Greetings, my brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I use this opportunity firstly to thank you for your gracious invitation to Lady and me to participate and share in this celebratory convention to mark the 75th year of your ministry in Jamaica. Truly you can say with pride “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”.
Secondly, I wish to commend you for your steadfast love and commitment to the cause of Christ, your steady growth, your unrepentant passion and fervency for the spreading of the Gospel and calling people to a Spirit-filled life of holiness. And finally I wish to applaud your efforts in making the tenets of the gospel real by your acts and deeds of love and mercy, which are the practical ways of following Jesus.
Please allow me also to recognize and appreciate the prayerful thought that your leaders have put into the selection of the theme for your Convention. It shows the burden that they bear and their understanding of the contemporary realities with which the Church is faced, so that it has to reposition itself to be relevant in a changing world. This has serious challenges because in principle the Church represents Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever- He never changes, but the Church has to disciple a world that is constantly changing. What does the Church change – its teachings or its approach? These are serious questions that we must grapple with.
One song writer says “we are living we are dwelling in a grand and awful time, to be alive is sublime”. So many wonderful inventions are taking place to make life easier for all of us. We communicate faster, travel easier; easy access to information through the Internet and better opportunities for education, health care and many other amenities.
Simultaneously some awful things are happening in our world and on our doorsteps: daily we hear of people being scammed out of their hard earned money, by individuals who are using the same inventions and knowledge which were intended to do good, to do evil; our generation has seen some of the most egregious acts of violence and abuse committed against each other, especially our children who are supposed to be trained up in ways that they will not depart from when they are old. Now so many children have been marred, brutalized and scarred that it is only through the grace of God that they will ever be able to break free from the shackles that bind them.
The church has to reposition itself not only in the preaching of the gospel, but to offer the ministry of healing to persons with physical wounds, and emotional scars which are not visible except when people ‘act out’ their pain. We have to be careful how we criticize and condemn anyone, (victims and perpetrators) because we do not know their journey nor how deep the wounds they bear, we do not know which upstanding person in society or in the church led them into the path they are on, so with the compassion of Jesus we must now say “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”, after you have ministered to them. For surely, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the soul!
The Church must change its tune for a world that needs your lyric but has stopped listening to your music. We need to address our message in a way that it can reach everybody. We need to recognise the times, tailoring our language, form, and outreach to match what we see. (Issachar, Zebulan)
In this jubilee year for Jamaica – a time for rebirth, renewal and restoration, our institutions, viz a viz, our homes, schools and churches, should also use this opportunity to reposition themselves for service during the next fifty years. In this regard the church needs to be in the forefront and centre of the leadership Jamaica receives.
May God grant you, like Solomon, wisdom, knowledge and understanding to make a significant impact on this nation. Today you have much to celebrate: God’s leading, goodness, mercy, and providence, in your life and your Fellowship. Use these experiences and solidify your faith to tackle the future. I wish above all things that you will prosper and be in health as your soul prospers!
God bless you, congratulations and thank you.