The often used quote from Charles Dickens', The Tale of Two Cities, " it was the best of times, it was the worse of times...." summed up well the news about my country week. The bad news, the worse of times, came early in the week. Reports of of what a friend described as " terrorism" emerged from the US Senate Hearings on the Jamaican Lotto Scammers. How persons with a Jamaican accent reportedly called unsuspecting, naive and cognitively impaired elderly American citizens, most of them living alone, and scammed them out of their hard earned retirement earnings. How these highly sophisticated and persistent scammers reportedly would call individual many times for the day, seduce them into thinking that they were loved or cared for, and or threaten them repeatedly, causing them to loose weight, suffer immeasurably and in some instances die. How they were reportedly told that they had won millions of dollars and needed to send money in order to secure their prize money. It broke your heart to listen to the disgusting way in which our Jamaican brothers and sisters reportedly used other human beings for their own nefarious ends. And so we wondered how did we ever get there, and more importantly, how do we as a people " dodge this bullet" which threatens our tourist industry, our banking sector and the good name of our nation.
The good news, the best of times, came late on the weekend. This is " Champs" time in Jamaica, when the eagerly awaited rivalry in Track and Field events between high school students in the " greatest show on earth", a veritable battle royal, is joined once again at the country's National Stadium. People travel from all over the world to come to Champs. Journalists worldwide have now discovered Champs! Our Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller does not miss this event unless something extraordinary happens. The nation virtually comes to halt as Rabalac, Fortis, True Blue and others on the boys side, and the girls from Holmwood, Edwin Allen, and Vere and others put on a show almost as good as the Olympics. And Champs this year did not disappoint, as new Usain Bolts, and Shelly-Ann Frasers, and VCB's made it the most recording breaking spectacle ever, as record after record tumbled. When the dust cleared Calabar on the boys side were victorious, and Holmwood Technical on the girls side won, but only just by a few points.
In the midst of this, murder most foul took place again, 'O my God have mercy', in Jamaica and the world welcomed a new Pope. And the Lord spoke a word to his servant, and many others no doubt. But I can only share what I hear.
First up a message to a one journalist in particular, but also to many others in general, on aspects of the Lotto scam.
I listened last evening to DJMiller's BTH on RJR, with shame and disgust, to the news, nay not just news but indeed revelations, coming out of the US Senate hearings on The Jamaican Lottery scam. Hearing all of this I felt deeply hurt on on account of the pain and suffering meted out to elderly and vulnerable persons in North America by my fellow Jamaicans. The details were graphic and showed up the kind of evil with which we have to contend in this country. And that's the story that's being told all across the world today. Side by side with the story about the newly appointed Pope of the Roman Catholic Church
Then this morning, just now in my devotions, whilst searching for another hymn, I came across the words of the hymn below, and which words urge us to tell a far different story. One of peace and light. As then and only then will our people turn from the darkness of evil to the kingdom of love and light. I would urge all of us to help to tell this story to our people. A story no doubt the new Pope will also share with the world.
1. We've a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright;
and Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.
2. We've a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.
3. We've a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
hath sent us his Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.
4. We've a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow hath trod,
that all of the world's great peoples
might come to the truth of God,
might come to the truth of God.
The second message was sent to a friends in my Church who occupy positions of leadership. The message is in note form, but should be easy to follow. The main point is what this great song writer drew to our attention:
" Against evil, divine truth is quick and powerful".
As a church we have to rediscover this eternal truth. The same truth about which Martin Luther King Jnr reminded us in a reflection from him which I used in one of the recent Sunday night messages. Evil cannot continue to reorganize itself forever. There comes a check point in history, and Christ, The Divine Truth, Word made flesh is that checkpoint. Because the Word fearlessly and properly understood and preached by the Power of the Holy Spirit will in due course destroy evil which is the work of the devil. All children of God, all disciples of Christ must be on a mission, a young woman in my church pointed out this morning. And this mission is clearly recorded in the book of Philippians in the second of the Scripture readings appointed for the Anglican Church worldwide for this the Fifth Sunday of Lent.
" I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3: 10-11. NIV.
It is only this focused approach to the Christian faith, to be on a mission to know Christ, and then to make him known, that the Divine truth will be unleashed against the kind of evil that is destroying both lives within and without Jamaica.
I woke at 5:00 am this morning. For no good reason. Usually even if I wake up, with trust in God, and with prayer, I fall asleep again. But this mooring was different. So wondering if the Lord had a a Word, I got up and began praying. And the following reflections and Words came into my mind.
The key thing is the need to focus always on the poor and the needy........
And there is a connection between the work we do in road safety and scammers. They both need to be set free from captivity. The devil plans to kill one set suddenly and thus reduce the nation's human capital. He plans to use the other to do evil.
THE REFLECTIONS INSPIRED BY THE SPIRIT
Disciples of Christ are always seeking to minister to the poor....in as much as you have done this to the least of my brothers you have done it unto me....understanding...feeding the hungry....providing clothes for the naked....water for the thirsty....and perhaps most important.....freedom for those held in captivity....by the Devil...by the Spirit
Recall the women who was held captive by the devil...made infirm by the Spirit and who Jesus set free....Matthew .....remember that those who are disobedient in this world are held captive by the spirit of this age....Ephesians
How then does one treat with scammers....we don't have the luxury of just condemning them as Jesus died for them too...they too are being held in captivity.
Bonhoeffer...Jesus sent out a little band of men,.....the Apostles....we will always be few in number....do not expect large crowds to come flocking seeking the kingdom God....ask the God of the harvest to send workers...we cannot just go on our own imagination and zeal and reap a harvest....Jesus has to call us....or someone else....what we need to do is as...pray that the Lord will sent people
But divine truth sets captives free....
THE ROD THE SERPENT AND HOLINESS
2 Kings 18:4
He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made for him, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it ( It was called Nehustan.....I had a patient by that name....she was a Jehovah's witness....and we became very good friends...in the midst of serious theological debate.....she died a few years ago)
Against evil, divine truth is quick and powerful. It acts like some chemical ingredient that precipitates all impurities and leaves the water clear. It works like a spell of disenchantment against the evil one, casting him down.. It is the " sword of the Spirit," with whose keen edge we cut our way through hostile thousands. It is the rod of of Moses, by which we divide the Red Sea, and defeat the Amalek, and bring water from the desert rock( see Exodus 14:16; 17;6). What evil, what enemy within or without, is there that can withstand this unconquered and unconquerable Word?
Satan's object at the present is to undermine that Word and to disparage its perfection. Let us then more magnify it, and make constant use of it. it is indeed only a fragment of man's language, made up of human letters and syllables; but it is furnished with with superhuman virtue.
The rod in the hand of Moses, what was it? A piece of common wood. Yet it cut the Red Sea in two. That serpent on the pole, what was it A bit of brass. Yet it healed thousands ( see Numbers 21:9). Because that wood and that brass were connected with omnipotence, conductors of heavenly electricity. END OF QUOTE.
So as we approach Palm Sunday, with a new Pope to lead the Roman Catholics, and a new Archbishop of Canterbury waiting in the wings to be enthroned as spiritual leader of the Worldwide Anglican Church, let us reflect on the best on times in our nation and the world, and equally so the worse of times. On the one hand God has given the best He has to offer. The free gift of His Son, whose death we remember each Good Friday, or when we celebrate holy Communion. And all who believe in Him will get the same wages - Eternal life with a loving caring Creator God, not matter what life has thrown up for that person on earth. But on the other hand, the Devil has prepared the worse of times for all who reject the free gift of Eternal Life with Christ. Eternal separation from God. And not just a life reserved only for scammers and murderers, but all get the same wages - eternal death.
We all need to choose well. Whether we are established athletic stars, or stars in the making! Whether we are leaders in the Church, Bishops or Popes or occupy the pews! Whether we are journalists who bring " bad news" each day, or evangelists who bring " good news"! Whether we operate at the highest levels of society or scrounge for garbage in the streets like madmen! Whether we serve and protect as good cops, or become " judge and executioner" like what is alleged in many instances in my country. Judgment awaits each person on earth whether we believe it or not. As the young people in Jamaica would say: " A so de ting set". Which when translated means, that is how the Lord God Almighty has ordained it.
Holy Week then, which cometh soon, is as good a time as any, for persons to make life changing decisions. I pray God that all of us will. And seek to be on a mission to know Christ. For our sake, but also for the sake of scammers, and others who would make our lives hell. As God loves them too, and gave up His life on a Cross, so that all of us who have sinned and fallen short of His glory, may have a new life. That's the story we have to tell. Amen