A few years ago, I spent a few weeks in Singapore. And one of, if not the most enduring memory I have of that remarkable country, is that of a young girl, all by herself, waiting on the bus in the dark, at 5;30 in the morning - quite unperturbed as we jogged by, or in my case , walked at a fast pace. In that country, at that time, and I believe it remains that way until now, no one would dare to trouble her. Since then, I have always thought to myself, that if ever I had a chance to be in charge of my country, my first priority would be to ensure the safety of our young girls and women.
This week as I listened to, and looked in the eyes of a tear- filled young professional woman, I had reason to ponder that dream. She had just heard the news that, on the night before, gunmen had abducted three women from a popular fast food establishment, and she was terrified out her wits. " I don't want to be raped" she said. She lived alone and was in great fear of being assaulted and then killed. It's the latest in a long list of violent and wicked acts being perpetrated by men who clearly are no longer constrained by any rule of law in this country - just a few days ago they attempted - unsuccessfully thank God - to abduct a young schoolgirl, on a busy street, in "broad daylight", as we say here in Jamaica. So there is widespread panic as the country descends further into mayhem. Not being able to offer her any great human consolation, we prayed together and asked God for mercy and peace - not because we were worthy or deserving, but because He is a merciful God, and has shown this mercy, most profoundly in the death of His Son Jesus Christ
That is one perspective. The other is all about the Obamas . Barack, Michelle - I almost mischievously said and Abendego - Malia and Natasha - aka Sasha. Newspapers have become collector's items, as everything in print is being gobbled up. E-mails are being sent at warp speed. Face Book is all about Obama and so I would imagine are countless blogs.
And in the middle of all of this Obama " madness", a young preacher at my church today, delivered a wonderful sermon with authority and interspersed with moments when his voice cracked as his emotions almost overwhelmed him, and which brought us back to reality and connected us with the Obama victory.
"Yes we can", he declared in true Obama style. Yes we can as Christians, provide the kind of HOPE that the victims of rape and abduction need at this time in the nation's history. Yes we can offer the HOPE to the father and family of young Pia Phillips who died so tragically, as reported in last week's message. Yes we can be the HOPE to those who are at risk to turn to drugs, or a life of crime, and thus may become a rapist in the next generation. How! Help Other People Endure in times of crisis. Every male Christian ought to be mentoring a young person, preferably a young man. All Christians are called upon to sacrifice time at work, at home, in the community, to lend a listening ear to someone who is in need. Someone who is in crisis. Further, that in the spirit of the God who inspired the prophet Amos to pen those stirring lines, often used by Martin Luther King, the acknowledge forerunner of Obama," But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream", we too are called to break down the citadels of injustice, and to live holy lives. Not just on a Sunday morning, but at home, at work, and the community. That is how we are to going to provide HOPE for our people desperately in need of God's love in and through Christ Jesus - and whose body is the church.
But how does that help a nation in crisis, some would argue? How will that deter the wicked, bent on carrying our more spectacular acts of evil day by day? I am not sure, but certainly deep in the words of an old hymn is a message: "What God has done for others , He will do for you...."
It took a long time for change to come to America, but thank God it has. Likewise it took a long time for change to come to South Africa, but thank God it did. It took a long time for the " Berlin Wall" to come down, but thank God it did. It took a long time for slavery to end in my country, but thank God it did. And in every instance where injustice and unrighteousness have been defeated, God's mysterious hand, through His agents of change, has been at work. So change will come one day to Jamaica too, but it all depends on how we as Christians - God's agents of change - respond, as the young preacher declared today, in times of crisis.
And the God who is always ahead of us provided another perspective on this issue of our response in times of crisis, from a meditation from Chris Tiegen.
FOR HIS HONOR OCTOBER 15 CHRIS TIEGEN
" Father glorify your name ". John 1218
IN WORD One of the ways we can determine whether we are becoming Christlike is how we act in a crisis. When the pressure is on, what will we do? Or, even deeper, when the pressure is on, what motives will direct us?
Jesus came to hour that He had long predicted. He was clear about His purpose in coming to Jerusalem. He would die there. The disciples couldn't understand it, but He had foretold the Cross and the Resurrection numerous times. And now the hour had come.
It wasn't a pleasant hour. Nothing in human flesh --even that of the divine Son of God --enjoys suffering. Jesus dd not ask God to save Him from this hour in John 12( v 27) but when He gets to the Garden of Gethsemane, He wants to know if it's possible for the cup of suffering to pass Him by ( Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). Human nature is so very ambivalent; the spirit is willing , but the flesh is very, very weak. Even God, when clothed in human flesh, wanted the less painful way, But -- and here's the measure for us -- in the middle of His crisis, one motive still guided Him: He preferred the glory of God's name over His own self-preservation. God's reputation weighed heavier on His heart than His own comfort and life.
IN DEED Are you becoming Christlike? It is God's plan for you to be conformed to the image of His Son. But how can you know if you're growing toward that goal? Examine your motives, especially in the midst of a crisis. What is your agenda? Do you prefer the glory of God to your own escape? When it really comes down to it, what would you sacrifice for his glory?
Jesus sacrificed a huge following. His school of disciples, His comfort and health, His current reputation, and even His life in order that God's name might be honored. Would you?
Wow!. Would I? ( Thank God for blogs. The power just went, and had it not been for this technology, all of the message would have been lost). The point is that what Jamaica and the world needs now, in this time of crisis all over the globe, are Christians who are willing to sacrifice, not just for themselves, their neighbours and nation, but for God's glory. And according to Amos, His glory is achieved whenever and wherever we usher in Justice and Righteousness in our lives and in the lives of others around us.
And how do we sustain this desire for God's glory? According to the Gospel today about the five wise virgins and the five foolish ones -- by having a little more oil in my lamp to keep it burning, keep it burning 'til the break of day. And as I reflected deeply on the extended version of this wonderful song, I understood very profoundly what God was saying in this Gospel message.
I pray God that all of us who spend the time to listen will come to offer HOPE to our people, in the same way that Obama's victory, in and by itself, has already brought hope to millions across the USA and indeed the world. And I can hear the Pentecostals singing that wonderful up tempo sanke, in respect to Jesus' coming : " Things already better, things already better....."
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp I pray. Give me oil in my lamp
keep me burning, keep me burning 'til the break of day
CHO Sing, "Hosanna!" Sing, "Hosanna!"
Sing, " Hosanna!" to the King of Kings.......
Make me a fisher of men
Keep me seeking....
Give me joy in my heart
Keep me singing.....
Give me love in my heart
Keep me serving.....
Give me peace in my soul
Keep me praising.....
Place your faith in my heart
Keep me trusting
Hide your Word in my heart
Keep me learning.....
So it is in the seeking of others to bring them to Christ, in the singing of spiritual songs and hymns, in the serving of others ( providing HOPE), in the praising of God each day ( Bless the Lord O my soul), in the trusting in God in all situations and in the learning from His precious Word, that we will have " oil in our lamps" to be Christlike in the midst of crises of life and seek to bring all honor and glory to our Father. Thus will change come to Jamaica - and the whole world. So let us heed the words of the " community organizer" and begin the process : brick by brick, church by church, community by community, school by school, acts of faith by acts of faith, one day at a time, and trusting in God. Amen