I have read and re-read todays readings, trying to figure out what to say to you today, that might sound nice or hopeful. But what is on my heart is that there are a number of hard things that are happening all around us right now, hard things that we knew about or knew were coming. Hard things that were right under our nose and that we chose to ignore. That most of the time, I chose to ignore.
This past Canada day many of us wore orange rather than red. As I walked around my neighbourhood, many people had chosen to hang orange shirts or orange ribbons rather than Canadian flags in front of their homes.
And on facebook, I’ve been paying attention daily to updates from friends who have lost everything in the fire that has devastated the town of Lytton, which just days before was the hottest location in Canada.
Friends, we have had information on global warming and about residential schools and the devastation of both right in front of us for a long time now.
‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ (v.4)
Many of us didn’t want to know what was true and right here. Maybe we didn’t want it to be true. Maybe we just truly thought it wouldn’t have anything to do with us. Maybe we just hoped it would go away – or solve itself.
We are having to recon with the realities of these two things though, now. I don’t think we can look away. I don’t think we can pretend that it’s all fine. I don’t think we can pretend that this has nothing to do with us.
Prophets are usually hard to hear, and I suspect it would be hard to be friends with one. They are probably pretty zealous and focused on their message. And their message is usually pretty inconvenient to the people they are delivering it to. Generally, they are telling people, that they are going to have to change their behaviour. Often they seem to be concerned with who and how people are worshipping, treatment of the poor or the oppression of Israel.(at least in the Old Testament) The definition of a prophet is: someone who is an inspired teacher or a proclaimer of the will of God.
Jesus had all kinds of things to say about both worship and how we treat each other – all of them rooted in justice for all, particularly the poor and the sick and those who are oppressed by systems of injustice and also about how and what we worship. So if we take all of that and transpose it onto our situation here and now, if we think about what prophetic messages we have been hearing about the treatment of Indigenous people’s particularly by the systems we have in place, that many of us have benefitted from, about systemic racism that enabled the terrible process of removing children from their homes and their people and put into schools whose very point was the elimination of culture and language.
If we think about all of the voices that we have heard over the years calling us out on the use of fossil fuels and climate devastation and global warming. We might see that we have been ignoring the prophetic warnings about what was coming our way. That we have been seeking to undermine the massage of those we were trying to warn us that what we were doing was wrong and that a terrible truth was about to be revealed: one that would devastate us and ensure that we could not look away any longer.
I am intentionally linking climate change and the devastation of the residential schools to prophetic messages that we have ignored, because for me they are linked. They are connected to elimination – to ignored truths, to the reality that we are living with today, now. And I am talking about these things here because, if we can’t talk about this in church, in community – then I don’t know what we are doing here. The Gospels do not only tell nice stories – they tell hard truths too. And I think that is what we are facing – some hard truths.
And I don’t know about you, but I am really sitting with what to do now. I am working through a whole range of emotions. Last week I preached about grief – and that is for sure some of what I’m feeling. But I am also feeling sadness, anger, fear. I feel anxious. And I want to fix it. I want to fix our racist systems. I want to stop the earth from getting hotter.
It’s easier to hear truths about other places, to point out what is wrong about somewhere else. To find the things that are great about our own family, house, our own country and there are lots of things that are great – and to hold them up, so that we can sit in judgement of others and say: ‘oh well we aren’t like them’ or ‘at least we aren’t as bad as that place’.
And I think we are learning that we are – that we have been as bad as many other places, that our history is showing us the truth. And I think that we just need to sit and listen for a little while. We need to let it sink in. We need to face the reality of our country about what has been done and is still happening. We need to think about the ways that we still participate in systems that ‘other’ particularly indigenous people, but also people of colour.
We need to think about the fact that most of us here don’t need to boil water to drink.
We need to think about the weird hot temperatures that we have just had and that others are experiencing right now – and how dangerous that is. We might just need to listen for a little while, to pay attention and let the truth settle in.
And then, we might need to act.
The thing that I find hopeful about this Gospel story is that he doesn’t do nothing. He notices that people aren’t paying attention, that they are trying to undermine what he is saying and doing. He still does pray over some people but then he calls on his friends and he says: ‘well, these people don’t want to hear what I have to say. It’s too easy for them to ignore me because I’m one of them.” But he knows that what he is about, that his message is worth spreading – so he sends them out in pairs. He tells them to keep doing this important work and to keep spreading this important message – he knows that others will want what he’s offering. He knows better than to wallow. He moves on. And he sends them together, because it’s safer that way. And they go.
We don’t stay put once we know better. It can feel overwhelming to face a truth – these truths that we are facing right now – they are over whelming. But we can’t stay here, in this feeling.
We have to listen in order to act.
Write the letters to members of government calling on them to ensure there is funding for indigenous children. Show up where there is space to show up in. Attend the vigils. Read the 94 calls to Action that were put together by the Truth and Reconciliation commission and choose one to act on. Listen for the invitations of the elders about what we can do – and do it. Listen to the wisdom of the climate change activists. Pay attention to your relationship with the earth. Our goal isn’t elimination, it’s fullness of life for everyone and everything. How are you – how am I, contributing to that? Where are the spaces for me to show up? Who can I bring with me to share the message?
Who am I listening to? And why? And what are they saying? And is their message about fullness of life for all?
Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ (v4)
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth listening to – it means we need to examine why we aren’t listening. It doesn’t mean we do nothing, it means we pay attention to what we know is true – particularly as people of faith – who follow the teachings of Jesus – and then we figure out how to listen so that we can participate in action. Amen.