June 6: Communion, Union and Pride Sunday

Readings from Scripture (CEB)  Mark 3:38-35

28 I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. 29 But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” 30 He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”

31 His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. 32 A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

COMMUNION, UNION AND PRIDE

In last week’s sermon, I shared my personal struggles after the discovery of the 215 remains of children at a Kamloops residential school came to light.  As I spent the week listening to others, it seems Canada-wide we felt the words that were commented our website:

We weep for the 215 children, we weep for their families.
Where was God for them? Where was his love, his compassion?

And almost an answer, in my reading this week I came across this quote from James Finley –

If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love. (James Finley)

Protected from nothing…sustained in all things…if that doesn’t describe the last week, or the last year of pandemic, or the last few thousand years, I don’t know what does.  Faith is not always the “armour of God” that Paul described as much as it’s that which sustains us to vulnerably open our hearts again and again to be wounded by the sins of the past (and present).  But when Jesus says “I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind” I’m not sure I can understand that.  Divine love, grace, and forgiveness for those who hid those children in the ground?  Or the governments[1] and churches that participated[2] in that program which didn’t officially end until the late 90s? 

So then – I went back to reading – I tried to listen (which we’ll do more of this for our service for June 20th).  While it is impossible to use blanket statements to describe a diversity of people – a shared teaching between First Nations, Inuit and Metis[3] is the interconnectedness of all things.  In some First Nations this is encapsulated by the phrase “All my relations” which appears in Mohawk on our United Church crest. 

This mindset reflects people who are aware that everything in the universe is connected. It also reinforces that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in the grand scheme of life.

First Nations relationships fully embrace the notion that people and their families are strongly connected to the communities they live in, their ancestors and future descendants, the land they live on, and all of the plant, animal and other creatures that live upon it… The philosophy and practice of “All My Relations” can teach people a lot about relating to others and to themselves. When we take the time to really ‘be’ with someone we utilize our inner knowing to sense deep levels within the person. Listening attentively and respectfully to what others say, allows us to ‘know’ them better with much more than our rationale minds. This helps us to engage with others in holistic and meaningful ways that support health and well-being. By going further and regarding them as someone who is genuinely connected to us, we go even deeper to feel the inner essence of the person. It is this deep connection that serves as the foundation of relationship with our world, supported by interconnected knowing.

Doesn’t that sound like today’s scripture?

A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”  33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”

Connected by faithful actions, “following God’s will” unites our hearts. 

Even Paul seems to understand the notion that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in the grand scheme of life as he preached in 1st Corinthians 12, but again the church wasn’t listening.  If only we listened to these teachings, or the teachings of Jesus, over the 96 years of this United Church of ours you and I might not need to spend so much time healing the past.  For whether we’re talking about Pride, and the mistreatment of LGBTQ2+ people, or Indigenous people, or all that the church determined to be “not their relation,” we certainly heard these words of Jesus loud and clear from Luke 14:26:

Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple.

Hate those connections.  Honour those connections.  Sometimes scripture is a confusing mess. 

Reading more than this never-repeated[4] scripture from Luke, hatred[5] isn’t Jesus’ way.   While I can pull out that single scripture, there’s far more that talk about the divine love, grace, and forgiveness we are to offer one another, even when it challenges us.  For while righteous anger and hatred might feel like the right response,we cannot save those children lost in Kamloops – we can ensure they are given a proper burial, we can listen to the voices that insist there are more hidden gravesites, but short of that, it’s how we discern God’s will today that ensures that injustices like that do not happen again. 

For listening for God’s love and compassion, we hear this from Ojibwe author, Richard Wagamese

Me: You always repeat things three times.
Old Woman:  Just the important things.
Me:  Why?  I hear you the first time.
Old Woman: No.  You listen the first time. 
You hear the second time.  And you feel the third time.

Me:  I don’t get it.
Old Woman: When you listen, you become aware.  That’s for your head.  When you hear, you awaken.  That’s for your heart.  When you feel, it becomes a part of you.  That’s for your spirit.  Three times. It’s so you learn to listen with your whole being.  That’s how you learn.

God’s love and compassion was once something for just our heads.  We intellectualized it and rationalized ways that ended up hurting others.  In recent history, we started to hear God, in the connections of all our relations, in the truths that transcended faiths and cultures, and this began to awaken us to the reality that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in the grand scheme of life.  And if anything good were to come out of this past week, it is that we started to feel – to listen with our whole being, that we might learn.  For learning helps us understand that no child (or brother, sister, mother or any relation in between) should suffer with improper housing, inadequate water.  For learning helps us understand how far we still need to go.  For listening to God’s will enables us to live into the words of Jesus that sees us all as relations.    Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren [aw gway– nyah day day waw– nay renh] [6]

So then, what is the will of God that Jesus speaks about that we might all be relations?  For me, I cannot help but listen to the words of Micah 6… may we hear them and their challenge…and may we have the courage to feel them enough in our whole being, that we cannot help but live them out.  For here is

what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, to embrace faithful love,
and to walk humbly with your God.


[1] https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/trudeau-spent-nearly-100m-fighting-first-nations-in-court-during-first-years-in-power/

[2] https://globalnews.ca/news/7907424/trc-mass-graves-residential-school-federal-funding/?fbclid=IwAR3P9LouNBm4yHlRqs6T213SjhSSvOD0Vcs5qXIe0ZET5lD-_Im7CnnIFY8

[3] https://firstnationspedagogy.ca/interconnect.html

[4] It’s only found again in the Gospel of Thomas

[5] https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=CEB&quicksearch=hate&begin=47&end=73

[6] https://www.united-in-learning.com/images/2021/All_My_Relations.pdf

One Comment

  1. Thank you Rev Chris,
    A very fine and thought provoking service, to-day.
    Bless you…
    The Choral scholars were outstanding to-day.
    Well done.!
    Much appreciated.

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