At one level of the human experience events that take place and news which circulates, happen in full public glare and are rapidly transmitted around the world. And so life continues. A great Senator, political icon and the last surviving member of the famous " Kennedy brothers", dies and CNN spends most of its time featuring the life and work of Ted Kennedy. What effect did he and his siblings have on the America and the world and the lives of ordinary people? And how long will that influence last? Will Barack Obama, who is having " rough ride" at present, become another American and indeed worldwide political success story and affect the lives of millions of people across the globe. Many are hungry for another John Kennedy, to bring fresh new hope to world filled with cynicism. To bring peace in a world darkened by sectarian, ethnic and religious wars. To bring prosperity in a time of worldwide financial distress.
At another level, however, the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, in whose hands lies the fate of all mankind, spoke of eternal things this week.
OF THE SICKNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART, OUT OF WHICH FLOWS SPEECH AND ACTION
" Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and these make a man ' unclean'.
For out out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean......." Mark 15:17-20 NIV
We in Jamaica just launched a Transformation Project aimed at changing the values and attitudes of our people in a country famous for wonderful athletic prowess, but also for murder, rape, pillage and sexual immorality. Can this project, headed by a well known preacher, make a difference? How? As unless the human heart is transformed by the good news of the Redemption offered up on the Cross of Calvary, what lasting effect can this well meaning project have on our murder rate. No doubt we should all support projects like these, but more importantly, we in the church are called to witness to the Christ in our transformed lives, and so help to make a difference.
OF PLACING A FOCUS ON THE CROSS
" For Christ did not send me to Baptize , but to preach the gospel - not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
' I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate'.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what preached to save those who believe.......
Brothers think of what you were when you called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many of your were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Cor. 1:17-30 NIV
So to whom shall we listen? Those who appear regularly on CNN, BBC, Breakfast Club, Nation New Network, Beyond The Headlines! The philosophers of this age! The wise men of this age?
The Kennedy's? The Obama's of this world? No doubt we have to pay attention to them, but when the Sovereign Lord speaks through the " despised Cross of Calvary", the "lowly" things of this world, so that no one should boast before Him, should we not listen with greater intensity and obey. Thus for the Christian our attitude, because of the " diseased heart" out of which flows all kinds of evil, because we know that we are not wise, we are weak and are great need of God's salvation offered on the Cross, we should do well to remember the words of the songwriter:
Nothing in my heart I bring;
Simply to the thy Cross I cling.
Naked, look to you for dress;
Helpless, come to you for grace.
Foul I to the fountain fly;
Wash me Saviour lest I die.
This is the attitude of those who are being saved. Being wise and good and powerful and without any need of the message of Cross is the attitude of those who are perishing. That is why there so much strife, tension and murder in Jamaica, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Palestine, in Israel. The only hope is in Christ, who as our young pastor pointed today, speaks words of hope and victory "yesterday, today and forevermore".
" I have told you these things that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.
FINALLY - OF PRAYERS
A MORNING WATCH JACOB BOEHME
Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head during the long dark hours of night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. To you , lord, I owe life itself. Continue to watch over me and bless me during the hours of day.
Rule oer me this day, O God, leading me on the path of righteousness. Put your Word in my mind and your truth in my heart, that this day I neither think nor feel anything except what is good and honest. Protect me from all lies and falsehood, helping me to discern deception wherever I meet it. let my eyes always look straight ahead on the road you wish me to tread, that I might not be tempted by any distraction. And make my eyes pure, that no false desires may be awakened within me.
ON GOING TO WORK
Give me, dear Lord, a pure heart and a wise mind, that I may carry out my work according to your will. Save me from all false desires, from pride, greed envy and anger, and let me accept joyfully every task you set before me. Let me seek to serve the poor, the sad, and those unable to work. Help me to discern honestly my own gifts that i may do the things of which I am capable, and happily and humbly leave the rest to others. Above all, remind me constantly that I have nothing except what you give me, and can do nothing except what you enable me to do.
WALKING WITH JESUS JACOB BOEHME
LUKE 24: 15
O God the source of eternal light, you provide temporary light for the earth, ruling over the sun and the moon that all creatures may live and thrive. The warmth and brightness of the sun makes the flowers bloom and the crops grow. And the gentle beams of the moon and stars remind us that your Word is alive and active even when we can see only dimly. Guide me to find me rightful place in your creation, that in some small way I may add to the beauty of your handiwork. And may your eternal light shine in the darkest corners of ,my soul, that all shadow of sin may be expelled.
I thank you, O God, for your care and protection this day, keeping me from all physical harm and spiritual corruption. I now place the work of the day into your hands, trusting that you will redeem my errors an turn my achievements into your glory. And I now ask you to work within me, trusting that you will use the hours of rest to create in me a new soul. Let my mind which through the day has been directed to my work, through the evening be wholly directed at you.
As I take off my dusty, dirty clothes, let me also be stripped of the sins I have committed this day. I confess, dear Lord, that in so many ways my thoughts and actions have been impure. Now I come to you, naked in body and bare in soul, to be washed clean. Let me rest tonight in your arms, and may the dreams that pass through my mind be holy. And let me awake tomorrow, strong and eager to serve you.
So, to whom shall we listen and obey. The strident voices of this world. The wise men! The rich and famous! The powerful an influential! Or the still quiet voice of the Sovereign God, calling our attention to the "despised" Cross of Calvary, which message alone has the power to " drive our every sin from the human heart", and bring peace to this world. As Billy Graham famously said: " This is the hour of decision" - for all mankind. Amen