So much happened in my country this week. But the most talked about one, Beenieman #versus Bountykilla, the lyrical clash from last weekend, was still trending; the term used on Twitter, one of the many social media platforms. I suppose even more so on IG, where it all happened, but since I am not frequently on the “ Gram”, I can’t comment.
Music has always been, and I suppose will always be, until “ thy kingdom come”, of great importance to Jamaicans. The lyrics, the beat, and the mood which the songs evoke, have shaped and influenced for good or for bad, in some cases very bad, how we think, how we relate to each other and how we understand and enjoy life.
Can’t ever forget, and I suppose there are many others, but “ To be young gifted and black”, by the late ( died earlier this year) great Bob Andy and the legendary Marcia Griffiths, comes readily to mind; a song which became almost like an anthem for young people in my era.
A song which together with the Black Power movement in the USA led by people like the Caribbean’s own Trini born Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, the must read book “ Soul on Ice” about the Black Panthers, and “ The Wretched of the Earth “ by Franz Fanon, and others, helped to “ free our minds from mental slavery”. Which of course was Bob Marley’s seminal gift to, not just black people, but to a world struggling under oppression of any kind.
Music which no doubt, although the fervor and passion has been muted somewhat by the ‘rat race”, until stoked again by the murder of yet another black man by the Police, helped to spawn the very relevant and current #BlackLivesMatter movement in the USA. Perhaps that’s the lens through which we need to see the brutal murder caught on camera of George Floyd, by a white policeman, whose heinous crime went unchallenged by three other colleagues; and who, therefore, in the minds of the protesters, and the world, were accomplices to the fact of murder. How did the culture, no doubt influenced by what they read, and what they listen to and how they interpret life, create such a monster who could calmly kneel on a another helpless human being’s neck, while he cries out “ I cant breathe”? And dies! Is the question of the ages.
Perhaps that’s how we should evaluate the awesome event which attracted the attention of over 350,000 Jamaicans, last weekend, and which was viewed worldwide by over 4 million people. And counting! How has the music, and in this case dancehall music, contributed to the development of our society, in this age of “sixteen ” and nine” and “ marrow flying” and “ romping shop” on the one hand; and “pure niceness” on the other hand, “ dweet for the love and not for the like”?
Perhaps a song which came into my head as I thought about #versus this past week, from way back then “ There is a girl…. living in my neighborhood…they call her sweetie…sweetie come…” captures the “niceness”, as they call it, that is the essence of the music, or used to be, in my country. But the fault lines which has accompanied the music in recent times is there for all to see. And none greater than the one, who even in prison continues to be more popular than #versus. And more influential in certain quarters #Gaza.
This week, just yesterday, we said goodbye to a well loved by all, and on both sides of the political divide, based on the many tributes, to the late Minister of Labour and Social Security, Shahine Robinson.
A reminder of the inevitability of death for us all, regardless of our social standing or how well we have served or not. And she served well. This very gracious and charming woman who I met only in passing from time to time at the Office of the Prime Minister. But always impressed by her ready smile and acknowledgement of another human being occupying her space, even temporarily. May her soul RIP.
But all these worthy of comment events, and happenings, ultimately find their relevance and understnding in the event which many Christians, but not all – and herein is the makings of another and much more serious #versus – will celebrate tomorrow. The Day of Pentecost. The birthday of the Church. The day on which, as Jesus, forever a disturbing figure in human history, promised, “ Power from on high” would come, as his disciples, “waited upon the Lord”, in Jerusalem.
This same Jesus who had been crucified on Calvary, and raised from the dead on the glorious Easter Morning, now on the day of his Ascension back to His Father, having been glorified, promised to send The Holy Spirit, “ Another Comforter”, to “ guide all who beleived in His Atonement for Sin, into all truth”. And what is this truth! Certainly part of the truth is that Benieman and Bountykilla, and Addie, and George Floyd and that wicked policeman are all sinners, and in need of salvation. Another part of the truth is that Shahine, if she was a child of God, washed and sanctified by the blood of Christ, has now, in Christ, overcome death, and is with Him in glory.
So in this respect, all of life, all that we do, all that we achieve here on earth, all that we learn, all that we enjoy on earth as “ pure niceness”, and therefore how we are formed, and not just informed, is in preparation for “ it is appointed for all men to die once and then the judgment”. It is instructive then that part of the truth is that The Holy Spirit comes to “ convict the world of Sin, Righteousness and Judgement”. This is what Jesus declared to His disciples, on the night before He died, for He would soon be no longer with them.
So Christianity then is very much #versus Islam or any other religion, in that The Holy Scriptures reveal that “No man cometh unto the Lord God except through Christ”. In this respect then the Evangelicals and their influence on right wing politics and attitudes in America #Versus Christians whose eyes are fixed only on the Cross of Christ, is a matter that is of great moment. As the brand of Christianity which is influenced by the old adage that “ the enemy of my enemy is my friend “, which can be the only explanation why some of the Evangelicals continue to defend Donald Trump, has lost its focus entirely and is in danger being cast into fire. So too the Liberal Wing of the Christian church #versus the remnant which has not bowed to Baal, has lost its focus in advancing a gospel that speaks only of God’s love and mercy, without mentioning Sin and God’s wrath.
I would hope and pray that in the midst of the terror that is COVID-19, as a people under siege, we take the opportunity to celebrate, and welcome, the coming into the world of The Comforter who is The Holy Spirit, Who alone can rescue us from the evils, and there are many in our culture and circumstances, of that which is #versus the love of God which is manifest most completely on the Cross of Calvary.
In this respect I pray that the words of an old Saint, from a reflection which came to my mind as I prepared for this weekend’s blog, will enter into our hearts and quicken our minds to love the only One who can rescue us from this corrupt generation, that snuffs out black lives with impunity, and cause Jasmine Dean, and so many others, to go missing. Even Jesus Christ!
SATURATED WITH THE SPIRIT
Hilary of Poitiers
Verse: Acts 20.24
Hoisting My Sails
The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you. The power of speech which you have bestowed on me can give me no greater pleasure than to serve you by preaching your gospel.
But in saying this, I am merely expressing what I want to do. If I am to actually use this gift, I must ask you for your help – ask you to fill the sails that I have hoisted for you with the wind of your Holy Spirit, inspiring my mind and my voice . I know that I am often heavy with stupor, so that I am too lazy to speak of you. And I do not spend sufficient time studying your Scriptures, to ensure that my words accord to your Word. Give me the energy and the courage to share the spirit of of the apostles, that like them I may truly be an ambassador of your grace.
Saturated in His Love
Although I am dust and ashes, Lord I am tied to you by bonds of love. Therefore I feel I can speak freely to you. Before I came to know you, I was nothing. I did not know the meaning of life, and I had no understanding of of myself. I had no doubt that you had a purpose in causing me to be born; yet you had no need of me, and on my own I was on no use to you.
But then you decide that I should hear the word of your Son, Jesus Christ. And that as I heard his words, you enabled his love to penetrate my heart. Now I am completely saturated in his love and faith, and there is no remedy. Now, Lord, I cannot change my attitude to my faith, I can only live for it .
Comment: Even now, having read this reflection many times, the breath and depth of the saturation of Poitiers love for Christ, affects my soul deeply.
Finally a message to my church forms a bookend to this week’s blog. A message about formation and not just information. A message about from Whom our strength to overcome, resides. The Comforter, The Holy Spirit the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ.
EMAIL TO MY CHURCH
I have been led over the years to understand that when the Lord speaks to you, it is for your own spiritual formation ( thanks to Sister Grace for the currency, and deeper understanding, of that word); and aslo to share with others for the same reason.
So my “ song in the night last night was:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Philippians 4:13 KJV
This from the Apostle Paul who was rejoicing that the Saints in Phillipi had renewed their concern for him, not because he was in dire need, but because it was good for them to share in his troubles. For as Paul declared, he had learned the secret of being content in any and all situations, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. And then finally to explain his ability to rejoice in the Lord always, a lesson he taught them earlier on in the chapter 4, a lesson which highlighted the call not to be anxious about anything, but rather, in everything, to present your requests to God and experience the peace that transcends all ( human ) understanding.
So why is the Lord saying this to us through me , as I believe He is, this morning. In my context, yours may be different, it speaks to the caution to avoid having the need for distractions in your life; to pass the time. Or even as a way of life. What am I talking about ? Beenieman versus Bountykilla! The virtual dancehall clash over the weekend which attracted the viewership of over 400,000 Jamaican and to date, a worldwide viewership of over 4 million persons and counting. All of this at at time when the very existence of mankind is under threat. When every country in the world is in some kind of lockdown mode, and people, “ young and restless people”, tired of being isolated from each other and not being able to party, came up with a distraction which has filled the void in their hearts and souls.
And they are not alone! But we must do as they do. For many Christians, if truth be told, myself included, are either tempted to, or have engaged in, either binge watching of movies, or serials, on Netflix or Amazon, or just watching TV a lot. I will guarantee you that only the faithful few have been spending a lot of time on their knees praying to the Lord for mercy. Or wrestling with God for many reasons! Especially for a Prophetic Word in these unusual times. Praying for mercy for devastated New York! Mercy for the vulnerable in Nursing Homes! Wisdom for our leaders as they try to negotiate the treacherous path between “ Not dying from the Pandemic and not being devastated by the Recession”! Wisdom for our Church Leaders at a time when people are reluctant to re-engage in corporate worship but the witness of the church must continue unabated if we are to faithful to the One who died so that we may live, and be witnesses to His Resurrection Power!
Mercy, and Justice, for the family of Jasmine Dean; whose “missing status “ serves as a metaphor for the reality that there are other ills, other imperatives in our land, other than COVID-19. Mercy for those who have been scorned by their families after having contracted and recovered from the Virus! Mercy for the huge numbers of ordinary people who have suffered financial loss and who have no “ nest egg” on which to depend and carry them though these hard times!
But that kind of steady focus on the needs of others, and others far away, and to share in their troubles, comes only when God has been formed in our hearts by faith and by grace. Comes only when we have truly learnt to be content in all situations, and have stopped grumbling and complaining about every trial in our lives which comes along. Comes only when we can truly declare like Paul, “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. For in a sense as some theologians have argued, “prayer is the greater works “ which Jesus promised and which Sister Grace highlighted on Sunday.
Why? Read again, as I was led last night, how Jesus declared that his leaving the disciples was good for them, for if he did not leave – and return to the Father – the Holy Spirit would not come and be with them. And which historic and ever present reality we are about to celebrate this Pentecost Sunday, would, according to Jesus, result in our being led into all truth, and people being convicted of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment. John 16:5-15.
This as Jesus declared that He had much more to tell his disciples, more than they could bear, but all would be revealed when the Holy Spirit came.
The spiritual reality then, is that when the Holy Spirit is truly formed in us we will be able to do all things by the Power of The Almighty God living in and though us. We will be able to bear all things, and rejoice in all situations, even during COVID-19. Not because our distractions have given us time and space not to think too much about the terror which is COBID-19, but rather because Christ has been formed in us, and in Him we are conquerors in every situation, as our minds are not on earthly things but our citizenship is in heaven, as Paul declared late in Chap 3.
And those in whom Christ is formed are continuously in conversation, in prayers and in supplication and requests, to the Father, in the same way that Jesus was alway in touch with His Father. Does this mean that we have no time to enjoy the many gifts and beauty that God has showered on this world! No, but we are not to allow them to serve as distraction from the greater work which is prayer. Especially in a time when the world is confronted by an existential threat to its survival!
Peace and in obedience.
Lord renew thy church beginning with Pentecost – will thou not turn again and quicken us O Lord: Lord renew thy church that the church may renew with Power a hurting and confused nation(s)