Leaders challenged to take their task seriously,
but themselves – lightly
By: Pastor Sherwin Griffith

Extracts from the Message delivered by Pastor Sherwin Griffith at the Ecumenical Service held at Minor Basilica, Castries to mark the 25th Anniversary of Saint Lucia’s Independence

   Leaders and citizens, brothers and sisters, I stand before you as one who enjoys dual citizenship. First, through adoption by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven. Secondly, through naturalization I am a citizen of St. Lucia. Unlike Derek Walcott and most of you living in St. Lucia today, I can’t say, “Is St. Lucia I come from, Is here I born”. Be that as it may, magwe mwen pa tay fet en St Lisi, mwen say en St Lisien; pass mwen say en citizen St Lisien.

   But I speak boldly because I am in illustrious company. Mr. Sydney Bagshaw who designed the coat of arms was born in California, USA but made St. Lucia his home in 1961. Father Charles Jesse who wrote the words of St. Lucia National Anthem was born in Dorset, England but came to St. Lucia in 1928. It’s not where you were born but how you behave. It’s not when or where you first saw the light but how you live the life where you live. You must bloom wherever you are planted.

   Whether we lived in the agrarian super civilization of yesteryear, or in the urban industrial super civilization of yesterday or live in the fast unfolding knowledge based super civilization of today or God knows, what super civilization it will be tomorrow, one throbbing truth remains: “none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lords.” Romans 14:7-8.

   This constant challenges us to accept that we will only live fulfilled lives as we first understand whose we are. “We are the Lords.” The prophet Ezekiel declared in Ezekiel 18:4

‘Behold, all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine.’

   A corollary to this constant of whose we are, is why we are. God created us first for fellowship, intimacy with Him. But He placed us not in the heavens but on the earth, and not alone but in community. He made us to be His in the community of other human beings. We therefore have a responsibility to God and to the place and among the people He has set us. He desires that we seek the peace and prosperity of the people among whom and the places in which we live. Thus He approves of our “Taking Responsibility for our Nation’s Development”.

   The principles we should practice to show that we are Taking Responsibility for our Nations Development are details in Romans 12:1 – 21. The Holy Spirit guided the head, heart and hand of the Apostle Paul to instruct us. These principles are not for our destruction but our development, not for our embarrassment but our edification. Paul is an appropriate person to speak on citizenship. Because of his understanding of principles and practices, rules, responsibilities and rights of citizenship, it was he who declared “Civis Romanus sum,” I am a Roman citizen.

   These principles we shall put under three heading developm: 1) Duty to God 11) Duty to Self 111) Duty to Others. If we daily dedicate ourselves to discharging these duties we shall daily be taking responsibility for our nation’s ent.

   1) Duty to God (Romans 12:1 – 2) We shall examine this under two headings: A. Sacrificial Service      B. Be a Transformed Subject

A.  Sacrificial Service

   Our duty to God is here defined as sacrificial service. Without sacrifice there can be no development individually or nationally. Sacrifice is the law of life. No sacrifice, no life. We all know how many seeds there are in a mango; but none of us knows how many mangoes there are in one mango seed. But for that mango seed to share its possibilities, it must first die. No sacrifice, no life.

   Let’s note three things about the sacrifice:

1. It must be personal   2.  It must be proper    3.  It must be reasonable.

  1. It must be personal – “Render your bodies.” St. Lucia today is marred by acts of negative sacrifice. Rather than offer their own bodies, some are offering the bodies of others. Violence against the unborn, the young, and the old are not a contribution to national development. Spilt blood is never silent. It cries from the earth. Anderson Reynolds in his worthwhile book “The Struggle for Survival” shows how the cries of the blood of two banana farmers were heard throughout the land and helped the walls of the U.W.P. ruling structure to fall. The Government is not to offer the people as sacrifice, or the pastor, the congregation or vice versa. Each must offer itself.
  2. Secondly, not only must the sacrifice be personal it must also be proper. If it is given to the wrong person or cause it is not proper. Was it not Cardinal Wolsley who had said “If I had served my God as I have served my king, He would not have deserted me in this hour.” The sacrifice for it to be proper must be given to God. God is merciful, God is good, God is all wise, God is loving, if we present our bodies to Him, He will guide us in their proper use. God has put great dignity in our bodies, In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus asked and assured:
    Verse 6.  “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”
    Hear the assurance:
    Verse 7.  “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: You are of more value than many sparrows.
    In 2Corinthians 4:7 Paul assures the saints:
    “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that   the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us
  3. Thirdly, the sacrificial service must not only be personal and proper it must be reasonable. God deals with us as rational creatures. We must think about what we are doing and giving. After God has been so gracious to us to give us life, to redeem us, to reconcile us to himself, it seems reasonable to conclude that we are deeply indebted to Him. When we give ourselves to Him, he will place us where we can be of best use in our nation’s development.

B.  Transformed Subject

   Paul encouraged “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

One person said the only constant is change. We need to be open to new dispositions and new disciplines and new ideas. Bill Gates, the computer software billionaire, in his book “The Road Ahead”, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, acknowledges (pg 70)

“In recent years Microsoft has deliberately hired a few managers with experience in failing companies. When you’re failing, you’re forced to be created, to dig deep and think, night and day. I want some people around who have been through that. Microsoft is bound to have failures in the future, and I want people here who have proved they can do well in tough situations.”

   We have to keep open to new people and new possibilities just as Bill Gates did if we are to develop.

Bill Gates continued “Death can come swiftly to a market leader. By the time you’re thrown out of the positive feedback cycle it can be too late to change what you’ve been doing, and all the elements of a negative spiral can come into play. It’s difficult to recognize that you’re in a crisis and to react to it when your business seems to be extremely healthy.”

   We can change and develop ourselves because of our capacity for thought and speech – our ability to accumulate and transmit our ideas and experience. We inhabit a world of ideas that we have created and a physical environment that we have modified.

   Every human advance is based on the ideas produced by the spirit of imaginative inquiry. Just as technology stagnates without the stimulus of pure scientific research, so, in general, a nation stagnates without the inspiration of new ideas.

   Development is built on new ideas. The enemy of development is conformity. We must keep questioning until we know what is the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” in any situation. It is a contradiction to pray “thy will be done” and be closed to the new moves of God in our lives and in our land. Let us learn from history. God expects us to be transformed individually and nationally. Remember, a mind is like a parachute, it functions only when it is open. Let’s open our minds to the winds of God’s Spirit and see Him bring development.

Our Second heading is:

   11 Duty to Self (Romans 12: 3 – 8)

Let me list these four aspects before touching on each. They are:

    1. Be Level-headed
    2. Appreciate your uniqueness
    3. Accept your commonness
    4. Affirm your interdependence

A. Be Level-headed

The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:3 declares

            “For I say . . . to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith. Paul advises each citizen to be levelheaded. A levelheaded St. Lucian will avoid too great an opinion of himself or herself, or too high a valuation upon his or her own judgment, abilities or performances. Anderson Reynolds cautiously alluded to this when on page 125 of “The Struggle for Survival” he recorded

“But just when Mr. Compton was probably beginning to feel infallible, probably thinking that the prosperity that his country was enjoying was due to his government alone, and that his government and not what was happening on the outside was what was deciding the fate of St. Lucia, 1993 came along and history again made its presence felt.”

Leaders, take the task seriously, but yourselves lightly.

Again on page 182 he noted:

“(1993) Probably farmers hadn’t realised that so much had changed since bananas first took root on the island. Clearly they had overestimated their value to the nation. They were sure they were too precious, too indispensable to the nation to be shot, killed, done away with. If they had studied history, it would have shown them that the error of their self-importance.”

Citizens take your tasks seriously but yourselves lightly. Be levelheaded. Think soberly. If you think yourself more highly than you ought to think, you are motivated by pride and will generate disruption. Think humbly and promote cohesion.

   When we think of the achievements of the past 25 years let us be sober. There have been hills and valleys. We have had two Nobel Laureates in the space of 13 years. Many others have excelled and done us proud but even in this very place where we gather to celebrate our independence we experienced the dark, demonic, deadly possibilities of the human soul. Indeed, a soul uninhabited by the true and living God is dead. Even as we celebrate one of our citizens is fighting for his life because of brutal and beastly beings. Let us be levelheaded in our living. Let us give thanks for the proud moments and weep for the painful moments. Let us be levelheaded about our academic progress, we may not find a commensurate job. Let us be levelheaded about our material prosperity, it may be here today and gone tomorrow. Christian citizens know that “the Kingdom of God is not in meat and drink but in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Walk in the limit of your authority; live in the limit of your gifting. By doing this you will promote national development.

B.  Appreciate your uniqueness

   Paul invites us not only to be levelheaded but to appreciate our uniqueness. “We have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.” Each of us is unique. Every one of us is different. We must allow for diversity but not divisiveness. Each of us has a unique contribution to make towards, and hence responsibility for, our nation’s development. The eye cannot perform the function of the ear. Every single citizen has a part to play that only he or she can play.

C.  Accept your commonness

   Working in tandem with appreciating our uniqueness is accepting our commonness. We are all members of one body, citizens of one country. Martin Carter, the illustrious Guyanese poet put it this way: “All are involved, all are consumed.”

Accepting our commonness means looking out for each other, for if one suffers the whole is affected. Therefore,

D.  Affirm your interdependence

   The final duty to ourselves is to affirm our interdependence. We are distinct but dependent on each other. If some people don’t do their duty, others can’t do theirs. If the church is not a house of prayer, which is what Jesus expects it to be, the land becomes a land “preyers”. Yes, if the pulpit does not do its duty, the pew cannot do its duty. If the police do not do their duty, the courts cannot do their duty. If the teachers do not do their duty, the students’ performance is compromised. If the government does not do its duty, the governed is confused. If husbands do not do their duty, wives are impeded from doing theirs. If parents do not do their duty, the children may go astray. It matters not how well the hospital is equipped, if there is none to collect the garbage, all will soon die. The cold head, the warm heart, the hard hands all depend on each other. Affirming interdependence will promote our independence. It will foster national development.

III Duty to Others

Our Heavenly Father captures this duty in Romans 12:10.

            “Be kindly affection to one another.”

No party can develop with members disliking each other. No nation can develop with citizens hating each other. One part or section may make some gains but they will sometime be dissipated or destroyed. An affectionate community is a healthy community. St. Lucians must move into the next 25 years developing a greater affection for each other. Where there is no true affection, there is no true relating. Where there is no true relating, there can be no true building. We lose our foundation, our faith, our mind. Where there is no true building, there is no true representing of the master builder – Our Father Himself.

   For the first 25 years we have learnt much. We are poised to leap into a future of glorious national development if we master the information of our history; if we do not we will leap into a future of godless national despair. So what is my message to you today? Let us perform our Duty to God, our Duty to Ourselves, and our Duty to Others. Let us practice: Sacrificial Service, and open ourselves to be Transformed. Let us be Level-headed, appreciate our Uniqueness, accept our Commonness, affirm our Interdependence. And above all be Affectionate to others. Not living independent of these will be “Taking Responsibility for our Nation’s Development.” Let us do it for God’s sake and for our sake. Let’s do it. God Bless us All. God Bless St. Lucia!