It’s been a tough week… locally and around the world… tragedy and terrorism… tears and turmoil. We bring all of that into this place O God… and we also bring hope… and trust… hope and trust that those things don’t have the final say… amen.
There are a variety of things colliding this Sunday… it is Father’s Day… we are having a baptism… it’s Aboriginal Sunday… all of this is set against the backdrop of local and international tragedies.
And we have our scripture passages… full of yearning… and full of the challenge to break down the barriers that divide us and love one another.
And on the surface, none of those is connected… and yet, when we drill down… just a little further… I believe they are.
It is somehow fitting that on the week where this Galatians reading appears in the cycle of readings that we are baptized both Rachel and Victoria.
While Paul’s letters to the various churches in the early days of Christianity are not usually my favourite passages of scripture, I celebrate and appreciate what he wrote about Christian community.
In Galatians 3:28, he writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
The world in which Paul wrote those words was a deeply divided one… race and gender and religion and economic status…
Those words are RADICAL to that society.
Instead of divisions, Paul preaches unity.
Instead of separation, Paul preaches togetherness.
There is no them and us… there is only we… the entire human race… black, white brown, yellow, red, rich, poor, gay, straight, questioning…
We are bound together by the example of Jesus… not the narrow version we sometimes hear… but the example of him reaching out to those who were outcast in his world.
There was a time when people used the Bible to justify slavery… to own and use other humans… and we now know how wrong that was…
There was a time when our native brothers and sisters were thought to be less than white people… we have a terrible history of broken promises and broken bodies behind us… and we know now how wrong that was…
There was a time when being gay was a crime in Canada… and those who didn’t conform to society’s norms risked job loss and prison for the crime of loving another… and we know now how wrong that was.
All the distinctions that separate us are a lack of seeing another as fully human, with a connection to Jesus and part of the creative divinity of the world.
And we have been dealing with a variety of deaths… some closer to home… some further away, but all as close as our tv or phone screens.
Cienna and Joana… who leave grieving friends and families…
49 gay, lesbian and transgendered men and women, gunned down.
Accidental deaths of two toddlers, one closer to home and one in Orlando.
A British MP murdered for her stance on immigration reform and welcome.
In times like this perhaps our first inclination is to hunker down and hide.
And that is okay… for a while… but it is no way to live a faithful life.
A faith that doesn’t promise a trouble free life… but does promise God’s presence no matter what we experience.
In the midst of all the heaviness that we experienced this week, this question was posed in a Facebook group I belong to:
Where do you find hope & love?
I find it in the gathered community for Cienna’s funeral.
I find hope and love in the money raised for the relay for life… Money that is raised for total strangers…
I find love and hope in the marking of the 30th anniversary of the Apology by our church to our aboriginal brothers and sisters.
This is the text of the apology:
Long before my people journeyed to this land your people were here, and you received from your Elders an understanding of creation and of the Mystery that surrounds us all that was deep, and rich, and to be treasured.
We did not hear you when you shared your vision.
In our zeal to tell you of the good news of Jesus Christ we were closed to the value of your spirituality.
We confused Western ways and culture with the depth and breadth and length and height of the gospel of Christ.
We imposed our civilization as a condition of accepting the gospel.
We tried to make you be like us and in so doing we helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were.
As a result, you, and we, are poorer and the image of the Creator in us is twisted, blurred, and we are not what we are meant by God to be.
We ask you to forgive us and to walk together with us in the Spirit of Christ so that our peoples may be blessed and God’s creation healed.
I find love and hope in this statement from Halifax Presbytery:
Our hearts are broken for the murder and attempted murder of our LGBTQ+ children in Orlando and for the persecution of so many in this world because of prejudice, especially around sexual orientation or gender identity.
We, the Halifax Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, deplore homophobia and denounce violence in any form against any of God’s children.
I know that we are not all in agreement with the United Church’s position on LGBTQ rights, but I think we can all agree that they are children of God and that they shouldn’t live in fear.
And I hope we can all agree that church of all places, should be a place of safety and welcome for all. In fact, I would love it if we would make a visible gesture to indicate that… a rainbow decal on the sign and in the window.. perhaps a rainbow candle…
I find love and hope in the multitude of ways that men are fathers to children, related by blood or family or not at all. I see younger fathers, parenting in ways that their father was never encouraged and I see children blossoming in that foundation of love.
I find love and hope in Rachel and Stephen bringing Victoria for baptism.
The ritual of belonging not just to this congregation, or this denomination, but to the Holy Catholic Church, the universal church.
I find love in hope in the example of Jesus’ life.
A life that encompassed love for all those who would be excluded.
And I find love and hope in you and you and you and you and you…
Thanks be to God, amen.