Relinquish White Privilege: Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, passionately preached to the National Convention of the ELCIC

The closing worship of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s National Convention was richly blessed by the Rev. Jordan Cantwell, the Moderator of the United Church of Canada! Rev. Cantwell’s presence throughout the convention enriched us in ways that I am still unpacking. Take some time to listen to this passionate preacher and be challenged by her call to relinquish white privilege. 

Canada: Not the Promised Land – But a Land Full of Promise – a sermon in celebration of Canada

Readings for Canada Day weekend: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 72:1-8a; Matthew 5:43-48

Listen to the sermon here

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number and there became a great nation, mighty and populous.”  So, mighty and so populous that some of our ancestors wandered all the way to Northern Ireland. As a child in Belfast a long time ago, longer than I care to remember, so long  ago that life was very different than it is now. Life in Belfast during the sixties was simple. We didn’t have much. Life was simple and basic and so many of the things that we take for granted, simply didn’t exist back then.  Looking back on it now, I suppose you could say that we were poor. The truth is, we may indeed have been poor but I never knew it. Back then “the troubles” were reigniting in Northern Ireland as protestants and Roman Catholics began to slip back into their old violent ways. Looking back, I realize that the poverty and violence of Belfast in the 1960’s made it a tough place to raise a family. So, it makes sense that my family would leave Belfast as what today we would call refugees, fleeing both economic hardships as well as the threat of violence. But as a child in neither knew nor understood the realities of our migration. Nevertheless, arriving in Canada was just like arriving in the “Promised Land.”

On this Canada Day weekend, I can still vividly remember my first full day in Canada, even though it happened so very long ago. My Mother, my brother, and I arrived at the old Malton Airport. I don’t have any actual memories of walking across the tarmac, but legend has it that it was snowing on what should have been a spring day.  I do have memories of my very first car-ride. I can still see the massive 1957 Plymoth.  It was the first car my family ever owned and it had these huge fins at the back that were taller than I was at the time. The back seat was positively enormous and riding back there, I was thoroughly convince that my Dad had struck it rich in Canada. 

We pulled into the parking lot of the tallest building I had ever seen and Dad announced that we were home.  He pointed out a balcony way up on the fourth floor and said that this was our flat.Then we climbed aboard an elevator. I had never been in an elevator before and I was amazed at the skill with which my father took charge of the controls. When the door magically slide open, we walked down a long hallway to arrive at our front door.  I can still see the gold numbers on the door, “407”. We must be rich indeed, if we had good on our front door. I could hardly believe my eyes when Dad opened the door.  I remember the shiny wood floors, the brand new furniture, and the big TV set.

 As we toured the rest of the apartment, I simply couldn’t speak. This new home looked nothing like the homes I was used to.  What’s more inside the kitchen stood a sparkling white refrigerator. I had never seen such a thing. All I remember is that this refrigerator had magic powers that allowed us to keep food cold. Visions of ice-cream must have danced through my head.  Just imagine the marvelous ability to be able to keep ice-cream in your very own kitchen. No more walking to the corner shop or waiting for the ice-cream man to pass by.Ice-cream right there as cold as you like in your very own home. It blew my tiny little mind!

You can’t imagine how rich I though we had become. Especially when off we went on my very first trip to a grocery store.  A grocery store, not a shop or a market, but a grocery store in Canada, is a very magical place.  I can still remember playing with my brother on the magic entrance to the grocery store.  We had never before seen automatic doors and we were delighted to step over and over again on the magic mat that caused the doors to open. Then there was the big cart that people in Canada used to pile all their groceries in.   People in Canada bought so much food that they needed a cart to carry it all out to their cars so that they could fill their marvelous refrigerators up to the brim. It must have blown my Mom’s mind to think that she would no longer have to shop every day, but could actually shop once a week because we had a fridge to store everything in.

I have this vague memory of standing in front of boxes and boxes of cereal. I had never seen so many boxes of cereal.  So much choice.  I remember choosing a box with a bear on the package…it was a cartoon bear… but it was a bear, I couldn’t wait to see a real bear.  Canada, I thought must be full of bears. Perhaps the sugar pops, would make me strong enough to stand in front of a bear? I remember watching a square box of ice-cream travel down a magic counter and later watching as it was loaded into the massive boot of our massive car, and finally as it was placed in our very own freezer. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice-cream came out of that box. It was delicious.  I remember several times, sneaking into the kitchen and opening up the fridge and then peering into the freezer to see if any of the ice-cream was leaking out of the box. Wonder of wonders, in Canada people are so rich that they can keep ice-cream for days and days and days in their very own homes.  Canada is just like I imagined heaven to be. Canada was, to that little girl that I was way back then, Heaven here on earth.

Canada is an amazing land. I am not the first refugee, and I certainly won’t be the last refugee to discover that Canada is more lovely than the Promised Land of any wandering migrants dreams. The wealth of our land surpasses the wildest dreams of most of the people on this planet. We have been richly blessed. Listen to the words of Deuteronomy, they might just as well have been written for us:  “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.  You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that God has given you.”

Welcome to the promised land!  Look around you.   Rejoice and be glad for God has been gracious to you. Praise God for the bounty, which God has laid before us. Don’t let it be said of you, “that none of them was found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner”.  Let it be said that, “we shall eat our fill and bless our God for the good land that God has given us. Take care that you do not forget God.  When we have eaten our fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when our wealth has multiplied, our silver and our gold is multiplied, and all that we have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting God, who brought us out of the great and terrible wilderness.” Do not let us say to ourselves, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember God, for it is God who gives you power to get wealth, so that God may confirm God’s covenant that God swore to our ancestors, as God is doing today.”

Alas, like our ancestors, we too are like wandering Arameans,  for just like every other immigrant who ever came upon the beauty of a land not their own, we did not wander into an empty land. We are migrants, settlers, colonizers. Looking around this room, I think it is safe to say that, regardless of whether it was us our or our ancestors, our people, our tribe, took this land from the indigenous in habitants of this land. Our ancestors may have believed that they had a god-given right to this land. But the texts we revere as sacred cannot disguise the reality of the crimes that were committed when our forbearers took this land from the peoples and nations that had inhabited this land for centuries before any Europeans every dreamed that Turtle Island existed.  We are setters in this land, descendants of colonizers, our wealth came and continues to come at great cost to the indigenous peoples of this land that we love.

We come from a long tradition that looks back upon our ancestors as wandering Arameans who when they arrived at what they believed to be their Promised Land, they believed that their god was providing them with all the blessings they needed to thrive as a nation. The reality is that those wandering Arameans were settlers and colonizers in the land of Canaan. The Canaanites lost their land to the Israelites and the tragedy of colonization still reverberates down to this very day as Israelis and Palestinians fight over the blessings of the Promised Land.

As the celebrations of “Canada 150” fade, perhaps we can turn our attention to the many blessings of this land. Perhaps we can finally begin to move beyond the sins of our fathers and mothers, and set aside our own sins of omission. Perhaps we can begin to hear the words of the One we profess to follow and learn to love one another in ways that do not put one another into categories of native and non-native, indigenous and settler, colonizer and colonized, neighbour and enemy, but rather sisters and brothers in a land rich with promise.  We have relied for too long on the ravages of our past which trained us well to be colonizers. Surely, it is time for us to set aside our childish ways, and look not to the tribalism of our past but rather to the sense of blessedness that called upon our ancestors to remember that we have been blessed to be a blessing.  Surely, we can begin the next 150 years by finding ways to be a blessing to our sisters and brothers who have suffered the perils of colonization. If Canada is to grow out of our childish churlish ways, we will need to learn from our indigenous sisters and brothers so that together we can cherish this land where the abundance of the earth provides so much promise that all who live here can find peace together.

Canada is not the Promised Land given to us by God so that we can gather up all the milk and honey. Canada is a land filled with promise; a land of nations of indigenous peoples and settlers have many blessings to share with the world. Before the promise of Canada can be realized, it is time for us to clean-up the mess of “Canada 150” by atoning for the sins of our mothers and fathers as well as our sins of omission. We can do that by ensuring that our all our sisters and brothers have access to the milk and honey.  We can do that by learning from our indigenous sisters and brothers how to live in harmony with the land, how to respect the blessings of Turtle Island, how to share the blessings in ways that ensure that this great land continues to thrive.  We can do that by repairing the damage that has been done while ensuring that every child feels as richly blessed as we do. Only when everyone of us is free to embrace with dignity the promise of this great land will we truly begin to embrace the blessedness that abounds all around us in ways that will be a blessing to the world.

 May we all learn to look beyond “Canada 150”, so that together we can see our blessedness not as our own, but as god-given so that we might be a blessing to others. We have been richly blessed.  And, to those to whom much has been given, much is expected. We have been blessed to be a blessing. The party is over, let the clean-up begin. Set your minds upon the ways in which you might embrace your blessings so as to be a blessing to others. Let it be so. Amen.

“I Pray God, Rid Me of God” – sermons for Trinity Sunday

Eckhart rid me of GodMeister Eckhart’s fervent plea: “I pray God, rid me of God” becomes a sort of mantra for me whenever the task of contemplating the Trinity rolls around on the liturgical calendar. Once again, I have failed to have the foresight to book my holidays so as to avoid the task of preaching on this festival of the church, so I find myself plumbing previous sermons in search of a way through the quagmire of doctrines which threaten to overcome even the most dedicated of preachers. I offer them here to my fellow preachers as my way of saying, “I pray God, rid me of God!!!” Shalom

click on the sermon title

While Preachers Dutifully Ponder the Doctrine of the Trinity,

Our Congregations Shrink???

 

“Trinity: Image of the Community that is God” Desmond Tutu

The Athanasian Creed and an Unholy Trinity

Wolf Blitzer Learned that there are Indeed Atheists in Fox-holes

Poor Old Nicodemus – Doomed to Play the Fool – John 3:1-17

Be the Crack that Lets the Light Shine In – a sermon lamenting the election

img_0693Our readings included Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and Luke 21:5-19, our Contemporary Psalm was “Anthem” by Lenard Cohen

Listen to the sermon here

“There is a time for everything,

a season for every purpose under heaven:

a season to be born and a season to die;

a season to plant and a season to harvest;

a season to hurt and a season to heal;

a season to tear down and a season to build up;

a season to cry and a season to laugh;

a season to mourn and a season to dance;

a season to scatter stones and a season to gather them;

a season for holding close and a season for holding back;

a season to seek and a season to lose;

a season to keep and a season to throw away;

a season to tear and a season to mend;

a season to be silent and a season to speak;

a season to love and a season to hate;

a season for hostilities and a season for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

 

“The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”  (Anthem by Lenard Cohen)

 

What a season we are in; a time to grieve, a time to weep, a time to harken back through the ages to seasons when our ancestors spoke of rending their garments.

Tearing their clothing, the fabric that protects them from the elements.

Tearing the fabric that adorns their body, the fashion that identifies them, shows the world who and what they are ripped and torn as they throw themselves down to the ground and wail in their grief.

In these past few days, the sound of rending garments has haunted my very being as if the fabric of civility is torn in two and our hopes and dreams as timid as we allow them to be, are ripped asunder.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth can only begin to express our grief.

What we need is the ululation, that long, wavering, high-pitched scream, the kind of howling that has long since got out of fashion in our civil society.

“We asked for signs

the signs were sent:

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

of every government —

signs for all to see.”

Our hopes and dreams of a new season had barely begun to surface.

When our own demons tore the curtain asunder to reveal the reality that white supremacy and male supremacy, are not going gently into the great night.

“Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.”

Women grabbed as once again misogyny is worn as a badge of honour.

Walls erected.

People of colour taunted with lynching ropes.

Our fragile planet groaning under the pressure of our filth, threatened by the ignorance of powerful deniers who now wield the power of the richest purse. 

“Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.”

Conversion therapy is on the books again.

Tired tropes of white supremacy.

Muslim bans, deportation squads, treaties broken, pipelines built, clean coal replacing suspicious solar, as our energies are directed and distracted by promises of taking back and making great again.

“The holy dove is never free.

The wars they will be fought again,”

 water-boarding and torture back in vogue again.

Even generals cower before visions of their new commander-in-chief, promises to “bomb the shit out of them” as the generals wonder who are “them.”

Let’s build a wall. Let’s build it high.

Let’s dig a moat. Let’s fill that moat with crocodiles.

Let’s keep them out.

What a season this is.

Only the promise of winter can cheer our hearts, the drifting snow, the promised birth.

Let Jesus come.

Let Christmas mirth distract us here.

Jesus saves.

But Christians cheer.

They’ve found their saviour.

“Two Corinthians” is their guy.

Pussies be damned we hear them preach.

What a season this is.

I’ve struggled wondering what to say to you this morning; what hope can I offer?

When the message of the one we profess to follow has been used in ways that have convinced 81% of white evangelicals to vote for change such as this?

The majority of Roman Catholics joined in.

33% of the women who voted cast their lot with a misogynist.

75% percent of those who voted profess to be Christian.

Jesus weeps.

The curtain is torn.

Wars and rumors of wars.

“The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

“Here we stand.”

We Canadians.

Convinced that we are above it all.

Polite and kind are we.

Have a nice day.

Your welcome.

Excuse me.

“Here we stand.”

We who have yet to elect a female prime minister or a prime minister of colour.

Our last prime minister called for a burka ban and a barbaric practices hotline and we had already elected him 3 times.

But we’re not them.

No orange tan, just pretty locks of hair and a name that takes us back to simpler days when the just society, and multiculturalism inspired a mania whose child now feeds our arrogant notions of sunny ways.

We’re not them.

Our fingers point to the racist south while First Nations die in a slow creeping genocide.

It’s been a year since McLeans’ announced that our Indigenous peoples are incarcerated at ten times the rate as other Canadians.

 

But we are not them, despite the fact that our Indigenous peoples are murdered at more than six times the national average.

NO we are not them, even though our Indigenous peoples must survive on 40% less than the average wage in Canada.

We are not them.

139 active drinking water advisories in 94 First Nations communities across the country, more than 1000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and to which we say,

“Have a nice day

your welcome.”

We are not them.

Even if it is true that by almost every measurable indicator Canada’s indigenous population suffers a worse fate and more hardship than the African American population in the United States.

We are not them.

We are not racist.

“The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.”

 

There is a season turn turn turn, to every purpose under heaven.

Jesus saves.

And here we stand, right smack in the middle of a season in which the Gospel and the church are associated with bigotry, racism, misogyny, sexual assault, climate change denial, and persecution of people based on ancient myths interpreted as facts.

Here we stand, an inclusive, progressive, science loving, historically critical, knowledge loving family that continues to struggle with the teachings of Jesus, refusing to take the Bible literally while trying to take it seriously.

Here we stand, convinced that we can do no other.

Opening our arms wide, extending a promise of radical welcome.

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Ring the bells that still can ring:

the bells of justice

the bells of hope

the bells of peace

the bells of joy

“Forget your perfect offering.”

The cracks are there for all to see.

The light shines in.

And still we sing.

And still we stand.

Trusting that every tear will be wiped away.

That all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

LOVE will turn our mourning into dancing.

Here we stand for we can do no other.

Ring the bells that can still ring.

The LOVE that is God is the only hope I have to offer you in this strange season that we are in.

The LOVE that is God is the best hope that we have to give.

There is a crack in everything.

Be that crack.

Let the light come in.

Ring the bells that can still ring.

Be that crack.

Let the LOVE come in.

BE THE LOVE SHINING IN.

                            

 

Raging Storms are All Around Us – a sermon for Pentecost 4B – Mark 4:35-41

lift every voiceIn addition to being Fathers’ Day, today was National Aboriginal Day, the beginning of Pride Week celebrations, and yesterday was International Refugee Day. All of these events were overshadowed by the tragic events in Charleston on Wednesday. The Gospel text from the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus stilling the storm and calming the waters. Our worship begin with the singing of what has become known as the African American anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.  Listen to the sermon here

Truth and Reconciliation – sermon for Pentecost 3B

Pastor Tom Doherty & Terry Hutchings shared their experiences at the Kairos events which preceded the Truth & Reconciliation Commissions delivery of their report. Our readings included Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Mark 4:26-34. The hymn sung after the sermon, “As One” with  words by Gretta Vosper to the familiar Huron Carol – UNE JEUNE PUCELL

The video is a bit choppy at the beginning but settles down in a few moments.

“I Pray God, Rid Me of God” – sermons for Trinity Sunday

Eckhart rid me of GodMeister Eckhart’s fervent plea: “I pray God, rid me of God” becomes a sort of mantra for me whenever the task of contemplating the Trinity rolls around on the liturgical calendar. Once again, I have failed to have the foresight to book my holidays so as to avoid the task of preaching on this festival of the church, so I find myself plumbing previous sermons in search of a way through the quagmire of doctrines which threaten to overcome even the most dedicated of preachers. I offer them here to my fellow preachers as my way of saying, “I pray God, rid me of God!!!” Shalom

click on the sermon title

While Preachers Dutifully Ponder the Doctrine of the Trinity,

Our Congregations Shrink???

“Trinity: Image of the Community that is God” Desmond Tutu

The Athanasian Creed and an Unholy Trinity

Wolf Blitzer Learned that there are Indeed Atheists in Fox-holes

RISE-UP Demand Justice for Murdered and Missing First Nations Women!

canada's shameFor those of you who have asked for a print copy of Sunday’s sermon, I have posted it below. You can find the readings that preceded this sermon here and listen to the audio of the sermon here 

God forgive me, but I can’t even remember her name. Staring back through the mists of time, I can barely remember the pain in her eyes. More than three decades have passed since I lived and worked in Vancouver’s east end. I was young, young and foolish, young and carefree, young and adventurous, young and callous. In my early twenties, I was still trying to figure out who I was. I was in no condition to understand who she was. How could I know? None of us knew.

I knew Jesus back then. Some might even say that I was obsessed with knowing Jesus. I went to church every Sunday and I hung out with church people. I knew the Father well back then. I was young, the world was my oyster, my future stretched out before me. I knew that my work in the travel industry was only temporary; just a means to an end, a way to make money so that I could spend it enjoying life. At the time, I was working in a pretty unglamorous part of the wholesale travel industry packaging holidays, to Mexico and Hawaii. We used to joke that it wasn’t brain surgery, just bums on seats, just filling every plane our company chartered with warm bodies so that they could get away from Vancouver’s gloomy, rain-soaked winter; bums on seats, anybody could do the job; day in day out filling airplanes, it was positively mind-numbing work.

The company I worked for occupied an entire three-story office building on the northern edge of Vancouver’s East-End. The East-End of Vancouver is still one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. Back then, the gentrification of the East-End that Expo 86 and then the 2010 Olympics brought, couldn’t even be imagined. Good upstanding middle-class people avoided the poverty of the East-end, unless of course they were young like me, and then the depravity of the neighbourhood was kind of a badge of honour; as we braved the streets on our way to dance the night away in the clubs that sprang up on the edge of the East-End were rents were cheep and cops had so much more to worry about than the kind of mischief that we got into. So, I lived and worked in the East-End and saved my money for the life that stretched out in front of me.

I wish I could remember her name. I’m ashamed to confess that I cannot remember her name. But the pain in her eyes, those dark mournful eyes that I will never forget. I’d warned her more than once. It was against the rules. She was hired to clean our offices. She was to go about her work and make sure that she had the place spick-and span ready for us when we arrived in the morning and then she would be on her way. But time and time again, I’d find her lingering, long past the time when she should have left; lingering and talking on the telephone; she was the cleaner, she had no business using the phones. I was the newly minted supervisor of the reservations department; it was to me that the staff came to complain about the untidy conditions in the staff room. If she spent as much time doing her job as she did sneaking around making phone calls, we wouldn’t have to put up with the unwashed mugs in the sink. I warned her over and over again, but she just wouldn’t listen. My boss told me to fire her; but I was young and I’d never fired anyone before, besides wouldn’t Jesus want me to give her just one more chance; God forgive me I thought I could save her. Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t planning to save her for Jesus or anything as crass as that, oh no, I was going to save her from herself. I was going to redeem her from her lazy self and see to it that she kept her job. God forgive me, I did not know what I was doing. Continue reading

Arise on this Mothers’ Day: a sermon

justice missingThe plight of particular mothers in Canada promoted a change to the readings for this Sunday. You can find Luke 23:26-34, The Mother’s Day Proclamation, and Luke 24:1-5a by clicking here. The music for the song sung after the sermon “Sweetgrass and Candle” can be found here.

You can listen to the sermon here  

To further explore the issues discussed in the sermon, I highly recommend watching the National Film Board’s film “Finding Dawn” it can be viewed by clicking here

 

Blanket Exercise at Holy Cross in Newmarket

IMG_0190Yesterday, the Holy Cross’ Global Justice Team hosted a Kairos Blanket Exercise. The experience of participating in the Blanket Exercise was  powerful, humbling, enlightening and inspiring. The Global Justice Team did a splendid job of guiding us through Indigenous Canadian history.  We were blessed by the presence of indigenous leaders: Suzanne Smoke (The Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery) and Cathy Elliott (DAREarts). Suzanne brought along her sacred bundle and graciously led a smudge ceremony and talking circle. Cathy gifted us by singing and drumming. Reflecting on the range of emotions that the experience generated, it is clear that in addition to providing a powerful educational experience the gathering opened our hearts and minds to a history which many of us have remained ignorant of for far too long. We have been challenged and inspired to continue to advocate for our First Nations sisters and brothers. 

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a filmmaker, but I did manage to collect a few clips to give you a taste of the experience.

The Global Justice Team has organized a followup to the Blanket Exercise in the form of a Book Club. Check out the titles:

Blanket Exercise Book Club

To view a video of a Kairos Blanket Exercise recorded at New Hope in Calgary click here

Enough of John the Baptist Already! a sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent

mandelaIn addition to Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew3:1-2, the readings today included Maya Angelou’s poem “His Day Is Done: a Tribute to Nelson Mandela“.  I am indebted to Glynn Cardy for much of this sermon and we are both indebted to John Dominic Crossan and Robert Funk for providing historical perspective. 

Ubuntu: Compassion brought into colourful practice.

go be love

“I must never allow my neighbour to go hungry while I’ve got a little food in my house…We as human beings must sustain each other even during times of greatest peril.”  Let our Thanksgiving become compassion and let us bring our compassion into colourful practice!