Sunday, January 17, 2010

Death in Haiti: life in Christ Jesus

By now the entire world knows that at exactly 4:53 pm on Tuesday of this week Haiti, our next door neighbour just 3oo miles north east of us, was ravaged by a earthquake whose magnitude was 7.2 on the Ritcher scale. And which fault line triggering the disaster, extends to Jamaica and on to South America. Jamaica experienced an earthquake whose magnitude was over 5, some years ago in 1993, and the reports in the newspapers inform us that a 7, is 100 times more powerful than a 5. At that time, high rise buildings swayed and my house shook violently, but no significant damage was recorded, and we have significantly higher building codes that Haiti does. Therefore, I cannot begin to imagine the kind of absolute terror that unfolded just across the waters, on a day when there was no hint of the impending disaster that was to instantly kill an estimated 100,000 people, leave countless others wounded leading to disease and further death, and spawn an exodus from the " hell" of rotting bodies, no water, no food and nowhere to live. By now help is pouring in from all quarters, for some too late, for others not enough, while for the fortunate few, just in time. So the people bury their dead quickly and unceremoniously, mourn for them, care for the living, await further help, praise God - even in the midst of their calamity - and look to an uncertain future.

So what was the word from the all knowing Lord, the God who is constantly in front of us, in the midst of this, according to the UN, unprecedented human and physical disaster? For some time now He has been reminding me about the history of the church and the central purpose of the body of Christ. And which message is fully explained in what is known in our church as the Benedictus - the message given by father of John the Baptist when his speech returned having declared in obedience the name that he had been given for us son from the Lord. Luke 1:68-79. KJV

" Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people:
And has raised up a mighty salvation for us : in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets: which have been since the world began .
That we should be saved from our enemies: and from the hands of all that hate us.........
To perform the oath which he sware to our father Abraham: that he would give us.
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies: might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our life.
And thou child shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins......
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.....

The eternal truth, the supernatural reality, in spite of the pressing demands and exigencies of the moment, is that God's plan for mankind, as realized in Christ Jesus, is for all who trust in His Son, to be rescued from our enemies - of sin and death. By repentance and belief in the Atonement on Calvary. Yes, God is a God of compassion and mercy. Yes, we who serve Him, have to respond with compassion and mercy to all in need, especially the homeless and the destitute people of Haiti, and not to utter self righteous pronouncements of judgement. But the true enemy, the supernatural enemy of us, all is sin and death, both of which were conquered on the Cross.

Let's listen again to the word of God as I was led to reflect one morning this week during my devotions. For some time now I've been singing prayerfully the first verse of :

O Jesus I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be Thou forever 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

But this particular morning it was the fourth verse that struck me:

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

And which thoughts then led me to :

" And when they found him ( after the feeding of the five thousand) on the other side of the lake, they asked him, " Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of man will give you...............For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:25-40. NIV

Christians have to learn to; " seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper". Jeremiah 29:7.
In the sense that we are to contribute with all our mind and strength to provide for our family - to pay the light bill and the school fees: to contribute to nation building - fighting crime, healing the sick, seek justice for the oppressed, root out rogue cops from the force, expose corrupt politicians on the one hand, but equally but to support good policy initiatives on the other hand. To help our CARICOM neighbours, and at this time Haiti, in their time of distress.
But constantly, also, we have to remind ourselves that , despite the convenience of our Blackberries, the renewed contacts that Facebook can provide, the pleasures gained from our iPods, the financial security provided by sound investments, the joys of a good marriage, the
" better than pocket money " friends and the assumed rights and comforts of living in a democratic society, we have no lasting home here". Why? We who believe in the Son of Man and the Son of God have been purchased by His Blood. And His plan is not only to " raise us up on the last day", but in fact, in Baptism, we have died and have been raised with Christ to a new life.
That's why we are to live a life of constant thanksgiving to God in and through Christ Jesus. That's why Christians ought to go to church and sing out their hearts every Sunday or every Sabbath, or every day of the week for that matter, if you are so moved. That's why, we the Redeemed children of God, for whom God has raised up a mighty Salvation, ought have a different disposition from others and not be so easily distressed by what is happening around us, or conversely get excited by what excites others. So, yes, let us mourn with those who mourn in Haiti, and do our utmost best to deal with their suffering and pain, but like those Haitians who worshiped the Lord today, I suppose much to the amazement of the unbelievers, let us rejoice with those who rejoice. As regardless of our temporary troubles and difficulties, God has provided a way out for us, a way to rescue us from the greatest enemies that face mankind. Not disease, not poverty, not war, not privation, but sin and death. So in the eternal scheme of God plans, those who died in Christ in the " hell " in Haiti are better off than those who live in the "heaven" of middle class America or Jamaica, but have not Christ. This is the eternal truth that triggered a text message this week to many in my phonebook, and which message came from a further reading of that same passage from John.
" I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 7:53-54. NIV

Finally a word that continues the message of repentance but also speaks to some of the outrageous comments about judgement against Haiti, coming from some " Christian " quarters.

" Do you think that these Galileans were worse off than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them -- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no,! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Luke 13: 2-5 NIV

So we continue to mourn, to provide help and to pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, but equally so, if not more so , we mourn for those who have not yet repented, have not yet discovered the joy of knowing the risen Christ, have not yet experienced the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through then to touch the lives of others. Mourn for those living in darkness and in the shadow of death even though they feel so comfortable with their current lifestyle, or even worse, know better, but refuse to obey God. This world is funny place. Who knows, today its Haiti, tomorrow it may be Jamaica or USA or France or Nigeria. Today an earthquake, tomorrow a Tsunami or a Hurricane or war or act of terror. What we can be assured, is that the same God who promised to rescue His people Israel from all that hate them, in and through Christ, is the same God who will rescue us from all evil, and raise us up on the last day, "for no matter how many promises God has made, they are " Yes" in Christ. And through him the " Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.