In need of healing

Reconciliation: A Space Where Mercy and Forgiveness Meet_1111

The following is this past weekend’s sermon. The readings for Sunday were Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43.

I feel like I’m a week late and a dollar short.

Last week I couldn’t tackle the Charleston shootings that took place but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t in my heart and mind, trying to find a way through all the madness of humanity’s need to destroy one another, yet another time, with another gun.

I’m sure you know the events that I’m talking about.

Last week Wednesday, when a young white Lutheran man attended a weekly bible study at the Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church shot at fellow Christians killing them because they happened to be black.

Since then I’ve heard much debate and many calls for action.

Bishop Eaton of the ELCA, reflecting on their churches own connections with both the victims and the shooter, called upon members of our sister church ‘to spend a day in repentance and mourning.”[1] She went on to ask “each of us… to examine ourselves, our church and our communities”, telling us about our “need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us… need[ing] to talk and…need[ing] to listen, but…also need[ing] to act.” She concluded saying that, “no stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage.”[2]

The reality though that instead of heeding such wise advice or of even thinking that that advice is for us, those of us in Canada tend to look at what is happening in the States and think it is an American problem, thanking God that these things don’t happen here.

Yet as Macleans published in an article on racism in Canada this past week, this simply is not true.[3] It reports that “by almost every measurable indicator, the Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and lives with more hardship than the African-American population.”[4]

Problems such as drug addiction, poverty, low levels of education, lack of clean drinking water and lack of indoor plumbing are chronic problems on many reserves. This poverty and oppression facing our native Canadian friends, is based on a long history that stems from a system that was created by our very own governments to take care of the ‘Indian problem’.

To make them ‘like us’, our government forced them onto native reserves[5], required they give up their hunting and gathering lifestyle[6], forced them to carry passes[7], and insisted that their children be educated at residential schools to strip them of their language and cultural ties.[8]

From the beginning of our history together, our indigenous neighbours have had a raw deal.

Yet many respond to their plight by casting aspersion on them; questioning their abilities to take care of their own, when it’s been our very own laws and our very own systems that have created many of the problems.

Time and time again, I’ve heard negative comments from people without really knowing the truth about their reality. Many Canadians take superficial stances without really understanding the issues. As a whole, our country denies the issue because it makes it easier to focus on ourselves. So we in turn let our government off the hook and turn a blind eye to the degrading conditions that keep fellow human beings stuck in poverty.

It’s easier to see the sin in our American neighbours than to recognize our own complicity in intolerance and hatred of others. [Pause]

That’s just it. With the publication and dissemination of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report[9] mirroring to us our sin and our need of salvation, it is time to approach the hem of Jesus so that we may healed of our attitudes that put down another people. It’s time to touch the hem of Jesus so that we may enter reconciliation and right relationship may be made with our aboriginal friends.

The reality is that we are all sinners in need of salvation: not just those of our neighbours to the south who spout racist propaganda.

We are all in despair because have done things which elevate ourselves at the expense of others bringing about the others destruction.

This is what it means to hear the words, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God loves us, redeems us and makes us one with him even though we do not follow God’s ways.

Our plight as sinners didn’t stop Christ from forgiving us and wanting the best for us. Our inability to do the good that we want to do doesn’t stop us from living in the hope that we are forgiven, loved and beloved children of God.

So I’m asking myself these days, why should any perception of wrong doing on anyone’s part stop us from doing the right thing and begin healing from the bonds that have been broken with our aboriginal neighbour? Why should we continue to be caught up in a system that oppresses our native brothers and sisters because we are afraid to admit to our own complicity in the problem?

In the children’s book, God’s Dream, Bishop Desmond Tutu reminds us that “God dreams about people sharing. God dreams about people caring. God dreams that we reach out and hold one another’s hands and play one another’s games and laugh with one another’s hearts.”[10]

If we minimize or deny the problem we can never truly let God’s dream take a hold of us.

Through Christ, we see that God’s dream is for all – for church leaders like Jairus and for the ones on the outside looking in like the woman with the hemorrhages.

God’s dream shows us the ways in which we fail.

God’s dream shows us that just as he loved and forgive us in our sin and complicity, we can share that love with others who also find themselves in the same boat.

This is the good news that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It begins with me.

It begins with you.

Let me end with this adaptation of Ted Loder’s prayer poem.

Let’s pray,

God of grace, as you did with Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church members, Idle No More leaders, strengthen us to answer with brave hearts your call to help shape a world not of death and oppression but of life and hope…

God of power, strengthen us to help shape a country where our children will be free of the burdens of racism and sexism, fear and exploitation, violence and indifference, greed and pollution; where all people work with dignity, are rewarded fairly,, and respected fully; where labor, rest, play and worship are in blessed, graceful balance.

God of mercy, strengthen us to help shape a nation where diversity is a source of enrichment, compassion is common, life’s poetry realized, suffering lightened through sharing, justice attended, joy pervasive, hope lived…and together with you and with each other we build what is beautiful, true, and worthy of your generosity to us, and echo of your kingdom. [11]

Amen.

 

[1] Found at https://www.elca.org/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/out-of-sight-out-of-mind-2/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Found at http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1314977281262/1314977321448

[6] ibid

[7] Found at http://iportal.usask.ca/docs/Prairie%20Forum/The%20Indian%20Pass%20System%20%28v13no1_1988_pg25-42%29.pdf

[8] Found at http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1314977281262/1314977321448

[9] http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Exec_Summary_2015_06_25_web_o.pdf.

[10] Tutu, Archbishop Desmond and Abrams, Douglas Carlton. God’s Dream. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2008.

[11] found on p. 64 of his book, My Heart in My Mouth: Prayers for Our Lives.

Photo taken by James Emery and found at https://flic.kr/p/Ma55S.

Advertisements

With Hearts Wide Open: A sermon from confirmation Sunday

Streamers and Training Wheels

My father and I had a big disagreement when I was a child. I wanted to learn to ride a bike with training wheels and he refused to put them on the bike, thinking I would be able to learn to ride a bike without that particular crutch, just as every other member of my family before me.

So one day, my dad took me and tried to teach me how to ride a bike. I remember getting on the bike and trying to ride. Before I could even blink my eyes, I had fallen off my bike and skinned my knee. It was enough to prove to me that my dad was being unfair by not purchasing a set of training wheels.

I swore that I would never get back on a bike again unless I had a set off training wheels and I never did. In retrospect, it demonstrated the worst in me, a stubborn pride; and as a result I never got back on a bike until recently and my life was the poorer for it.

As I ponder more and more about what happened when I was a child, the more I have realized that at the bottom the whole sorry saga was that emotion that haunts every one of us; the paralyzing emotion of fear.

For me it was the fear of falling off the bike and getting hurt that kept me from experiencing the thrill of the ride, the wind in my hair and the freedom of more independence as a child.

For you, it will be some other fear that paralyzes you from living life abundantly, something that keeps you from experience that comes from living life without fear, living life with hearts wide open.

So just what fear paralyzes you?

Is it the fear of making a mistake? Is it the fear of what others think? Perhaps it’s the fear of being vulnerable?

Each of us is haunted by fear in some way. It drives us without even really understanding what is going on. We can have confidence in our heads that whatever comes our way, we can face it but that fear in our bodies keeps us acting in ways from experiencing the fullness of the life that is available for the people of faith through Christ Jesus.

Jesus has come to free us from the fear that keeps us from opening up to the possibilities. Paul talks about that freedom in his letter to the Corinthians, “we are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown and yet are well known, as dying and see-we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing everything.” [1]

Yet we still have a hard time living the truth of our faith.

We are like the disciples who accuse Jesus of not caring rather than asking him to help them out.

We have a hard time being bold in our faith because we recognize that no matter what faces us, we have the Son of God in the boat with us, in whom we can depend.

I have to say, I think we miss the point of the story because we’ve heard it so many times. So we tend to look down on the disciples in this story, thinking, doh, of course you will be ok, you have Jesus, the Son of the God in the boat with you…but the reality is that sometimes, we in the church don’t even get in the boat with Jesus in the middle of the night, going where he calls us to go because we are paralyzed with fear.

Too often we stay on the shoreline.

Too often we wonder why others don’t come to the shoreline where we’ve built a comfort zone instead of following Jesus into the wilds of the sea.

Too often we get discouraged that other’s don’t live their faith as we expect and show it through judgement instead of finding ways to support them in their life of faith wherever they find themselves in that moment in time.

We are too busy building our holy buildings; polishing our holy artefacts; making and keeping our rules of conduct. We worry too much about where the pastor’s chair sits or whether we kneel or stand properly that we forget the thing that matters, that of following Christ.

The irony is palpable and we don’t even see it.

We think people should come back to shoreline to find out the joy that is found in the One who gives us freedom when we don’t even have the confidence in Christ to face the world where Christ actually lives. We are so busy with keeping control of the artefacts of faith life that we ignore Jesus call to a full and abundant faith life by following him into the stormy seas of living our faith in the world.

Today in our parish, we are celebrating the affirmation of baptism where one of our own is committing herself to the promises that were made in baptism.

The promises aren’t easy.

We who gather here have all made them.

We have said yes “to living among God’s faithful people, to hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s supper, to proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and to striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”[2]

And too often when others in her place have said yes to those promises of faith, they have been ridiculed for not coming back to the shoreline instead of being given the support they need to follow Christ into the world.

And I think we do it because we fear.

Last summer, with the incredible love and support of my family, we purchased a set of adult stability wheels, aka, adult training wheels, for me to be able to ride a bike.

The first time I got on the bike I was scared. It moved me beyond my comfort zone for several reasons. Making sure I rode that bike at 5:00 am in the morning, I made my way through the streets surrounding my home and as I got better at it, the sheer exhilaration from the wind in my hair and the reality of being able to ride a bike made me feel alive in a way that I had missed up until that point.

We do not need to fear. The resurrection of Christ means even torture and death can no longer have its way with us.

We do not need to fear and stay on the shoreline because Jesus Christ goes with us as we sail the wild seas of sharing the love of God in the world.

We do not need to fear because even the winds and the sea listen to the voice of Jesus.

Stop. Listen. Hear the voice of Jesus speak to the things that threaten to overwhelm us we follow him into the storm. And you will hear a calm voice say, Peace, be still!

Thanks be to God.

[1] 2 Corinthians 7b-10.

[2] Affirmation of Baptism Service, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pp. 234 ff.

Photograph taken from Flickr’s Creative Commons found at https://flic.kr/p/9ZE4Ur.