If you did not see Black in America 1 on CNN, featuring Soledad O'Bryan, which aired shortly before Barack Obama won the US Presidential elections, make sure you catch Black in America 2 which is due for release in July of this year. Great documentary on the struggles of Black folks in the USA. This week O'Bryan put together a panel to discuss some aspects of the documentary and an ex-Basketball star made a comment which left a lasting impression on me.
" What separates the merely good ballplayers - and they are many of them - from the elite - only a few and he singled out Kobe Bryan as an example -is confidence. And confidence is something which you cannot give but you surely can take away. This is response to the non- attendance, or reduced attendance of parents in activities involving black kids in the USA vs the white kids.
And the result of which is that these kids lack the confidence which would assist them in doing well at school, simply because there is no one there to " cheer " them on and so their confidence is literally " taken away". Interesting point.
As I flew thousands of miles these last few days, and thank God landed safely each time, amidst reports of planes crashing in Buffalo, Holland, London and the " miracle on the Hudson River", the only thing that kept me from worrying too much was my confidence in the God to whom I pray for Grace and Mercy each day; each minute, each moment. And as I write I recall a wonderful woman of tremendous faith reminding me of the words of that wonderful song recently:
" Your grace and mercy
Brought me through.
I am living this moment
Because of You.
I wanna thank You
And praise Your Name
Your Grace and Mercy
Brought me through
And I live in a country which has one of the highest murder rates in the world and so the only thing that keeps me sane when I open my gate, or leave my office late at nights, is the confidence in the God whom I serve - not any gun in my waist ( that is of no use in sky anyway).
So this week, Lent, the most sacred period in the Christian calender and in particular Anglicans and other denominations - not Christmas as many believe - started on Ash Wednesday. A time when we spend more time engaging in the three great disciplines. Prayer, Fasting and giving alms to the needy. A time of self-denial and reflection, remembering our mortality and sinfulness before an Almighty God, who in His Grace and Mercy rescued us from the sentence of death on the Cross of Calvary in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son. It is a period which culminates in the agony of Good Friday and the joy and celebration of Easter Sunday. And I have been taught and have experienced it for my self over the years, that one cannot truly celebrate Easter and the glorious resurrection of Christ without going through Lent and its many disciplines.
This celebration of God's mercy to us in Christ Jesus, is what gives Christians confidence to live a joyful life, even in the midst of grave difficulties, financially, emotionally and physically; to live a life of sharing with others, of one's self and one's possessions, even when times are hard as they are here in Jamaica and in the USA and Europe from which I just returned; to worship God at all times moment by moment, because of His many Blessings to us. And confidence even to face death when that event inevitably arrives one day - and we all hope not too soon, but God's will be done - because we know in whose hands we will commit ourselves at that time, and to the certain joys of eternal life.
But this confidence comes only to those who believe in the Sovereignty of God in one's life and accept the need for the saving grace of Jesus, on the one hand. And are prepared to tell others about this free gift of salvation on the other hand. As God's blessings are not just for us to celebrate for ourself but to share the good news with others - with confidence. And the Lenten disciplines help us enormously in that regard. Forget the Easter Bunny and the bun and cheese.
That's a superficial understanding of a profound issue. So too, forget about giving up the cigarettes and the alcohol, and the chocolates for Lent. No particular blessing of a spiritual nature awaits anyone who indulges in that kind of activity - although whether Lent or not, from a physical health point of view, some of those habits are worthwhile giving up. So forget those but reflect deeply on a message from Chris Tiegen which I read this morning
BLESSED FOR A PURPOSE MARCH 1.
" Return home and tell how much God has done for you"
IN WORD Why has God been good to us? Because He loves us? Of course this is true. But there is more. He has been good to us because He loves others, too. He wants us to tell of His goodness. His mercy has been given so that we might speak of His mercy; His patience that we might speak of His patience; His blessings that we might tell others that He is a God who blesses.
All His goodness towards us is for us, yes, but also for others. It is for the reputation and glory of His name.
This is not new -- it was how He has made His name known from the beginning. " I will bless those who bless you ..... and all the people on the earth will be blessed through you". ( Genesis 12:3) " You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh...... You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day" ( Nehemiah 9:10). This is our story, too. God has been good to us not for our own glory, but for His.
IN DEED Pledge to tell others what the Lord has done for you. Learn to say , " Let me tell you about God's patience. He is so patient that He -------," and fill in the blank with a story of how He has dealt with you. Learn to say, " God is so merciful that He ------," and tell someone of His mercy toward you.
This may seem difficult because it will require honesty and transparency on our part. The Gerasene from this text must say that he is an ex- demoniac when he tells the story. We may have to confess that we needed mercy, or why God had to be patient with us. This often does not reflect well on us. But it does reflect well of Him and His glory --not ours -- is the ultimate purpose of all creation.
Give Him the glory. Tell what He has done for you.
Finally we cannot by ourselves gain the kind of confidence that God offer freely in Christ Jesus. And we cannot by ourselves speak freely abut God's goodness to us. Not can we manage the rigours of a observing a holy lent by ourselves - self sacrifice, fasting - self denial - deepening our prayer life ; repenting of our sins. But God can.
So the following hymn came into my mind this week and provided much strength and spiritual blessings.
Breathe on me Breath of God.
Fill me with life anew;
That I might love what thou dost love
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe of me breath of God,
Until my heart is pure;
Until my will is one with Thine
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine;
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me breath of God,
So shall I never die;
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine Eternity
Amazingly, tonight as i flew back home, I sat beside a friend who among other things, said to me, in response to a discussion on how the church can help others at this time, and the need to discern God's will for each of us; " if we would only live a life of thanksgiving, then things would be much better in the church.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me. Lord renew Thy church so that the church may renew the nation(s).
Your Grace and Mercy, brought me through............ Amen