Sunday, April 14, 2013

Of Princes and Heads of State and Christ the King and Son of God who died on an old wooden cross

So Margaret Thatcher, the ' Iron lady' of British politics is dead. Her passing dominated the news both locally and internationally  early this week. A no-nonsense lady she was, with passionately held views about governance in the 21st century, and which  inflexible position  alienated some, but  at the same time, endeared her to others. Even in death she proved controversial with many greeting the news with celebration, with one wit wishing, ' may she rust in peace', whilst others attributed to her the turn around in the fortunes of British Industry and Trade.

Tomorrow, those of us involved in the promotion of road safety, along with Government officials will welcome another Brit. This time however, not a politician, but  a member of the British Royal Family. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent,  will be a guest of the local National Road Safety Council. And whilst here he will meet with high ranking members of the state, visit several locations and deliver the keynote speech at an Awards Banquet where former Prime Ministers, and the current one, will be honored for their leadership in this area of national life. Having been involved in the planning for this event, one has gotten a fair taste of how the, 'high and mighty', live and move. It 's been  quite an experience dealing with Palace,  Kings House and Jamaica House, protocol and convoys and the trappings of power.

Finally, also in the news this week, two high ranking members our society had very public ' emotional moments'. And they were not unrelated. One, the wife of the Governor General, following the news of the shooting death of a policeman by criminals, in delivering a speech, admitted that on account of the dastardly act, involving someone who had once been part of the security detail at Kings House, she felt like leaving Jamaica and going elsewhere.  Of course, very quickly and during the same speech, she reaffirmed her hope in her country and desire to be a continued  part of the process of building a better nation. The other, was the Minister of National Security, whose mother had died recently, and he, also on reflecting on the number of killings that had taken place in our country recently, despite the best efforts of the police, suggested that only divine help could rescue this country. and in doing so got all choked up.  He too, in the same speech, explained that divine help, in his view, would come through more involvement of various partners in the society working together... with the Lord's direction ( my words) achieve that goal.

As you can imagine both comments provoked much debate on the social media and even main stream media also, with one prominent journalist  arguing that God only helps those who helps themselves- thus betraying a widely held, but highly inaccurate understanding,  of the God of the Judeo-Christian faith.

So in this midst of all of this news of the rich and the powerful, the famous and the mighty, the Lord spoke.
First of all, perhaps appropriately, through the mind of one of the great theologians of our time, a German pastor who lived in the time of Hitler, and whose quest for power in the early days, he warned his people, and urged then to resist.
The following notes were sent to leaders in my church, in three part message. I will add comments to each section.

Excerpts from The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer: The same before and after Lent.

I continue to be fascinated by him and also severely challenged.
Excerpts from :

Jesus Christ and the Essence of  Christianity: December 11, 1928

An Address to the Church in Barcelona.


Whether in our time Christ can still occupy a place where we make decisions on the deepest matters known to us, over our own life and over the  life of our people, that is the question which we will consider today.
Whether or not the Spirit of Christ has anything  final, definitive, and decisive to say to us......we all know that Christ has been, in effect,  eliminated from our lives. Of course we build him a temple, but we live in our own  houses. Christ has become a matter of the church, or rather, of the chuchiness of a group, not a matter of life...Religion plays the role of the so called Sunday room into which one gladly withdraws for a couple of  hours but only to get back to one's place of work immediately afterwards.

However,  one thing is clear: we understand Christ only if we commit ourselves to him in  a stark " Either-Or".  He did not go to the cross to ornament or to embellish our life. If we wish to have him, then he demands the right to say something decisive about our entire life. We do not understand him if we arrange for him  only a small compartment in our spiritual life. Rather, we understand  our spiritual life only if we orientate it to him alone or give him a flat " No".

However, there are persons who would not even bother to take Christ seriously in the demand he makes on us by his question: will you follow me wholeheartedly or not at all?  Such persons had better not mix up  their own cause with with the Christian  one. That separation would only help the Christian cause, since they no longer have anything in common with Christ. The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one's bread; on the contrary, it is bread or it is nothing. People should as least understand and concede

Comments: The essential question that mankind of all ages.... whether Kings or Princes, whether Prime Ministers or Governors General, whether paupers or people of insignificance to the power brokers..... must grapple with, is whether or not, the Son of God has any role to play in our lives! And if so we have to accept the fact that He demands an input into our entire life, and not just a part of it.


Ethics and religion lie in the direction of human beings towards God. Christ, however, speaks alone, entirely alone, of the direction of  God to people; not of the human way to God but of the way of God to human beings..........The essence of Christianity lies in the message of the sovereign God to whom alone belongs glory over all the world.  it is the message of the eternally other, the one who is far above the world, yet who from the depths of the divine being has mercy on the person who gives glory to God alone. God is the one who goes on the  way to people in order to seek vessels of God's glory where human persons are no longer anything, where they become silent, where they give way to god alone.

Here the light of eternity shines down on those who are ever neglected, insignificant, weak, ignoble, unknown, inferior, oppressed, despised; here it radiates over the houses of prostitutes and tax the light of eternity has been cast on the toiling struggling, and sinning masses. The word of grace spreads across the a stale sultriness of the big cities, but it halts before the houses of the satisfied, the knowledgeable, and the " haves " of this world in a spiritual sense. It speaks  over the death of individuals and peoples, its everlasting word: I have loved you from eternity; remain with me; thus you will live. Christianity preaches the unending worth of apparently worthless and the  unending worthlessness of what is apparently so valuable. The weak shall be made strong through God and the dying shall live....

Comments:  The fundamental difference that the Christian message offers is that, in Christ,  God is no longer an unfamiliar and distant Almighty God, but One who has reached out to mankind; One who has revealed Himself to mankind in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And so God in fact inclines to the sinner, the sick, the weak. And not to those who think they have power, and are healthy and have no need of God. That's why, unlike some of my countrymen and women,  I thank that God that our Minister of national Security is " having an experience of a dark night of his soul". And appealing, desperately or not, as some would characterize his " emotional moment', to a God who inclines to the helpless.


Has Christianity only pointed to another religion, a new idea or culture? Has it shown only a human way to God that has not yet been used? No; the Christian idea is the way of God to people and has  as its visible objectification of this, the cross. Here lies the point where at which we are accustomed to urn away shaking our heads about the Christian cause. The cross was probably first set at the center of the Christian  message by Paul. Jesus has said nothing about this.  And yet the correct meaning of the cross of Christ is nothing else  but than radical development of the concept of God held by Jesus himself. It is, so to speak, the historically visible form which this concept of God has assumed. God comes to people who who have nothing but room for God - and this hollow space, this emptiness in people is called in Christian speech, faith.

This means that in Jesus of Nazareth, the revealer, God inclines to the sinner. Jesus seeks the companionship of the sinner, goes after him or her in boundless love. He wants to be where a human person is no longer anything. The meaning of the life of Jesus is the demonstration of this divine will for sinners, for those who are unworthy. Where Jesus is, there is the love of God. However, the demonstration becomes complete not when Jesus or God's love exists where the human person lives in sin and misery, but only when Jesus also takes upon himself the fate that hangs over every life, namely death. That is when Jesus who is God's love really dies. Only then can persons be certain that God's love accompanies and leads then through death.

The death of Jesus on the cross of criminals, however, shows that the divine even finds its way to the death of the criminal. And when Jesus dies on the cross with the cry, " My God, why have you abandoned me". ( Mark 15:34), does this mean that God's external will to love does not abandon people even when in the experience of being abandoned by  God, they are plunged into despair?  Jesus dies really despairing of his work, of God, but that of all things just signifies the culmination of his message that God so loves people that Jesus takes death upon himself for their sake as proof of God's own will to love. And,  only because in the humiliation on the cross Jesus demonstrates his won and God's love for the world, resurrection follows after death. Death cannot restrain love. " " Love is stronger than death".

That is the meaning of Good Friday and Easter Sunday; the way of God to people, leads back to God. In this way Jesus' own concept of God is joined together with Paul's interpretation of the cross. Thus the cross becomes the central and paradoxical symbol of the Christian message.......

The answer to another question follows from this interpretation of the cross of Christ.: what are we to think about other religions? Are they as nothing compared to Christianity? We answer that the Christian religion as religion is not of God. It is rather another example of a human way to God, like the Buddhist and others, too, though of course these are of a different nature.  Christ is not the bringer of a new religion, but rather the one who brings God. Therefore, as an impossible way from human to God, the Christian religion stands with other religions. Christians can never take pride themselves on  their Christianity, for it remains human, all to human. They live however by the grace of God, which comes to people and comes to every person who opens his or her heart to it and learns to understand it is the cross of Christ. And, therefore, the gift of Christ is not the Christian religion, but the grace and love of God which culminates in the cross.

Comments: Many are quite mistaken about Christianity. It's all about God 's grace and mercy, as manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. And not about rules, and regulations, protocols and the enjoyment of the trappings of " God's power".  Such other things belong in Palaces, and Kings House and Jamaica House. And to other Religions like Islam, Jehovah's  Witness, and Judaism. That's why the Seventh Day Adventists, and others, need to be so careful with their restrictions and laws and edicts. Less they stray from preaching only Christ and Him Crucified, and whose life's journey and revelation of God climaxed on an old wooden cross on Calvary. Shocking to the human sensibilities, but the essence of the power of God. Young Bunting has caught a glimpse of the truth. We must encourage him in the face of strong opposition from " powers and principalities".

Finally a message to all who struggle in life. And which message was sent to friends in that club, in the following way:

The challenge may be: Illness; Leadership; persecution; walking with Princes and Kings and Prime Ministers whilst remaining faithful to God; even death, even sudden death.  But in the midst of it comes a word from God. That His love is indeed new every morning;  and sufficient.

Patrick Ireland

Verse: Psalm 4.....though I walk through......I will fear no evil.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guide me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From the snares of the devil,
From temptations and vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar or anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

And this Blessed Assurance of God's love for us  finds its ultimate manifestation on the cross of calvary where God in Christ died for us and for all mankind.
May God's peace be with all today and in particular in the days and weeks ahead. And indeed for ever.
Sent from my iPad

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