Sunday, October 20, 2013


I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s). Tomorrow my country will celebrate National Heroes Day. A time when we pause as a nation and give thanks and pay homage to those who have played a critical role in nation building. At one level, officials will gather on the lawns of Kings House, home of the Constitutional head of State, the Governor General, where national awards will be handed out those deemed worthy of such a high honor. Whilst at another level, in the hearts and minds of many, others will be remembered as unsung heroes and heroines; who in their quiet way, and without any public fanfare and recognition, have impacted the lives of countless Jamaicans across the length and breath of the island. Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the funeral of one such 'hero'. And was moved to pen a note to his son and some of those who attended; a gathering of persons which included the Governor General himself, a Minister of Government, an Opposition MP, a leading member of the Private Sector, the Anglican Lord Bishop of Jamaica, other members of the clergy and ordinary folks like myself who had a connection of some sort to the family of Connex Stern Jarrett. And during the course of the week, other letters were sent. All reminding us of the strange and mysterious ways of the God who we serve. But also reassuring us in the busyness of life, that this God is a God of mercy, compassion and love, and longs to welcome back those who have strayed. And those who have never trusted in His Son Christ the King. THE WORD OF GOD THE FIRST MESSAGE - A TRIBUTE, A SERMON, AND A SONG My Lord Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory wondered how come I was without my usual trademark - my camera. I responded that I did not do funerals. But though I did not take pictures I listened intently. As did many, if not all of us, at Connex Stern Jarrett's funeral yesterday. Thus we heard a wonderful account of this unsung hero, as one person who gave a tribute, styled him; and perhaps appropriately so as we celebrate National Heroes day tomorrow. An account of a man born in the hills of St. Ann, who got married to a lady who lived in a hamlet near to him, far away in Portland. A man who was a Mico-man before Miconians of both sexes 'invaded' the place. A student and then a teacher ' out of the top drawer'. A principal of many schools who had a special love for his students; but who was a disciplinarian who also had a tremendous sense of humour. A man of God whose curse word was " HE two sticks" he was even reluctant to use the word ' hell'. And whose 'butterfly experience' allowed him to touch the lives of a great many Jamaicans far and wide; away from his early and humble beginnings. A father who was soft spoken , but not soft; and who brought up his children in the fear of God, and love of country. A deacon of the baptist church, who was a wonderful tenor singer in the choir; and whose sermons were 'short ...less than the traditional hour and a half' but effective. A giant of man who received no national honors, but whose name is honored by countless Jamaicans; a 'few' of whom turned out and filled one of the largest churches in the island yesterday - Boulevard Baptist. His memory lives on in his achievements; but even more so in the lives and work of his children. One of whom has committed himself to be the ' volunteer-in-chief' of this nation. And for whom no national accolade can adequately capture the extent to which the 'butterfly experience of Connex Jarrett" continues to impact a grateful nation. We look forward in anticipation, and with prayers, to see how the next generation will fill these big shoes of father and of son. Then to top it all we were privileged to listen to a sermon 'out of the very top drawer'. Delivered with passion and with conviction by Burchell Taylor. " My soul clings to thee; thy right hand upholds me". So did the Psalmist exult ' in a dry and thirsty land, where there was no water' as recorded in Psalm 63:8. So too should we place our supreme confidence, ' not holding on by our fingertips...not desperately holding on', in a God who upholds us with His right hand. So should we strive with all our might and desire to live in the presence of this mighty God....My soul clings to thee. So should we eschew the 'favours' of other gods who compete for our attention and commitment.....gods who we can manipulate...gods who we have made with our own hands...and to whom we pay homage by how we live...gods who the Babylonians who the prophet Isaiah observed with amazement..." carried on their donkeys"..while the God of Israel carried them, His children, on His back! A God whose 'everlasting arms" we can rest upon as the Psalmist declares in Psalm 91. A God on whom we can depend when the storms of death...come crashing down. Because our house is built on solid ground; unlike those whose houses are built on sandy ground; that shifts and moves and tumbles down in time of trouble. So we too like Connex Stern Jarrett did, should place our trust on the God about whom the psalmist declares: " My souls clings to you; your right hand upholds me". Finally my friend Grace ( Cannon 'Grace' Jervis) , to whom much is owed in terms of this and other aspects of my Internet ministry, sang a song from the depths of her soul. And St Paul would have been pleased, as she shared in song the immortal words taken from the book of Romans which have been 'a solid rock to Christians over the centuries; ' that nothing, nothing at all can separate us from the love of God - that is in Christ Jesus. My eyes are misty, as I write this tribute to my friend, and his dad who is now in the 'bosom of Abraham'. And wonder how others can fail to love the Lord Jesus, in whose Name all of this, all of life, all of eternity exults. And worships!. O my God how come others have failed to love this God who Connex loved so much. And if they did, how much this 'butterfly experience' would have changed my country. For the better! Peace. LWJ THE SECOND MESSAGE - THE CHURCH, AN UNSUNG, UNCELEBRATED, AND MUCH VILIFIED INSTITUTION. BUT STILL GOD'S GIFT TO A NATION, CALLING ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE TO REPENTANCE. SENT TO MEMBERS OF A FORUM INVOLVING LEADERS IN THE SOCIETY AND PROMOTING THE 'CORRECT FAITH'. It's just after 3:00 am in the morning. I would normally have been fast asleep. But The Lord woke me up in a very dramatic way to read, to pray and then to write. About The Day of The Lord . On a morning when last evening I heard on Nationwide News a disturbing conversation where the host George Davis, in " hanging with the Church", accused/raised the issue of the 'silent voice of the church, in large part, on critical national issues in general, and crime in particular". Two of the church 'leaders' agreed with him - for the most part. But another challenged the media to spend more time listening to the prophetic voice of the church and become more sensitive to the pastoral voice of the church. In the sense that when the church speaks, it is not just to condemn and to cry our aimlessly, but to point a way to Redemption - for the perpetrators of crime and of the society. And not just to be as efficient at issuing press releases as the PSOJ or Civil Society groups. On a morning when last evening, on Beyond The Headlines on RJRFM 90 hosted by Dionne Jackson-Miller, a recently announced gold medal winner of the prestigious Musgrave Medals Awards, Professor Franklyn Knight from Johns Hopkins University, declared that he had an interest in working with the community, as long it was a non-religious organization, but secular! Have mercy! On a morning after He inspired to write a disturbing letter yesterday, which ended with a warning that " time is running out", The Lord woke me up to add another challenge to the members of the media and others that, the role of the church is to call all people everywhere to repentance, with power, and not just to be social commentators on the news of the day. Some may be called to be social activists, as God gives His gifts in His wisdom for the building up of the church, and the ordering of the society. But all are gifted with the mandate to, with power, call for repentance and mercy! And so I was led to the book of Joel which speaks about " The ( great and dreadful) Day of The Lord ". About which the prophet warned was coming on account of the 'unfaithfulness' of Israel and other nations. But, and thank God for the 'eternal other options in the Bible", if we repent then God will show mercy. That is the message that the host on Nationwide news needs to contemplate. That is the message which the winner of the Musgrave gold medal needs to hear and contemplate. That is the message that this nation needs to hear from the church. In the church, through the media, on the streets. As the call for mercy from The Lord, with a contrite heart, is what will ultimately rescue Jamaica from crime and violence; and not just the church speaking on radio or television, in and by itself. THE WORD OF GOD .......which climaxes, if you read carefully, in a prophetic word about the life and death of Jesus and the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit. And which is The Correct Faith! “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ” Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely he has done great things! Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:12-32 NIV) Amen! THE THIRD MESSAGE - SENT TO THE SAME GROUP ABOVE. A POET AND THE WORD OF GOD COINCIDE. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALL THREE MESSAGES? GOD USES THE MOST UNLIKELY PERSON, UNSUNG HEROES TO SPEAK TO HIS PEOPLE. IN THE SAME WAY HE CHOSE CHRIST - THE VILIFIED, SPAT UPON, WOUNDED AND CRUCIFIED ONE TO CARRY OUT HIS GREAT ACT OF RECONCILIATION BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. This morning, as I awoke, without missing a beat, the revelation continued. Thoughts of God's charge to Ezekiel that " I have made you a watchman"; and that if he failed to warn his people when they did evil, their "blood would be on his head", came into my mind. So did St. Paul's declaration that he was " innocent of any man's blood", as he had not failed to tell everyone about 'the gospel of the grace of God'. This, as he prepared to leave the church in Jerusalem for the last time. Then, finally The Lord led me to words from Lord Tennyson; arguably one of England's greatest poets. And I pondered how George Davis called upon words from Socrates, and his pronouncement to someone who repeatedly challenged him on a point. His response, according to Davis; words to the effect that Socrates can be successfully challenged but not truth. An argument he was developing as I exited the car on arriving home, in order to counter the challenge from the one brave church leader who refused to be 'profiled' by Davis. The question is what is truth? An issue which is the midwife of this longstanding forum, having presided over the birth of the correct faith, hopefully in the minds of some, if not all participants. Tennyson, then, as The Lord directs this morning offers in poetry ( which is actually a hymn) and validates, some of what the narrative has presented thus far. So consider well: .....our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to faith and faith alone embrace, Believing where we cannot see......we mock when we do not fear.....our wills are ours to make them thine. But as much as Tennyson's brilliant mind can conjure up for us, in beautiful language, a hint of what The Word of God presents, it is only The Word, 'which became flesh in Christ and dwelt among us', that is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. So as we consider Tennyson's words, pay much more attention to the Word from which he draws his inspiration. THE WEEKEND ( amazing coincidence....or not) STRONG SON OF GOD Alfred, Lord Tennyson Verse: Colossians 1:16 ( I have added a few more for context) " The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:15-18, 20-23 NIV) ‘Strong Son of God, immortal Love’ By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) From ‘In Memoriam’ STRONG Son of God, immortal Love, Whom we, that have not seen thy face, By faith, and faith alone, embrace, Believing where we cannot prove; Thine are these orbs of light and shade; 5 Thou madest Life in man and brute; Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot Is on the skull which thou hast made. Thou wilt not leave us in the dust: Thou madest man, he knows not why; 10 He thinks he was not made to die; And thou hast made him: thou art just. Thou seemest human and divine, The highest, holiest manhood, thou: Our wills are ours, we know not how; Our wills are ours, to make them thine. Our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to be: They are but broken lights of thee, And thou, O Lord, art more than they. We have but faith: we cannot know; For knowledge is of things we see; And yet we trust it comes from thee, A beam in darkness: let it grow. Let knowledge grow from more to more, But more of reverence in us dwell; That mind and soul, according well, May make one music as before, But vaster. We are fools and slight; We mock thee when we do not fear: But help thy foolish ones to bear; Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light. Amen! LWJ Sent from my iPad