Worship Service for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost (Orange Shirt Day)

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship! For this service we will be integrating the themes of the 17th Sunday after Pentecost with the themes of our National Truth and Reconciliation Day. You are welcome to wear and orange shirt for this service, or simply come as you are and hear and see the Spirit in our midst.

The bulletin can be found here. It will have the order and words of worship, as well as the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW hymnal. You may follow along with the service in the bulletin and a hymn book, or with the words on your screen. The sermon has been added to below the service video (the sound isn’t the greatest in the video itself).

For an even more enhanced worship experience, you may have a candle lit for the service and extinguished with the altar candles after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion with something small to eat and drink. Further instructions on when to partake will be given during the service.

May you all be present in the richness of God’s love and grace, now and always!

Holy God, through the light of Christ you bring the gospel into our lives as grace revealed.  Help us in our reconciliation with you and each other and lift us up to reflect this grace to all generations, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So I am super tired.   During our trip to Kamloops for Truth and Reconciliation day, I kept thinking that I never should have agreed to drive this bus.  I didn’t know how tiring it would be to drive a vehicle I’ve never driven before to a place I’ve never been to before with 17 other people in tow.  And I most certainly shouldn’t have agreed to lead the opening campfire/devotion that night, which happened like 30 minutes after we arrived. 

It was a really tiring day.

However, it got better after my direct responsibilities eased up and I got used to driving the bus.  All in all, it was a good trip.  Great, even.  Of course, I enjoyed getting to know the youth that were there and I enjoyed seeing my kids making new friends with other church kids.  But what really made the trip was our visit to the site of the former residential school where the 215 were found.  Not that it was fun, mind you, but it was really sobering in many ways.  We were able to hear some of the survivor stories, reflect on how we sometimes regard and maybe even make assumptions about other humans, and really put our privilege into perspective.

And I’m going to be honest with you, I was actually pretty anxious about this trip.  Not just because it’s scary to have to drive a bus full of kids for multiple hours, but I was scared of visiting the residential school.  I know that was the whole point of the trip and it is an important thing for us to do and a great learning opportunity, but I was still scared.  I was scared of what I would learn, what I would feel, and perhaps most importantly, how guilty I would be for not having done enough, not doing more, not being the Christian I should be.  I was afraid to feel guilty for sins that I didn’t commit, guilty for being born on stolen lands, guilty for being part of a system that I didn’t create but benefit from in many ways that I don’t often recognise.  And maybe you know what I mean, but I don’t like to feel guilty.  At the slightest hint of guilt, I might shy away, put up a wall of defence, and maybe try to turn the tables and point the finger on others, just to protect myself from being blamed. 

I think deep down, that is the problem that I had when they first announced that there will be an Orange Shirt day.  I initially saw it more as this national guilt trip day rather than National Truth and Reconciliation, in which we collectively are made to feel bad for things out of our control.  Maybe you felt the same or something similar.  Like, I know the residential school system was horrible and fuelled by racism, but it wasn’t my racism and poor judgement that set it up.  It wasn’t even my generation that could have done anything about it.  It wasn’t my fault.  So stop making me feel bad about it, and stop getting me to fix it.  I want to protect myself from the guilt and shame.

You know who else had what probably felt like a guilt trip?  The disciples.  In a passage that we don’t get today but actually happens chronologically immediately before the today’s text, Jesus explaining how difficult life of relationship is, with the forgiving, the repenting, and the possible millstone hung around one’s neck for not getting it right.  It was almost this passive-aggressive rebuke warning them of the dangers of getting this disciple life wrong.

So what do the disciples do right after this blow after blow in quick succession of rebukes and calling out and guilt?  “Increase our faith” the disciples say to Jesus.  That is what they thought would help and protect them.  That is what they thought would allow them to get it right.  That is what they thought would alleviate their guilt.  And what Jesus says next seems to support notion.  Jesus says if you have faith even the size of a mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds we know about, we can uproot trees and move mountains.  We’d have the power of the universe at our fingertips.  We’d finally be able to change the world and create lasting effect for generations.  We wouldn’t have to feel anything we didn’t want to, because our faith would protect us.

Wouldn’t that be nice?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of power?  Wouldn’t it be nice to finally be in control of things, because if God can increase our faith at our beck and call, what else can we get?  Nothing could stand in our way.

Essentially, the disciples’ request (that sounded a bit more like a demand, by the way) to have their faith increased had effectively made faith about them, and not about God.  The narrative in their minds changed for their own benefit and paradigm.  They thought what they thought and so they felt what they felt.

And Jesus reminded them of their place.  He wonders aloud who would treat a slave or servant or employee as an equal rather than a slave or servant or employee.  He says that any one of them would most definitely treat their inferiors as exactly that, their inferiors, so why should they expect God to do any different?

On the surface that sounds like quite the humbling blow, and I guess it really is.  I think Jesus is equating that request to have faith increased as a request to be like God, to have God’s power, God’s wisdom, God’s knowledge of good and evil.  And he reminds the disciples and us that we are not God, we never have been God, and we never will be God.  God has no reason to ever see us or treat us as equals, for the very simple fact that we aren’t.

But the truth is, God doesn’t regard us as just servants although that is what we are.  God doesn’t treat us as slaves even when maybe that is how we should be treated.  God doesn’t guilt us for our sin, as much as we might deserve it.

Rather, God regards us as beloved children.  God treats us as guests at the banqueting table.  God grants to us the grace and mercy that forgives all transgressions and wipes away all guilt and shame.  See God isn’t about pointing fingers and making us feel bad, rather God is interested in relationship and… reconciliation.

Not that God needs to reconcile with us, but God gives us the ability to reconcile, the tools for relationship, the gift of faith.  This faith that God grants to us all isn’t the power to send trees projecting out of the ground and into the ocean, but it is the faith that Christ has in God’s justice and in the power of love and grace and relationship.  It is the faith that reveals to us God’s presence with us all, redeeming us with love and paving the way to forgiveness, peace, and community.

At the site of the formal residential school, we joined a fairly large group to listen to the voices that spoke that day.  And we didn’t hear what I expected to hear.  I didn’t feel what I thought I would feel.  I wasn’t guilted or treated in the way that I probably could have.  I mean yes, we heard sadness, brokenness, and pain.  But we didn’t hear anger.  We didn’t hear blame.  We didn’t hear anything trying to make us feel guilty at all.  All we heard was grace.

This was seen in how they treated us.  How they treated each other.  How they didn’t react negatively when people were being disrespectful by taking pictures and running and playing on one of the fields that they shouldn’t be running or playing on.  I saw patience, humility, and so so so much grace. 

See the survivors aren’t angry like we might think.  They aren’t out for vengeance to hurt those who hurt them.  They aren’t even playing the victim as they said doing so allows their abusers to win.  But what I gathered from being there that day, is that they just want to be heard.  They want their stories to be told.  They want the truth out there, acknowledged, recognized, and believed.  They are seeking reconciliation and relationship.

And so it wasn’t guilt that they were after, but recognition.  They don’t want to hurt back, but they just want to heal by being able to tell their stories and be heard.  They don’t want to teach their abusers a lesson by pointing fingers and laying blame, but they want to reconcile.  Reconcile intentionally.  Reconcile lovingly.  Reconcile by God’s grace given to us all, moving us to live with all people in community and right relationship.

On this Truth and Reconciliation Orange Shirt Sunday, may we see the truth in the stories of our Indigenous siblings, and learn to reconcile and be reconciled with, that we might collectively heal and live in the faith and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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