Monday, May 28, 2012

Vybes Kartel, Music and National Repentance

One day last week, I heard a a documentary on RJR, one of Jamaica's top radio stations, which featured the work of a young student journalist who is currently studying at our local University of the West Indies. What grabbed my attention was the fact that the subject of the feature program was none other than Jamaica's foremost dance hall artist Vybes Kartel. An entertainer with a huge following especially among the young inner city youths and no doubt gaining popularity internationally also. He is a controversial person and has been linked to a violent gang and is currently languishing in jail awaiting trial for murder. That however does not alter the fact that he has a huge fan base, and coming through the documentary, by way of interviews of persons in from all walks of life in Jamaica, was the fact that Kartel's music and lyrics has the potential to " get the girls to do what the men want them to do". A perspective coming from both young girls and young men. This weekend in Jamaica during a session of teaching, prayers and healing, under the theme , " A Repentant people: A healed Nation, in keeping with our celebrations this year of our 50th anniversary as an Independent nation, one of our most senior pastors, the Rev. Burchell Taylor made an impassioned plea for us as Christians to begin to name the evils in our society for which we need repentance as a nation. This against the background of Rev. Taylor, and later on our newly appointed Anglican Lord Bishop Jamaica, Howard Gregory making the same point that, repentance is more than saying that we are sorry. But rather, it involves a radical revolutionary turn around, back to the source of life and creation, God in Christ, from whom we departed in the first place. And further, that it is a spiritual and moral issue, involving the entire nation. Not just sectors of the society. For my contribution to the conference, I asked and received a copy of the tape - from the lecturer Fae Ellington - put togther by that young student, Giovanni Dennis, and played an excerpt of it for the audience, during the section headlined, " National and Local Concerns" for prayer. A topic which as expected generated a lot of discussion, as the reality is that the kind of lyrics to which our young people are being exposed today, makes a significant contribution to the moral decay which is affecting our nation, and for which we all need to repent. A perspective, however, definitely not shared by all, including some who still hold on to a notion that we can ask God to bless our nation, while at the same time we "lift up high" this kind of music in our land. This kind of presumption is carried out by all sectors leaders, be they in politics, in the business sector, academia, sports, entertainment, the professional class and others, in the sense that we can ask and expect God to bless us, whilst pursuing our own private agendas. In this respect, one of the searching and profound messages which came out the conference, is that life for persons who repent and turn to God, can never be the same again. It can never be business as usual again. And so early this morning the Lord led me to the following text from the Bible and which I sent out to a few persons as a text message: " Elijah went before the people and said, How long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him: but of Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing." 1 Kings 18: 21 NIV I believe the Lord led me to reflect on this message at this time in the history of our nation, and in the life of many, to whom this Internet Ministry goes out locally and internationally, as this Word form God goes to heart of the problem which confronts mankind today. " You cannot ride two horses at the same time". Either you choose the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or you chose some other God. Which either you create for yourself or someone creates for you; both leading to the same disastrous end, as the " prophets" who faced this man of God, Elijah, would soon find out as the story in the book of Kings developed. Further, that choosing to follow the Holy One of Israel requires a radical, revolutionary turn around of our spiritual and moral compass. This is the implication and direct message of a text which challenged my soul last week. " So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But of you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not enter the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5: 16-26. NIV One of the strong points made by Bishop Gregory at the Conference and repeated by others, is that repentance presumes an acceptance and understanding of Sin. Of an equally profound nature was the observation made by Rev. Taylor that Repentance does not in and by itself bring forgiveness from a Holy God. it's not a commodity to be purchased. But rather that it is the acceptance of the forgiveness forged on the Cross of Calvary which ought to trigger the need for repentance and thus accept the free gift from God. And both of which points are of Global significance in terms of an understanding of the Christian faith, and the God to whom many, including all the Presidents of America look for blessing. This then is missing link in the search for healing in our land - an acceptance of Sin, the rebellion against a Sovereign God. Against a God who declares that there is no other God but Him. As all who live by this sinful nature, and who have not received the Spirit of God by belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are living a life which is open rebellion with the things of God. And there is no health in a nation and in an individual when that conflict occurs and thrives. The life and teaching of some of the lyrics of Vibes Kartel and others like him form part of the challenge that my nation in its year of Jubilee is facing. But there is more. many seek to put their trust in "positive thinkers"; in economic indices which are going in the right direction; in fighting crime with more heavy handed measures; in the " salvation" of our country by voting in the right party; or in opting out of the system by watching cable television only thus seeking to escape the atrocities that happen daily to our people. Perhaps it's a good time, on this day when the Anglican church and others worldwide, celebrate the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God was poured on our Lord's disciples with power and drama for all people to repent and made a radical revolutionary turn back to God. And to receive the same Spirit which enabled them to preach the message of Christ's resurrection boldly and to perform miracles in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We too enabled by the Spirit of the living God can so abundantly more than we can ask and imagine according to the Word of God. We too, following the God of Elijah and not that of Baal, will have power rout the forces of evil which have captured the minds and hearts of our young people - and some of the older ones as well. We too who walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh can challenge those control power on this country to accept the reality of Sin in our lives, only because of what happened on Calvary, and make the radical revolutionary turn around to Christ, and who knows that the Lord will pour out a blessing indeed on this land. As the promise of the text which under-girds the theme is very much alive and present: ......If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal the land". 2 Chronicles 7: 14. NIV. And we know that all God's promises are "Yes" in Christ Jesus and then we say the Amen. The outpouring of God's Spirit then on Pentecost, and by whose indwelling the Father and the Son will come to live in us, is a fulfillment of the promise of the OLD Testament, as our God is the same yesterday, today and forevermore.