Pastoral Letter on our Diocesan Theme - Intentional Discipleship from Bishop Laish Boyd

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Worldwide Anglican Communion has asked every Province, Diocese and parish to set aside a Season to focus on Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-making. The Church in the Province of the West Indies has asked our eight Dioceses to set aside Ash Wednes­day, 2018, to Advent Sunday, 2019 as our Season. Thus, our Dioce­san theme for 2018 and 2019 is "Intentional Discipleship."

This is a call back to the basics, because remember that Christianity began with Jesus calling some men to be His disciples, to travel with Him and to learn from Him. Then He sent them out to make disciples and to nurture those disciples to be the persons that the heavenly Fa­ther wanted them to be. Remember also His last command in Mat­thew 28:18-19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptiz­ing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."

Intentional Discipleship is a call back to the bedrock of the New Testament Church.

As a Diocese let us heed the call of the Anglican Communion and the Province and focus on our first identity, which is being a disciple.  I ask you: Where are you in your personal relationship with Jesus? Jesus calls us: What kind of disciple are you?

Our Theme Verse is Galatians 2:20 "and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." To what extent can we say that we are following this direction in our lives?

There are two Theme Prayers to be used for the next two years at every Eucharist, one prayer in alternate months.

The Dioces e has put together a plan of action which involves the upcoming Lenten Mission (Turks and Caico s, Grand Bahama and New Providence Missions) and material for regular bible study. Posters and prayer cards will be distributed. Each Archdeaconry is being asked to plan two events a year based on the Theme.  Another feature of the plan will be the monthly Discipleship Eucha­rist, where the Liturgy of the Word at the mass will be modified into a bible discussion format.

This Theme presents us with an opportunity to grow as an individual, to grow in Christ, and to grow into maturity in Christ.  There is a saying that we have in our church culture which is true across the board: "Only what is done for Christ will last!" Let us commit to doing something for Christ in our lives during this Season. I ask you to pray for this journey in Intentional Discipleship and to participate in wholeheartedly.

May all of us experience a Holy Lent and see you at the Turks and Caicos, Grand Bahama, and New Providence Lenten Missions.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev' d. Laish Z. Boyd

BISHOP DIOCESE OF THE BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

Posted on February 23, 2018 .

"Come and see" John 1:47-51

How can we know for ourselves and help others to know with certainty that Jesus is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world? Philip, a new disciple of Jesus, at first failed to convince his friend Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah. Nathanial was very skeptical. He did not like Nazareth and did not want to have anything to do with people who came from such an out of the way place. How could the Messiah come from such a low-down town? Perhaps we are like Nathanial. We reject others or at least keep them distant from us, because they come from some place or position we do not like or find fault with. Rather than argue with his friend, Philip took the wiser strategy of inviting Nathaniel to "come and see" for himself who this Jesus claimed to be.  Clever arguments rarely win people to the gospel, but an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can transform one's life forever.

Nathaniel found in Jesus more than he could have hoped and dreamed. Jesus spoke a word to Nathaniel and it set his heart ablaze with wonder! Jesus who knows our hearts better than we do revealed to Nathaniel the innermost thoughts and desire of his heart. Nathaniel was hungry for knowledge of God. He really wanted to know God personally. God places in every heart a longing and desire to know the One who created us in love for love. That is why Augustine of Hippo, who found God only after many years of wandering in disbelief and darkness, exclaimed: "You have made us for yourself, 0 Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  What is the significance of Jesus' revelation of seeing Nathanial under the fig tree? The fig tree was a symbol of God's blessing and peace. It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool place to retreat and pray. It is very likely that Nathanial had meditated "under the fig tree" on the Messianic prophecies and prayed for their fulfillment in his time. Perhaps he dozed off for a midday nap and dreamed of God's kingdom like Jacob did when he saw a vision of the ladder which united earth with heaven.

Nathaniel accepted Jesus as Messiah and Lord because he spoke to the need of his innermost being the desire to know God personally and to be united with him in his glory. Jesus' response to Nathanial's new faith is the promise that he himself will be the "ladder which unites earth with heaven." God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God. In Jacob's dream God revealed his angelic host and showed him the throne of heaven and promised Jacob that he and descendants would dwell with the living God. Jesus proclaims to Nathanial that he himself is the fulfillment of this promise to the Patriarch Jacob. Jesus is the true ladder or stairway to heaven. In Jesus' incarnation, the divine Son of God taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union of heaven and earth, God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom. Jesus' death on the Cross and his Resurrection opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his sons and daughters. The Lord Jesus opens the way for each of us to "ascend to heaven" and to bring "heaven to earth" in the daily situation of our lives. God's kingdom is present in those who seek him and who do his will. Do you pray as Jesus taught,  “May your kingdom come and your will be done in earth as it is in heaven?”

Posted on January 14, 2018 .

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" Mark 1:7-11

Today, in the story of the baptism of Jesus, we see something highly significant about how God deals with us and how we, when we are moved by the Spirit of God, should deal with others.

Today, we see God's process of identifying with us so that he can save us. We see, as in the story of creation itself, water and the Holy Spirit, and the spoken Word of God come together and create something new. We see the ministry of Jesus begin with an act and a sign, an act of love, and a sign of God's compassion. Come with me to the River Jordan, to that place where John, clothed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist, is preaching the need for repentance and washing clean of their sins to all those who came to hear him. You and I know that Jesus did not have to be baptized. He did not have any sickness like we have. He was not a sinner like you and me. He had no cause for repentance like you and me.  He had no need to undergo the baptism of John. Yet, he was baptized. Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." John 1:32-34. The baptism of Jesus shows complete dedication to following the will of God, announcing the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry and an example to us. If Jesus is the sinless Son of God, why did he get baptized, because he certainly didn't need to! I think the key to the answer lies in the fact that He loved us so much that he chose to identify with us and lead us towards a good relationship with God.

Jesus' baptism was a foreshadow of the Cross of shame, which was to come. The Cross on which Jesus would identify with the human race, that he took the penalty of our sins on himself. I see the baptism of Jesus, as an act in which Jesus takes upon Him our burdens, an act by which he shows how complete his identification with us and an event by which he demonstrates what the saving love of God is like.

The baptism of Jesus is the act which begins his ministry, the event which commences his process of proclaiming the good news of salvation, the start of a calling, which ends in our redemption. "This is he of whom I said , 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me'. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." Jesus began his ministry among us by identifying with us, by doing as we are commanded to do, by taking upon himself the sign of repentance and righteousness that we are to take upon ourselves, and when he did so, he received  power, the power of healing and of saving, the power of the Holy Spirit, which descends upon him like a dove and he goes forth from that point to teach and to heal, to forgive and to empower. He takes upon himself the identity of every person, he takes upon himself the burdens of all, and offers himself to God in their place. The baptism of the Lord, his identity with us as lost and lonely sinners, which he took upon himself, our yoke and our burdens, and returned to us God's love and his concern. Our baptism into him, our acceptance of his healing love and our desire to be as he was, begins our ministry, a ministry in which we are called to do as he did, and identify with those who are lost and those who are crying out for wholeness and then, and only then, proclaiming the word that Jesus has given us. Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because of the Baptism of our Lord, we can say Praise be to God, our Creator and Maker, to Jesus our Lord, our Friend and our Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit, our teacher, our guide, and our comforter.

Posted on January 7, 2018 .

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" John 1:1-18

John describes Jesus as God's creative, life-giving and light­ giving word that has come to earth in human form. Jesus is the wisdom and power of God which created the world and sustains it who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God. "What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed. Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother.  From the time of the Apostles the Christian faith has insisted on the incarnation of God's Son "who has come in the flesh." Christians never cease proclaiming anew the wonder of the Incarnation.

The Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. The Son of God ...worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.    (Gaudium et Spes).

If we are going to behold the glory of God we will do it through Jesus Christ. Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of his divinity (2 Peter 1:4). God's purpose for us, even from the beginning of his creation, is that we would be fully united with Him When Jesus comes God is made known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become his sons and daughters. Do you thank the Father for sending his only begotten Son to redeem you and to share with you his glory?

Posted on January 6, 2018 .

"For with God nothing will be impossible" Luke 1: 26-38

Do you know the favor of the Lord? God pours his grace upon all who believe in him. He shows his favor to the lowly, to those who are humble and receptive to his word. We see the unfolding of God's plan of redemption in the events leading up to the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah. The new era of salvation begins with the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. This child to be born is conceived by the gracious action of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, who finds favor with God. As Eve was the mother of all humanity doomed to sin, now Mary becomes the mother of the new Adam who will father a new humanity by his grace.

This child to be conceived in her womb is the fulfillment of all God's promises. He will be "great" and "Son of the Most High" and "King" and his name shall be called "Jesus", which means "the Lord saves". "He will save his people from their sins." The promise of an everlasting kingdom to the house of David is fulfilled in the King to be born in Mary's womb. How does Mary respond to the word of God delivered by the angel Gabriel? She knows she is hearing something beyond human capability. It will surely take a miracle which surpasses all that God has done previously. Her question, "how shall this be, since I have no husband" is not prompted by doubt or skepticism, but by amazement! She is a true hearer of the Word and she immediately responds with faith and trust.

Mary's prompt response of "yes" to the divine message is a model of faith for all believers. Mary believed God's promises even when they seemed impossible. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do God's will, even if it seemed difficult or costly. Mary is the "mother of God" because God becomes incarnate when he takes on flesh in her womb. When we pray the Nicene Creed we state our confession of faith in this great mystery: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man". God gives us grace and he expects us to respond with the same willingness, obedience, and heart-felt trust as Mary did. When God commands he also gives the help, strength, and means to respond. We can either yield to his grace or resist and go our own way. Do you believe in God's promises and do you yield to his grace?

Posted on December 30, 2017 .

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord - Psalm 33:12

Today, we hear a great deal regarding change. Some say the problem with our nation is that we need a change in government. Regardless of your political affiliation,  the popularmessageis we need a change.  Now there are two things that never change. One, our Lord, God is not going to change; for He said, "I am the Lord, I change not," Mal. 3:6. Two, God'swordnever changes.  Godhas giventous His word, and we are not to add to His words, nor take away from them. If we do, we will subject ourselves to the judgment of God. Yes, we do need achange in this great land of ours. We need toreturnto the unchangeableGod and His unchangeable word.  We needto take heed to Psalm 33:12 which states: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;" and Psalm 9:17, which states: "The wicked shallbe turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." Psalm 33:12 says “Blessedis thenation whose Godis the Lord!”

Do you care aboutyour nation?  Want the best for it? Do you want to be a good citizen? No country is saved merely by the size of its police, defence force or anything else, but God's eyes are on those who fear Him and put their hope in Him. So, help your nation by doing that and you will make a difference!

  You can make a difference, and the difference begins with YOU! Withdrawing from the world was not     Jesus' approach. Despite the fact that the earliest Christians were unrecognized and even persecuted by their governments, they were out to understand and transform their society for Christ! I urge all of you to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivingsfor all who are in high positions, sothat we may lead quiet and peaceful lives in all godliness and dignity. There is a time when loving your nation means making a stand against something thatis wrong. There are things Christians ought to protest, but we start with prayer, not complaints. The secret effectiveness of prayer is massive, but we have to do it! Are we standing in the gap for the future of our nation? That's a question Christians need to ask themselves. It is probably our first and number one way of being good citizens! The problemis not just with the world out there, the problemis with the worldin here within the four walls of thechurch.

WeneedtoBEthe church! Ourlightsarenotshiningbrightly enough! The Bahamian churchis deep in its culture! We have got to ask,  whydoes the churchexist?  Whatbusiness are we in?  How are we going to make a difference? The salt has lost its saltiness! Inde­pendenceDayis adayto celebratetherichesoffreedomwehave, and to give thanks for those who have made it possible. It is a day to remember that many of us were also once strangers, and that our hope comes not from the things we have been able to do for ourselves, but from the Godwho sendsrain on the righteous andthe unrighteous.

On the 10th July 2017, our country celebrates its 44th birthday. This July 10th\ instead of just fireworks and " party in the backyard", we all need to be at the altar of God, asking for a personal revival in our own lives. We need a revival with such strength that it will sweep into our community and our nation! When the people outside the church see God working in us, that will draw them to Christ! And when people are drawn to Christ and converted , that will be when you will see change in our nation!

Posted on July 14, 2017 .

"Unless I see in his hands the prints of the nails, I will not believe" John 20:19-31

Do you know the joy of the resurrection? The Risen Jesus revealed the glory of his resurrection to his disciples gradually and over a period of time.  Even after the apostles saw the empty tomb and heard the reports of Jesus' appearance to the women, they were still weak in faith and fear­ful of being arrested by the Jewish authorities. When Jesus appeared to them he offered proofs of his resurrection by showing them the wounds of his passion, his pierced hands and side. He calmed their fears and brought them peace, the peace which reconciles sinners and makes one a friend of God.  Jesus did something which only love and trust and can do. He commissioned his weak and timid disciples to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. This sending out of the disciples is parallel to the sending out of Jesus by his Father. Jesus fulfilled his mission through his perfect love and perfect obedience to the will of his Father.  He called his disciples, and he calls us to do the same. Just as he gave his first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, so he breathes on us the same Holy Spirit who equips us with power, grace, and strength. The last disciple to meet the resurrected Lord was the first to go with him to Jerusalem at Passover time. The disciple Thomas was a natural worrywart. When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus after receiving news of his illness, Thomas said to the disciples: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage to stand with Jesus in his passion and crucifixion. After Jesus' death, Thomas made the mistake of withdrawing from the other disciples. He sought loneliness rather than fellowship in his time of difficulty. He doubted the women who saw the resurrected Jesus and he doubted his own fellow disciples. When Thomas finally had the courage to rejoin the other disci­ples, the Lord Jesus made his presence known to him and reassured him that he had indeed overcome death and risen again. When Thomas rec­ognized his Master, he believed and exclaimed that Jesus was truly Lord and truly God! Through the gift of faith we, too, proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord and our God.  He died and rose that we, too, might have new life in him. The Lord offers each of us new life in his Holy Spirit that we may know him personally and walk in this new way of life through the power of his resurrection. Do you believe in God's word and the power of the Holy Spirit?

Posted on May 13, 2017 .

"You must be born anew of the Spirit" John 3:1-17

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of a "new birth in the Spirit." The Hebrew word for "spirit" means both "wind" and "breath". Jesus says to Nicodemus: "You can hear, feel, and see the effects of the wind, but you do not know where it comes from. In like manner, you can see the effects of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those the Spirit touches." Jesus explains to Nicodemus the necessity of the crucifixion and resurrec­tion by comparison with Moses and the bronze serpent in the desert.  When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilder­ness because of their sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a.fiery ser­pent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." The bronze serpent points to the cross of Christ which defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe.  The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not onlyredeems us, but he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his glory. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit that we may have power to be his witnesses and to spread and defend the gospel by word and action, and to never be ashamed of Christ's Cross. The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God's presence that we may live God's way of life and serve in the power of his strength. Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?   My friends, the Lord Jesus Christ's death broughtlife for us, Fill us withhis Holy Spirit that we may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance.

Posted on March 15, 2017 .