Champs in Jamaica and Good Friday: No pain no gain. 

​No pain. No gain! That’s the message that came into my head as I woke up this morning. This,  after having started writing last night.

Further, that the narrative behind the message begins with #Champs2017, but ends with #GoodFriday. However, unlike the story which is unfolding, with high drama last night, at Champs, as the expected ” purple reign” is under threat from the green and black school, and only a brave man would predict the outcome on this the final day, we all know  what happened on that first Good Friday. Or do we!
CHAMPS
Watching it on  TV is good. But cetainly not the best way to experience Champs! This, the biggest high school athletic competition in the western hemisphere. A tradition which has thrown up the likes of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, Veronica Campbell-Brown  (VCB), the peerless Merlene Ottey, the graceful Donald Quarrie, the rising star and ‘ heir apparent’, to the sprint  title,  Yohan Blake, and though new on the scene, but already a superstar, Elaine Thompson.

No, you have to there in the national stadium in Jamaica to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The awesome display of raw speed. The hush in the crowd as they ‘ take their marks’, at the start of the race. The  collective groan from the crowd as a favourite false starts.  

Watch the slick, almost Olympic standard baton changes in the highly competitive and points rich relays. Move to the throbbing pulsating,  vibes enhancing, excitement building, beat of the drums; sometimes a ‘ full orchestra’. And celebrate with the winner,  as Jamaicans do best, punching the air with the closed fist, or pointing to schoolmates, as the favourite crosses the line first. 

But although attending as a passionate spectator, bedecked with school colours,  almost de regueur,  is  great,  you really cannot ‘ search deep into the soul of Champs’, unless you have competed. Unless you have survived the rigors of the training schedule for either the sprints, middle and long distance running, the jumps and the throws.
I had the privilege of representing my school at Champs, an ‘Alan Magnus’ epoch ago ( a famous media personality who retired yesterday after 46 years on morning radio….a champion himself). Was a sprinter. Moved from 100-200 to 400. No great success, but appeared in two finals.

The story though, in this context, was the training. Early morning! After warming up. Run flat out the first 400. Walk one. Then run, flat out, at full speed, another one. Then walk one. The schedule called for six. But by  the time you came to the fourth one, your entire body rebelled. And your stomach too. Wretching or not though, you had to continue. Run one. Walk one. After a couple of months of this, including running on the sand on the beach, I was ready for the world. Literally! Then I suffered a torn hamstring. And that was the end of that adventure. Pain, with some gain!

So, for many reasons,  Champs is a real and present danger as a major distraction in my Lenten journey.  Haven’t been ‘ live ‘ for a few years, but God willing ‘ I shall return’. If I can get a ticket! 
GOOD FRIDAY 
The narrative for Good Friday begins with a simple, straightforward but very profound statement from a Scottish theologian, who once served as one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches. And one which captures the essence of the ” No pain, no gain “, understanding of the Christian Faith. For, as the songwriter explains in one of the most powerful hymns of all time, ( and which words I spent quality time this week reflecting on) we love Jesus….not because we hope to get to heaven, but….
THE HYMN 

My God, I love thee; not because

I hope for heaven thereby,

nor yet because who love thee not

are lost eternally.
Thou, O Lord Jesus, thou didst me

upon the cross embrace;

for me didst bear the nails and spear,

and manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless,

and sweat of agony;

yea, death itself; and all for me

who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,

should I not love thee well,

not for the sake of winning heaven,

nor any fear of hell;
not with the hope of gaining aught,

not seeking a reward;

but as thyself hast loved me,

O ever loving Lord!
So would I love thee, dearest Lord,

and in thy praise will sing,

solely because thou art my God

and my most loving King.

Facebook One

 A true Christian is one who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him/her in Christ – John Baillie ( 1886-1960).
One of several messages  I was inspired to post on Facebook this week as I continued #ReadingagoodbookforLent 

Facebook Two

This post, poses,  and answers,  one of the great existential questions of all time. And elevates this call of #nopainnogain to whole new level:

Why did God take our place and bear our sin on the Cross? What did he accomplish by his self- sacrifice, his self-substitution? The New Testament gives three main answers to these questions which may be summed in the words,

salvation, revelation, and conquest. What God in Christ has done through the Cross is to rescue us, disclose himself and  conquer evil.

Rev John Stott ” The Cross of Cross of Christ “:  The Salvation of Sinners #ReadingagoodbookforLent

Facebook Three 

Recommends one response to the God who became Incarnate in Christ. And whose declaration that ” I am the Resurrection and the Life”, in the Gospel Reading for my Church tomorrow Sunday April 1, is the promise we hold dearly to, #nopainnogain, even in death. Whether from Cancer, the gunman, HIV/AIDS or Alzheimers Disease. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Both sisters said the same words to Jesus. But one worshiped Him, ‘knelt down’, first. Just read this very familiar  gospel story appointed for my church on Sunday. But it never struck me before. That Mary worshiped Him first. She, the same one,  who had ‘washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. 

Let us pledge to worship Jesus first, before we ask Him to rescue …a brother, a sister, a wife, a husband, a  cousin, a child, a friend, a community…Hanover bleeding…and a nation…under siege..from gunmen….and men abusing our women and children. For He only is truly The Resurrection and the Life.
My spirit longs for thee,

Within my troubled breast,

Though I unworthy be 

Of so divine a guest…..

Facebook Four.

Recommends another response. For without this great rescue act by God Almighty, with terrible pain and suffering on the Cross of Calvary, we would never have gained this mighty salvation. For we had all gone astray.  Like sheep!
GRATITUDE AND LOVE
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. Isaiah 53:6
Long, long ago, in a distant land, God and humanity had perfect fellowship………
That all changed, of course, when a slithering liar created an illusion of unfulfilled desire and tricked human beings into developing a will independent of their Creator’s. The results, as we all know, were tragic, and we still feel the consequences of them today. #Hanoverbleeding  Each of us has followed the path of our first parents; we all, like sheep, have gone astray and turned to our own way.
We became ruled by self-will and grew more blind and more deaf to the voice and presence of God. Our senses dulled to the point where many of us have even wondered whether He exists. We became like patients in an ICU whose nutritional supply has been cu off, and we were slowly slipping away.
That’s why the Messiah came, suffered and died. We needed a life transfusion…….Our death was reversed because a human not worthy of death came to us and died. His resurrection overcame our self will. We no longer need to go out own way….   

Our fate was worse than we thought, and our salvation is greater than we think.

Chris Tiegreen  ” The Wonder of the Cross ” Devotional: March 29.

#earlymorningdevotions 

A true Christian is one who never for a moment  forgets what God has done for him/her on the Cross. John Baillie 

If you, O Lord kept a record of sins, O Lord who could stand. But with you there is forgiveness, and so you are greatly feared. Psalm 130. A reading for my Church on Sunday. Thank God for #GoodFriday and #Easter

#Betterthanachampsticket
FINAL COMMENT:
So as we continue  our journey with the Crucified One, #nopainnogain, #Lent, and move resolutely towards #GoodFriday and the Blessed #Easter, let us cast into the Pit of hell, the #Prosperitygospel and any other #alternatetivefact which would distract us from keeping a focus on the Cross of Christ. For we serve a Suffering Christ, who,  as the famous German theologian and martyr,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘ calls us  to die’, to self,  when He calls us to be His disciples.
And in the same way, a young pastor reminded us at church last week,  that, ” The Blood of Martyrs is the seed of the Church’, so too the suffering of the children of God in this corrupt generation, is the only  answer to the crime and violence. And all the other social and moral ills  bedeviling  our nation! 
For as we suffer with Christ, so is His Name held in high honor, and He will defend His Name, as we cry out to Him. For mercy!
Mercy, not for Calabar or Kingston College at #Champs2017……Edwin Allen High does not need any  more prayers 🖒….but for our women and children under siege by violent and wicked men. For our communities ‘ under the gun ‘. Literally.  And for a nation which has strayed, like sheep, from worshipping the Crucified One. Christ Jesus!

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