Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trouble in the world and Peace in and through Christ Jesus

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do, and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton This past week was hectic and very eventful. As we prepared to fly out of Kingston to New York to join the International Community, in the continuing struggle to promote Safety on our Roads, news broke of a terrible crash in my country which claimed the lives of four persons. Three of them school children from a prominent rural high school. And one, a promising netballer, who perhaps would have gone on to represent our famous 'Sunshine Girls". The sobriquet which the national team has attracted! What a tragedy? What a confluence of events. The following day I had the privilege of meeting Zoleka Mandela, the grand-daughter of the South African, and Internationally acclaimed, world political icon, Nelson Mandela. Having lost her daughter in a car crash, shortly before the start of the last World Cup which was held in South Africa, Zoleka has now become a world renowned road safety advocate. This all happened as we attended a High level Meeting on Sustainable Transport, which is part of the process in which the UN is engaged as it attempts to set out its post 2015 Development Agenda. The pursuit of which Sustainable Development goals, the follow up to the Millennium Development Goals, and which if attained will have profound implications for the growth and development of entire world community. Although we cheered for her, in Beijing, in London, and most recently in Moscow, and as Jamaicans, felt as if we all "owned her", it was a joy and and privilege to meet face to face, the fastest woman in the world, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is now, not only a Jamaican road safety advocate, but she also, like Zoleka, in the midst of a very tight schedule, graciously accepted an invitation to participate at this International Meeting. Finally our own Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, addressed the High Level Meeting in New York and then two days later, in delivering her speech to the UN General Assembly, she called on the all nations , inter alia, to take more seriously this issue of road safety. All of this happening at the same time when Kenya, and the entire world community were struggling to come to terms with the enormity of the of the effects of the terrorist attack in Nairobi which claimed so many lives. Also While Obama was struggling to get his Obamacare health bill passed, and at the same time reaching out to the President of Iran, trying to ease the tensions surrounding their nuclear programme. What a week indeed! THE WORD OF GOD And in the midst of this The Lord spoke about peace. Peace only in and through His Son Christ Jesus. As the pursuit of lasting peace in and between countries, safety on our roads, sustainable development in the world, will only be achieved if men begin to fear God more and more, and then translate that fear of God into regard and love for neighbor. The plan was for the message to be sent to the same group of persons in civil society to whom I have been writing about the correct faith, but time caught up with me, and it was just finished in time for tonight's mail out. THE FIRST MESSAGE This morning we are going to accompany the PM to the UN to listen to her address the General Assembly. Outside the Hotel, security is tight. Everywhere you turn there are groups of policemen and women, several police vehicles and big black vans with men around. And Obama is long gone! I gathered from a Jamaican who works at the hotel that it takes about five minutes for Obama's motorcade to pass. Later this afternoon some of us are scheduled to attend the peace concert in which the UN is involved, and which will feature Stevie Wonder and Alecia Keys. The concert is free, but the tickets are in high demand, so were fortunate to have gotten two. Finally I reflected on the fact that while I am here I have met famous people, powerful people, ordinary people. And people who are hurting, and carrying enormous burdens that just looking on one would never know. Then this morning, I was led to write about another feature of the " correct faith". That The Son sends peace to those who obey His Commands, in and through the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. And no one and no situation can take away that Peace which passeth all human understanding. It began like this: Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father there is no shadow of turning with thee...... Morning by morning new mercies I see all I have needed thy hand has provided, great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth thy own presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright or for tomorrow.." And continued with a word from the book of John: Jesus answered and said unto him, If any man loves me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my words: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. (John 14:23, 24, 26, 27 ASV) THE SECOND MESSAGE The second message was sent, it actually went off, to that same group mentioned before. And the focus of the message features another aspect of the foundation of the Christian faith - a quest for eternal life. The kind of desire which is overshadowed by the 'rat race' that so many engage in to survive here on earth or worse, by the lesson taught by the gospel appointed for this week in church -the story of the rich man who lived a life of luxury while the poor man Lazarus, waited upon the crumbs to fall from his table and had his sores licked by dogs. But when they both died the roles were reversed and it was the poor man who went to be in heaven at the side of father Abraham while the rich man suffered in hell and no one was allowed to go and warn his brothers. As there was a chasm between both worlds, and he was told that unless his brothers obeyed what the Old Testament prophets taught, not even if a " dead man was raised up and spoke to them would they listen" A clear reference to Jesus Christ who people continue to ignore. Because they have not " listened" to the The Word in the Old Testament which warns us to " Love The Lord our God with all our heart......". At their own peril ! THE MESSAGE This week I heard you discussing on Nationwide Radio, the publication of an International News Report of an interview with the Pope, and whose 'candid views' were the subject of much debate across the world. Especially in respect to his brief comments on the ' hot button ' issues. The big topics - abortions, the ordination of female priests, and the gay lifestyle- as far as some are concerned, and no doubt that which triggered your decision to set up the interview with prominent members of the Roman Catholic Church. All within the context of whether this new Pope is shaping up to be 'revolutionary', compared to, in your view, more conservative ones in the past! The focus on which controversial issues often ignores the central theme of the Christian life, and about which The Lord led me to write this morning. For as much as we respect the views of the leader of a significant chunk of the worldwide church of God, and those of other leaders also, ultimately we have to own the faith for ourselves. So, in that respect, 'listen' carefully to words from St. Paul, and then Jesus Himself. One, the disciple whose life was changed dramatically by an encounter with the Master. The other, the Master Himself, and the 'author and perfecter of the faith. "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. " ( Adult Baptism or Confirmation of those who were Baptized as children) 1 Timothy 6:12 extended reading of one of the readings for the Anglican Church this Sunday " For this reason the Jews tried to kill him, not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one , but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, so that all amy honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:18-24 NIV So my friend, life on earth, as ordained by The Creator God, the God of Abraham and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is all about seeking eternal life. And that life begins on earth when we believe in, and honor the Son, who the Creator God sent to rescue us. From sin and death! Unto everlasting life in Christ Jesus! So yes, try and understand what the Pope is saying, and even find some comfort in his pronouncements, but in the final analysis, it is your relationship with Christ that matters. The Pope, other leaders, and the entire church, and this forum, can only, like John the Baptist, point persons to Him, who alone can set the captives free and open the eyes of the blind. And who alone is " The Good News for the poor". Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and the Crucified, Dead, Risen and Ascended One. And who alone will judge all of us one day Cliff. You and I and all who read this note. This is the gospel truth. So as the Psalmist enjoins, " Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him". Psalm 2:12 Peace LWJ Sent from my iPad Finally I went to church this morning with one of my many " daughters" who lives in New Jersey. Not an Anglican Church, so no participation in the Holy Eucharist every Sunday as is the accustomed practice in my church, but nonetheless a wonderful experience. A service of worshiping The Lord in truth and in Spirit. Wonderful singing of up tempo new songs, and a great makeover of old ones, including " I need the But although there was no Holy Communion the preaching of the Word and the teaching about what The Word has to say about The Word, was very timely and instructive . The preacher contextualized his message in the fact of frequent attacks on the inerrant Word of God by non-believers who hope to confuse people. But quoting from the famous Hebrew passage he explained that the Word of God is living and active. So whenever anyone turns to the Word in faith they are encountering the Living God. And Paul explains in 1Timothy that " all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching and rebuking...... Further, though fragile and imperfect men wrote the Scriptures, they were only able to do so as they were " carried along by The a Holy Spirit". This is an important point to bear in mind as we are so inundated with information from our IPads, pods, PC's, smart phones and other such devices, that if one is not careful, the Word of a God does not receive the priority which it deserves in our lives. Resulting in far too infrequent encounters with the living God. The importance of which was addressed by a the preacher when he spent some time delving into the following Word. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ASV) Four key points emerged during this deeper look at the word? 1. That our primary responsibility is to behold the glory of God. And to see this glory in every aspect of life and to celebrate and give thanks for God's glory ( Shakinnah) at all times 2. That unlike Moses, at that time, and even today, the Jews, and all whose minds have not been set free by a relationship with the Risen Lord, we who believe have unveiled faces. Unveiled only by Christ, the Living Word and so we can see the glory of The Lord. 3. That day by day as we delve into the Word and thus shape our relationship with Jesus, we are being transformed into the very likeness of Christ. Even in the midst of our sinfulness and brokenness if we commit to studying and obeying the Word, we shall be transformed. 4. That it is not up to us alone, but we shall become like Christ more and more only with the help of the promised Holy Spirit of God. The same one who John spoke about in the first message and through whom we are promised peace. Closing thoughts. That in the final analysis The Living God whose Word is living and active, Who became flesh ( in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God) in and through Christ Jesus, is a Sovereign God. And rules over the affairs of men even when that Word appears dimmed by the cares, trials and troubles of this world. Those who trust in and wait upon The Lord, even and perhaps, especially in the midst, of the dark times of life, shall experience the peace that " passeth all human understanding". So the family members of those who die in road crashes, those who are going through dark moments, those who cannot understand why, can take comfort in the words of the song writer that ; God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die for us. This is the only basis of the hope we have as people of faith. That Christ died, was raised from the dead and forever lives to pray for us and has given s the gift of the Holy Spirit that we may become transformed into His likeness day by day. And thus be able to help others come to a 'correct faith", and spread the good news, and be the manifestation of, God's mercy, faithfulness and love. That the ultimate goal of the people of faith is eternal life and not peace and happiness in and by itself on earth. And this life eternal begins with great power when we turn to The Lord Jesus Christ and place all our trust in Him. Amen.