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. The Anglican church in Jamaica was in the news this week. For the wrong reasons. At least from my perspective as a faithful member of that church for over fifty years.
First up was a very controversial action by a Priest which hit the headlines in Jamaica’s oldest, biggest and most influential newspaper, The Daily Gleaner. Twice in one week.
The essence of the story, which emerged from the Gleaner report, a probing, but very fair and balanced interview on rjrfm94 by one of Jamaica’s top journalist, who is a member of the church in questions, and remarks on social media are as follows.
The Priest, Father Sean Major-Campbell, who is also a friend and brother in Christ, elected to welcome gays and transgender individuals into his church during a service to mark International Day of Human Rights. Further, he engaged in an ancient rite, washing their feet, normally reserved for the night before Good Friday, Maunday Thursday. All of this, he argued, was to initiate a conversation in his church, about LGBT persons and their rights as fellow human beings. And whose human rights have been and continue to be, trampled on in our society. Further, that the church ought to be much more involved in the promotion of their human rights, and more accepting and welcoming in the church.
2. The second one was worse. Far worse! An accusation of fraudulent conduct by another Anglican Priest, involving millions of dollars, and one who is also a friend. Consequently Father Everton Cunningham was arrested and given bail this week, and the story hit the media. He has since reportedly pleaded not guilty to, at least some, of the charges.
Yes, the West Kingston Enquiry continued with some riveting testimonies this week. Yes gruesome acts of murder still continue to plague our native land. Yes, folks continue to march in New York and other cities across the USA insisting that #BlackLivesMatter.
But for me personally, and as a member of the Anglican Church Community in Jamaica, these two news items showed how much, unless proven otherwise, we have, as Bible based Christians, in these two instances, which may be symptoms of a deeper problem, gone off track.
THE WORD OF GOD
So what Word of inspired word did the Lord send in the midst of this personal and collective pain. In a word – Repentance. In both the messages sent out on WhatsApp and those sent to Father Major-Campbell and senior members of my church. For, as I listened to the Lord, and to what Father Major-Campbell said, and to the interviews he gave, I formed the opinion that he had erred badly in not consulting his church members in general, before taking such a controversial action. Also that in his desire to protect the human rights of LGBT persons, in this context, he might well have given thee impression, that some sinners need only to have their ‘feet washed’, rather than to turn to God in repentance. But perhaps, the most serious issue is whether or not he regards homosexual acts as a sin. Finally, as happens in many instances whenever this troublesome issue is discussed, many take a hard position; that if one is not in agreement with the homosexual lifestyle, then it is not possible to have compassion on our fellow human beings, and seek also to protect their human rights, but not their right to engage in sin. And that is so far from the truth. So as the Lord spoke to me, I wrote to my friend.
A 4:am early morning revelation – with a heavy hand
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. “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. (Acts 20:17-31 NIV)
When I had finished reading, the following points, in particular, reverberated in my head.
1. The foundation Christian message of the call to repentance – ‘to turn to God and have faith in Christ’
2. The central aim of the life of the Apostle – to testify about the good news of the grace of God
3. The warning – with tears – to keep watch over yourself and all the flock; against the prophesied marauding wolves that would come and distort the truth and lead people astray – even from within.
4. That Paul declared that he was innocent of the blood of everyone whom he met, as he had never failed to preach the whole will of God.
As I read the last point, my mind went to John’s revelation that , the work of God is to believe in the one who He sent – The Bread of Life. And having read that famous passage, which concludes in an exposition on Holy Communion, I went to my bed. But not before, as I walked along the passage way, hearing very clearly, : He must increase and I must decrease.
Then this morning, as I prepared for my early morning devotions came this …praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear… And try and as might I could not recall the name of the hymn. So I went to Google and found a familiar hymn: To God be the glory.
Then I wondered what was the message The Lord had for me in this hymn. And as I read, these ‘revelations’ struck me.
…who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life gate that all may go in
..the vilest offender who truly believes
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives
This is the message to me about this controversial issue in which you have played the central role. But no doubt the Lord has spoken to your heart on this difficult matter also. I will write about it on Sunday, will expand further on what I understand from this Word, will include other messages, that I received and shared during this week, and pray God, more to come, if it is His will. I pray God that you will listen to all who share with you, and to the God who you serve, on this very difficult issue. For although a call to repentance, and to turn to a loving Creator and Redeemer God, is the foundation of the Christian message, so too is the call to minister to the ‘least of these’ in every society, and to seek after the lost, the stray, the wounded, and those who persecute us, as ‘God is merciful to the wicked and the ungrateful’.
I pray God that He whose Word declares that ” I wisdom dwells with prudence”, may grant you, and the wider church, His wisdom and to guide us in times like these.
My love to Janet.
The Second Letter
Although I have a board meeting this morning, I did not plan to be up so early. When I looked at the time. it was 5:30am. And just before I awoke this came into my mind:
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘ Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus replied, ‘ You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
‘ No,’ said Peter, ‘ you will never wash my feet’.
Jesus answered, ‘ Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’
‘Then, Lord, said Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’
Jesus answered, ‘ A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet, his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you…..”
I suppose there are other messages for us in this age, and at this time, in words which appear both before and after this passage. But this is what came into my head – this section. Also that, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, after three years of teaching, and journeying with him. At the end! Not at the beginning. And so he was able to respond to Peter’s desire for a ” body wash”, with an assurance that he Peter, was already clean. What does that mean in the context of the looming Cross is something on which to ponder deeply. Perhaps John 6:61, to which I was led, offers an insight: ” The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life”. Whatever the answer, the reality is that these were disciples, who had journeyed with Him for a long time. And not the uninitiated!
The problem we face Sean, as a Christian community, is that, without context, without preparation, regardless of your motives, people who learn about this action from the press, may receive a wrong impression of the Christian faith. That those who sin, all they need, is to have their feet washed; by a compassionate and caring priest, who is concerned about their humanity. When what is required is repentance, and the washing away of their sins by The Blood of The Lamb.
I am not sure who coined the phrase, and I speak about it with great humility, or where I came upon it – A traitor to the Cross – whether it was Oswald Chambers, John Stott, or Paul himself in the Bible. I am not sure. But this warning, I think, is the essence of this early morning message. And one, who has been saved by grace, clearly cannot guard him or herself too carefully aginst being thus accused. In this age, or in the age to come! As, ultimately, this constant thought, of knowing only Christ and Him crucified, and by extension being faithful to promote, and to lift up His Name, the Crucified One, was the goal of the Apostle who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, taught us about Christ. Such a desire should occupy pride of place in our hearts. Thus we ought to guard it carefully, less other worthy, but nontheless, secondary matters, such as the pursuit of human rights, replace ‘our first love’. And as church, we do not want to be accused of ‘forsaking your first love’. Whether in Ephesus or in Kingston.
N. B. As I went to write…At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my sins fell away……came into my mind.
My friend acknowledged my letters and thanked me for them.
THE SECOND SET OF MESSAGES sent out on WhatsApp.
The first one addresses the Tivoli excursion, a matter which is placed, I believe in its correct perspective by Ian Boyne writing in todays Daily Gleaner.
The First Message
As we agonize over the pain of the people of Tivoli Gardens, and the pain which people like Dudus and Jim Brown and others have caused across our land, and so much more pain and agony in our personal lives, and wonder about our country and our God:
WORDS FROM A HYMN
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we first met thee;
lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
shadowed beneath thy hand, may we ever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.
The Second Message – really speaks to the need for us to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord’, at all times lest we falter under the inevitable attacks of the evil one who is intent on destroying the church and all those who do God’s work. Whether it be willful sins or to be guilty of ‘taking our eyes off the Cross of Christ”.
A WORD FOR THOSE WHO PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD IN TIMES LIKE THESE IN OUR NATION AND IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES
The second one came as I knelt to pray before going to bed last night. Then the accompanying Psalm came this morning as I prepared to start writing.
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh ( remember that in the New Testament the church is the body of Christ),
when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear,
though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his dwelling.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling……
The Final Message – contains as assurance that sustained and believing prayer will, not just can, destroy every stronghold that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
Thus fully armed let us go forward in faith and pray that the ‘divine power ‘ will protect our brothers and sisters from error and temptations, and rescue us, our church and nation from the evil one. But with the full knowledge that everything begins with repentance and a turning away from Sin, and to God in and through faith in the Atonement wrought by Jesus on Cross of Calvary. A gift from God to the entire human race. Whether we be gay or straight, Ordained or Lay, High Official or ordinary citizen!