We begin each gathering with a very familiar land acknowledgement, where we say how we meet on the unceded territory of the Okanagan Sylix. We don`t say these words with any sense of gratitude, because this land has never been given to us – we took it. And now we live and work and play and worship here – on it. Our land acknowledgement recognizes that it was never ours to take, and so, it`s perhaps more with something of a sense of shame that we acknowledge this – how it was never ours to begin with: and how it has still to now never been ceded to us by those who are the original people of this place.
All of this has been made particularly poignant with the discovery of the Kamloops Residential School unmarked graves of 215 First Nation children. Has there been a time in Canada when non-indigenous Canadians have been made to be more aware and more ashamed at what we have allowed? Dear God…
Lamentation forms much of the Old Testament book of Psalms – the Biblical Hebrews’ song book – but somehow, we seem to have lost that, and that’s seriously too bad, because there is wonderful healing that happens as we allow ourselves to go there – to weep together. In the cross of Jesus Christ we know that God is somehow within, filling the suffering of all people with his sacred presence. We are bold now to share in that suffering as we allow ourselves to weep together…
Holy God… Thank you that in Jesus Christ you not only know
but are within the pain of all those generations
shattered by the residential school system.
Thank you that somehow, knowing both your presence and that you know,
that is enough to move us through pain toward resurrection healing & hope.
May that be so, praying in Jesus’ Name
This world of ours is wonderful, as Louis Armstrong sang it, filled with beautiful nature and with good people and with kindness and respect, and love, it truly is. But it’s also so desperately fraught with what we have allowed to be corrupted by our own obsession with greedy self-promotion/self-preservation… As a result there is hurting betrayal and abuse and guilt and pain.
There is what we have broken and that what we continue to allow to be broken.
Just look at our news headlines this past week… Of course we can choose to stop looking as some do in an attempt to stay inside our bubbles and deny that anything is ever actually wrong, Or perhaps even worse: we can choose to keep watching and reading but selectively so, choosing to buy into whatever bias the spin doctors and conspiracy theorists are pushing in order to twist what we see and hear to match whatever misguided internal narrative we prefer… Or we can choose to go here: to see the brokenness for what it is and to embrace it with the Gospel of a deeply suffering Jesus and a truly risen Christ. But we do need to start by going there… we need to acknowledge what is wrong, and we don’t like to do that.
I believe Albert Speer (Hitler’s Nazi architect) wrote[i] in response to a question asking whether he actually knewabout the Nazi atrocities that his work enabled, he answered: ”Whether I knew or did not know, or how much or how little I knew, is totally unimportant when I consider what horrors I ought to have known about and what conclusions would have been (should have been) the natural ones to draw from the little I did know,”
This is actually all of us. We are the people who seem hard wired to handle the difficult things by trying to ignore them, looking the other way, finding a scapegoat to blame. But NO, it’s us.
…because it wasn’t some external Roman Catholic demon who allowed those 215 children’s bodies to be buried in that hidden residential school cemetery in Kamloops… It was sane people just like us. It’s people just like us who continue to live in blissful denial of the stupendous privilege and responsibilities we have as white, wealthy, housed, straight, settler, colonial…
It’s people like us who still continue to carry racial prejudice in our hearts, sometimes it’s obvious although mostly it’s occult, often best hidden even from ourselves, and always desperately toxic! It’s people like us who believe that whatever our faith, WE have a better religion than those ‘others’ and that it’s ‘them’ who need to be converted to where we are…
It’s people like us who choose to believe that Covid is a scam and that no masks are required… People like us who that caused the glut of vaccine in North America and the desperate shortage in India and other developing world countries. It’s we who still – at some level – like to believe that the global climate crisis may actually be an overstated hoax cooked up by crazy left-wingers to scare us and that it will sort itself out if we just ignore it. It’s we who obliviously choose to believe fossil fuels are still the way of the future and that our planet will be just fine if we carry on as if nothing is wrong, who buy into the QAnon rubbish, who choose to equate Zionist nationalism in the Middle East with faithful Judaism, choosing to believe that all those who resist the oppression of Palestinians by the hugely powerful State of Israel are somehow being unchristian/certainly anti-Semitic… People like us – often as individuals, but ALWAYS as we part of one common humanity with the one communal identity we share – both good & bad – as part of God’s creation…
While of course there is so much wonderful and of beauty in our world, there is also still so much that is clearly not OK. And as Christ-followers, as we are moved to notice those things, to weep, to care – so we are compelled to address those things, in ourselves, and in our community systems, just as Jesus did. But, also like him, we need to know that as we do so, so we too will be rejected as crazy or demon-possessed.
From the very first, Mark tells us, Jesus was understood to be a troublemaker. All through the Gospels and the history of the early church – you know, before the Emperor Constantine made us mainstream by tying us to his empire-agenda. Controversy always dogged Jesus and the followers of Jesus as the Way. And so will it dog us – MUST dog us – especially as we begin to get his agenda right. It’s given to us as part of the Great Commission to stand for what is good and of God and to rail against all that would try to stop it. That’s always going to generate controversy – always. But I love how the late John Lewis famously spoke of how that’s OK: how we all need to be prepared to get into that kind of ‘good trouble’
Jesus’s family were acutely embarrassed by him in today’s text. Mark actually writes that they thought Jesus was crazy (Greek: existemi) – out of his mind. The scribes from Jerusalem believed him to be demon possessed: I mean why else would anyone ever challenge the system that nobody powerful wants to change? They must be mad or worse… This text describes the revulsion that characterized much of that early world’s responses to the ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, Will Willimon writes in his commentary on this passage that we can see this little parable “as Jesus sharing a kind of overview of his entire ministry of displacing, plundering, and routing… It was in response to that, that those around Jesus call him insane and demon-possessed. Willimon ends with this warning, that: Jesus’ agenda is bad news if you deeply desire a world that is fixed, secure, normal, and predictable. But it’s very good news if you are longing for a different world than the one you have.
How does the world you long to see differ from the world we now have?
How does your experience of the risen Jesus Christ inform your vision of the world that can be – the one that God intends for us to know?
How are you being nudged/coaxed/drawn toward participating in Jesus’ ministry of weeping with those who weep, and of challenging what needs to stop, all towards nurturing ‘God’s kingdom to be coming on earth as it is in heaven’
Yes, we will be accused of being crazy, but, as Paul declared of himself and us as Christ-followers in 1 Cor.4:10, that while we are all fools to some or other extent – as Christ-followers WE are choosing to be fools for Jesus, whose fool are they?[ii]
O Dear God,
as those who are responding to your self-less,
poured out love in Christ for us and all creation,
may our responses always seem crazy and demon-possessed
to those who don’t know you or the ways of your suffering love…
Help us to notice those very real places within ourselves and within all of your creation
that we have allowed to darken into what is NOT of you…
And noticing, help us to respond as Jesus did, and does,
with deepest compassion,
before boldly moving beyond any resistance we may encounter…
Even as you suffered on the cross,
drawing all of the worst of ourselves into that one act of poured out love,
may we be bold to embrace the suffering that our failures have and still continue to cause…
And then, even as you rose and still always are rising from the dead,
may our rising in you be the channels of your hope and justice, compassion, healing peace & love
that you have made us to be in whatever place we may find ourselves…
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
[ii] See also 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”1 Corinthians 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.