Scripture Passage: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing.” [John 15:5 The Voice]
In our Jamaican culture, the value of being independent has been instilled in mine own and earlier generations, from as far back as I can remember. This ethic pre-existed 1962 but was highlighted in that very significant year, because of our country’s official release from the vice-grip of colonialism, to chart a course towards becoming an independent nation. A consequence of that occurrence however, is what, in my opinion, has become a rather narrow understanding of independence…as liberty, primarily within the socio-economic milieu. While there are merits to that kind of independence, a consequential result, among a large and growing majority of our people, is lifestyles that perpetuate another kind of dependence, upon – ‘crumbs that fall from the table’ – of our more affluent northern neighbors.
As a nation founded on principles germane to the Christian ethic, conveyed in the words of our national anthem and pledge, it is abundantly clear that the Church, as a corporate entity [and individual members thereof], has a decisive role and duty, in being for our people, the prototype i.e. the model of true independence, which is a way of being that springs from total dependence upon the sovereignty of Almighty God.
As Anglicans, we affirm a sacrament to be ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’. This definition, ritualized in [seven] ceremonies/celebrations that highlight the imparting of different aspects of divine grace, speaks fundamentally also to the Church as the Body of Christ, and hence, the visible sign of divine presence and grace in the world. Such a Church, therefore, is a model of detachment [independence] from anything that would taint or tarnish the Image of God, especially in our post-modern world, where relativity has become the new normal, conformity to which breeds an insidious kind of dependence that has the potential for creating a new form of slavery. Perhaps, these musings may be the starting point of a conversation to be continued in local Bible study groups [where they are active]. For now, however, a word from scripture may help in discerning the way forward.
Jesus’ words [highlighted above] recorded in John’s account of the Gospel, is instructive, posing a formidable challenge to what it means to be truly independent. They seem to affirm that true independence…the liberated and liberating ability to grow into flourishing wholeness [and holiness], climatic conditions notwithstanding, is about rootedness i.e. the kind of anchorage in and dependence upon energy, derived from no other source but the divine. Such anchorage [considering the vine metaphor], also produces inter-dependence that is, in a real sense, liberating!
A Moment in Prayer
Almighty God, ground of our being and source of all that is…seen and unseen; by your Spirit’s enabling, teach us how to be wholly dependent upon you, that we may experience true independence…the worldly detachment that liberates us to make known and visible, the grace of your divine presence, in our nation and the world, to the praise of your glory. Amen.
Contributed by Canon Georgia “Grace” Jervis