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. Two Policemen killed in New York….with the attendant grief and pain for the families. But also the potential to derail some of the gains made by the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement, as already there has been some backlash from the NYPD and others, given the comments made by the killer before committing this heinous crime.
2. Massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan – Horrible crime against humanity, as 148 children perish in an attack on a school by The Taliban in Pakistan. Regardless of whose children, it takes an especially warped and sick mind to target children, and randomly kill them. This will certainly go down as one of the worse acts of violence for 2014
3. Murder and kidnapping in Nigeria, as the terrorist group Boko Haram strikes yet again
4. Despite the above mentioned news item, all worthy of serious considerations, the bigs news all across the world, trumping everything else, is that in a few days time, it will be Christmas day. And yet again Peace and Goodwill to all men will be proclaimed across the globe. An event which changed the entire world, to the extent that history is now divided into clearly defined periods. Before Christ – BC, and After Christ – AD…Ano Domini. And the central message sent by God to the world through His Son, properly understood is that, after Sin entered the world through rebellion by Adam, and all of us have inherited this tendency, in Christ we have a second chance to achieve the holiness and perfection which God intends for His Creation. Truly a message of Hope at a time when there is so much violence in the world. So much unrighteousness in the world. So much injustice. And so much sickness and disasters happening across the entire globe. So,yes, families get together to celebrate! Yes, people are busy buying gifts! Yes, others are busy having the best parties for the whole year. Yes, people will go to church on Christmas day. But most importantly, thank God, yes, since that first Christmas and that first Good Friday and Easter, mankind has been a feee and unmerited gift, grace, to enter and new relationship with our Creator God.
THE WORD OF GOD
So what Word did the Lord send, or inspired word, in the midst of this spasm of violence across the world as we prepare to celebrate, once again the birth of His Son, Jesus our Savior.
One of the great challenges of our times, and a matter addressed by the ArchBishop of Canterbury, the ‘spiritual” leader of the worldwide Anglican church – he has no administrative nor ecclesiastical authority outside of the UK, unlike the Roman Catholic Pope – is the hot button issue of human sexuality and the Church. Or to be more precise, how does God view the lifestyle of LBGT persons, given the growing acceptance of this ‘different from heterosexual’ lifestyle, within some societies and even within some churches, including the Anglican church.
Archbishop Justin Welby On Anglican Communion: ‘There Is A Possibility That We Will Not Hold Together’
It is not a traditional Christmas topic, but reflections on this matter features prominently in this weekly message. No doubt, given the fact that I am spending the Christmas in the USA with family, and have to deal with fact that my grandchildren go to school with kids who have two fathers, and two mothers. And in one instance, that kind of ‘different family, also attend church where they go! No doubt the matter is further explored, as it is a very hot topical issue in my country at this time
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp features a song which really ‘got into my head’, this week. A Repentance Song. But an appropriate song for the Christmas, as this is what Jesus came to do- call people to repentance from their sins, and turn to God.
Just before taking Holy Communion in out church, we sing or say the Agnus Dei; an ancient rite of the church coming from the days of Ambrose, one of the early church fathers.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world have mercy on us….repeated twice. And then the third time ….grant us thy peace.
Of late we have’ jazzed’ it up with a reggae/rasta beat. And the song has just gotten into my head. I keep singing the first part time and time again. This morning I woke up with the song in my heart. Try it. It should be easy. And it will get ‘ into your head’, as it’s a repentance song which is appropriate as we celebrate the first coming of Jesus as Savior. And not as Judge, which is a different matter altogether. Then the world will come to an end, and all those who only understand Christmas as time of Peace, and Goodwill towards all men, and ignore the call to Repentance will have a time of reckoning.
O Lamb of God.,..bum bum….you take away the sins of the world… bum bum….have mercy on my soul… grant us thy Peace
My wife and I leave for Miami to spend time with our children and grands. I will be back in a week. May the Lord’s Peace, the presence of the Risen Christ, be with all of us in a special way, this Christmas.
THE SECOND MESSAGE again sent out on WhatsApp reflects on the supernatural nature of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the central messages of Christmas – that The Almighty God can come and live in us by faith, and by the Power of The Holy Spirit. And change our lives forever. A humanly impossible task. But with God ‘nothing is impossible’.
The essence of the Christmas story is revealed in Mary’s experience with The Angel Gabriel when she was told that she would ‘ with child’. And she questioned, ‘ how will this be?’
Then she was told about the power of The Holy Spirit and that
‘ For with God nothing is impossible’.
It’s a message of tremendous hope as we celebrate this Christmas amidst harsh economic times, a reduction in the murder rate, the washing of the feet of persons who some believe cannot change and therefore by extension do not need to repent of the sin of homosexuality, governance issues, Barack Obama’s brave moves in recent times, police brutality in the USA #BlackLivesMatter, madness in Pakistan, and in Nigeria, personal challenges with relationships illness and finances, greed, pride, anxiety, anger, envy and lust; madness in Australia; all of which ills and challenges God can change with the same Power that Mary experienced, and which caused Jesus to Rise from the dead. That’s the real message of Christmas from Jesus The Savior of all mankind.
THE THIRD AND FOURTH MESSAGES – were sent to senior members of my church and other Priests, as a follow up to the action taken by one of our Priests to ‘wash the feet’, of LGBT persons inside a church, and social media discussions on this issuE. But the message transcends the homosexual issue and goes to the heart of the Christmas message – that as God did not have any sympathy for Sin, but rather sent His Son to die because of it, so too, we the Baptized, must never tolerate or sympathize nor excuse Sin. The sinner yes. But not the sin. As, ultimately, God calls us to a life of holiness. And which life of holiness is only possible in and through Christ Jesus
THE THIRD MESSAGE
In defense of The Full Gospel of Christ against ill informed ” Human Rights activists”
I arrived in Miami this morning to spend the Christmas with family. Took us two hours to clear immigration and customs. Long lines! Seems a lot of people had the same idea. Picked up by my daughter and her two boys. Went for lunch. Tagged along for the obligatory shopping. Taken home with the boys and the ladies went back out.
So I am here with the boys, and, surprise surpise, video games trump the intial excitement of seeing grandpa. So grandpa turns to the Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel. And what do I find:
” I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…and now you will be silent until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words”. Luke 1: 19-20 NIV…..addressing Zechariah after the priest had questioned God’s ability to give him a child – John the Baptist – in his old age.
Immediately, I thought about Jesus, who is God Himself, and who told the woman caught in adultery, after encouraging her rather than condemning her, to ” go ye and sin no more”. This same Jesus who warned another person He healed to, ” stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”. This same Jesus who told us that if He had not come and spoken, “they would not be guilty of sin”, but now because He came on earth people have not ‘excuse’.
So even if we do not fully understand the reasons why some persons are sexually attracted to (” have feelings for”) others of the same sex ( and who can really fully explain sin), Paul, a man anointed, and appointed by our Lord – stood in His presence – to teach us the essence of the Christian faith clearly, includes this attraction, along with a hosts of others sins, in the fundamental Christian doctrine that ” all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.
Very clearly then, the sin of homosexuality, properly understood according to Paul, is part of the fallen nature of mankind. Regardless of the controversy over its origins!
Why then this defense of Paul tonight, and who like Gabriel, ‘stood in the presence of God”? Because there is circulating in social media, an ‘apology’ of the homosexual lifestyle, by human rights activists, that argues that, ‘because persons feel that way from an early age, and have no control over their ‘different from heterosexual ‘ desires, such behavior is not sinful. Further, that Christians who have a contrary view, are guilty of not being compassionate and caring, and even in one case cited recently, may very well be guilty of, or in some way contribute to, causing such an individual to commit sucide. In the midst of this we have persons writing ‘authoritatively’, about the faith, with litttle or no knowledge of the foundations of the faith: Creation, Fall, Redemption and final Judgement; persons, without any compassion, mocking individuals who are ‘anti-gay’ and then are found in a moment of passion and revelation to be ‘closet gays’; persons, who in anger, write that anyone who is lacking in compassion and not in support of LGBT persons, after concluding that Jesus would support them unconditiionally, recommend that such persons ought to find another religion.
Really outrageous comments which lack any understanding and honest appreciation of the long standing, but not very public knowledge of so many Christians who have struggled with homosexuals and other marginalized individuals, like prostitutes, in respect of their lifestyle and felt needs. In camera! Far away from the ‘ maddening crowd’! Not seekiing any approval nor recognition from man. Only from the God they served, and continue to serve, without accusing anyone else of being lacking in compassion.
No doubt that’s why I was drawn to a meditation by Oswald Chambers this week who reflected on the revelation that Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. That the sword is to deal with anything that does not accord with what Jesus taught about Himself. Which essentially is that ‘only in Him can we become the new creation’. And only Christ and Him Crucified, is the Peace that we all need. Not some diluted version of Christmas story – which ignores the Easter Vigil, and which version would have us believe that ” peace and goodwill towards all men”, can be achieved without recognition of Sin, rejection of Sin, and repentance of Sin.
If I sound passionate and distressed, it is because I am. And have been for a few days. Until tonight when the Lord, in His wisdom, and for the glory of His Son, and for the renewal of the church, led me to write.
May we all experience the Peace, this Christmas, that only The Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ, the full gospel of Christ, can bring, and Who was sent to us from the very presence of God, on that first Christmas day, over 2000 years ago.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE
Oswald Chambers writes in this vein as I go to my bed. after having written with no thought of what Chambers had in mind. can this really be coincidence? or a validation of a message from the Lord. You decide.
The Right Kind of Help
And I, if I am lifted up . . . will draw all peoples to Myself -John 12:32
Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery.
When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way- not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
But our only priority must be to present Jesus Christ crucified- to lift Him up all the time (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the Cross of Christ will lead people astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is trusting in the reality of redemption, his words will be compelling to others. What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.
Concluding comment – I pray then that all of us, whether in Jamaica, in New York City, or any where else, may experience, this Christmas, the true and sustained Peace, which only Jesus can give.