Today we hear two miracle stories, both of them with water. One in which Elijah parts the waters and so he and Elisha can cross the river Jordan. And of course, the story of Jesus changing water into wine, the first miracle story in the gospel of John.
I have a friend who likes to say that he can change water into wine too… it just takes him 45 days.
Miracles… do we believe in them? Do we hope for them? Do we wait for them? I typed the word ‘miracle’ into Google and in less than a second, there were 81,400,000 hits!
I used to think of miracles as something grand and glorious, and outside of our realm… but I have come to believe that we have the power to create miracles. And so, in a roundabout way of getting at the subject, I want to share my own story of going to the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit on Friday.
For those of you who don’t know what that it, here’s a brief explanation taken from their website:
Walking With Our Sisters is a massive commemorative art installation comprised of 1,763+ pairs of moccasin vamps (tops) plus 108 pairs of children’s vamps created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to this injustice of almost 1200 missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Each pair of vamps (or “uppers” as they are also called) represents one missing or murdered Indigenous woman.
The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short. The children’s vamps are dedicated to children who never returned home from residential schools.
Together the installation represents all these women; paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. They have been cared for, they have been loved, they are missing and they are not forgotten. (http://walkingwithoursisters.ca/)
So that’s the background… but it didn’t prepare me for the experience.
I arrived at the gallery inside Seton Academic Centre at MSVU and was greeted by volunteers behind a table. They asked me to remove my coat and boots and put on a long skirt, although that was optional. They told me that an elder would smudge me if I wanted as I entered and that there was no photography or video allowed.
I admit to being disappointed about the photography… as you know I am an avid photography, and while I hadn’t brought my camera, I had hoped to take a few pictures with my phone.
I entered the gallery… and waited as a women elder finished her explanation to the women ahead of me. She turned to me and asked if I would like to be smudged… she burned some sage… and picking up a small pottery bowl and feather, she waved the smoke over my body… front and back… There were small, red packages in a basket… tobacco tied up in felt… the elder invited me to carry one with me and that if I was moved to offer prayers or good intentions to pray them into the tobacco pouch… that each one of these pouches already held countless prayers… as the exhibit made its way across the country… and that there was a box to leave it when I left.
There were boxes of tissue scattered around the room… and told that if I found myself moved to tears that there was another basket for the tissues… each night they were gathered… burned… returned to the creator… there were also cushions scattered around the room and was invited to sit if I felt moved to stay in one place and to go around as often as I liked.
And then I started the walk… this picture cannot do it justice… (Picture from Walking With Our Sisters website)
There were rows of moccasins arranged around the perimeter of the room, bordered by cedar branches… in the centre, there were hundreds more, arranged in a canoe shape.
The sheer enormity of each set of moccasin tops… each pair different… some elaborate… some simple…
I walked slowly around the perimeter… the moccasin tops were arranged so that you were walking alongside them… literally Walking With Our Sisters. I slowly made my way around the room… there were people who passed me, but I couldn’t move any faster… I found myself wishing I could photograph each one of them.
I was overwhelmed… and yes, moved to tears… I circled the room once… and then started my second trip around… this time focussing on the moccasins that were in the middle of the room… these were facing out… as if you were in conversation with them… A few of them had photographs of the woman incorporated… some of them had dates…
At the top of the canoe, I stopped and sat and prayed and cried… and then started down the last side… as I was stopped, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the elders coming towards me… she was carrying one of what was called medicine blankets. She looked at me and said, “You look as if you are struggling, would you like to wear this for the remainder of your time here? It’s been blessed and contains powerful healing.”
She put it around my shoulders and I felt as if I were wrapped in love, in warmth… in the sacred…
Here’s where I get back to miracles… I regard this woman reaching across lines of race and ethnicity to offer healing to me, an obviously white woman, as a sacred event and a tribute to the resilience and strength of our First Nations people. For what else are miracles other than the sacred made manifest?
Our country’s treatment of our First Nations people has a shameful history. And while not one of us here is personally to blame… collectively we have benefited from laws that favoured us at the expense of the very people who once welcomed us to this land… who made treaties in good faith to share the land… but not to give it over to our European ancestors.
They did not wait for a ‘miracle’ from on high… from a saviour… but indeed, many of these people, have worked tirelessly for years to bring our attention to our relationship with First Nations peoples.
Sometimes, I think a miracle is just showing up, day after day, doing something to make the world better. Refusing to be brought down into the maelstrom of muck.
Check out this video for a fuller experience than my words.
Other things I consider miracles: The marches last week… Washington… India…. Serbia… Nairobi… Halifax… and Sandy Cove, which received international attention. All of these people didn’t wait for a miracle from on high… they used our laws of peaceful assembly as a statement and while marches don’t solve some of the very complex issues we face, they are an indication of how people feel.
Another miracle story… In 2015, the town of Moose Jaw declared that it had eliminated homelessness and two years later declares that it has ended chronic homelessness.
Again, people didn’t wait for some miracle.
Mayor Ted Clugston says this, “I wasn’t even on board when I was first elected.”
“It was, ‘You’re going to end homelessness? Yeah, whatever. You’re going to end poverty? Yeah, whatever. What, world peace?’ It was these elusive goals that everybody wants to do, but can never do.” The success of the project in his city surprised him as much as anyone.
“They call me the mayor that ended homelessness, but really I have to be the mayor of the city that ended homelessness,” he said. “I didn’t do it.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/medicine-hat-homeless-free-update-1.3949030?platform=hootsuite)
And Saturday, huge protests in New York at a number of airport around the USA, after Trump signed an executive order preventing people carrying passports from the seven Muslim-majority countries from being admitted to the country… even if they hold permanent resident or ‘green cards.’ Even if they have been in the immigration process for years and have finally received approval, now they are no longer allowed. One of them is reportedly a man who worked as an interpreter for the US Army in Iraq. For a country founded, like ours, on immigration, it’s not only ludicrous, but unchristian.
Words from Matthew 25: For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.
Late Sunday evening, a US federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban. The ACLU and other legal organizations filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who were subject to the ban. The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States. That too is a miracle!
The common theme running through these modern day miracles is that the solutions to racism, poverty, sexism, homophobia are in our hands. We strive to follow Jesus, a man who demonstrated infinite courage, compassion and creativity, over and over again in his life and ministry. We follow him, seeking to the do the same.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity. Amen.
2 Kings 2: 1-8, John 2: 1-12
January 29, 2017 – Elmsdale Pastoral Charge.
Rev. Catherine MacDonald