Sunday, February 10, 2013

Are we listening to Jesus and loving one another: or are excitement and life's challenges distracting us?

It should have been tonight, but because of scheduling problems with the media, our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance will jointly address the nation tomorrow night instead. What will they tell us? Almost certainly something to do with the current IMF negotiations. But already the buzz is why the joint statement, a most unusual occurrence in the history of our local politics?
All of this coming hard on the heels of a glorious and highly unexpected stellar performance by the Reggae Boyz at the Azteca stadium in Mexico, where they drew nil all with the mighty Mexicans. Gaining a point for the first time ever at that venue in at any level of football. So to achieve that goal in a World Cup qualifying match was simply fantastic. I gather there was so much talk about the match that it was " trending " on twitter....with 95 million tweets per day on Twitter, to be trending is a big thing.
Two final things struck me this week. One was newsworthy. The other one is not. Sariefa Saddler that 14 year old young girl whose body was unceremoniously dumped on this side walk,  and which act  provoked widespread anger and dismay, was also raped, according to the autopsy report released this week. A colleague to whom I have writing for years about the Christian faith, and whose wife is very involved in the church, remains sadly and firmly in the unbelievers column. So too a journalist, who has a tremendous following in my country. And to whom, in addition to other, perhaps equally celebrated media practitioners, I have writing also. For a long time, with the same results. And while they decline to recognize and  join in the appeal to the One True and Almighty God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, young girls like Sariefa are brutalized. To whom then must we turn for help?

In that respect,  I have written about it before, but it bears repeating now. On a visit to Singapore many years ago, early one morning whilst exercising, I saw a young girl waiting on the school bus in the dark. Alone. The answer to my obvious question, born out of my Jamaican experience, was that no one would dare cause her any harm. Since then, it has been my dream to live in a country where young girls and women could walk about unmolested. Just that. No extraordinary riches. No first world living standards. Just respect for the " fairer "  sex. Sadly, for many of us  this dream  has become a nightmare. But God is able - to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.... so we press on in hope.

In the midst of all of what happened this past week, and what is likely to happen this coming week, the Lord spoke though His Word, and inspired words, a message of hope. And challenge! Not only to the individuals in question, but to all unbelievers and to all of us  who claim to believe also.
Perhaps none more challenging that a hymn we sang at church today:

Once to every man and nation
comes the moment to decide,
in the strife of truth with falsehood,
for good or evil side;
some great cause, God's new Messiah,
offering each the bloom or blight -
and the choice goes by for ever
'twixt that darkness and that light

Then to side with truth is noble,
when we share her wretched crust,
ere her cause bring fame and profit,
and 'tis prosperous to be just;
then it is the brave man chooses,
while the coward stands aside,
till the multitude make virtue
of the faith they had denied

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, thy bleeding feet we track
toiling up new Calvaries ever
with the cross that turns not back.
New occasions teach new duties;
time makes ancient good uncouth;
they must upward still and onward
who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
though her portion be the scaffold,
and upon the throne be wrong -
yet that scaffold sways the future,
and, behind the dim unknown,
standeth God within the shadow
keeping watch above  his own.

One of the many messages, revealed in that beautiful hymn, is the essence of the Christian faith: That out of evil cometh good. Everytime!. That's the basis of the hope, the foundation, on which we can survive the savage attacks on our precious children. And, believe it or not (God is really is good God and we  should listen to Him more often that we do)  that - good comes out of evil -  was the essence of a note written to the unbelieving journalist and colleague, concerning how Western Culture came to value and to cherish Freedom.


There is  nothing to beat an eyewitness in reporting a story. That's the basis on which justice is often meted out and news carried to a nation. So why should we not believe Paul, whose testimony is highlighted not only in the Holy Bible, but equally so,  in the seminal, but highly secular,  work of Professor H. Orlando Patterson's " Freedom in the making of Western Culture". ( Chapter 19. Paul and the Freedom of Mankind).
Patterson ends his book, after writing 22 chapters,  in this fashion, towards the end of CODA.

"If this history of the West's most important value has taught us anything, then it is not mainly the "fragility of goodness," as Nussbaum rightly but rather too gently conceives it, and certainly, not, to take the opposite brutalist extreme of  RobertMichaels, that there are iron sociological laws of freedom that go " beyond  good and evil". There are no such iron laws in human culture, and nothing goes beyond good and evil. To its great credit, Western culture has never tried to conceal this terrible truth, although it is one our present era is all too eager to shun.
From its secular Greek roots, the West learned the lesson of the tragic dramatists that the only wisdom worthy of remembrance comes from struggle and unfathomable suffering: freedom is the gift of " the wisdom won from pain". From itsJudeo-Christian religion, forged in the sickening horror of Roman slave society, the West learned the reinforcing spiritual truth that " out of evil cometh good". The vision of Israel emerged from the bondage of Egypt. Redemption - spiritual freedom - was not simply liberation from slavery to sin, but as Paul saw with his fearsome vision, the suffering of sin made necessary the coming of Christ and the promise of the cross - that central and most protean civilizational symbol of death and rebirth, estrangement and reconciliation, slavery and salvation. Less obviously, but for that same reason, more subliminally potent, in the image of the nailed, dying God, we see the permanent horror of constraint; in the image of the wooden cross - the vertical crossroads, the Pythagorean " Y" - we see the ultimate veneration of choice. Whether we chose to believe this or not, it is this strange, terrifying vision, at once mortal and divine, that has fashioned the culture and genius of the West.
All who have come up from the abyss of slavery and serfdom - the children of slaves as well as the children of slave mongers - must be humbled by this truth each time we celebrate our freedom.

" Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed."  1 Corinthians 15: 1-11 NIV ( The New Testament reading appointed for the Anglican church for Sunday).
Sent from my iPad

Finally, at church today, the preacher posed a serious question. I took notes and sent the following summary to the congregation - along with pictures of the highlights after service,  which is my accustomed habit, each week.


Last week Father Kitson posed the question during his sermon: " Do you love Jesus"?. This week Father Tony's question was : " Are we listening to Jesus?". Both very important issues as we are about to enter into our Lenten disciplines. . Perhaps we will soon hear one on : " Are we being obedient to Jesus"? 

 This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him. This is how God described the Transfigured Jesus on the Mount to his sleepy disciples. Moses was there, representing the Law, which they had refused to listen to...according to Father Tony. So was Elijah, who represented the Prophets, who, again the people of Israel had ignored. So the Lord sent His Son. Question is, are we being like the children of Israel or are we listening to Jesus. And what specifically is Jesus saying to us. According to Father Tony, He has given us a " new commandment". " Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another". 

And the ultimate love that Jesus showed was manifest on the Cross of Calvary. So we are called to love one another sacrificially! Wow! Further, in quoting from the Epistle in that famous Corinthians Chapter 13, Father Tony reminded us that  love is patient"; patient with those who have been socialized differently from us...patient with our church family....patient with siblings....with other family members...with those less fortunate. Love is the vulnerable. Love is not envious of those who may appear to be getting more love from others than we are. Teachers in particular, with whom children spend so much of their waking hours, need to be very patient and mindful of the awesome role they are called to play in molding the children under their care. Without love we are nothing...good sermon....wonderful acts of kindness..without love is pointless...called to love and be patient even with the road users..great sermon.

Final Comment: In the final analysis, when we come face to face with the One true and Almighty God, as we all will, regardless of whether we believe or not,  it is not how much  joy we gained  from watching football or Track and Field; it is not how much we contributed to the economic development of our country; it will not matter if we are bright and intelligent and " can work out things for ourselves"; it is not even whether we attended church all of lives, that will matter. No, simply, it will be whether or not we loved. Whether we loved the Lord Jesus who God sent. Whether we listened to Him? Whether we loved one another? Whether we loved the least among us. Whether we loved one another, in the same way that Jesus loved us. That is, sacrificially! That's the Truth that  is Jesus. So as the song writer encourages: " Then to side with truth is noble...then the brave man chooses". I pray God that this week and as we enter into Lent, we may choose well. As other Shariefa's and a nation future, hang on the actions, the love and the faith of those who trust in an Almighty God. Amen.

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