Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Address by Crystal Waithe

Address given by Crystal Waithe at Mass on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Crystal attends Queens College and is presently completing her CAPE Exams.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

This sounds like the ideal society, doesn’t it? A world where everything is harmonious and all creation lives together in peace, appreciating each other’s importance and having a profound and godly love for each other.

The Painting entitled "Jesus Blessing the...

The Painting entitled “Jesus Blessing the Children” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, this is not the world we live in today. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we destroy our environment, seek out selfishly for ourselves and train our young to follow the same destructive path. The sad part of all this is that we repeat these negative actions in the hope of achieving positive results. The only way for positive changes to be seen is for the next generation to be properly taught. This is the only way to correct the mistakes of the past.

I often hear individuals question the behaviour of the youth as it relates to morality, violence and the like; this questioning develops into a blame game. When it isn’t the children it’s the parents, the school, the church or the government. While I do believe that we all have a basic sense of right and wrong and are therefore responsible for our own actions, I also believe that all social institutions have a role to play in the lives of children. The argument is always one of nature versus nurture and as the rector said recently “good parents generally raise good children.” Generally, this is true, but like in all things there are exceptions to the rule. However, I do not believe that parenting is the only factor which contributes to the upbringing of children.

When I was younger my grandmother used to say “it takes a village to raise a child”. This means that the entire community has an effect on its children. This would allow for a prime society for children to be raised in. But what is this prime society comprised of? Firstly, it is a society where parents instil good values in their children-respect, honesty, kindness and generosity. This cannot be done simply through words; it must be followed by action.

The rise in domestic abuse and lately bullying create problems for children. Where there is bullying in homes, it is difficult for children to differentiate between the message sent by the schools which is “stop the bullying” and the action shown at home which is abusive behaviour. The message needs to be constant on all fronts. One of the easiest ways to show appreciation to children is to be consistent. If everyone says something different it can become confusing to decide what is right or wrong, what should be done and what should not be done. The family, the school and the church must be consistent in whatever message must be sent.

Another way to show appreciation is time. Nothing too difficult, just time. Spending time with anyone can be difficult in these times. There always seems to be something popping up, something more important but children must be seen as important. We can never be viewed or treated as an inconvenience. Just talking or playing a game or coming to watch us participate in an activity is important.Time cannot be replaced with money, clothes or ipads or phones. It may seem like a good deal too some children but it can be detrimental. It causes us to place material gain over moral values. Besides, sometimes everyone feels a little alone; even children. Spending time with children alleviates this loneliness. It also makes it easier for parents to become aware of what is going on in the lives of their children. Therefore if something is going wrong within the lives of children, the easiest way for parents to discern this is by simply talking their children.

Whatever values have been instilled at home must be reinforced at school and although education is the priority, attention must be shown to children’s behaviour. Since most children spend the majority of their time at school, it can be difficult for parents to keep track of everything which goes on within their children’s lives. It can be made easier if a relationship is formed between parents and teachers. Difficulty with school work is easier to keep track of along with any issues among peers.

Children hate feeling smothered but if we are involved in the decision-making processes and made to feel as though our opinion matters, this can be avoided. Recently, the eleven plus has passed and every year we see parents and teachers who come together to encourage children to achieve the highest grades. Many of these parents and teachers also encourage students to aim to attend the “highest” schools. This puts a lot of pressure on students and those who do not do well often feel like failures. Many of these children do not have much say in how their choices for schools are arranged and so this only enhances their disappointment. This could be partially avoided if parents and teachers allow children to have more say in a process which may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Lastly, there is the church. Attending church together as a family allows for closeness in family bonds to be maintained and allows for children to become closer to the Christian faith which in turn gives them a sense of security and love. This closeness bypasses every issue that could ever develop in a child’s life, every sense of feeling unloved by parents or peers. The love of God conquers all of these and unless you know you will not be able to experience it. As children can only be aware if taught, it is important that families attend church and so bring their children closer to this love.

This appreciation for children leads to them to a lifestyle of appreciation not only towards themselves and their families but towards those around them and the environment surrounding them. This can cut down not only on the moral decline of children but the violence and crime which threaten to ruin our society today. Love and appreciation towards one another are vital for the improvement of this society and it can only begin with the relationship built between this society and its children.

As we come to the end of the observance of Child Month under the theme “Let’s Embrace and Appreciate Our Children” we must follow the example of Jesus who always had time for children. When the disciples attempted to stop those who were bringing children to Jesus for him to bless them he intervened and embraced the children as he said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus used children to teach his disciples humility and greatness in God’s kingdom (Matthew 18:4). He further demonstrated his appreciation for children by saying: “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

The author of Ephesians writes to parents advising them to appreciate and embrace their children: “Parents, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). St. Paul also writes: “Parents, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ, born of a woman, sanctified childhood and shared the life of an earthly home; bless the homes and families of our nation. Give to parents a true sense of responsibility in the care and training of their children, that our boys and girls may grow up in the fear of your Name and the fellowship of your Church, for the glory of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wayne E. Isaacs

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Micah 6:6-8

He has showed you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to love justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6: 6—8

English: Rally for social justice, Beersheba, ...

English: Rally for social justice, Beersheba, Israel, Aug 13 2001 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When one reads the writings of Micah, Hosea, Amos and Isaiah, one sees persons who have a deep concern for the injustices  present in the life of the society.

In order to appreciate the prophets’ disquiet with what was happening it is necessary to examine the social context within which they spoke. The society was experiencing a period of moral decay and religious irrelevance. The disparity in wealth widened the gap between the rich and the poor.  Economic and social policies went against the norm and violated the principles of justice. The decadent upper class exploited the poor and their luxurious living made them insensitive to the needs of the poor and needy. The courts were corrupt, the leaders, priests, prophets, and state officials were perverted in their religious and business transactions.

Into this situation came the prophets with their vehement denunciation of the nation’s social evils. The prophets protested the lack of social justice and the sanction of immoral activities. The prophets did not define justice. Justice connotes many meanings — equality, fairness, rights, goodness, honesty, impartiality, uprightness; however it is interpreted, the prophets are appealing to the community to change its way of living and do what is right.

In their call for justice, the prophets announce simultaneously Yahweh’s displeasure and annoyance of the depraved community, that is called to be holy as he Yahweh is holy. Isaiah captures the mind of Yahweh and summarises the attitude of the prophets.

When you spread forth your hands I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers p I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.  Isaiah 1:15-17

The business people were dishonest and gave false weights, (Amos 8:5—6). The priests and the prophets became corrupt, (Micah 3:11). Lying, killing, stealing and the like are prevalent, (Hosea 4:1-2). The poor are sold into slavery and the afflicted turned away; (Amos 2:6-8).  Workers were oppressed; (Isaiah 58:3). It is a society corrupted by the accumulation of wealth and riches; (Amos 4:1-2).

The appeal for justice is rooted in the character of Yahweh. The righteousness of God requires that his people be just in their relationships. Because he is just, he loves justice and frowns on conditions that promote injustice. Isaiah writes: “For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrong” (Isaiah 61:8).

Righteousness and justice are two necessities for community living. The peace and wholeness of the nation hang on the practice of justice. The absence of these two qualities from Israel’s public life was a threat to the community’s social and political organisation. Actually, the prophets  indicate that the community was destroyed for lack of justice. In highlighting the need for social justice the prophets are seeking to rebuild the covenanted community; a community built on justice and righteousness.  The cry for justice focuses attention on unhealthy practices that impede the building of the community.

There is a relationship between justice and morality. Moral persons act justly; immoral persons act unjustly. A person who is immoral will do things that are not right. What is inside a person is seen in a person’s actions. Jesus reminds us that it is not what goes into a person that defiles the person but what comes out. If the heart is sinful the person’s action will be sinful.

The way we treat people speaks about the condition of our hearts. We act unjustly when we unfair people, take advantage of anyone, when our actions make life difficult or painful for  another person, when we break our marriage vows, when we refuse to support our families, when we use people for selfish purposes, tell lies on people, refuse to help people and are unkind. We need to exchange our hearts of stone for a heart of flesh. Hearts of stone act unjustly.

This year we are invited to give of our best to the Master. At our festival Fr. Reid spoke about different aspects of giving our lives to God. In a sense he was asking us to be just, to act justly in our relationships with God and people. But without a change in our lives what he said will be of no help to us. How many of us have changed our lives because of what was said by Fr. Reid in his addresses. Is it a case that we listened but have returned to our old way of living.

I would like to suggest to you that within the context of our theme, we give of our best to the Lord when we act justly. To act justly is to do what is right.

Wayne E. Isaacs

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Isaiah 11:1

Allegory of hope; Oil on canvas, Francesco Gua...

Allegory of hope; Oil on canvas, Francesco Guardi, 1747 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).

The prophet Isaiah spoke of ‘a shoot from the stem of Jesse’ whose reign would have ushered in a time of peace and stability for a nation that had suffered great hardship and instability. The promised king was going to be endowed with gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fear of the Lord; gifts that were necessary for him to accomplish his mission of establishing peace; a task given to him by God.

In today’s Old Testament reading the prophet speaks of an era of peace characterised by justice for the poor. In this period of time wild animals, domestic animals and human persons will live and co-exist with each other in an environment of bliss. The prophet writes to encourage hopeless people; a Saviour is coming. The advent of this Saviour will give hope to the despairing, peace to the troubled and light to those who live in darkness. It is a message of hope.

The message of today’s Old Testament reading is relevant to us as we go through this testing period in our history. Rightly understood, it invites us to live with the conviction that deliverance will come and a new day will dawn. It asks us to be hopeful.

Sometimes the impression is given that hope means acceptance of the situation until it blows itself away; it does not. Hope more than a nice feeling. Hope is more than a pious idea divorced from reality. We must be careful that we do not make hope a cliché or tired expression which makes no contribution to what we hope for in our life and nation. In this we regard when we speak of hope we must be clear in our minds what we mean and this must be conveyed to those who will hear us. We must not make hope the opium for the people; it is not something to numb people’s feelings and keep them passive and submissive. Hope is action.

The Christian understanding of hope suggests that tomorrow will be better than today. Hope is not a passive idea. Hope is dynamic; it challenges us to do something so that what we hope for can become a living reality. (What do you hope for in your life?) Hope demands that we cooperate with God and this cooperation must be expressed in action.

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead …. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. (James 2: 15-17, 26)

This passage from James makes the salient point that a person who says to one who is naked and cold, “go in peace, be warmed and filled,” but does nothing to bring relief is just speaking empty words. Such a person’s faith is empty and lacks substance; so it is with hope. In the same way that faith without works is dead; hope without action is dead.

Hope is more than going into Independence Square and praying and claiming to have the power to banish Satan from our midst. Hope is more than saying God does not downgrade us. Hope is action.

Our present situation can become a living experience of hope but it will not materialise by just saying have hope, all will be well. Tomorrow can be better but we must take action now to ensure that tomorrow will be better. Without meaningful action hope will not be realised. If we believe in hope we will not be afraid to make difficult decisions in our personal lives and life at the national level. To believe in hope is to face the situation and do what is best based on all available evidence so that tomorrow can be better. To live in hope is to be pragmatic even if it means a reversal of policies and decisions, a change in the course of action, an acknowledgement that we made mistakes and a willingness to accept responsibility for our actions. As a people we must have the political and social will to take informed action on all the issues we face at the present moment and suffer the consequences of our decisions. Never let it be said that we did not act.

The ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse’ gave meaningful hope to Israel because he acted: with righteousness he judged for the poor, he decided with equity for the meek of the earth; he smote the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips slay the wicked.

Nelson Mandela whose life we remember at this time was the embodiment of hope. He expressed his hope in action as he led demonstrations, refused to obey the apartheid laws, call for trade boycotts against South Africa, confronted the rulers of the day and denounced them as evil. He was pragmatic and from time to time he changed his policies so that his hope would be realized. Above all he expressed his hope in a better tomorrow for oppressed people in South Africa and the world by accepting torture and imprisonment. This is hope.

We live in the hope that tomorrow will be better. We live in the hope that the:

wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

However, if this kind of peaceful living is to come to our land we must have the collective political, religious and social will to create the environment that would allow the lion to dwell with the lamb.

As such we must ensure that we live in a society that does not practice discrimination of any kind, a society that respects and safe guards the basic rights of all its citizens, a society that uses its resources to ensure a decent standard of living for all its citizens , a society that treasures truth, honesty and transparency, a society that has a visionary leadership, a society that is willing to embrace the knowledge of the Lord and to believe that in our time he is working his purpose out. This is not utopian thinking; it is possible if we allow our hope to take action.

To hope is to act.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).

 

Wayne E. Isaacs

 

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