Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is it well with your Soul?

How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured out on the head,
running down the beard,
running down Aaron's beard,
down upon the collar of of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessings,
even life for evermore.
Psalm 133 NIV

This Psalm very aptly describes how I felt today at the special service held at our National Arena in Jamaica, where all, or many Anglicans, gathered together in celebration of the visit of the worldwide Anglican Consultative Council's visit to our island. This 150 strong group, representing Anglicans from all over the world, carries out the work of the Anglican Communion in between the synod of Bishops which meets in Lambeth UK every ten years. The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, delivered the sermon , while the Lord Bishop of Jamaica officiated.
The Governor General was in attendance. So too the leader of the parliamentary Opposition. Note was made of representatives of other traditions and they were warmly welcomed. The music, apologetically Caribbean featuring Bob Marley and others, sang by a mass choir and Olive Lewin's group was of an extremely high quality. our own David Aarons with a Steel Pan ensemble also featured.
This was, without any doubt, the highlight of my week, during which the Lord spoke in various ways. I am intrigued by the fact that, the very same passage ( an extended version ) which featured in this week's early morning ( always special) 4: am message, was used by the Archbishop in his very practical and "easy to understand and apply to one's life", sermon.

"On their release Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this they raised their voices together in prayer to God. " Sovereign Lord", they said, " you made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David:'

Why do nations rage and the people plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.

'Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch our hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. there was no needy person among them........
Acts 4: 23-36

The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams made the point that the lesson to be gained from reflecting on this passage of Scripture, which is very similar in nature to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples, is that the role of the church today is to ensure that people's needs are met. Both material and spiritual. That this is the ultimate manifestation of God's Spirit. Justice is carried out. Poverty is attacked. Health care needs are met. But even more importantly, forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope, the deepest needs of the human spirit are met. And all of this is the effective working of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us in and through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ - the Good Shepherd. A basic uncluttered message, which the entire world needs to hear, again and again through the actions of us, the disciples of Christ, that one would expect from a man of God and a leader of men, as the Archbishop clearly is. Pray God that all of us there, and all Christians would do well to remember and carry out this mandate - to meet the needs of people both inside and outside the church. As people in Jamaica are hurting. Inside and outside the church. In the Adventist church, the Baptist; the United ; the Pentecostal; the Moravian; the Church of God; the Roman Catholic; the all the Evangelical and traditional Churches. People in Politics are hurting and filled with needs - despite our often cavalier and uncaring attitude towards them. So too the captains of Industry and commerce - they and their families are hurting and filled with unmet needs, more so spiritual than material. Even our celebrated sportsmen and women, the "high and mighty" journalists who expose everybody else's "business", and perhaps especially our highly influential entertainers. People are hurting in the ghettos, in the uptown houses, in the Bishop's Palaces, in the White House, in Palaces of Kings and Queens. People are hurting in the country areas and in the urban areas. And they are all around us -waiting or a message of hope.

No doubt these thoughts are consistent with those expressed by Martin Luther ( 1483-1546) whose meditation on " Quickening grace " I read and was moved by, this week.

Vs. Zechariah 12: 10

When a Christian begins to know Christ as his Lord and Savior, through whom he is redeemed from death and brought into his kingdom and inheritance, his heart is aglow with a flaming love of God, and he would gladly help everyone to the same experience. For he knows no greater joy than that he possesses this treasure, that he knows Christ. Therefore he goes out and teaches and exhorts other people, praising and testifying to it before all men, praying and yearning that they too might attend to such grace. That is a restless spirit enjoying the highest rest in the grace and peace of God, for it cannot be silent or idle, but is always striving with all its power to spread the honor and glory of God among the people, that others too may receive this Spirit of peace and grace and may then help with the work of prayer. For where the Spirit of grace is, he quickens our hearts, so that we can, and may, begin to pray.

The question is therefore , " how restless is our spirit" to proclaim Christ? How determined are we to live a life as disciples of Christ. How restless is our spirit to tell our friends, our children, our partners, our colleagues at work, our fellow human beings in the " war torn " areas of the city, our "sisters' who are prostitutes, our " brothers" who are gay, the next door neighbour whose dog is constantly digging up our beautifully manicured lawn or the one who plays loud and even lewd music thus disturbing our space - yes call the police, but when last have we prayed for his soul as well. Yes we must yearn for the day when in our church " the place will shake with the power of the Holy Spirit", but then what? .....For where the Spirit of grace is he quickens our hearts, so that we can, and may, begin to pray...... To pray for those in need both materially and spiritually and then become " poured out wine and broken bread" to fill their needs.
This is why the people turned up today. One lady even in bare feet - perhaps took them off to feel more comfortable. Not only to hear the Archbishop. Not only to support our Lord Bishop. Not only to share in the wonderful fellowship which is like " precious oil running down Aaron's beard". No, they, most of them poor working class people, left their homes in the dark and traveled far and wide, made many sacrifices, sat on hard benches, endured hunger, to reach early because they have a " restless spirit" in them to celebrate and proclaim Christ. "O how good and pleasant it is ( most of them there today were women) when sisters and brothers dwell together in unity".
Finally, and ultimately the question is, now and forevermore, " Is it well with your soul"?
The Lord led me to dwell on this hymn this week and inspired a text message which was sent out to many of my cell phone contacts. Is it well with your souls? My soul! Do we have a restless sprit to " tell, and be, the good news" to someone in need.
That's the final question that will matter on the day when Christ returns on the day, not of Pentecost, but of judgement. When it will not be the church that will shake, but the very stars and the heavens. And then will come the end of this world. No more Bishops. No more Kings and Queens. No more Politicians and Journalists.
No more discussions on whether or not Jesus is God or if He is the only way to God.
No more needy and suffering - for those in Christ Jesus. As one of our leaders famously declared " Argument done". So, is it well with your soul? Is it well with my soul?

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Refrain

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine,
for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper
Thy peace to my soul.


Refrain

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel!
Oh voice of the Lord!Blessed hope,
bless├Ęd rest of my soul!


Refrain
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Refrain
Amen