Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas : All about Peace or does it herald conflict?

It was from a movie that I heard the Lord speak tonight. But it was a movie about God's Word. Moses. The message began a couple days ago, and continued yesterday. As far as I know. But no doubt it had been gathering steam for some days now. I had sent a text message to a friend, for whom I have a lot of respect, as she carries the burden of my country in her heart. I enquired about her health. The response was that she was well, but concerned about the state of the nation - as so many of us are. And then came a text reply which asked how was I doing? My reply was that, I too was concerned, but not hopeless, as Lazarus had been raised from the dead. She then wondered in the next text if we were going to wait for the death and resurrection of Jamaica. I laughed aloud to myself, as I had anticipated that kind of answer, with its implied "accusation", that we Christians - she is not an unbeliever, and like many Jamaicans aware of God's Word, but yet to submit to the Lordship of Christ - were willing to wait and not act until Jamaica, like Lazarus died.
My response was that Jamaica was already spiritually dead. I don't know how many of you watched the very riveting documentary on CNN produced by Christiane Amanpour entitled;" They cried bloody murder". Its a story about about Genocide; in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and Croatia and the attempts by individuals to warn the rest of the world about the impending disaster. In one section the " Good Samaritan" wondered, in horror, "how could they kill children", with such impunity. Well, we in Jamaica are asking the same question, and there is no Genocide here. Just people who are spiritually dead, carrying our their atrocities, in the midst of others whose souls are equally dead , but whose, equally morally despicable actions do not provoke the same kind of societal outrage. Then the text message conversation came to an end, as my friend asked a very profound question which, as I replied, could not be answered through that medium. "How do we resurrect spiritually without religious conflict"?
I had pondered an answer, especially since we have become such a religiously plural society. And then tonight I was led to watch Moses, and the clear answer, which I knew well already, was that it is not possible.
Resurrection of any individual or nation from spiritual death, from a broken relationship with God, ever since Adam and Eve, has been shown not to be possible without conflict. The conflict began in the Garden of Eden with God's promise that childbirth, the cultivation of the land and Satan's life would be full of conflict and pain. The end of the conflict began in another Garden -Gethsemane when a fateful decision was made. And climaxed on Calvary when that decision was played out in full view of both believers and non-believers. " Surely this man was truly the Son of God", cried the Roman soldier. And although the conflict between good and evil has ended and Christ has gained the Victory, on our behalf, over death and sin, we who believe, will have that conflict played out in our lives until our end comes on this earth.
Internal conflicts resulting from the decisions we make, how we see ourselves, and how others view us as a result of such a changed lifestyle. Conflicts even within our own household, between husband and wife, parents and children, and in-laws, as promised by God's Holy Word, once we have decided to follow Christ. So by extension, conflicts between friends and neighbours, within political parties, in professional groups as the ethics of the Christian faith clash with the ethics of philosophy, the market place and what William Barclay calls " Ethics in a permissive age", or situational ethics. For a really great critique of that kind of ethical practice and its practical implications, read Ian Boyne's article in the Daily Gleaner today
Therefore, for my nation to recover from the killing of babes and sucklings, from the abduction, raping and killing of our women, from the wanton slaughter of our young men, hard decisions , which will inevitably bring all kinds of conflicts, will have to made by believers and non-believers alike, about what kind of rock we stand on. What is the foundation of our hope, our decision making and our understanding of who or whose we are? What moral principles guide us, and from whence came those guideposts. This kind of deep thinking is required for us to have any hope of resurrection of our nation. An exercise which led ancient philosophers from Plato to Sartre in their search for meaning in the universe to conclude that : " a finite point has no meaning unless it has an infinite reference point".
Finally in this brief message are words from a song, on which, led by by our Rector, we meditated this morning at church, as he preached on this very same subject about the meaning of Advent - the season which immediately precedes the Christmas celebration. A season which heralds the second coming of Christ -a time of judgment and not the peace with which we associate the first coming. A time of conflict. And the question is therefore, ' On which Rock shall you stand when Christ comes again'? And that the decisions we make now have eternal consequences. I pray God that all of us, believers and non-believers alike will one day sing this song with conviction, as the story about Moses cannot be told with mention of Israel's " backsliding" in the desert. About them worshiping a Golden Calf when Moses took a long time to come back from his meeting with God on Mount Sinai. About their lack of faith even after God had rescued them with mighty miracles - the passage through the Red Sea was simply stunning tonight as I watched. I almost forgot that it was a movie. So too the Rector bemoaned our lack of faith. Our becoming familiar with Holy Things. Our overly dependence on the superficial and those things that do not last.
" All men are like grass and their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of God stands forever" was ( a modern translation of ) part of the Scripture reading for today. But the song really captures the essence of his message as it does
for this Internet message.

In times like these, you need a Savior,
In times like these, you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

In times like these, you need the Bible,
In times like these, O be not idle!
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

In times like these, I have a Savior,
In times like these, I have an anchor,
I’m very sure, I’m very sure,My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

CHORUS:This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, The only One!
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds,And grips the Solid Rock.

Once we decide that Christ is our Rock. There will be conflict. But to whom else shall we turn.
And who else had the words of eternal life. Let us be very sure. For as I write I am thinking
about a friend of my wife whose son was killed in a plane crash today. A event, whether heralded or unannounced, sooner or later we will all have to face.