This week was a rough, but very instructive, one for my country. Gunmen shot a popular dancehall artiste and left him critically injured. The immediate reaction by many of his, equally popular, colleagues, was to begin a vigil of prayer for his recovery. This was followed closely by an admittance - by some - that they, the dancehall artistes, had grossly underestimated the impact that the " gun lyrics" had on the behaviour of these gunmen. And now, much to their horror and probably embarrassment also, one of their own, a man who they say had nothing to do with such lyrics, was struggling for life. This position is in sharp contrast to what has been previously trotted out by defendants of the dancehall culture. Meanwhile the murders continue unabated. The fact that a second artiste was shot, but not so seriously, has forced at least one section of the society to look deep into their collective souls, concerning their complicity with the single greatest evil confronting the Jamaican people - murder. But for how long? Only the God to whom they are now praying can tell.
In this context my " discovery" of TI last night on Larry King live is also important. Never heard about him before, but the interview was riveting. Here was a ( US) nationally acclaimed rapper, being interviewed shortly after being released from jail. Charges? Possession of many high powered weapons capable of discharging hundreds of round per minute. His reason? Someone close to him was murdered by assailants using high powered weapons and he felt afraid. This is how folks who grew up in rough neighbourhoods, like he did, respond instinctively, said he. Would he do this again, or encourage others to do so? No way, he said. In fact he is now busy, according to his probation arrangement trying to convince at risk kids to turn their lives around. " I am a retired gangsta" he told a group of them. Was he telling the truth? I don't know. But he seemed quite genuine, contrite and willing to take responsibility for his actions. No, he should not have done it. Yes, he grew up in a rough neighourhood. But that's no excuse.
Tonight, even as I write my country is in a crisis, because of the actions of someone quite unlike TI. A man - "Dudus" Christopher Coke - alleged by the US government to be a major player in drug running and the trafficking of illegal guns. The kinds of weapons that have been used by criminals to snuff out the lives of over 600 persons since the year began. A man who grew up in a rough neighbourhood, a constituency represented by the Prime Minister of Jamaica, and who according the news reports, is allegedly linked to the famous
" shower posse" gang, and further, a man who many Jamaicans fear deeply. A man who the US wish to extradite and to face their courts. A man who, according to news reports this evening, is a person of interest to the British Scotland yard. This man, is apparently so powerful that, according to the Jamaican Prime Minister, in a statement to the Parliament this week, he, acting as party leader, sanctioned an initiative to engage the services of a high ranking US law firm, Mannatt Phelps and Phillips to help with extradition matters. This, after he had give the nation a firm assurance, as Prime Minister, that the government of Jamaica had not engaged any law firm to do any such lobbying.
So, in a swift, unified and angry reaction, many ordinary Jamaicans, and members of civil society, having felt that their trust in the PM had been betrayed, have called for his resignation. As I write, the official response is that he will not resign. And to date no apology has been tendered. But the feeling of many is that he has been fatally wounded and can no longer rule effectively. He can go through the motions, but who will he inspire? Where will he get the respect which is essential to Prime Ministerial rule in any democracy?
But there is a bigger issue. An issue that transcends individuals and their political fortunes. And that issue is the nexus, the unholy alliance between organized crime and the body politic. How will we as a nation seek to break that link? What kind of political, and perhaps constitutional arrangements will be necessary to fulfill that objective? These are some of the issues that require answers as they point to the fundamental reason why Jamaicans are so upset at this time in our nation's history. Because deep in their hearts, is an amazement and disappointment, that the PM, for whatever reason, could be exerting so much energy, expending so much political capital, and dragging the good name of Jamaica in the dirt, all on account of a man whom they feel is not exactly unconnected to the reasons why their loved ones are being so brutally murdered day by day. As, if for whatever reason, our criminal justice system cannot find the evidence to indict him, the bar of public opinion has no such difficulty, as our people know what's happening around them.
In the midst of this madness, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham and Father of our Lord Jesus, to whom many of the dancehall artistes are now belatedly, but still quite appropriately, and entirely welcomed, appealing for mercy, revealed through His Word, and meditations of His saints , that " the government is upon the shoulders of Christ". The implications of the Lord's Word, is a continuation of last week's message - that He is doing a new thing in Jamaica and the world, and no one can stop it. So whether or not Mr. Golding resigns, is of no great significance to the God whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts. As the die is already cast and His will is going to be done. How did I come by this revelation. It began when I read the Scripture appointed for Christ's Ascension, which as a Liturgical church, we celebrated this past Thursday - Ephesians 1: 15-23. And, as is now my habit, developed over many years, I looked at the preceding verses and met upon, and was reminded of, some pretty amazing statements by Paul.
.....For he chose us in him ( Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through the blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace, that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ.
The very next day - I am dead serious - the Lord led me to read the following meditation. That's why I no longer, and for some time now, believe in coincidence. But rather take note when supernatural things are being played out right in front of my face. Further, the development of this revelation - being led to read other passages of Scripture - greatly facilitated the writing of a sermon which I delivered this afternoon on the subject of " God's Harvest".
ALL THINGS CHRIST TIEGEN MAY 12
The mystery of his will ...to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
The story of God's people is a long one, stretching back thousands of years to the beginning of creation. What purpose did the Lord have in mind in this strange and beautiful world? What was he aiming for when He began the redemption story with a chosen family? What were all those Hebrew biographies and chronicles about? What ultimate purpose was it all pointing to ?
God's ultimate aim was and is to bring everything in heaven and earth under Jesus. That goal was present in the Hebrew Scriptures, but that's only unveiled in completeness in the New Testament. This purpose is why we take every thought captive to Christ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5) and rejoice in the fact that every knee will bow to Him ( Philippians 2: 10). The fall of humanity scattered elements of creation out from under God's good dominion, and in Christ they are brought back into His hand. Jesus, as other translations of this passage say, is the " sum " of all things.
We often miss the significance of " all things". We think that Jesus reigns over compartments of our lives, especially spiritual things. But His reign is comprehensive; the whole earth, and in fact the whole universe, is coming into His dominion. The world doesn't always look that way, but that's the direction we're headed. Every knee will bow - it's inevitable. And all things, even the physical creation, will be restored.
That's why the New Testament is so insistent on a bodily resurrection. Jesus is Lord of every atom in the Universe. And that's why our tendency to confine His lordship to purely " spiritual" aspects of our lives often leaves us with a sense of defeat and discouragement. But there's no need to limit our expectation of what we can bring to Him or what he might do. We can be encouraged that he is interested in every detail of our lives because we every detail is ultimately His. Our whole life --including whatever we might be facing today - belongs to him
One of the things that those who are refusing to tell us which party functionaries initiated this discussion with the PM, and who paid the money to the law firm , whose lobbying efforts on behalf of Coke, has caused so much distress for a nation, relates to the fact that though God has a long term plan for us, He is interested in every detail of our lives. And so His Word says:
" The man of God sent word to the King of Israel: " Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.......time and time again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the King of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, " Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the King of Israel?"
" None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, " but Elisha the prophet, who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom". 2 Kings 6:9-12 NIV
And in another place:
" So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Matthew 10:26 NIV
The problem with those who are unredeemed, and no doubt those of us are lacking in faith and understanding of the mysteries of God, is that we take too short a view of history. Consequently, although knowing fully well that God is interested in every detail of our lives, some Christians worry too much when things don't seem to be moving in the way of justice and righteousness. But it will happen, as sure as night follows day. All things wil soon be revealed - even the most secret things. We just have to be patient and continue in sustained prayer for our country, our leaders and ourselves - that God 's will be done. Continue with the power of the Holy Spirit, in partnership with other like-minded persons in the society, to agitate for good governance, for justice and for alleviation of poverty and the reduction of crime and violence. And it is the will of God that evil will not flourish beyond His appointed time. And who knows when He will act with His mighty power.
Therefore let us pray urgently for mercy for ourselves where we have gone wrong, for our church - all denominations, our leaders, our co-workers, that all may seek God and find grace and mercy and forgiveness in times of troubles. For a broken and contrite hearts you will not despise O Lord.
So whether it is TI turning to God as he intimated during the interview with Larry King; or the various dancehall artistes doing the same in Jamaica, calling upon the name of Jesus for their friend O'Neil and for the nation; or God allowing the Dudus issue to be highlighted in the highest forum in the land: God is doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? So we wait in faith and in prayer for our PM, the gunmen, the dancehall artistes - injured and healthy, the rappers in the USA, the terrorists in Afghanistan, the situation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel, the situation in Nigeria between the Muslims and the Christians, the trials in Chechen in Russia, the struggles in Thailand, as in Christ Jesus, God is doing a new thing as " the government is upon His shoulders". And not permanently on the shoulders of our elected officials. Amen