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.” 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.”
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. 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.”
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, required they give up their hunting and gathering lifestyle, forced them to carry passes, and insisted that their children be educated at residential schools to strip them of their language and cultural ties.
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 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.”
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.
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. 
 Tutu, Archbishop Desmond and Abrams, Douglas Carlton. God’s Dream. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2008.
Photo taken by James Emery and found at https://flic.kr/p/Ma55S.