By Rev. Dr Ben Wate
At St Barnabas Provincial Cathedral, Honiara on 31st Dec
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today we arrive at the end of another calendar year- 2021. And soon,at12 midnight tonight, we will have a transition from the year 2021 to 2022. In actual fact nothing will change except the numeral figure – 2021 becomes 2022. Everything will remain the same. The sun will still rise and sets tomorrow.Life will still go on. It seems like no changes have taken effect at all.
But from the outset, the idea of New Year has a global conceptual framework that enforce the imperative of change, a transition, growth and development. It’s like polarizing between section A to Section B, or moving from an old home to a new one. It persuades newness from oldies. But Life cannot make itself new without realizing the presence of the old-ness and the reason to depart the present. It is the state of the present reality that dictates on the vision and the need to advance change and progress to a new state of reality.
What I am saying here is that in order to change, its necessity and importance has to be judged by our evaluation of the present state of things. Why should I consider change when I am certain of the goodness of my present condition? What is my evaluation of 2021 regarding my performance, my personal life, my family and my community? Do I need to change anything for new, with the coming of the new year 2022?
From the Old Testament reading, Prophet Jeremiah sets the benchmark, giving the tone of language and voice for change based on the current crises of leadership. “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord (end of quote) (Jeremiah 23:3). The critical aspect of poor leadership were stated. The flock of sheep was scattered, and driven away because of poor pasturing. The sheep became wild and wondered out in the wilderness and desert of life. They had not lived to form a common flock.
This present situation of leadership crises calls for a new form of leadership, one that that will effectively gather the sheep into one sheepfold, one that would spend time pasturing them. God himself will ensure a new leadership model to be in charge of his flock. The shepherd that cannot allow fear to scatter the flock, or carelessly allow one to be strayed away from the flock.
In Israel’s ancient context, all forms of leadership were framed as shepherds of God’s people. Political leaders, religious leaders and tribal were considered as shepherds of God’s people.
We do not only have leadership crises, but we have another crisis- a faith based, or theological crises. Its about the genuineness, quality and authenticity of our faith in Christ.
To the Colossians, Paul addressed a situation of a theological crisis- What we would call deception of faith. A certain group within the Colossian Christian community seemed to be carried away by certain philosophical beliefs and teaching that appeared to be sound in their reasoning that directly affected their faith in Christ.
Here Paul warned against the potential danger of a condition of deception. The likelihood of the Christian community to be locked or become imprisoned by some kind of philosophical teaching in circulation in Colossae. These philosophical teaching were framed on the basis of human reasoning that appeared sound to the community. To Paul, the teaching is posing treats and appeared as an alternative to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul powerfully alerted to that the Christ you opted to forsake is the one that brings wholeness and salvation to you.“13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross15Colossians 2:13-15 (end of quote). Paul appears to be saying to the Colossians, “why are you- deserting the Christ who redeemed you from death and brought you wholeness of life? Why are you treating it as something cheap of no value?
These two passages of scripture have underscored different forms of crises, yet they are relatively the same on account that the question draws the line between commitment to leadership, and the value of our commitment to our faith in Christ.
As we gather here to give thanks to God, we must reflect on the different forms of leadership we offer either to our families, our community, to the church, and to the state, and of course to the various organizations under leadership command. There are two important marks of leadership. They are influence and change. To be a leader one has to have the quality of influence, and that influence will certainly effect change. This could for a good cause or a bad one. As we know, genuine and upright leadership would always to want to use their leadership influence to cause positive change, for peaceful co-existence, respect for one another, community life, social inclusion and cohesiveness, and progress. Within the bounds of Christianity, the model of leadership that God desires for those he has called for leadership is grounded on love. Jesus being the Love of God demonstrated the framework for Christian leadership. He leads to cause justice to those who are victimized under different forms of categories and labels. Love being the principle influence that causes change from disunity to unity and community, disrespect to respect, lawlessness to lawful-citizenship, careless to caring.
A month a go the leadership of our Christian churches have been challenged. The very people who forms parts of our Christian community have escaped our leadership influence, went on their own ways and scattered throughout Honiara, looting and robbing shops and burning down important public and private and buildings. In fact, Archbishop Leonard is correct when he said in his sermon on Sunday after the riots, “the churches have failed again”. At this transition, going from the year 2021 to 2022, let us not failed again. Our leadership, both at home, in the community and within our parishes and diocese must stand up to speak out and claim firm leadership over our community. Our Church leaders must reclaim prophetic and non-comprising position to influence positive change. As a church which claims a commanding higher national population, we must not compromise but take bold leadership in the name of Jesus Christ to effect positive change in every corners of Honiara city and in Solomon Islands as a nation – that the people of this nation would enjoy, peace, progress and prosperity.
In our service tonight, we also need to reflect on the nature of our personal faith journey with Jesus Christ. As I have said, the 2021 has been a challenging year for all of us. We have a lot of commitment whereby, we accomplished some, while we failed to succeed on some other areas. But most all, the challenging one is our commitment to reclaim our love for Christ. In the midst of many commitments, there is a tendency to be entrapped or decepted and become hostage to other worldly interest. The world we live inside is presented with all goodies- (that nothing is bad) and it demands us to enjoy and choose to live the life we choose. Often as usual, we are decepted and held hostages of many fake things. This could be a religious idea and practices, or certain financial scams, or certain doctrinal teaching or cult beliefs. This can be a social or a phycological problem. However, all these may come and go but the truth remains – It is Christ that brings us the wholeness of life- he redeems us and paid a price by his death on the cross in order to save us. Jesus warns “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (end of quote) (Matthew 16:26). As we move into the New Year, let us be mindful not to be decepted or held on hostage by fakes beliefs non-beneficial schemes that may appear precious but in reality, they are fake and worthless.
Let us stand firm on Jesus Christ, the Word of life in this new year. The Word that has light to illuminate darkness from our pathway. To define what is of darkness from light. To reveal what is genuine from fakeness. The very Word that removed us from being held hostage to the power of sin and Satan. John says “In him was life, and that life was light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5). As the new draws in, lets live by Christ light- who himself the Word of life whom no darkness of any forms could overcome. Let us all stand firm in our leadership of God’s people, and be firm in our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
May I wish you a joyous, happy and healthy New Year 2022.
+And to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, be glorified now and for ever more. Amen.