Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peace and security in the midst of the storm: What a gwaan? God a gwaan

There is a well known phrase in our country which reflects, in more than one way, the attitude of many Jamaicans in this time of economic crisis. " Nutten naw gwaan". Which when translated to standard English means that, "Nothing much by way of improvement in their lot in life is happening, and further, what can you do for me", thus reflecting a kind of dependency previously unheard of, in our once very proud society.
But even if we resist the dependency , the attitude of hopelessness can be very infectious as we face major social and economic challenges in our national and personal lives. The murder rate continues unabated, despite the election promises of the relatively new administration - in fact breaking news tonight is that the Commissioner of Police has resigned, and which departure, clearly has more than a little to do with the spiraling murder rate. Our economic management team may stumble for a while, at a time when we are busy negotiation with the IMF, as the Governor of the Central Bank resigned this week also, amidst speculation, in the media, that his actions and that of others at the bank exceeded the terms of his contract. Jobs are scare, industrial relations are under tremendous strain in many sections of the society, scandals about government officials are popping up in the media, and people are beginning to wonder to whom must they turn for economic and social salvation.
In the midst of this conundrum, this angst about the state of our nation, and the widespread perception that " nutten naw gwaan", a sermon by young priest in church this morning, was greeted with thunderous applause - an unusual occurrence in my very conservative Anglican church. What was her message? Perhaps she recalled the words of the prophet Habakkuk when he wrote thousand of years ago:

" Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no olives on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign God is my strength........" Habakkuk 3:17-19. NIV.

So in strength of the prophets of old, she declared that though many may say " nutten naw gwaan" " God a gwaan". In sense that the Sovereign God is still active in the lives of men and women in their personal lives and in the life of a nation. The young curate cited many examples of God's continuously goodness and mercy to His children and to this nation, and the one I recall is the fact that, every time a baby is born, it is God who acting in the life of a nation and of a people. But we can add others, despite the many trials that people are experiencing, every time we awake in the morning we need to give thanks. Give thanks for good news from the doctor, and safe recovery after surgery. Good news about our children at school. Safe travel when we go abroad, and even traveling locally - the news last night carried the story of three men perishing in a motor vehicle crash. Give thanks for the joy of a long and wonderful marriage; the privilege of having parents live for a long time; the joy that grandchildren bring. The performance of our athletes, the quality of our "conscious" music; the dedication of some of elected officials; the protection offered by vigilant and uncorrupted policemen who regularly place their lives on the line for us; the love and prayers of the ordinary and unsophisticated Jamaican people. So God a gwaan in many and various ways in the midst of trials - many have suffered much. And the tears reflect the same deep pain whether or not the family member who passed on, died of illness, on the roads or by the gun. Whether the relationship ended with or without violence. Whether or not the child who got into trouble was a model student or not.

In addition to the message from the young priest, Oswald Chambers in one of his meditations raised the issue of faith, in the midst of challenges, this week - the same point raised by Habakkuk many years ago.


" Without faith it is impossible to please him." Hebrews 11:6

Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into a right relation. Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual; of impulse and inspiration. Nothing Jesus Christ ever said is common sense, it is revelation sense, and it reaches the shores where common sense fails. Faith must be tried before the reality of faith is actual. " We know that all things together for good," then no matter what happens, the alchemy of God's providence transfigures the ideal faith into actual reality. Faith always works on the personal line, the whole purpose of God being to see that the ideal faith is made real in His children.
For every detail of the common sense life, there is a revelation fact of God whereby we can prove in practical experience what we believe God to be. Faith is a tremendously active principle which always puts Jesus Christ first - Lord. Thou hast said so and so ( eg Matthew 6:33), it looks mad but I am going to venture on Thy word. To turn head faith into a personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes.
God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say ---" He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father", we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Finally another part of the message of faith " in the midst of the storm". This time a hymn , the words of which have been in my heart all week, and even flooding my mind on my awakening in the mornings and influencing my prayers a whole lot.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou for ever near me,
My Master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me:
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear,
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus draw though nearer,
And shield my soul from sin

O let me hear thee speaking
IN accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen
Thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end:
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my friend.

O let me see thy foot-marks,
And in them plant my own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone;
O guide me, call me draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My saviour and my Friend.