. IN THE MIDST OF THE PANIC!
10/18/14, 4:39 PM
“I am Liberian, not a virus”: Video fights stigma against people from countries battling Ebola on.mash.to/1wUCiDK pic.twitter.com/JSQSBIkTqU
So much pain all around because of Ebola.
Download the official Twitter app here
FINAL MESSAGE – sent to my church, reminds us that God is always on the side of the weak and vulnerable and humble. And so should we who are His children. At all times, and not just in times of great challenge to our very existence. But in the ordinary days of life. In season and out of season.
This morning as I began my devotions, The Benedictus came into my mind…from the old Prayer Book and using the regrettably hardly ever used most, and more wonderful and beautiful tune….and I thanked God for Jesus.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, : for he hath visited, and redeemed his people:
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David…
Then my mind went to that all important Ezekiel passage, Chapter 34, when God promised that, ” I myself will search for the sheep and rescue them”, as the shepherds of Israel had acted so selfishly and corruptly in their stewardship of the people of Israel.
” You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all kinds of wild animals”
And we all know the charge of selfishness was not limited to the leaders, but was also brought against the flock itself.
“As for you, my flock, this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will judge between the one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled on and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
The comes the words of comforts for all ages.:
” I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David….
Comment: Although this Word is addressed to the leaders of Israel and the children of Israel, my mind went back to a National Geographic magazine which I read many years ago, and which was chronicled the egregious disparity between the consumption and the waste of the rich countries when compared to the poorer ones. Along with this thought came a Word from 1 Peter 5: 5
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
So although we are dealing with a specific nation and its problem in the Book of Ezekiel, there is a universal principle evident in all of this of how God deals with all mankind. And this matter of Ebola is central to it . For if truth be told, in general, apart from some visionary and compassionate groups and a few leaders, the rich counties, and even most people in Jamaica, did not pay much attention to the suffering of persons with EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) until it came across the Atlantic to Texas and before that to Spain. And this disregard for what Franz Fanon called ” The Wretched of The Earth”, has been with us from time immemorial. For what those of who are privileged, for the most part, even if it pales into comparison with the really affluent, to have access to the basic needs of life, fail to understand, and frankly don’t really care, is that, many folks in Africa and other poor countries, exist in horrible conditions. And it only when those who live on ‘the muddied waters’ of this world, get ill and pass on viruses to us, or become violent, or destroy themselves, do we in the ‘west’ become concerned. Really concerned! But not necessarily about them, but all about us.
This is the context in which we must read the information contained in the two links posted at the start of this conversation. That 16% of the rich persons in Japan, Europe and the USA, consume 80% of the resources of this planet. And our culture is rooted and grounded more and more in this North American lifestyle. A lifestyle which promotes self, and destroys communities. A lifestyle which isolates rather than integrates. A lifestyle which exalts one and tramples over the other. And the Holy One of Israel, says: ” I oppose the proud and give grace to the humble”.
At the end of the day, one fine day, when it is all over, then the only thing which will matter, is not whether or not Ebola will come to our shores, but whether or not we will live on the ‘hill” of God where on that hill He has promised:
“I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in forests in safety”. And we know that the Word of God declares that, ‘every promised that God has made is answered ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus. And then we say the great Amen!’ ( 2 Cor.1:20)
P.S. Clearly there are other very important messages to be gleaned from this passage, some of which are quite germane to this issue of leadership, even in these times, but this is the one which came to me.