Corona Virus and Global Concerns for Christians and others

Many years ago, I had the distinct privilege of accompanying then Prime Minister, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson -Miller to the United Nations General Assembly, where she gave a major speech supporting the call for Road Safety to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals. And at a side-meeting, before the going to the UN, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, and Nelson Mandela’s grand-daughter Zoleka, and other dignitaries, issued a clarion call for road safety to be taken seriously internationally.

One of the highlights of the trip to NY was going to see Alecia Keys performing live in Central Park. Got two tickets from a friend at the UN, for a colleague and I, and so off we went. And walked miles, and miles, as it seemed like all the young people in New York had the same plan. Finally we got to the actual venue, only to hear “ standing room only”. That was too much for me, at my age then. So facing the prospects of standing for hours after walking for hours, we, well mostly me, decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. That’s the closest I came to hearing this fabulous singer on stage. Well this week, the whole wide world got a glimpse of the prodigious talent, and great heart of this multiple Grammy Award winning artiste, as her new song and video were shown live on CNN this week. I watched the interview and listened carefully and then posted this on social media:

https://youtu.be/N63tvQBwSSw. It’s amazing that the words of the song were not inspired by the present Corona Virus crisis. But how appropriate, even prophetic they are! And the new video, just released, shot for the song now dedicated to those who were doing #AGoodJob, is just simply amazing. Thank you Alicia Keys. Good Job. Thank God for the inspiration coming deep out of the bowels of slavery, and sent to those who have risked their lives for others.

youtu.be/N63tvQBwSSw. The new video of the fabulous song by @aliciakeys #GoodJob Thank you #AliciaKeys Thank you Lord for this gift to humankind all over the world 🌍 Transcending race, ethnicity, religion and gender. Just simply wonderful

Alicia Keys – Good Job (Lyrics) youtu.be/J_5VC4E__F0 via @YouTube Last night I quoted the famous English poet Shelly : poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Tonight as I watched and listened to @aliciakeys on @CNN doing a #GoodJob for the Heroes in NY #Sotrue

In this song @aliciakeys is to #NewYork and #BlackandBrownPeople what #BobMarley is to the world. Just time for great compassionate America to value African Americans who are dying disproportionately in this #COVID19 Pandemic

This week also, I watched two movies about the life of a lesser known International figure, but no less a giant who demonstrated bravery and commitment to the God of all mankind when he joined with other people of conscience, in plotting the downfall of Adolph Hitler. He died a martyr’s death and the memories of his ministry lives on in his many books, Ethics and others, which have deepened the faith and helped many on their journey with the Lord.

All of this made me understand, even ore deeply, that we are, the whole world, in this thing together. Before COVID-19! And will be long after the Virus has gone. So the challenge, especially for people who place their trust in Jesus, Christians, in He who died for the whole wide world…for God so loved the world…I would suggest, is for us to learn to think Globally even as we act Locally in our particular context. For it is only in this fashion, that the great problems of : Climate Change; World Poverty; Pandemics; North South inequities …triggering mass migration rural to urban, and south to north; Institutional Racism; hegemonic ambitions…triggering the strains of of Bob Marley’s ‘war in the east, war in the west, war up north, war down south.

And for the Christian the great challenge of the 10/40 window

http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/1040.htm

How many in the world have never heard the gospel?

Most of the people groups still very much unreached by the gospel live in places stretching across the maps of northern Africa and Asia. Christian missions strategist Luis Bush started calling this rectangular area or band”the 10/40 window.” He used that easy-to-remember name because it lies across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator.

This week also, I was led to write letters to my church. Three of them ( not long) are included in this weekend blog. The first one reflects our need to think and act locally.

The second and third, progressively, reflect the other message of a global concern; surely one of key the take way messages from this terrible pestilence.

FIRST EMAIL

The First Lesson

Acts 2:14a,36-41

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Comment:

The context is not the same, although in a sense it is, for although Jamaica is not “ the entire house of Israel”, it is a people whose grandparents and great-grandparents, for the most part slaves and descendants of slaves, who trusted God and chose Jesus over Barabbas, and now this generation has made Kartel and Spice and Bacchanal and their Political Leaders, more important in their lives than Jesus.

So, therefore, if you, “ with the eleven standing with you”, the called out people of God of this age, had an opportunity to speak to the nation in these COVID-19 times, or any other time, to a people who far too many have chosen Barabbas over Jesus, what would we say? Would we say things which would “ cut to the heart”, or would we gloss over the sins of the nation. A people who don’t even now how to blush! What “ arguments” would we put in the public sphere? Would we “ exhort a nation to save themselves from this corrupt generation”? Would we have the moral authority to do so? Or have we too, despite the external trappings, and even vestments, said to Jesus “ This is a hard teaching, who can accept it”? And turned away in our hearts and private lives, but still maintain in public, a veneer, a form, of godliness, but denying its power

Or on the other hand, having ‘denied Jesus three times’, and having wept bitterly, when Jesus “looked straight at us”, we have not yet responded to the eternal question that Jesus still poses “ Do you love me”….feed my sheep! For feeding the sheep, seeking Ezekiel’s lost, and stray, and vulnerable, and Lukes’ “ the least of those my brethren “, is a good and necessary thing. But Jesus still died for all of these people. And for Spice and Kartel, and “ I was once a good girl but now I loose”, and “ follow de leader”.

Good Friday is not a distant memory. Ask Rev. Kuck, who preached a sermon once on Easter, I remember well and reminded him recently, that “ after Easter we go back to Good Friday”. It, Good Friday, is in fact with us day after day. And who knows, that Good Friday has a message, an existential message in these COVID-19 unusual times. What then is the prophetic Word from the Church at this time?

I believe Bishop Howard had this in mind when at the end of his Easter sermon, which was viewed by some 8.7K people on the church’s Facebook site ( vs Spice and Minister Tufton on Instagram discussing COVID-19 which pulled in 227 K…hmmm), he warned the nation, that dependence on what our leaders said, and what the scientists predicted, cannot be the sole basis on which we can confidently say that “ we will get over COVID-19” one day. But rather depend on the the Power of the Risen Christ to infuse new life into us by His Spirit…in the same way God in the time of Ezekiel “ gave new life to the, ‘ can these bones live’….or words to that effect.

The existential reality though, is that the Spirit of God only comes to those who accept “ the hard teaching”. That in essence calls for repentance and to save oneself from this “ corrupt generation”. Which takes us right back to Peter and his first sermon. The First Reading for next Sunday! So what is our response? Lovely sermon! Or the essence of preaching. I am reminded of John Stott’s assertion in his seminal book “ The Cross of Christ”, at the end, that “ Preaching the Gospel is preaching the Cross.”

The only thing that can save us from this corrupt generation that continues to “ choose Barabbas over Jesus “.

For who knows, that this is the reason why COVID-19 is in the world. For as Oswald Chambers famously said: “ The Holy Spirit is often a Disturber before He is a Comforter”. A sentiment echoed by Rev. Jennings yesterday, I hope you will still find the time to watch, at lest the sermon, when he said, that Jesus often makes us feel badly before he makes us feel good.

In obedience.

Peace.

LWJ

SECOND EMAIL

A verse of Scripture which has “ kept me sane”, in the midst of the madness around me, in recent times, is, “ if you believe you will see the glory of God”. Which was Jesus’ response to Mary, before he raised Lazarus from the dead! This happening while Mary was concerned that her brother had been dead for days, and his body, in her mind, would ‘smell’.

It came to mind, as I ‘happened’ ( on my way to my early morning prayers in my Classic Devotional Bible) up another verse which speaks volumes to the lack of trust in the God who has proved Himself faithful on so many occasions. For us personally, and for this nation! As I had no intention of reading this challenging meditation by God’s evangelist, Missionary, to the China, James Hudson Taylor – perhaps there is a message there too, in this COVID-19 context.

Actually the Classic Devotional Bible assigned another powerful verse to the meditation, but for me this one, in these times, is the more contextually challenging one;

“ Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “ How long will you go limping with two different opinions? if the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”. 1 Kings 18:21 NRSV

Clearly this verse presents a challenge for all of us who are terrified of COVID-19. And if we are honest, all of us are, in some way, and at some time, “ filled with fear”. Even as we practice safe hygiene and social distancing! But my mind, and the mediation below validates this view, is on Spice, and others, who on the one hand, sing and behave in the most outrageous manner ( don’t even know how to blush); and then I suppose “ in the national interest”, sing gospel songs during an interview with the Minister, trying to get people to “ tan a yu yard”.

And Spice is but one example of many leaders, and people outside and inside the church ( talk de truth) who try to, ‘go limping along with two different opinions’. Like those who leave church, or don’t bother to come at all, and join the Bacchanal! Like those who have brought our country to it’s knees, in respect of the introduction of gun violence in to this “once fair and peaceful land”, and then at the end of a political speech, exhort God to “ bless Jamaica “!

Like those who, without repentance, in flagrant disobedience to the Living God, commit all kind of perversions and immorality, and then head straight to church. Metaphorically. And who knows, perhaps even literally!

For those of us then, who have been troubled about the state of our nation, and the state of God’s Church, and the state of our own faith, and why COVID-19 “won’t just go away”, I believe this meditation is a Godsend this morning. From deep within the heart of one who trusted in the faithfulness of God, and in faith and in single minded obedience, planted a seed in China, the Christian Church which has now grown into a Mulberry Tree.And is under constant persecution!

THE COURAGE OF OBEDIENCE

James Hudson Taylor ( 1832 – 1905).

Verse: 1Kings 18:24

Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape it but by looking at him and observing his faithfulness?

The man who holds God’s faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency. The man who holds God’s faithfulness will dare to obey him, however impolitic it may appear. Abraham held God’s faithfulness and offered up Isaac, “ accounting that God was able to raise him…from the dead” ( Hebrews 11.19 KJV).

Moses held God’s faithfulness and led the millions of Israel into the waste, howling wilderness.

“ And what shall I more say? For the same would fail me to tell” of those who, holding, God’s faithfulness, had faith, and by it, “ subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises…and out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens ( 11: 33-34)

Satan, too, has his creed: Doubt God’s faithfulness. “ Hath God said ? Are you not mistaken as to his commands? He could not really mean just that. You take an extreme view, give too literal a meaning to the words “ (O Jesus have mercy on us…my words).

How constantly, and alas, how successfully are such arguments used to prevent wholehearted trust in God, wholehearted consecration to God!

How many estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources,and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt!

All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on his being with them.

In obedience.

Peace.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)…that go limping along with two different opinions.

THIRD EMAIL

The Epistle

1 Peter 1:17-23

…………..Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Comment: The words at the end of the Epistle for next Sunday struck me most forcibly this morning as read it during my early morning devotions. And the old adage” Absence makes the heart grow fonder ( and the schoolboy mischief in me recalls the response of the cynic “ fonder of someone else”) came to mind. The point is that one of, if not the most important fruits of the Spirit is to have “ genuine mutual, and to love one anoter deeply from the heart”.

I can’t tell you how saitisfying it been for us, and I can speak for the others, as a Fellowship Group, to meet on Zoom. To see each other, to hear about the struggles and fears and joys and all the emotions that COVID-19 brings. And all aspects of life that goes on regardless of the Pandemic. What a Joy. But that is only a small group. How we all miss seeing each other at church. No wonder the joy that emerges each time we have a chance to worship together in the live streaming services; and ‘hail up’ each other on the Facebook comments. I haven’t seen Afeef Lazarus for years, and it was heartwarming to be able to see him joining in the chat on Facebook during the service.

One of the lessons that we surely must take away from this terrible pandemic, is that we must never take for granted again the sharing of Peace with each other on a Sunday morning. The short time we spend greeting each other after service. The hugs. The kisses. The pleasant exchanges. The Joy of Easter worship with a packed church and, being lifted up together by the “ Sound of Music” which greets the Risen Lord. But the ‘mutual love’ we have for one another ought not to end with loving each other. But just start. For ultimately, the love we have for one another, must find expression in how we treat the vulnerable, the Tuesday Charity folks, the chidren in Majestic Gardens, the lonely in St. Clements, the wards of the state in the Girls Home. The stranger, the widow and the orphans in our society, who Jesus loved and died for. Just like you and I.

I miss taking pictures, and posting them on Sunday Camera. And I still get to share some, courtesy of the technology, with my Fellowship Group. But most of all, I miss seing my church family. I miss going to Majesty Gardens. And even the small congregation at St. Clements – we really need to try and find a way to renew that Ministry. But is that the genuine love that we ought to have for each other? Is that the kind of love that Christ showed by ‘washing the feet of His dsiciples’? Is that the kind of love that He showed when He restored Peter, the broken and contrite Peter, to fellowship with Him. Pure grace! Is that the kind of love that ultimately drove Him to Calvary – not just Judas, or Pilate, or the Jews?

What then, or how does Christ’ love look like in COVID-19 times? When not only our country, but the whole wide world is experiencing extreme suffering; and even world hunger is being predicted. People unable to bury their dead. People being re-infected a second and even a third time with the Novel Corona Mystery Virus. Perhaps, just maybe there is a lesson here right in front of us,

For God so loved the world………..

Question then is, do we have a big enough love, or is our love parochial and selective? Do we hunger and thirst for redemption for the Jews, as St. Paul did. Or for the peple of China, over 1.4 Billion of them, as James Hudson Taylor did?

Do we hunger and thirst for the Muslims to accept the Good News that Christ died, and was raised from the dead for them too. And for all peoples of the earth regardless of which “ unknown god”, they serve, and as St. Paul did in Athens, and tell them about the God of all Creation who died for them – their sins – and was raised from the dead. Even if some of them reject you.

Do we hunger and thirst for the great America, and the almost now atheistic England, and France and Spain and Italy, from where Christainity ‘travelled ‘ to the New World? I am reading again, first about the life of William Wilberforce, the great Abolitionist in 18th Century UK, and now his partner ( the relatively unknown) Hannah More, in Eric Metaxas 7 Men, and then the companion book 7 Women. Both of whom had on their hearts, two great things from God Almighty: The Abolition of Slavery and the Reformation of Manners – the abolition of other social ills of that day. And the judgement of at least some historians, is that their actions, working together with many others, “saved England”, from the horrors of the French Revolution.

The point is, our love for humanity, our genuine love for one another must transcend, like Jesus on the Cross, the love of a Parish Church, a Denomination, a Region, a Religion, and embrace the whole wide world. Then and only then, will we be able to truly love one another at St. Andrew Parish Church, as Jesus loved us.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the worldwide nations.

Peace.

In obedience.

LWJ

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