Theme: Rising to the Challenges of Today
Deuteronomy 30:11-18 Matt 4: 18-22 Romans 10: 8b-18
I am very encouraged by the choice of your theme for this convention and I must commend you for it.
I am encouraged by your courage to take on the challenge of wanting to be the change you want to see.
I am encouraged by your desire to be the change the whole church wants to see.
I am encouraged by your offer to be the change the whole nation of Jamaica wants to see in families, in communities, in work places, in business, in entrepreneurship, and in social life and in politics.
I am encouraged by your stepping into the gap at this critical time of the Diocese of Jamaica and Cayman Islands and of this wonderful nation, in your aim to be the reality that many are still simply dreaming of.
“Rising to the Challenges of Today” – the challenges faced by the Brotherhood of St Andrew I reckon; and I believe it’s also the challenges faced by the church and the country at large today – that indeed is what a disciple of Jesus must be responding to.
But we must ask the question, “what challenges of today are you rising to?”
Do they include the church’s decline in numbers, in influence, and role of Christian faith in the society?
Is it the challenge that the Brotherhood of St Andrew has in reaching out to make disciples of Jesus and grow its membership?
Or is it the question of absent fathers?
Is it the challenge that single young women have in bringing up children?
Is it the challenge of young people who struggle with issues of unemployment, identity and finding meaning in life?
Is it that too often the gangs have stepped in to give young people identity, stability, and security?
Is it the fact that there are fewer clergy in our diocese and too often there are fewer lay people available to fill the gap?
In all those challenges that only you know better, as I can only speculate, what is your role as an individual Christian, and indeed as a community of the Brotherhood of St Andrew?
I want to suggest that intentionally living a life shaped by Jesus – a life shaped by the values of Jesus, the values of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life – and helping others/nurturing others to live a Jesus-shaped life is the best way you can rise to the challenges of today.
Like Andrew, after whom you have pledged to pattern your life in your daily following of Jesus, your call is to be fishers of people – fishing people or catching people or harvesting people – in short to make disciples of Jesus, disciple-makers.
Only disciples can make other disciples. To be a disciple-maker is as simple as being a follower of Jesus. Being a disciple and being a disciple-maker are not two different things, but they go together and are inseparable.
But to be a follower or a disciple of Jesus (which is what Andrew was and that is what you all are) means to live a life that is shaped – Jesus-Shaped Life – a life that attracts others, especially those who don’t know God, to become followers of Jesus.
It means to love Jesus, to love God with all your heart, your mind and soul – simply put, it means to love God with everything about me, my whole life, my whole being, my talents, skills, my qualifications, my resources, my wealth, my property, my family, my time, energy, mental and physical capacity, and in every sphere of life.
It means, there is nothing I must withhold about who I am and what I have in loving God, in honouring God, in loving Jesus, in following Jesus, in being his disciple, in my living a Jesus-Shaped Life.
The reason is simple, there is nothing about me – who I am, what I am, what I have – that is actually mine – everything including the breath I breathe is a gift from God, and therefore everything is actually God’s.
So, the call or commandment to every baptised person to love Jesus, to love God with all your heart, your mind and soul, is a statement about the reason and purpose for our existence, of our being here – to honour God by living a life that is shaped by Jesus.
The call to follow Jesus, to love Jesus, to love God, to live a Jesus-Shaped Life is at the same time the call to love neighbour, the other, the hopeless and helpless, those on the periphery of society, those for whom life is meaningless – those within reach in our churches and those in the communities in which we live.
Deut 30:16 – If you observe the commandment to love God with all your heart, mind and soul, you will live, and you will grow in number and prosper.
Loving Jesus, loving God gives life – life in its abundance – living a life shaped by Jesus gives life, brings hope, restores humanity in those whose human identity has been diminished by society that does not recognise them, society that passes by them, society that refuses to treat them as humans made in the image of God.
As you commit yourselves this morning to “Rise to the Challenges of Today”, you are recommitting yourselves to a Jesus-Shaped Life that gives life, gives hope, meaning, identity, real security.
You don’t always have to say much because your presence alone, your life alone, must be the most effective sermon – your compassion, your joy, your encouragement, your availability and willingness to walk an extra mile, is what the communities and this beautiful nation (and any other) are yearning for.
Through Jesus, God has loved you, continues to love you beyond what anyone can dream of – and now He asks you and any Christian to love Him back by committing the whole of your life and my life to live a Jesus-Shaped Life.
Life that has been transformed by the love of God in Jesus is the life that transforms community, transforms business, entrepreneur, education and schooling, media, work place, politics, sports, marriages and family life,
You and I are not here on earth by accident, we were intentionally put here to intentionally live a Jesus-Shaped Life – to be light that brings light and disperses darkness and removes fear of darkness, light that shines on corruption, violence against women and girls and in families, the light that shines in the dark corners of our lives and society, that once again human relations can be restored, that people may have faith in one another.
We are to be the salt that makes food to taste nice and enjoyable, that preserves food and prevents it from rotting – preserves lives and community and prevents it from disintegrating.
You are committing yourselves today to be models for many people who are yearning for examples of Jesus-Shaped Christians.
Lives that reveal Jesus Christ to others, lives that are full of God’s abundant love and overflow to all those they are in contact with.
Your lives are to be magnets that pull others to Jesus, that testify to the joy and beauty of following Jesus – not the stench that forces people to run away from you and from Jesus.
In “Rising to the challenges of Today” you are declaring the statement made by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby, that “The best decision anyone can ever make, at any point in life, in any circumstances, whoever they are, wherever they are, is to be a disciple of Jesus.”
Indeed to live a Jesus-Shaped Life is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be intentional in living a Jesus-Shaped Life.
It means to be intentional and purposeful in our discipleship, and know that our families, businesses, work places, media, young people, women and men, communities and our country can be transformed and be what God intended – places of fairness, tolerance, selflessness, honesty, integrity, commitment, and to be places and channels of love – sacrificial love for one another.
May you leave this place today taking seriously your role and responsibility as disciples and disciple-makers who are to live a Jesus-Shaped Life in every sphere of your life – that those who are managers live as Jesus-shaped managers, and Jesus-shaped teachers, Jesus-shaped doctors, Jesus-shaped security guards, Jesus-shaped business owners, Jesus-shaped drivers, Jesus-shaped police officers, Jesus-shaped politicians, Jesus- shaped husbands, Jesus-shaped fathers, Jesus-shaped community leaders, etc.
May you go out to be the change this country, communities and families are yearning for.
May God bless you abundantly that you truly be a blessing to this nation, to your communities and your families.
Canon John Kafwanka – Director for Mission, Anglican Communion