Today is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrating the original inhabitants of this land of Canada, whose presence here goes back for many 1000s of years. It’s also when we acknowledge the pain and suffering they have faced as a result of their unjust and racist oppression at the hand of privileged settlers. As the Church, instead of always acting with the inclusive and empowering love of the Gospel, we confess and repent of our own complicity in that – both in the past as well as the present – with our prayer and commitment towards healing, and hope, and reconciliation in the future. Dear God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
It’s also Fathers’ day, when we honor all the Fathers and Father-figures in our lives. One of the most famous fathers in scripture is Joseph, the husband of Mary, and the father of Jesus’ youth. We don’t know too much about him, but I wonder to what extent it was as a result of Joseph’s influence that Jesus was so easily able to call God the very familiar Abba – his daddy?
And so, Dear God, we pray for your steady, healing, comforting, Abba-like presence in all our lives. We pray especially for those who have suffered because of circumstances and attitudes of others beyond their control. We hold up Canada’s Indigenous people O God, and we pray for all of us: giving thanks for the best of our father-influences, and asking for healing and forgiveness when they – and we – get that so wrong. We pray, deeply grateful for your healing presence of life and love which abides with us today and always, in Jesus’ Name, Amen
Will Willimon points out how: When we sign on with Jesus Christ and his mission, something is gained, but something is lost as well. To embrace Christ – to live in Christ – is to die to many of our old habits and infatuations. That’s something of what Paul means when he writes of how “You also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.”
Being a Christ follower is about so much more than simply buying into a particular philosophy or belief system; it’s about our embracing of – or perhaps better, our being embraced by – a whole new way of seeing, being, living. It’s about our acknowledging a whole new reality – a much more real reality than what is always immediately obvious, and then our living into THAT reality. As Mark Malek said, our faith, according to Paul, is not so much about “a philosophical point of view, something for us either to accept or reject …as a reality that now lives in us, with the potential to live through us!
Remember HG Wells’ Country of the Blind which tells of a sighted person’s arrival into a country where no-one has eyes, and his attempts to make them appreciate a reality that is so much greater than the very limited grey and wooden thing they’d created for themselves ina survive in darkness: ‘There’s Sky… Colour… Light…’ Of course they didn’t appreciate having their reality challenged and so tried to ‘fix’ him by make him like them – removing his eyes [i].
WE are so often those people who learn to survive in the darkness we create, with CHRIST as the one who saves by exposing his most real reality – infinitely truer and more beautiful than whatever we could ever create for ourselves in order simply to survive!
That’s the ‘ABUNDANCE’ that Jesus speaks of in Jn.10:10! ‘The thief comes only to steal and destroy (your life), but I have come that you may (discover how you) have life in all its abundance!’ But for some reason we seem to want to stick with the dark opacity that we know!
We are all, always, serving something, following some or other guidance or leading: and that something is either feeding us or killing us! Remember how Bob Dylan sang it back in the late 1970s, how everybody’s gonna have to serve somebody… I can’t imagine a much more tragic circumstance than when we allow the worst of ourselves to lead us in serving something (or someone) that we would NEVER in our best selves want to have that kind of control of our lives – that is like choosing to live a dark and limited reality – so much less than what God intends!
Is what I am currently serving true, & spacious and life-giving or is it an illusion: false, small & limiting? We so easily allow how we see ourselves and others and the world to deteriorate into this something dark and distorted. What do you allow to define you, to drive you? Who or what does your life serve? This is vital, because our serving instincts can’t stand a vacuum. Unless we embrace an alternative, we will serve whatever our small, ego selves demand of us! If we’ve been hurt, or disappointed, well, then, perhaps it’s our bitterness, or defensiveness that we serve best! Or after a failed relationship with a parent, or a partner perhaps, our low self-esteem/broken self-image may leave us wired for serving whatever we believe will be good for boosting just ourselves and our own shredded reputations. Or fear – we’re especially vulnerable to that one! And there’s so much to feed our fears: our fear of strangers, fear of being poor, fear of sickness, of being ignored, of being unpopular, fear of death… Oh my goodness… ‘We’ve been made for so much more than just trying to survive in the dark…
And then there’s our SIN. I’m not sure how you understand ‘SIN’ – you know, that thing that Christ died and rose in order to destroy for all time – it’s such a loaded word, but, how about this for a definition: SIN is all of what we allow to block & distract us from knowing and being and living into all of whom and what we ACTUALLY are, how we’ve ACTUALLY been created to be! …and not just us but ALL creation!
We are made in God’s image: We are hard-wired to know and to reflect God’s love! As channels of God’s Peace: wherever there is hatred and illness and despair, we are most alive when our lives come to reflect God’s character of love, healing, hope. Wherever there is injustice, and cruelness, hate, we are most alive as we reflect God’s justice, compassion, mercy – THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THRIVING!
And as for those still choosing their familiar ego-blindness over knowing and living into whom they actually are – who are still choosing to serve lesser masters, remaining blind in that country of dark hatred and bigotry, marching to other, lesser drumbeats – what do we do about them? I know that we must treat others’ life-choices with the deepest respect – whomever or whatever they choose to be serving…[ii] Thoreau speaks of how different people are entitled to march to the beat of different drummers. But to be trapped into serving that which is actually obscuring, demeaning an awareness of their own beautiful selves, souls: serving the darkness that masks and erodes their lives – whether they are aware of it or not…
Surely, Christ and the things of Christ – what Christ is and what Christ has done and is even now still doing in them – is still very valid! Surely they have to know! Surely it’s up to us to tell hem!
Our faith in Christ is about so much more than just what happens inside us. Of course it’s personal, but its light is designed by God to stream out from us! It’s what we sing: Lord the light of your love is shining…’ Wherever we find anything that blocks God’s light …WE ACT! And we act by addressing it in ourselves, and in others, wherever we find it! That’s what Jesus did – and it’s still what Jesus does! Remember those bracelets?
We don’t stand idly by any kind of misguided ‘country-of-the-blind’ behaviour – allowing dark ignorance to dominate either ourselves or our societies – however comfortable or familiar that ignorance may seem! We don’t stand idly by as we allow internal fears to produce the xenophobic racism that puts others down so we can feel better about our own diminished small-selves… No! In Christ we know that we – and everyone – are all so much better than that!
And so yes, it’s true that by following Christ something is gained, but something MUST be lost as well. It’s true that ‘…we must die to many of our old habits and infatuations. Thank God for the goodness we gain, and thank God for the distortions/illusions that we get to shed!
What attitudes/perspectives are you currently hanging onto and what do you need to allow to die? What small-self obsessions are we allowing to keep us in mere survival mode, as opposed to the thrive-living for which Christ is come and for which we’ve been created? Alive to God is ‘THRIVING’ in God! Is that what our lives look like? Oh may it be so!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen
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[i] Spoiler alert: he escaped just in time!
[ii] …as David Henry Thoreau (1817-1862) wrote some 150 years ago, that: If someone does not keep pace with their companions, perhaps it is because they hear a different drummer. Let them step to the music which they hear, however measured or far away.