3 Things to Bear in Mind in 2019


As we start 2019, many of us will set goals and make resolutions in the hope that our lives will be better.   I wish everyone the joy and satisfaction that comes from the fulfillment of personal and professional goals.

As you set your goals and make resolutions for the New Year, I would like to suggest a few points to bear in mind –

  • Some goals may have been achieved, but not in the expected form.

Sometimes the trappings of success can become a distraction, causing us to pursue status symbols as proof that goals have been achieved. You may not have the coveted job title or corner office, but you may have already fulfilled the mandate in your current role. If this is true for you, it may be the right time to move forward, to set new goals to take you to the next level of effort that will challenge you to be your best self.

  • It’s good to set goals, but even better to leave them open-ended. 

It is necessary to set measurable goals to track progress, but be prepared to adjust goals to take advantage of new and better opportunities. Sometimes goals can be limiting your true ability to go further. Paying attention to your situation as it unfolds can provide valuable information. Perhaps a layoff that disrupts a career goal may just be the push you need to step outside your comfort zone and launch your own business.

  •  Align your goals with your values.

Avoid the trap of striving for a goal that leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Very often, the sacrifices and compromises that are made to achieve goals undermine our values. For example, striving for success in an organization that doesn’t respect the value you place on your down time isn’t worth the effort.

I truly hope that you will have fun and enjoy the journey through 2019. Have a great year!



Walk in faith. Live in abundance.

Walk by faith2

Throughout my life anxiety has always been a friend and a foe.  As a friend, anxiety has, in the past, motivated me to get things done now, sooner, rather than later. Anxiety has also been my worst enemy, preventing me from thinking straight, causing me to not do as well I could and should.

I have decided to break up with anxiety and to walk by faith.

A recent reflection on the following verses in the epistle of James 1:3-4, is supporting my decision.

Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace].  And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.

Walking by faith is not without its challenges.  Faith comes with testing and patience.  But the good news is that the result of persistent faith is abundance.







Faith, waiting and patience

 Faith is being sure that what God has promised, although not yet seen or received, will become reality.  It’s that confident knowing, while waiting on God.  Hebrews 11:1

Waiting with patience is the test of our faith.

Are we prepared to hold on to that confident knowing that God will deliver on His promise while we wait?

There is a difference between waiting and patience.

Waiting, like patience involves passing time with the expectation of an outcome.

Patience is the attitude we have while we wait. 

Patience requires fortitude to continue waiting with unwavering expectancy that God will fulfill His promise.  Therein lies the test.

As James says, living in patience leads us to spiritual maturity and inner peace, from which comes abundant blessings.  We become complete and lacking nothing.  Put another way, we receive the spiritual resources to live lives that are satisfying to God and to ourselves. 

Abundance from the testing of my faith

 My own experience with the testing of my faith has taught me valuable lessons, which have led me to choose patient waiting in faith over living with anxiety.

During a prolonged job search, I held on to Jesus’s promise to answer our prayers John 14:13 .  I also accepted God’s promise to be faithful to take care of me Deuteronomy 7:9.   Patience with the job search was challenging, but throughout the process I learned how to nurture and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23


  • During that time, I was led to opportunities to participate in the prison ministry. I was amazed at how God working through me enabled me to act with the fruits of the Holy Spirit – to be loving, kind, good and gentle to people who others would consider unworthy.


  • When I did eventually find employment, I was confident in God’s faithfulness to support me as I serve others through my job. I learned through patiently waiting for the answer to my prayers during my job search, that God is always faithful, giving me everything I need to live and to serve Him.

From these experiences I learned that I have more than enough God-given resources, so much so that I can share His goodness with others.  This, I believe, is the abundance to which James refers, which is the result of patience doing its perfect work in us.

To sum it up: walk by faith, live in abundance

 Faith is the antidote to fear. 

We must ask God for more faith so that we may live life abundantly, as Jesus promises us. That said, to have more faith, we must do our part.  Faith comes from hearing the Word of God.  To increase our faith, we must spend time in Bible study to understand and embrace God’s promises. See Romans 10:17.

Patience is the antidote to anxiety.

Anxiety is worry about a future outcome that may or may not happen. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Surrendering to the wisdom of God’s timing is patience in action and cancels the tendency to become anxious.  To do this, we must ask the Holy Spirit to prevail and guide our behavior while we wait in unwavering expectancy.

Advent is a time of expectancy.

Advent is a time of waiting with the expectation that the coming of Jesus Christ brings hope and transformation in us and through us to the world.

As we patiently wait, let us ask for more faith from God to nurture in us the abundant growth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so that we may bring abundant blessings of God’s hope, peace, joy and love to the world.

Christ in me, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.



A Tribute to the Franciscan Sisters in Jamaica

ICHS Campus

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

So said St. Francis of Assisi

True to this guiding principle, three Franciscan Sisters endured a long trans-Atlantic voyage from Glasgow, Scotland to serve in Jamaica.  This was in 1857, barely 20 years after the emancipation and abolition of slavery.  With only two shillings and six pence in their possession, the Franciscan nuns were not daunted by the challenges that lay ahead. For them, true to the teachings of their patron Saint Francis, with faith in God, they would start by doing what was necessary.  There was a need, a dire need to educate, to build communities, to proclaim the Gospel in word and in deed.

By January 1858, the Sisters opened the Immaculate Conception Academy, now Immaculate Conception High School and Immaculate Preparatory School.  Alvernia in Cross Roads was later acquired where the Franciscan Sisters established the St. Francis All-Age School, St. Joseph’s Teacher’s College and Alvernia Preparatory School.

Twenty years later, in 1879, when the Franciscan Motherhouse in Scotland was no longer able to send any more Sisters to Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, a young, fledgling Community, graciously responded to an appeal from the Vicar Apostolic of Jamaica.  In January 1879, three Sisters bravely set sail from New York Harbour to become the first American Sisters to undertake foreign missionary work.

In later years, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany would establish other schools – St. Aloysius Primary, Marymount and Mount Alvernia High Schools, to name a few.  In the over 160 years in Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters have extended their ministry to the vital areas of healthcare, feeding assistance programmes and community development projects in rural areas and in inner cities.

In a day and age when the success of educational institutions is measured by examination scores of the graduating cohorts, it is very easy to praise the performance of students without acknowledging the contribution of those who have laid the foundation and traditions in these institutions.

Beyond the academic excellence of ICHS, of which we are extremely proud, we the Class of 1978 fully understand that none of this matters without strength of character, where discipline, integrity and service to God and community are at the core.

We are the beneficiaries of the Franciscan Sisters’ mission to live the Gospel, to witness God’s Love in the Franciscan tradition of living in community and in harmony with all creation while joyfully serving others, especially those who are poor and marginalized.

Today, we salute the Franciscan Sisters for the role they have played in creating here at ICHS, an environment where goodness and honesty are exemplified and promoted, where excellence is encouraged and the potential of each individual is patiently nurtured, ensuring an enriching educational experience which in turn generates competent, virtuous and happy citizens.

While attending ICHS, we were provided with opportunities to reach out to those less fortunate.  We were inspired and encouraged to be good stewards of God’s creation, evidenced by the beauty of our school campus.  We were motivated to excel academically with the purpose of developing our unique talents to benefit the world.  We were taught Christian values and principles, essential to building our character and directing our ethical and moral choices.

We are eternally grateful for the Franciscan foundation and traditions here at ICHS.  In lasting tribute to the work and witness of the Franciscan Sisters, the Class of 1978 presents this painting of St. Francis of Assisi against the backdrop of our beloved school, and set in the natural beauty of our campus.

This tribute was read at a special event to honor the Franciscan Sisters during the 40th anniversary reunion of the Class of 1978, on Friday 29 June 2018 at the Immaculate Conception High School, Kingston, Jamaica.

Christ in me, the hope of glory!



How to raise funds for charity


Photo: YWCA Montreal team at Scotiabank Charity Challenge / Défi Caritatif Montreal 2015

I used to think that 13 was an unlucky number, but I changed my mind a few years ago.  A brand awareness survey found that 13% of non-client respondents were likely to do business with our company because it sponsored community events and charities they cared about.

Our corporate marketing team got lucky because the 13% result surpassed expectations, justified budget renewal and provided proof that our corporate philanthropy program benefited business goals.

According to Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that represents the charitable sector, charities and non-profits receive around $2.8 billion from corporations.  The majority of corporations contribute to charities because they understand that healthy communities are good for business.

But corporate philanthropy is becoming more challenging.  And many of the more than 150,000 charitable organizations in Canada are down on their luck.

Thirty-eight percent of companies said that too many charities are trying to solicit money for the same cause.  Traditional cheque book philanthropy is rapidly being replaced by strategic partnerships that benefit both the community and corporate donors.

With shrinking government funding, charities are challenged to find the best way of raising funds from corporate and individual donors.   But this presents an opportunity for charities to find unique and creative ways to raise the funds needed for survival.

How to raise funds for charity?  Help corporations to be successful

A few suggestions that charitable organizations may want to consider…

Pride of association

Charitable organizations can support business by bringing together donors at in-person events to raise funds and network.  Out of this comes pride of association with like-minded peers who share the same concerns and commitment to the charitable cause.

  • A good example is the United Way of Ottawa’s GenNEXT Giving Circle.  United Way organizes networking and fundraising events and initiatives where young people can learn about the needs in their community, volunteer their time, and put their dollars to work where they will have the greatest impact.

Shared community of buyers and donors

Charitable organizations can also support client engagement and expand the number of clients for corporations.  By creating strategic partnerships charities and corporations can launch major events to promote products and build public awareness of the charity’s cause, with the intention of building a shared community of donors and clients.

  • A few years ago, The Salvation Army partnered with Montreal-based designers and staged a fashion show to raise funds for L’Abri d’espoir, a shelter for abused women and their children. The event was used to leverage the brands of the charity and of the fashion designers to create a shared community of buyers and donors who support the cause of protecting women from violence.   

Community and employee engagement

Apart from soliciting donations from corporations who care about their causes, charitable organizations should also ask corporations to volunteer their expertise.  Charitable organizations can organize employee volunteer activities that support employee engagement and strengthen teamwork.

  • According to Volunteer Canada, employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is emerging as a regular practice among many of today’s employers seeking to give back to the community. ESV activities and programs are a new “shared value” approach, helping businesses strengthen community relationships and improve employee engagement. They also give non-profits access to new resources and skills while allowing employees to refine and enhance their skills and expand their networks.

Sharing information for thought leadership

Charitable organizations are well-placed to provide valuable data and insights on the causes they advocate and the services they provide.  This information can be shared with thought leaders and persons of influence who have access to the podiums at thought leadership events.    Many chambers of commerce and think tanks host events attended by the audiences that are likely to become interested in the charitable organizations’ causes.  Through thought leadership, corporations can increase their reputation as experts in a particular industry or as key contributors to the quest for solutions in fields such as healthcare and economic development.

Adopt business practices

Although well-intentioned tactics can be used to solicit financial support, charities cannot rely on luck and goodwill.

The common element in all of these suggestions is the creation of relationships with the aim of engaging corporations in committed partnerships that lead to sustained support for charitable organizations.

Like for-profit corporations, charitable organizations must adopt business practices to increase awareness by creating differentiated messages and developing relationships that provide a mutual exchange of benefits.  This requires deliberate planning with the aim of achieving specific outcomes that are good for charities, businesses and communities.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.



There is Enough for all of Us: My Views on Persistent Poverty, the Prosperity Gospel and Social Justice

Karen's mountains

It was in the dimming sunlight of dusk that I had a moment of enlightenment.

I was late for an appointment but lucky enough to find a parking space on a crowded street. Even though I had enough money to pay for the thirty minutes I needed, I didn’t have the right coins to put in the parking meter.  There were no shops nearby to ask for change, only people scurrying by.

Bewildered and frantic, I rushed up to a couple and asked if they could exchange my dimes and nickels for two quarters.

“Sorry,” he said, as I felt my racing heart sink.

“But here’s my receipt for forty minutes remaining on my space in the parking lot over there,” he continued.

“How much do I owe you for that?” I asked in disbelief.

“Nothing.  Please take it.  I’m sure you need it more than we do,” he responded.

In that instant, as I saw the remaining rays of sunset slide below the horizon, I could feel my heart warm with gratitude for Divine Providence.  I got more than I asked for, unexpectedly and right on time.

But my “aha moment” didn’t end there.

I made it to my appointment, but the person who I was to meet didn’t show up and my meeting was postponed to another day.  I chose not to be disappointed.

My takeaway from all this was that we can get more, even when we don’t need it as there is an inexhaustible supply of everything we need in the Universe!

There is ample evidence that there is more than enough for everyone in this world.

Abundance is more of a problem than scarcity

Oxfam reported that there is enough food to feed the world.  In fact the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. The International Federation of the Red Cross reported in 2011 that there are 1.5 billion people worldwide classified as obese.  However, 925 million go to sleep hungry every night.  I can accept that nutrient-poor foods may be the main contributor to obesity.  The truth is that there is more food available in the world than we are led to believe. There is enough and more for everyone. The problem is the inequitable distribution of wealth.

Poverty is being alleviated, but…

The United Nations reports that the international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty, with extreme poverty rates cut in half since 1990.  However, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.

Persistent poverty is real.  Breaking generational cycles of poverty continues to be elusive.

The divide between those who have more and those who have less or nothing at all is widening. This is happening in spite of the myriad people, initiatives and organizations undertaking projects to alleviate poverty.  Throughout the year, I receive all kinds of requests for donations ranging from money to build vital infrastructure to gifts in kind such as food, clothing and Christmas gifts.

Giving the excess from those who have to those who don’t have, doesn’t always bridge the divide

There are many willing volunteers who want to help, but they lack the knowledge and skills required to be effective. I’ve heard stories about water wells that don’t work after the foreign aid workers have left; poorly built walls that have to be redone; and gift toys that children have no clue about how to use.

Too often the gifts and donations of the “haves” do not empower the “have nots.”   

A constant stream of donations disempowers people and creates dependency on others.  In my own experience, most people in need want to develop their talents, find sustainable employment and become self-sufficient to support their families.

None of this darkens the revelations of my “aha moment.”

Religious teachings about prosperity

Some Christian religious denominations glorify poverty as an honourable spiritual and material state that is sanctified by God.  There are others who teach a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that excessive financial wealth and excellent health are always in the will of God.

I don’t find either of these approaches to be satisfactory as they can be used to oppress people in one way or another.

On one hand, glorifying poverty leads people to passively accept poverty and deprives them of the opportunity to make the required effort to achieve financial independence and a better standard of living. On the other hand, those who do not achieve financial success or are in ill-health may be led to believe that they are inadequate, sinful or not following God’s will.

While I don’t believe that God intends anyone to live in poverty and that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have as much as we want and more, I believe that social justice has to be the guiding principle in the quest for personal and collective prosperity.

Social justice bridges poverty to prosperity

The inexhaustible resources of the Universe are available to all of us. It’s our commitment to social justice that will bridge the divide between poverty and prosperity.  Just like the man who offered me the parking receipt with the excess time he didn’t need, we should always think of ways in which we can use what we have and don’t need more of, to enable and empower others to get to a better place.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters!



Freeing the Mind of Negative Thoughts


Even though I am a die-hard optimist, I had a rude awakening about the power of positive thinking – as a committed Christian, my positive thoughts don’t hold any inherent supernatural power to force God’s will into existence.

My positive thoughts, affirmations and visualization aren’t a substitute for discerning God’s will.  Nor can my positive thoughts and visualisation substitute the “hard work” of patient trusting and faith that declares “Thy will be done.”

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  God, not my positive thoughts, is the Almighty and only real power in the Universe.  Yet many of us have seen and heard testimonials of the benefits and outcomes of positive thinking.

Jesus implores us to “Ask believing to receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

Asking and believing imply the expectation of a positive outcome.  Belief requires holding positive thoughts in faith.  Our faith influences the outcome of our prayers.

Paul admonishes the believers in the Church at Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of their minds,” to not think and act like non-believers who are influenced by the things in this world.  Our thoughts coming from our renewed minds influence our behaviour. (Romans 12:2)

Disappointing outcome of positive thinking

Following the teachings of the Bible and influenced by an endless list of spirituality teachers, I recently spent quite some time and effort convincing myself, through positive thinking and visualization, that a new career opportunity was mine.  I saw a series of coincidental events as further proof that I was headed in the right direction and that I could expect to get the job offer.  Many people were praying with me and for me.  Many people made positive affirmations and said that they could clearly see me in that new role.  So did I.  When the job offer did not materialize, I was disappointed.  What the heck went wrong?

On reflection, I realized that I had spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself – fighting against recurring negative thoughts and doubts that I wouldn’t get the job offer. Negative thoughts stirred up feelings of fear and anxiety, which I tried to eliminate by using positive thinking to predict a positive outcome.  The positive thoughts not only calmed my fear and anxiety, but made me falsely believe that I correctly discerned God’s will.  That’s wishful thinking!

Nothing is wrong with replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that are based on the teachings of the Bible.  Our thoughts do determine our attitude and influence outcomes of things that are generally within our control.

The big lesson I learned from this experience is that affirming a positive thought, or visualizing a desired outcome is not to be mistaken for the voice of God or the revelation of His will.

Faith to receive God’s best

Faith in the uncompromising love and goodness of God is at the core of the declaration “Thy will be done.”  The believing that Jesus implores us to do when we ask in prayer is about having faith that His answer will always be for our highest good.  Rather than fearing an outcome that I don’t want, I have resolved that I will ask in faith for what I desire but leave myself open to receive God’s highest and best.

In my struggle to rid my mind of negative thoughts, I have learned that residual fear can co-exist with faith.  This is where the struggle between intention and action occurs.  Paul tells his fellow Christians in Rome that he knows in faith what he is to do, but he is prevented by his fear of letting go and trusting God completely to help him do what he ought to do. (Romans 7:24).  The truth is that even in the face of fear it is possible to step out in faith to do what I ought to do.  This is courage.  Courage comes from trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is also my Comforter and support in times of struggle with fear which can weaken my will to surrender to God’s will.

3 steps to increase faith

In my ongoing journey to live a life free from fear and anxiety, it is possible to root out negative thoughts, which is essential if I am to get to the place of increased faith and unbridled trust in God’s infinite goodness and love.

Three steps that I take every time I have a negative, fear-filled, anxious thought are–

  1. I have a conversation with myself –
    • Is the thought factual?
    • Is the thought supporting me?
    • What’s the worst and best that could happen?
  2. I surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by aligning body (physical reactions), soul (ego, emotions) and spirit (thoughts)
    • Stop struggling to know the outcome
    • Breathe deeply and relax in silence
    • Pray – ask God to prevail, to be present, to powerfully control my emotions and give me more faith
  3. I affirm the Word of God, speak positively and courageously, even if I feel scared –
    • “God has a good plan for my life” – Jeremiah 29:11
    • “All things are working together for good.” – Romans 8:28
    • “Every thought that God has not planted in my mind and heart will be uprooted.” – Matthew 15:13

Expanding faith

Finally, the Bible teaches us that faith is counted as righteousness. Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, which put him in a right, loving, guiding relationship with God. (Romans 4:3) 

I am reassured that by Christ’s death, God sees me as having Christ’s righteousness.  I can run to Him as my loving “Abba Father” when I feel afraid and my faith is weak (Galatians 4:6).  God doesn’t hold my lack of faith against me, as long as I ask for more of it.  I know for sure that I am being transformed as I grow in faith.  Growth and transformation take time.  Negative thoughts will die, as I nourish my mind with the Word of God.  That’s how my faith will expand as I leave myself open to accept God’s faithfulness and goodness in the answers to my prayers.

Christ in me, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.



Identity, Inclusion and Love – Thoughts on Baptism and Black History Month

Approximate reading time: 20 minutes

The following is the text of a sermon delivered by Camille N. Isaacs-Morell on 19 February 2017 at the Anglican Parish of St. Andrew and St. Mark, Dorval, Québec, Canada.


Today we are celebrating Black History Month and the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Both these events cause us to focus on the themes of identity and inclusion.  Through baptism a person is identified as a child of God and welcomed into the family of Christian believers.  Black History Month celebrates the identity and contribution of persons of Black African descent.

Today, Ella will be marked with water, a sign that Ella belongs to God, is a follower of Christ and a member of the fellowship of Christians.

Like Ella, I was given my Christian identity through the sacrament of baptism and the promise made by my parents and godparents that I would follow the way of Christ. Like Ella I am female and a citizen of Canada.  But there are other names to identify me that are different from Ella’s.

I am the descendant of Black African slaves who worked on sugar plantations in Jamaica centuries ago.  Among my ancestors are Jewish, Irish and German free men who made their way to Jamaica two centuries ago to seek their fortune.  I identify as a Black person with cultural ties to Jamaica.

Finding one’s identity is a personal and public issue.  Being who you are and who you associate with can be problematic – especially if you are a Muslim worshipping in a mosque in Quebec City or if you are a Black male living anywhere in the United States of America.

The questions of identity are not new.  At the time of Paul’s writing, the early Church in Corinth was dealing with identity issues.  The Church in Corinth was a wealthy congregation comprised of persons of diverse backgrounds, religious experiences and affiliations.  In the verses we read today from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he warns Christians there against basing their identity on affiliations with human leaders and creating factions and alliances built on human definitions.  Paul instructs them to base their identity on Christ and on Christ alone, as Christ is the foundation of the Church.

Laws also play an important role in defining who we are.  Laws that govern nations, define religious behaviour and create associations and clubs, shape the way people behave, think and act.  In our reading from Leviticus, when Moses receives the law, God establishes the people of Israel’s identity as a reflection of God’s essence.  They are to be holy as God is holy.  The people of Israel, God’s people, are to differentiate themselves from all other people by adhering to the law that requires them to respect their parents, honour the Sabbath, give to the poor and the stranger, refrain from stealing, abstain from profanity, oppression, injustice, hate and revenge.

By following God’s law, the people of Israel claim their identity as God’s chosen, holy people, set apart and favoured by God.

And here comes the big, huge, hairy problem of “us” and “them” that inevitably arises when we address questions of identity and the complex maze of diversity through which we are called to journey together as we build an inclusive society that ensures justice and respect for all of its citizens.

So although laws intrinsically define the identity of nations, religious groups and associations, laws also have the potential to exclude and discriminate against “them” who are different from “us”.  And exclusion and discrimination lead to ignorance, stereotyping and injustice.  This is why and how racism insidiously thrives in many social institutions.


Black History Month was established in 1926 with the aim of overcoming the issues of identity and exclusion of people of Black African descent, whose 12 million ancestors were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean where they were enslaved for more than three centuries.  Here we are, 90 years later, with valid reasons justifying the need to have Black History Month.

The economic contribution of slave-based labour and the slave trade to the world is still conspicuously absent from mainstream history books. The financial proceeds of trading in slaves lined the pockets of plantation owners and fuelled the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Slavery was a highly profitable investment which yielded rates of return that compared favourably with most investment opportunities in manufacturing.  For example, a study conducted by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer and reported in The Economist magazine, indicates that slave capital yielded a return on investment as high as 13% compared to a yield of 6% to 8% on the railroads.

We still need Black History Month because the many inventions and accomplishments of persons of Black African descent have yet to be widely acknowledged and publicized beyond the four weeks in February every year.

  • Did you know the first Canadian to be awarded the Victorian Cross for gallantry was Alexander Roberts Dunn, a Black soldier from Nova Scotia, who served in the Crimean War?
  • There’s Elijah McCoy, the Black Canadian inventor and engineer.  His 57 patents including lubrication devices for steam engines greatly contributed to workers’ safety, transportation systems and industrial development in Canada.
  • In more recent times, we have Henry T. Sampson, the inventor of the cell phone.  There’s the trio of Black women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose work at NASA contributed significantly to space travel safety.

The Church also needs Black History Month. Eurocentric interpretations of the Bible have generally failed to acknowledge the presence and role of Black people in Biblical history, in Jesus’ ministry and in the spreading of the Gospel.  There is Moses’ wife Zipporah and the Queen of Sheba among several Old Testament personalities.  There is Simon of Cyrene, the Black man who helped Jesus carry his cross.  Mary Magdalene was in Jesus’ entourage.  The Ethiopian eunuch, a man of great influence, accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Saviour and continued on his way back to Africa, where I am sure he spread the Good News.

The systemic exclusion of the contribution, presence and truthful history of Black people has served to perpetuate negative perceptions of the Black race and has undermined the progress of Black people everywhere.

Black History Month is a valiant effort to highlight the on-going need for the inclusion of the missing pages in the world’s history books and seeks to remind us and educate us about how we came to this place….together.

But Black History month is not enough.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement championed the need to enact anti-discriminatory laws and affirmative action.  These laws acknowledge the presence of visible minorities and legislate the prevention of exclusion from economic opportunity and social participation on the basis of race.

The recent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and its militant demands for formal dialogue and recognition tell us that the war on identity and inclusion is still being waged.  Race riots, reports of racial profiling and the disparities in the economic and social conditions of visible minorities are persistent reminders that anti-discriminatory laws don’t guarantee inclusion and justice.

So laws are not enough because they only provide minimum standards and cannot bring us up to be the best we can be.


Turning to today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is preaching His Sermon on the Mount, where he declared earlier that He has not come to abolish Roman Civilian Law or the Religious Law upheld by the Prophets.  We hear Jesus refer to Religious Law – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – straight out of the book of Deuteronomy.  He then refers to Roman Civilian Law which gives a person of high social rank the right to use his left hand to slap the cheek of the person of lower social rank.  Jesus also refers to the law allowing a Roman soldier to force a citizen to carry a Roman soldier’s heavy coat for a maximum of one mile.

Both Religious Law and Roman Civilian Law are exact and clearly define their versions of justice and the rights of persons.

Jesus surprisingly instructs His listeners to do more than what these oppressive laws permit.  We are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and above all, we are to love our enemies.  He says that it is by loving our enemies that we become perfect like God.  Perfect love is God’s true identity.  If our identity is founded on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our lives must reflect the love of God.


And what is love?  Regardless of how you define it, love always points us to the highest good.  Love is given full expression in the way we treat people, individually and collectively.  So we cannot speak about love without speaking about inclusion, justice and the rule of law.

I must admit that it took me a really long time to understand Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek.  But on the day that I did understand it, I gained a whole new perspective on how Christians should respond to oppressive laws and acts of injustice.

As I mentioned earlier, under Roman law at the time of Jesus’ ministry, persons of higher social rank had the right to slap the face of a person of lower social rank – but the slap had to be given with the left hand as the right hand was reserved for religious actions and could not be defiled.  So if someone wanted to slap another person in the face with their left hand, they would have to deliver the blow to the right cheek.  If the person receiving the slap were to turn his left cheek as Jesus suggested, the slapper would have to use their right ‘holy’ hand to deliver the blow.  By following Jesus’ suggestion to turn the left cheek to be slapped, it would mean that the oppressor would have to stop and think before striking again.  He would have to consider firstly, if he should defile his right ‘holy’ hand.  Secondly, and more importantly, he would hopefully question himself as to whether or not his action was right and fair to the other person.


So what I understand is that Jesus was advocating a radical form of nonviolent action as the line of defense to oppressive laws and injustice.  This principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion is meant to appeal to the conscience of the oppressor to consider whether or not the law is fair and serves the highest good of all citizens – regardless of their race, gender, religion or any other differentiating criteria.


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. applied Jesus’ principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion in the Civil Rights Movement.  Under Dr. King’s leadership, millions of Black persons took to the streets for peaceful protests as well as acts of civil disobedience.  A major factor in the success of the movement was the strategy of protesting for equal rights without using violence.  And where did this lead to?  Thankfully racial discrimination was outlawed and laws forbidding injustice and upholding racial equality were enacted.

Enshrined within Jesus’ radical teaching on nonviolent protest and moral suasion is the principle of love, which is the spirit of the law and the foundation of justice.  Love is the guiding principle of the law that God gave to Moses.  I daresay that laws in free and fair societies are enacted to uphold the principles of justice and the highest good of its citizens.

But in spite of anti-discriminatory laws, racism and injustice still persist.  Why?

The answer is simple.  Love cannot be legislated.  Genuine love cannot be enforced by the law.  Love comes from the heart and motivates right actions that go beyond the limits and requirements of the law.

Jesus is calling us, His people, to enshrine the principle of love in all our actions.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never fails.”  When all else fails, love, like God eternal, never fails.  When everything else is lost, God’s love is all we have left.  Paul also tells the Christians in Rome that “God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”  The capacity to love comes from God.  Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  We are channels of God’s love.

For my part, as a Black person who has had to confront racism and injustice, I am reassured that my identity as a Christian, is founded and built on the love of God.  Like the crucified Christ, I must forgive and love those who don’t know that what they are doing is not loving, respectful or inclusive.  This means that I must love and forgive the Christian woman I overheard saying that the ‘N’ word is not at all offensive.  I must love and forgive the defense lawyer and judge who attempted to entice me to play the race card in a court of law.  I must love and forgive the city official who considers my outrage at the selective removal of racist graffiti on public property as being my problem, not hers or the city’s.  I must love and forgive Canadian border agents who harass me when I am travelling alone, but welcome me without any problem when I am travelling with my White Canadian husband.  I must love and forgive my co-worker who openly declared that I need to trade in marijuana in order to give credibility to my Jamaican identity.

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit empowers me to love and forgive.

Black History Month reminds me that the love of God conquers all.

It is the love of God that sustained my enslaved foreparents throughout their journey to freedom.  It is the love of God and respect for human dignity that motivated the Christian Abolitionist movement.  It is the love of God that motivated the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. King who enlisted the support of persons of other religions and races to advocate for inclusion and equal rights for all.  It is the love of God that motivates us here today as a fellowship of Christian believers to build an inclusive Church, nation and world.


Today, as Ella is marked with the water of baptism, she receives the mark of her Christian identity, which is the love of God.  We join with Ella’s parents Amanda and Mark and all of her family, to make a commitment to nurture Ella in the ways of God’s love that transcends race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, health status and all the other social identifiers.

As we lovingly encircle Ella and her family today, it doesn’t matter one bit that there are differences in our racial or cultural identities.  We are affirming our common identity as God’s people – a people committed to love, justice and the highest good of all.

As we kneel at the altar to partake in Holy Communion, let us remember that Jesus’ death is the greatest act of love ever committed for all humanity.  For this reason, we come to the Lord’s Table as equals, loved unconditionally by God and as members of the whole human race.

I end with the words of Nelson Mandela –

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Thanks be to God and to you for giving me the opportunity to speak this morning.

I love you. May God bless you all!  Amen.