Not sure if anyone was thrown through a loop for how late this is posted, but I was having some technical difficulties that are now sorted out. So hopefully if you’re used to using our blog for worship, things will be working for you. Anyway, this is our worship service for July 4, 2021, the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.
The bulletin can be found here. The bulletin will have the full order of worship, all the words of the liturgy, the page and hymn numbers for the music corresponding with the ELW hymnal, and the whole sermon. Also, the words that you need to know will be on your screen.
If you would like an enhanced at-home worship experience, you may have a bowl of water for the Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink for communion, and a lit candle for the whole service that can be extinguished during the sending hymn. This is optional, and meant only to help you in your worship. Please do what is most comfortable for you.
May God’s blessing be upon you this day and bring you to new heights of community and relationship!
Sermon for Pentecost 6 | July 4, 2021
Holy God, soften our hearts in our stubbornness, open our eyes in our blindness, and humble our very selves in our stubbornness to receive your Word for us this day, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As some of you know, when I was in seminary, some classmates and I were able to travel to Peru for a cross cultural experience that was part of our curriculum. At this point in my life, I hadn’t travelled much at all, in fact just going to Saskatoon for seminary was like a cross cultural experience for me. So in Peru, I was in total tourist mode, taking pictures of everything, buying dumb little souvenirs at every shop, and eating the local cuisine with such vigor as though it were my last meal. It’s kind of embarrassing now that I think about it.
But one of my classmates was a much more experienced traveller and she gave me a nickel’s worth of free advice. She said that we all should have Canadian flags visible on our person as while it’s obvious that we’re not from around there, we would at least be seen as coming from a country that has a reputation of being “nice,” which might help with our dealings with others. And so we did. I bought this Canadian flag luggage tag thing and stuck in on my backpack. I don’t know if it worked or not, but none of us were mugged and I was only offered to buy some weed like once. And even then, the guy kept saying that he had the good stuff and I was like, “dude, I’m from BC” while I flashed him the Canadian flag on my bag and he totally backed off in an almost sheepish and apologetic way. I guess Canada, particularly BC, has a reputation of being more than just “nice.”
So that is the funny thing about reputations, they can change how you see others or how you’re seen by others. It may determine how you treat and how you’re treated. It perhaps informs us of the acceptance levels both for yourself and of others.
This is what we see in today’s gospel lesson, where Jesus goes back to his hometown where the reputation that he garnered growing up never changed in the eyes of those still living there. The reaction to this reputation in fact was so strong that the text tells us that he was powerless to do any good.
This is Jesus, the guy that in just the preceding chapters of this gospel that we had read in the past few weeks, calmed the storm, healed the hemorrhaging woman, resurrected the daughter of a synagogue leader, and taught a wisdom hitherto undreamt of, and he was made to be powerless.
The people knew of all these deeds of power too, they were even talking about it but they were also reminded that this was just Jesus, you know, young Jesus from around the block, the kid whose dad used to build our tables and chairs, whose mom gave birth to him awfully soon after she was married, and whose siblings he just denied publically because they wanted to bring him home. That was his reputation. One that drained the power from the most powerful, one that took the wisdom out of his wise words, one that removed the grace and love from Jesus’ gracious acts of unending love.
It’s remarkable how a reputation could make or break us.
It’s remarkable how a reputation could change our belief or view of others.
It’s remarkable how a reputation could be more important than the actual person.
And, unfortunately, this is how our world is shaped. This is how we judge people, by what we hear of them over our actual experience with them. This is how we attribute value and worth, by looking at what was rather than what could be. This isn’t always a bad thing, mind you. It isn’t always a bad thing to be prepared a bit for what someone might be like. I mean, it did give me a funny story to tell about my experience in Peru, at least.
But the problem is when that reputation is all that you see, good or bad. The problem is when the judgements that were made from that reputation become final and nothing can change it. No kind of recourse, rehabilitation, or reconciliation seem to matter as that person is that person to you always.
I’m not saying that we should erase everything we know of others all the time, or not think that our past has any repercussions. I’m just saying that this kind of prejudice is where racism comes from. And we can’t deny that racism is alive and well in this country and around the world.
I know, I know, “sigh, racism again.” But as a racialized person it’s hard for me to not think about it. It’s hard for me not to wrestle with my own mixed up roots of having been born in Canada but not really looking “Canadian” as I’ve been told multiple times. And seeing how it was Canada Day just this past week, just after so many unmarked graves of young Indigenous people who were victims of the residential school system were found, I start to wonder if I would have the same pride and honour in displaying my Canadian heritage to the world. While I haven’t spoken to anyone abroad about this, I am curious as to how Canadian reputation might change in light of all this. And you might think, well, that’s not fair if it does. What happened back then doesn’t really reflect on who we are now, why should we be blamed and held accountable for what they did?
Well, we shouldn’t. But we should be blamed and held accountable for what we continue to do, or not do, now.
Perhaps it’s summed up best by something I saw on Facebook. I saved it because I liked it so much, which I’m glad I did, because now I can just show it to you:
So that’s what I see in Canada. Our shady history is finally coming to light after being so watered down for so long, and it’s time for us now to change the racist systems of the past to ensure that our future can be welcoming and equitable for all.
But we know it won’t be easy to change this reputation this country might have on the world stage. It won’t be easy for us to change the reputation we’ve had of our Indigenous siblings and others that might not “look Canadian enough” for so long because of our western education books and upbringing, at least that ones that I’ve had growing up. It won’t be easy for us to wipe clean that slate and see the value and worth that all people have, not because of their past or reputation, but because of who they are now as God’s beloved people, just as we are God’s beloved people, living together and trying to navigate life, community, and the contribution that we all make to the greater good.
See just as the disciples were called to continue the work of Jesus as he was found to be unable to do much because of the unfair reputation people had of him, so are we called to carry on the work of Jesus in our world. This world that hasn’t held Jesus in a very good light for various reasons, this world that has such a history of violence and segregation, this world that continues to be full of potential because it is a world that God so dearly loves. My friends, this is what we are called to do, and the work is not to condemn because of past mistakes, but to graciously love into reconciliation, restoration, and God’s salvation all people of all walks, revealing and reminding us all of our value and worth instilled in us by God.
So as we continue in this season after Pentecost in our journey towards truth and reconciliation, may we hold up our human brothers and sisters above all false segregations, sinfully created systems designed to oppress, and whatever reputation may precede them, that we might be able to learn to love, respect, and honour each other in the name of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.