—   Pictured above

The Very Rev. Dr. Jeffrey D. Gibson as he delivered the Sermon.                  

  In the Cathedral Church of St. Michael & All Angels at  The Annual Service to Mark the Opening of the Legal Year, 2016-2017, on Monday, September 5, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.

THE SERMON.

         “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:10) I invite you to reflect with me on the theme of this service – “Celebrating A Golden Jubilee – A Call to Justice and Reconciliation”. Our Nation prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence - its Golden Jubilee. In addition to celebrating what we have achieved during the period of Nationhood, it is important to position ourselves to embrace with confidence the next fifty.In that regard, I think that the biblical Jubilee could serve as a useful principle. The biblical year of Jubilee has generally been associated with issues of social justice. This is consistent with the parameters of the year of Jubilee in the directive given to  “...proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”   It struck a note of freedom and renewal. Happiness was the order of the day as the society was healed from its brokenness and despair. In keeping with the practice of the jubilee year everyone entered the next forty-nine years on equal terms. In particular,

 Debts were forgiven;

 Land which had been leased out, perhaps to maximize the family income, was restored to the family in perpetuity; and,

 The mercies of God would be realized.

Altogether, the Jubilee principle was one aspect of the Israelite ‘economic safety net’; others being the Sabbath-year, the provision for widows and the protection of the stranger. Whether this was applied in full or practiced at all, cannot be ascertained. However, it was an indication that there was an intentional approach to handle the economic distress and the social fall out associated with the presence of sin in the community. 2 Can this principle be used to underpin social justice today as we contemplate the celebration of 50 years as an Independent Nation? Perhaps it can, but one would have to take into account the fact that it was culturally specific.

It arose in the context of  agrarian society and one in which the character of God was sovereign. The basic premise of Jubilee is that God is the true owner of the land which had been entrusted to a specific people.          “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23)

        There is no such comparison today and even if one would argue that the Church has a prophetic voice in that regard, it can only exert moral suasion on the civil authorities of the day. Yet, by its very nature, the Jubilee anticipated human weakness and in the circumstances there had to be a contingency plan; one in which the virtue of forgiveness would play an integral role, the value of the dignity of human life would be affirmed, and the vision of an egalitarian society be renewed.   

  Three “Vs”: Virtue – Value – and Vision; served to shape the next fifty years in their national life. Today, I believe that being aware of the limitations of the concept which have been acknowledged, it may be considered as a foundation for social justice today.             The virtue which is particularly related to the Jubilee is – Forgiveness. It may be described as an extraordinary act by which an offended person makes everything right between that person and the offender. Christian forgiveness is first about how God restores human beings in their relationship with the Divine, and then about how persons in community restore relationships which each other when one has been hurt by another. There has been a tendency to view forgiveness primarily in personal terms – one to one; however, there is a social dimension to forgiveness. When an individual offends the society by committed a crime, there is a need for healing and forgiveness may set the stage for such healing to take place, after appropriate sorrow for the offence has been established.

             The encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, recorded in the Gospel of Luke (19:1-10), is an interesting point of reference. Zacchaeus had for years defrauded the system and had accumulated a fortune for himself. It was Jesus’ acceptance of him which enabled Zacchaeus to deal with his past, make restitution and change his behaviour for the better. In accepting him, Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.’ (9)        

       Crime is essentially a sign of a broken relationship in the society. While one would affirm that ‘the punishment must match the crime’ one gets the impression that there are times when the society is not fully satisfied no matter the punishment is. There is a deep sense of loss, anger and grief. Perhaps, there is need for a process whereby the society can participate in the healing process – where victims can be relieved of their pain and offenders brought to the point where there is acknowledgement of guilt, an expression of sorrow and a commitment to rehabilitation. Towards that end, I would venture to suggest that the process of forgiveness has a place in the healing of community.

          Hopefully, during the next fifty years there will be the emergence of more victim-offender reconciliation programmes, even if only for young and first offenders. Forgiveness is not so much the business of the courts but it is the prophetic voice of Jesus, who embodied the Jubilee principle. Forgiveness can be an integral part of the justice system when the victim has been included. It should be the concern of the entire society as it seeks healing and it is most definitely needed at this juncture of our history. Further to this virtue, the society needs to affirm the value of human life. Values represent those moral goods which individuals and society prize, such as respect for the dignity of the human person, freedom and responsibility, friendship, equality and solidarity, and social justice.                    Over the years there has been an erosion of some of those values which have brought us to Nationhood; in particular, those which relate to the dignity of human life. Perhaps economic forces have contributed immensely to this situation. In a ‘consumer culture’ the quality of goods, have from time to time, replaced the quality of life. Consequently, personal character is not developed to respect neighbourly relationships and communal solidarity.

The evidence of this made be seen in:

 Youth alienation,

 Family breakdown, and

 A culture of violence.

     There is a need to stem the tide of any further erosion of community. This would require a collaborative effort since community building is an economic, political and spiritual process.

     Law and order agencies, faith communities, educational and social institutions and government and non-governmental organisations can all work together to promote the value of life and affirm, for instance, the golden rule: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Of course, from the point of view of the Christian faith, the sacredness of life would be the underlying motif.

        An identifiable virtue and an underlying value should contribute to the fashioning of a moral vision – the right and the fitting for a Barbados of 2066. A clearly defined vision would help us as a people to encompass, inform and organize for the type of society we want. It would not happen by chance. That “basic script” would help us to discover the moral obligations which persons owe one another in mutual responsibility, in order to live together in harmony and integrity, such as telling the truth and keeping one's word; or those imperatives of a biblical moral vision such as loving and forgiving the neighbour, also the enemies.

     In conclusion, we are called to live in community with each other. It is a case of being better together; those who have can make a difference in the lives of those who don’t have enough.

    I pray for a spirit of discernment as we approach our 50 th Year of Independence.

  

------  End of Sermon ----

Bridgetown, Barbados - Monday, September 5, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.

Cathedral Church of St. Michael & All Angels at The Annual Service to Mark the Opening of the Legal Year, 2016-2017

      Chief Justice of Barbados Sir Marston Gibson as he inspected the Guard of Honor in front of the Supreme Court complex soon after the Church Service to Mark the Opening of the Legal Year, 2016-2017

      Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite ( second from left ) in conversation with the Governor-General of Barbados Sir Elliott Fitzroy Belgrave, GCMG, KA, CHB, QC

      Singing during the service  is the Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite ( second from right in the front row ) the Governor-General of Barbados Sir Elliott Fitzroy Belgrave, GCMG, KA, CHB, QC ( extreme right in front row ) and in the following row the Chief Justice of Barbados Sir Marston Gibson ( extreme right in second row along with  the Justices of the Supreme Court.


        The Governor-General of Barbados Sir Elliott Fitzroy Belgrave, GCMG, KA, CHB, QC  ( at right ) is being escrted out of the Church  by The Very Rev. Dr. Jeffrey D. Gibson , Dean of The Cathedral after the Service.

      Detachment of the Royay Barbados Police Force and the Police Band in front of the Supreme Court  for the Guard Of Honor.

       Six Trumpeters of the Royal Barbados Police Force Band blowing to signal the Opening of the Legal Year, 2016-2017 inside the Supreme Court  just before its  Special sitting.

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