Sermon – May 18th 2014
By Roland Legge
Easter Five (Year A)
Jesus sure has high expectations of us! What would you have said to Jesus when he told his disciples that God was going to do even greater things through them than what he had done? If I had been there I would have said to Jesus he doesn’t know what he is talking about. How could he expect us to outdo him? But Jesus won’t hear of our excuses. He won’t hear of our excuses because it is God who is going to work through us. This endeavour does not rely on our imperfect humanness but on our willingness to allow God to work through us.
A few years ago I attended the United Church’s national inter-cultural ministry conference in Vancouver. Inter-cultural ministry is all about allowing God to work through us in helping to build loving, just, and respectful relationships between the great diversity of cultures in our world. In our own context the majority of people fit into four main cultures. They are Anglophone (Anglo-Saxon), Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis. How can we be a blessing to each other?
How do we learn to get along better with each other? This is one of the great tasks that God has given us. We must each struggle to know how God desires for us to live with justice and harmony with all people in our communities. Our congregation must discern how we can welcome all people in our community, no matter who they are and where they came from. This call to mutuality in community is what John, the author of this Gospel, was reminding his followers that it was Jesus who called us all to this ministry in the first place.
Today I am going to share some of my experiences from a workshop called “Building Bridges – Understanding the Village”, that I took at the gathering. The workshop helped me to better understand how my aboriginal brothers and sisters have been affected by the European settlement of North America. It also helped me to know how I can best be part of healing the divisions not only between aboriginal and white people, but between all people in the world.
Our facilitators Cathy and Alberta led us through a process of education through storytelling and role playing. First they emphasized this is not about shaming white people. But it is about learning to “row” together as aboriginal and white people. In order for this to happen we must first get to know each other through hearing our stories.
Cathy and Alberta shared some of the story of their own people. They were representing the many nations of aboriginal people on the coast of British Columbia. They reminded us they have been in relationship with the land for a long time. Archaeologists believe that there have been settlements of people around Burrard inlet for 10,000 years.
They talked of the importance of knowing who you are. Before European contact, each people knew who they were through the food they ate, their homes, and their clothes, system of governance and language and dialect. Each of these different aspects of their culture helped each tribe to know who they were in relation to the many other nations on the west coast of B.C. They were proud peoples who were not ashamed of being who they were.
We were reminded that we all have come from our own indigenous lands. For me that is Scotland and Ireland. My heart lights up whenever I hear Celtic music. If we go back far back each of us comes from rural communities that had many of the same attributes a first nation’s village had before the Europeans came. Where is your indigenous land?
Cathy and Alberta invited us to role play living in a west coast first nation’s village pre European colonization. I invite you to join me in this role play in which each of us were invited to take on the roles of people who made their community function including children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, elders and hunter protectors.
I volunteered to be one of the children. I felt secure in the circle with all my community keeping me safe so I could explore and play as much as I wanted. I felt the warmth of my parents, grandparents, elders, aunts, uncles and the hunter protectors. I felt like I was living in a womb of love. I was so happy because I had everything I needed. But then the Europeans came and forcefully removed me with my brothers, sisters, cousins and friends out of the community. I was forcefully led from the circle outside the room to attend a residential school far from where I had grown up. I felt sad, frightened, and angry. I missed my family and all that I was used to in my community. It seemed like I could no longer do anything that was right because I was told that I was a heathen. I wasn’t allowed to speak my own language. I wasn’t allowed to play the games I had grown up with. I was forced to eat strange food. I became very depressed because I felt like a stranger in a foreign land where I was not welcome. I no longer had the comfort of the familiar sights and smells of my own community. It sometimes felt that life was no longer worth living.
Then my people began the long healing process. It wasn’t easy. One day, members of my tribe tried to bring me back to the community. I was hesitant about returning because I was unsure of what would happen when I returned. But with perseverance my people brought me back into the circle. It felt good in the end, but the journey toward healing is going to take a long time because of how we had been treated as less than human. For the first time I felt some hope. The role play came to an end and all shared how it felt to be in our different roles.
Why do we need to hear the story? We need to hear the story so we can better understand our aboriginal brothers and sisters. We need to do this so we can work hand in hand with our aboriginal brothers and sisters to heal the world. I believe this is the only way to begin to break down the walls between us.
Instead of getting stuck in shame we need to move ahead to heal the world with all people no matter how different they may seem to us. Cathy and Alberta said if we all can abide by these four laws found in many aboriginal cultures there is a way out of our mess. The four laws are these:
Imagine if we all keep these laws as the lenses we view the world, our world will become a more a gentle, loving and just place to be.
Each of us will continue to make a difference. We will do this by finding belonging in our different communities. We will find this by being our own persons. We will do this by mastering our gifts which we can share with the world. Lastly, but not least, we can make a difference in generously sharing all of who we are with all the people of the world.
We not only must do this individually but as a faith community. Hence, I hope we at Foam Lake United Church will continue to create opportunities for each of us to get to know each other through hearing each of our ordinary amazing stories. I hope we will continue to do this through generously sharing our gifts with our family, church, community and world. I hope we will do this by us seeking out the stories of folks from different cultures such as our Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis brother and sisters.
I came back from Behold full of new energy, joy and hope. I pray that you too can experience the joy that comes from breaking down the walls of racism and prejudice; the walls that hold us back from bringing forth the New Jerusalem that Christ promised is both here and yet to come.