Sunday, November 2, 2008

Closing arguments from Obama, Christ and St. Paul.

This past week, on day before Barack Obama spent over $5.0 million presenting his closing arguments, someone whom I have known since she was one month old, was help up by gunmen. And so terrified was she, as she begged for her life, that she lost control of one of her bodily functions. So what can Obama do for my friend here in Jamaica.? On Tuesday November 4, exactly forty years and seven months after Martin Luther King Jnr. finished his work on this earth, having had a dream that, "my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character", Barack Hussein Obama, by all accounts,will fulfill that dream by becoming the first President of the USA who is an African American. So what can Obama do, not for only black folks but for all the people of American? On January 20th, if he wins, Obama will officially close the deal, and take over the reins of power in the USA - the world's only remaining superpower. And from all accounts, the entire free world is waiting to " exhale" and see what Obama will do for peace, for climate change, for the world economy, for the good name of America.

As I contemplated these issues this week, like many others, my country is caught up with "Obama fever". My wife who has never voted in her entire life, has suddenly become a political expert on American politics, and CNN is almost always on in my house - from the days of the Democratic primaries. But equally so is my country caught up the "fever" of violence and is a nation racked by daily reports of murder, kidnapping of young girls, rape, and just absolute mayhem. And today's news report just about shattered all who heard it.

A young girl with a bright future, on her eighteenth birthday, the head girl of one of our top schools was killed by the gun. Her father's gun. A dad who came to the rescue of his family, who were under threat from marauding gunmen, slipped and fell and the gun went off hitting his daughter who later died. The gunmen escaped. And we cannot begin to understand the pain that this poor man is feeling now. So far no party, no leader, no private sector mogul, no insightful journalist, no policeman has presented any closing arguments to help stem the tide of crimson which is staining the streets of our country.

So this week, I was led to the closing arguments of two persons, whom, if we follow carefully, can help, not only Jamaica, black folks and white folks in America, but the entire world to find the only true peace which is available this side of heaven. The shalom, the peace which my friend who was terrified by the gunmen needs and which that guilt-ridden father needs desperately. Which Obama himself needs if he is to truly bring into being the final element of King's dream - Freedom. Freedom from more than racism and sexism. But also from poverty and persecution. From violence and extortion. From the consequences sexual immorality and moral laxity. From ignorance and fear. From greed and pride.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" The closing arguments of King's famous " I have a dream " speech

So let us reflect on the closing arguments from who He, who is the only One who can allow to sing:" Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.

" A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ' Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say ' Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.......For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there thy crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, " Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing".

Luke 23:26-34

" Later knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, " I am thirsty". A jar of wine vinegar was there , so they soaked a sponge it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, " It is finished". With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

John 19;28-30.

Note that this event took place on an old rugged cross on a hill far away from the "glare of the television cameras". Only Holy Scripture records this kind of detail and places the whole of Christ's life into perspective, and which story is captured so eloquently by verses of two hymns on which I was led to reflect this week.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in my Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me who him me to death pursued
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou my God, shouldst die for me

He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam's helpless race
' Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For O my God, it found out me...

My God I love thee, not because
I hope for heaven thereby
Nor yet because those who love thee not
Are lost eternally

Thou O my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the Cross embrace
For me didst bear the nails and spears
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 from the hope of gaining aught
Nor seeking a reward
But as thyself hast loved me
O ever-loving Lord...

In a few short words above, the essence of the Christian message is taught. And all of what life is about is shared. That the work of Salvation - Peace, Shalom, wholeness, restoration of sinful man with God the Creator, freedom from sin and death, empowerment with the power of the Holy Spirit - is all finished. That because of love God sent His only begotten Son, and Christ was obedient - emptied Himself of all but love, and died for Adam's helpless race. That all of this is ;''Tis mystery all! The immortal dies. Who can explore His strange designs. So we love Christ, not for gain. Not because we understand everything. Not because He is going to " cut taxes to the middle class", or " redistribute wealth to the poor", or help to " regain Jamaica's good name", or " bring an end to the war in Rema, or Clarendon or St. James. No, we love Christ simply, because he first loved us - even when were sinners. His enemies.

This is the "closing argument" which will set those of us, who trust God, free and enable us to say like Christ to those who persecute us, who ignore our message, who pour scorn on our fixation on " what is unseen rather than what is seen: " Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". For surely the advice for the women in Jerusalem to weep not for Him but for themselves, holds true in today's world, as we witness one atrocity after another. Tonight there is a report of man, apparently in his right mind, who shot his mother to death, wounded his brother, and only by the grace of God, was he prevented from causing more bloodshed in the household. the rash of kidnapping and raping and killing our women is surely another manifestation of the fact that, those who turned this nation away from the living God, do not know what they have done.

The other " closing arguments" come from St Paul when, near the end of his life, he wrote to his "son" Timothy about, what I consider to be, the most challenging issue facing the church in its quest to be both relevant to the society and faithful to God. And equally so for those who " have an interest in the Saviour's blood", but who either do not understand the faith, or are not prepared to give up anything for Christ, but expect to receive is benefits. The challenge? Sound Doctrine.

" If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understand nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk,evil suspicions and a constant friction between men of corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain ( A major problem for many denominations). But godliness with contentment is a great gain, For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.........

But you man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness....1 Timothy 6:3-11

" In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will love the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge. Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them, a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering ad the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing"

2 Timothy 4:1-8

So my prayer for Obama as he takes over this awesome task in the affairs of men, is that, not only will he " have an interest in the Saviour's blood", but more importantly, that he may be instructed in sound Doctrine. The lack of which is the main reason why the world suffers so much today, as to much of our energies, as disciples of Christ, are directed at solving the problems of this world, and seeking a reward for doing so, rather than loving Jesus first and foremost - because He first loved us. And instead of preaching the Word in season and out of season, we gather around us a great number of teachers who tell us what our itching ears wish to hear.

Finally, the closing 'chapter' in the day's ( and no doubt the week's too) meditation last night.

And which meditation poses some serious for we who have decided to " follow" Christ, on account of His closing arguments on an old rugged Cross on a hill far a way from CNN.



" Know ye not are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19

There is no such thing as a private life -- " a world within the world" -- for a man or woman who is brought into the fellowship with Jesus Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves, we are called into the fellowship of the gospel, and things happen which have nothing to do with us, God is getting into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way; if you do not, instead of being the slightest use to God in His Redemptive work in the world, you will be a hindrance and a clog.

The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with his Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die away of self-pity, and all the so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says --" Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine". If though a broken heart God can bring His purpose to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.

As we in the Anglican faith celebrate All Saints day today, and recall our Rector's words:

" Saints are not only the famous ones of history - St Paul, St. Mark -- but those who in the face of suffering and persecution of all sorts, keep the faith." Pray God then, that we may not only get Obama fever, but more importantly be full of zeal for the One who died on the old rugged Cross for all mankind - Jesus Christ our Saviour. And that we may know the faith, live the faith and keep the faith, for Christ's sake and for the Salvation of the world.


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