Welcome to worship on this 19th Sunday after Pentecost, October 3, 2021! We will be observing our National Day of Truth and Reconciliation for this service, so if you have an orange shirt, you are encouraged to wear it.
The bulletin for this service can be found here. Please note that the order of service is a bit different again this week, so the bulletin might be helpful for you to follow along. The words of the hymns and readings will be on your screen and the sermon is also posted below the video.
We won’t have a dedicated Thanksgiving for Baptism again this week, so you won’t need a bowl of water (unless you want one there anyway), but we will still have communion and so you can have something small to eat and drink prepared for that. And instead of a single candle for the whole service, you can light 15 if you have them. One for every 10,000 residential school students in our history.
May God’s peace reign in your hearts and lives, this day and always!
O Lord, you have spoken to us long ago through your prophets and you continue to speak to us directly. May we hear your truth this day, that by the power of your Spirit we might know the full reconciliation of your love and grace, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
As I’m sure you’ve very well noticed by now, today’s service was designed very much with our National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in mind, also known as Orange Shirt Day. And I know that in general, I usually don’t design or change our worship services around national holidays, aside from some obvious exceptions like Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving to a certain extent. Like what I mean is we don’t have a Labour Day Sunday or sing hymns around Family Day or anything like that.
But this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a bit different. Actually, it’s a lot different. And it’s something that needs to be addressed and talked about.
And it isn’t exactly comfortable.
I mean I was trying to talk to my kids about the Residential School system and the horrors that came from it earlier this week. They’ve learned about it in school, of course, which is more than I can say for the generations before them. But just talking to them about it resulted in one giving out this frustrated groan and another just sitting there crying at the thought. And honestly, I think that reflects how many of us feel when faced with this topic, in that the whole situation is incredibly sad and perhaps on the guilt inducing side, so we might get frustrated just hearing about it.
I mean, it wasn’t us. It wasn’t our denomination. We had nothing to do with it and besides, it’s pretty much ancient history now, right? There isn’t much we can do about the past, so is there really any need to dwell on it now and cause our kids to groan and cry?
Truth be told, I might have had that attitude around it all like 10 years ago when I first really learned about residential schools. I already knew that the system was broken, but I thought that all that can be done for the Indigenous community had and continues to be done. I didn’t really get the nuances of the relationship and the reluctance around reconciliation. I didn’t want to dig deeper into the difficulties around how the whole situation could ever be rectified. I wanted to just conveniently brush it under the carpet and hope it just blows itself over, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
But it didn’t, of course, and I’m actually glad it didn’t. Because for any kind of reconciliation, any real reconciliation, there needs to be a deep hard look at the wrong. There needs to be an admission of guilt. There needs to be a realisation that something even needs to be reconciled in the first place.
And if you bear with me, this does relate to the gospel lesson that we read for today, which of course, is about divorce. Yikes, another sticky subject that we don’t like to talk about. However, that isn’t exactly the connection here that I’m talking about. Rather, the reason why divorce is such a sticky subject is because divorce cuts so deep into a person’s life that the trauma of that could last generations. We all know divorcees and on the surface they might seem fine now, but it’s a well-known fact that the divorce rate in North America is super high, and that number is even greater among those whose parents are divorced. That trauma is inadvertently passed down to the generations and affects the views and outlooks on relationships, unless that trauma is properly dealt with. So while divorce happens and at times I do believe it needs to happen, it is something that should not be taken as lightly as it is in our society, and its real trauma perhaps not as glossed over and written off. This isn’t to say that all divorcees just jumped into divorce without thinking, but I am saying that more consideration in general needs to be put into us as people. I mean when it comes to relationships and community, we need to think more about the individuals that make up that relationship and community. When we try to even contemplate any kind of reconciliation, we must not forget our humanness. Not just our own, mind you, I don’t know if that would ever be in question deep down, but rather the humanness of those across from us, those who are calling us out for the atrocities of the past, those with whom we enter into these relationships that end tragically, and in fact, all people whom we encounter.
Because forgetting the humanity of the other is the easiest thing to do when we want to ease our own pain and hurt around these things. We effectively dehumanize them. It is a tool that is used to justify our actions, to alleviate our guilt, to ease our own conscience. It is easier to harm an object than a person. It is easier to feel no remorse for breaking a thing than a child. It is easier to attempt genocide when those who are being killed aren’t even human but just a sequential number arbitrarily assigned to them.
And that is where Jesus’ teaching for us today comes in. Back in those days it was really easy for the men to dehumanize the other “non-men”. So all women were but tools for a man’s convenience, and all children were but inconveniences. It was easy for men to divorce women for whatever reason his hardened heart could think of and dismiss any children that still needed a bit of growing up to do. Life was tough if you weren’t born a fully grown man of the appropriate ethnicity. It sounds almost like our current times, doesn’t it?
But Jesus goes and lifts up the humanity of the women and children. He points out to the men their folly of hardened hearts. He reconciles that relationship by reminding us all that God welcomes each and every one of us as God’s own beloved.
I know I remind you all of this pretty much every week. But how quickly we forget it. Again, we don’t often forget it for ourselves, no, we know we’re God’s chosen people. But we forget how the other is also equally welcomed and loved.
The other such as those who don’t fall into our same demographic. The other such as the marginalized and outcast of our society. The other such as those whom we don’t agree with or don’t agree with us. The other such as the Indigenous victims of the Residential School system that we held in our thoughts and prayers this past Thursday, the Indigenous people and lands that we honour today in this service, the countless Indigenous women who go missing under the radar every year, and the Indigenous children that we just can no longer push aside and label them as inconveniences.
Jesus invites us all into that reconciliation of Spirit and our recognition of the humanness of us and each other, lifting and honouring all people not just in spite of our differences but because of them, and drawing a bond between us all that is fuelled with the richness of God’s blessing and abundance of God’s love.
And that is why we need to talk about this. That is why that as uncomfortable the conversation might be, we still need to be reminded of our past. That is why we wear this orange to be reminded that all children do indeed matter.
Mind you, I didn’t say only children matter. Nor did I say others don’t matter. But we need to be reminded that just as God loves us, so God loves the little ones, the marginalized, and the other that we so often and so easily brush aside.
So in our journey toward truth and reconciliation, let us not forget the humanity of the other. Let us not forget the love that God has for them and us. Let us not forget that we are all together welcomed to be the one body of Christ in the world, full of grace and forgiveness, looking for ways to best serve and love. For we are all collectively God’s beloved, and because of that, we can learn to love and respect each other, not expecting special treatment over others because of our ancestry or skin tone, but moving towards a life of peace with our fellow humans and all living creatures.
May we, the bearers of this gospel, actually bear the gospel and proclaim it to all whom we encounter through our words, actions, and humanity. Thanks be to God. Amen.