The picture above, the Headlines in the Daily Gleaner for today, worth more than a thousand words, tells a tale of a nation, with its Minister of Health, and his team of health professionals, at the forefront, struggling desperately to contain the COVID-19 Virus now ravaging the entire world.
Based on the experience of other countries we were doing reasonably well with the number of positive cases, until this week when, largely on account of a controversial sequence of events in the BPO ( Business Process Outsourcing ) centres, the numbers spiked from just over 70 to now 163
Thus spawning further drastic action, and the inevitable lampooning of the government’s efforts, above, which to be fair, were hitherto, very commendable; attracting kudos from “ foreign’ , including the World Health Organization.
One of the ‘silver linings’ which has emerged during this otherwise ‘ill wind’, is the joined-up approach to fighting this crisis, as shown above with the Minister of Culture and her team, and the Jamaican entertainers, ‘stepping up to the plate’, and raising funds to purchase PPE’s ( protection) for the health care workers and others in the frontline like the police and the army. Add to Minister Grange, the hard working Attorney-General ( a lady who is not for turning ) the redoubtable Minster of Local Government, the affable Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the ‘man-in-charge’, the Prime Minister leading the team. And of course in the center of it all, the very cool under pressure, Minister of Health.
This team approach has been impressive at the many press conferences held to inform the pubic about the latest developments. Makes one wonder, and even dare to hope, if such an approach to dealing with other national crises, like the spiraling out of control homicide rate, and the ( interest declared ) other source of violence death -road crashes, along with other social ills -urgently needed urban renewal – in Kingston from #BullBayto SixMiles – and poverty reduction, couldn’t benefit from such a sense of urgency. Especially if you add members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition; if they are willing, and the Government wise enough to offer them a role, even temporarily, in order that as a nation we may together, find the will and resources to help us, escape from the moral and social abyss, now being revealed in the glaring light of COVID-19, into which we have fallen. As some of us fear nether God nor COVID-19, and are prepared to carry out their evil deeds regardless of the circumstances. And fleeing one lockdown parish to another, thus helping to spread the Virus, is but one of them:
The Denham Town Police are probing the deaths of three males and the injuring of a woman in two incidents today.
They report that about 2:30 a.m., a team was called to Torrington Park, Kingston 5 after residents heard explosions.
On arrival, a house was reportedly seen ablaze.
Members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade were summoned and the blaze extinguished.
According to the police, the bodies of 30-year-old Romario Raymond and 20-year-old Clifton Grant, both of Torrington Park addresses, were found inside the house and were subsequently removed to the morgue.
Hours later, 16-year-old Dave Tyrell of Drummond Street, Kingston 14 was shot dead and a woman injured by an unknown assailant about 9:45 a.m. on Bond Street.
The police report that Tyrell was standing along the roadway when he was approached by a gunman who opened fire hitting him.
The woman, who was in the vicinity, was shot and injured during the incident.
WHERE DO WE LOCATE GOD IN THE STRUGGLE? AT THE PERIPHERY OR LEADING THE TEAM
For me, however, and I would imagine for many other children of God who are praying without ceasing for the rescue of this nation, long before the advent of COVID-19, despite the Team Approach exhibited by the GOJ in bringing a sense of urgency to the almost existential threat which is COVID-19, insufficient attention has been paid to the Eternal Father, bless our land. Yes, the now almost de rigueur call for Prayer and Prayer Vigils have been made, but Jesus, our Saviour has not been placed, by a desperate nation, at the center of the battle. And this is a war. For anything bug that can kill so many people across the world, and bring the entire world to its knees, in three months, with the potential to make mankind extinct, cannot be something ordinary. But in fact extraordinary! And for that kind of struggle we need supernatural resources.
So what do we do as the “ called out “ people of the Living God. The Creator of Heaven and Earth and al that is within it! The Church mandates to be Salt and Light to a dying world, A Fallen World because of Sin. Which is the genesis ultimately of all that despoils the earth, all that leads to inequity among men, all that spawns homicide and road deaths, all that produces greed and envy and pride and immorality and disobedience to God’s commands to love Him with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
LIFTING UP THE NAME OF JESUS
The first and most important action that the Word of God points us to is to Lift Up the Name of Jesus. For that Name has Power in Itself. The essence of a Message posted on Facebook this week:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Ps 37:1 #COVID-19 surge. So let us lift up the Name of Jesus, yes hand washing and physical distance and masks, but now more than ever, lift of the Name of Jesus. For at His Name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In every circumstance. To the glory of God.
The second, and seemingly simple, but very profound message that I was inspired to write about this week was the effect of Prayer. Which according to the Word of God, “can move mountains”. A message about it was posted on facebook and also sent to my church:
PRAYER TO A SUPERNATURAL GOD
After the “ Great Rumour” about #Lockdown in Kingston yesterday, which resulted in a run on the supermarkets, and untold stress, we need to fill our hearts with prayers, and “ bid the unruly throng “ of fear and panic and selfishness and irresponsibility that attends #COVID-19, ‘depart’. Along with “ a thievish swarm” that we know well. Perhaps! Or, on the other hand, don’t fully appreciate their danger; and for which our Savior died. This wonderful poem by the famous Englishman William Cowper, which touched my heart, again, last night, will help:
THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
Verse: Matthew 21:13
Thy mansion is the Christian’s heart,
O Lord, thy dwelling-place secure!
Bid the unruly thong depart,
And leave the consecrated door.
Devoted as it is to thee,
A thievish swarm frequents the place;
They steal away my joys from me,
And rob the Savior of his praise
There too a sharp designing trade
Sin,Satan, and the world maintain;
Nor cease to press me, and persuade,
To part with ease and purchase pain.
I know them, and hate their din,
Am weary of the bustling crowd,
But while their voice is heard within,
I cannot serve thee as I would. ( this, perhaps the take home message from this wonderful poem)
Oh! for the joy thy presence gives,
What peace shall reign when thou art here! ( Thank you Jesus…and the doors were locked for fear of the Jews, and Jesus came and said “ Peace be with you”).
Thy presence makes this den of thieves,
A calm delightful house of prayer.
And if thou make thy temple shine,
Yet, self-abased, will I adore;
The silver and the gold are not mine,
I give thee what was thine before.
PREACHING THE CROSS
Finally, last night, this: To preach effectively is to preach about the Cross of Calvary and what took place there. Which is in effect the Gospel. The Good news. Otherwise we are seeking popularity with no power to make a difference in this dying COVID-19 stricken world. Despite what may appear to be a form of godliness, but has no power to fight against evil:
PREACHING ABOUT THE CROSS
Stott – According to Galatians 5:11, Paul is being persecuted because he preaches the cross; according to 6:12 the false preachers are avoiding persecution by preaching circumcision instead of the cross. So the alternative for Christian evangelists, pastors and teachers is to preach either circumcision or the cross. To preach circumcision is to preach salvation by the law, that is, by human achievement . Such a message removes the offense of the cross, which is that we cannot earn our salvation; it therefore exempts us from persecution. To ‘preach the cross’ is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone. Such a message is a stumbling block, because it is grievously offensive to human pride. It therefore exposes us to persecution……
There are of course no Judaizers in this world today, preaching the necessity of circumcision. But there are plenty of false teachers, inside as well as outsider the church, who preach the false gospel ( which is not a gospel) of salvation by good works. To preach salvation by good works is to flatter people and so avoid opposition. …….All Christian preachers have to face this issue. Either we preach that human beings are rebels against God, under his just judgment and ( if left to themselves) lost, and that Christ crucified who bore their sin and curse is the only available Saviour. Or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in only to boost them, and with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God’s love and so inspire us to greater endeavour.
The former way is to be faithful, the latter the way to be popular. It is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. We need to hear again the warning of Jesus: “ Woe to you when all men speak well of you “ ( Luke 6:26).
Some thoughts as we ponder what next after COVID-19. What are the real lessons to be learnt and what is of little account! For the focus of our attention nationally, after COVID-19, ought not be only to assess what went wrong logistically, politically, and socially. But also spiritually! In the sense of what great harm has been occasioned in this country, and to our national development, by false teachers , spewing words that are popular, but have no power to fundamentally change how people love one another; inspired by a deep and abiding love for, and fear of, a God who died for our sins on a Cross. Until then, with the thing now on the loose, and you only get one chance with COVID-19, may this God, who in holy love died “ to bid the unruly throng of Sin, Satan and the world depart’, have mercy on us. And come what may, according to God’s will and purpose, we thank God for those who remain faithful to the cross.
The plan of God, is, and always has been, to make men holy. To dwell in us, as His Temple, by the Power of the Holy Spirit ; a gift from the Crucified and Risen Christ to a Fallen and sinful world. The Eternal Life which begins here on earth. So, yes, death from COVID-19 is a terrible thing. Especially for those who die alone, and for the relatives who in many instances are unable to comfort and then to carry out a proper funeral. But it is not the worse thing that can happen to our souls.
The Word of God has a final statement on that matter:
“ Now this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”. John 3:19. Not far from John 3:16 – the most well known and loved verse in Holy Scriptures.
We forget, or omit, verse 19 , at our peril. A peril much worse than COVID-19.
Let us then reorganize our Team, place God at the Centre, and use COVID-19 to “ take sleep and mark death”.