Lord make us masters of ourselves, that we may become the servants of others: take our minds and think through them, take our lips and hands and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire. Amen.
At a workshop last October, the Cathedral’s Stewardship team met with the Reverend Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute. In one of our sessions, we explored how we steward the “currency of truth” at the Cathedral.
According to Eric Law, the currency of truth is “The ability to articulate individually and corporately the global/wholistic truth, both internally . . . and externally. . . . The truth might be gifts that need to be lifted up and celebrated; naming the injustice and oppression against certain populations; or discovering our own lack of spiritual wellness.”
It was at this workshop that Eric also introduced us to the Chinese character for truth.
“The character has the symbol for [the number] 10 on the top,” he explained, “the symbol for eyes in the middle, and [the symbol] for table on the bottom. It takes ten eyes on the table to know or confirm the truth” he told us. How do we, at the Cathedral, articulate the truth?
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, we find the disciples looking into the sky after Jesus has ascended into heaven. Two visitors arrive and tell them that they had really better get going. Jesus wasn’t going to return to them while they were waiting there, hopping on one foot in the same spot! Jesus would return in the same way he came to them---by moving about the world and the fullness of the human experience---from Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth! If they relied only on what they had seen with their eyes on the table, as it were, they would miss out on the global, wholistic truth of the One who had come among them.
Jesus was the One who ministered not only to one gender, not only to one class, one ethnicity, one type of people, but to many. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus revealing a God who so delights in the human journey they choose to become human, a God who shows up next to people at the intersection of gender, class, and ethnicity, that these truths about who people are and what their lived experience is would become opportunities for inclusion and embrace. If the disciples wished to know the truth according to the One who said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they would find it beyond themselves, in the hearts, minds, and lives of people everywhere. After all, it takes ten eyes on the table to know or confirm the truth.
So this is how Jesus and his disciples articulated the truth. What do we at the Cathedral have to say about it? Recently, the Wardens and Trustees approved a proposal from the Truth and Reconciliation Circle to frame and install in the heart of our worship space, a copy of the 1993 apology for residential schools delivered at the National Native Convocation by then Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Michael Peers and accepted by Vi Smith on behalf of the elders and participants.*
Now, plaques are just plaques on a wall unless they come with action in the world, so the Cathedral has been invited by the Diocsean Missioner for Indigenous Justice to begin forming relationships with the students at the Native Education College in Vancouver as a way of putting this plaque into practice. If we commit to writing the truth on our walls, we must commit to writing it on our hearts as well.
The reason I bring this example before you is because, as I think about how we articulate “truth” and I look around our worship space, with the ‘table’ which we gather around for the Eucharist at the centre, I am aware of the architectural and artistic ‘eyes’ that look on this table. There are the stained glass windows depicting images from biblical stories of the Christian faith; the memorial flags denoting our role as the regimental chapel for the Seaforth Highlanders and the BC Regiment; there is the Tree of Life window designed by Musqueam artist Susan Point, which tells the story of “a time when the claims of colonial empire were not present . . . [when] Mother Earth and the Great Spirit were cherished in the midst of the community. . . a time when water ran clear and clean through the lakes and rivers and the seas. . . [when] there was always enough food . . . from the trees and forests and the animals that were already here.”**
When I look around this space I see the choir and organ loft, and, gosh, even a brass trio today, where music pours down onto this table. I see the blanket, woven by Debra Sparrow, commissioned to signal the Cathedral’s ongoing commitment to listen, learn and unlearn on the path to form right relations with First Nations neighbours. I see a liturgical space which has been built and rebuilt, shaped and reshaped to reflect the idea that it takes ten eyes on the table, not two, to know or confirm the truth. It takes ten eyes on the table, not two, to know the One we worship in the Christian tradition as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
So I ask you today: do the people who look on this table, do the people who preside at this altar---breaking bread and pouring wine from this magnificent space---do they represent ten eyes on the table or two?
The author of the Acts of the Apostles writes that, “After his suffering [Jesus] presented himself alive to [his disciples] by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God”.
By ‘forty days’ the author is speaking, perhaps, literally, but more importantly figuratively about the 40 years that the disciples’ ancestors spent in the wilderness searching for the truth.
After Jesus appears to his disciples they say, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Is this when you’ll finally reveal the truth to us?] And Jesus replies, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”
As if to say, if you think the truth can be known by the eyes around this table alone, if you think the truth is limited to the experience of the people in this room, then you have profoundly missed the point. It takes ten eyes on the table to know or confirm the truth. Whose eyes are missing?
*You can read the full text of the apology here: https://www.anglican.ca/tr/apology/english/
**With thanks to the Very Reverend Peter Elliott for this description of the Susan Point window from his sermon, "The Tree of Life." The full text of the sermon is available here: https://www.thecathedral.ca/podcasts/media/2019-05-26-the-tree-of-life