National Indigenous Peoples Day: In this storm, Jesus is not asleep in the back of the boat! We are!

The raging storms are all around us! The tumultuous winds are churning up the waters and tossing us about in treacherous seas. Our small boats are tossed to and fro as massive waves heave us left and right. The roaring winds create upheavals, which leave us cowering in fear, trembling as we struggle to meet each wave which carries with it the potential to destroy the few planks of wood that we have hewn together to carry us upon the ever changing sea, which holds both the promise of sustenance and the threat of oblivion within the darkness of its depths. With each crash upon the hull our fear rises, and the ferocity of the storms intensifies. Frightened, clinging to life as we are tossed from one danger to the next, we cry out into the storm, convinced that only some power more intense, bigger, stronger, beyond our abilities to even imagine, only a power such as this can save us from being swamped in our small boats. We fear that left to our own devices, without the meager security offered by our small boats, we will be overcome by the waves and drown in the very sea that we must rely upon to sustain us.

Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that howl so ferociously that all we can hear is the sound of people’s fear. As the storms rage all around us, we see the very real possibility that the bottom might just fall out of the small craft we have fashioned to navigate the troubled waters which lie before us. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that drive us ever closer to wrecking our small boats. Boats hastily designed without thought to the perils which threaten to consume us, as monsters from below depths below, surface all around us.

The weather forecast looks bleak as one storm after another rolls our way.  We are so very tired. Tired of the winds of racism, which continue to blow despite our efforts to quell their intensity. We have seen the power of racism which over and over again rises up in our midst. Some of us have learned to live in the almost silent breezes which are generated by our fear of the “other.”  We have figured out mechanisms to quell the intensity of racism’s loathsome impacts. We built lifeboats to carry us beyond the pain of the hatred which wafts in and around us, blown about by racism’s destructive currents. We are afraid that there aren’t enough lifeboats to save us all, so we jettison lives and simply turn away as “others” drown.  We’ve grown accustomed to systems designed to allow us to deny the suffering of “others” as they flail about. We trust the designs of our lifeboats to protect us. Different seas have different “others.” But the lifeboats are crafted from the same materials.

As racist breezes churn up the waters, poverty, disease and violence continue to howl, while we are tossed upon the waves, trusting that sleeping in the back of our lifeboat lies a power who IF roused will protect us, save us, carry us safely to better shores. Today, many of us are feeling more than just a little seasick. Many of us believed that we’d managed to quell the racism that once again howls in our midst. It’s Fathers’ Day after all and we were looking forward to calm waters so that we could celebrate the love of fathers for their children and children for their fathers. Our treasured memories were to be hauled up on deck, so that we could all admire the virtues of loving fathers and loving children, treasured memories, hopes for the future, gentle embraces, good wishes, and happy families. Surely, the ill winds can be quelled long enough for us to celebrate Father’s Day in peace. But the winds of racism and violence have joined forces and blown about the pain of too many atrocities which threaten the stability of our lifeboats. Our boats are weighed down with the pain of First Nations martyrs, Inuit martyrs, Metis martyrs, black, brown, and Asian martyrs; the pain of those “othered” by white privilege, slaughtered in the places we believed the winds could not, and did not penetrate.

Not even our beloved Canada, all dressed up in the history of the underground railway and multiculturalism, not even the mythical Canada, can protect us from the harsh winds of racism and violence. We recognize the power of racism and violence to stir up the waters and so we comfort ourselves with the thought that the destructive winds blow only in the south, as if we here in the north are immune to the dangers which are blowing in the wind. We point to our American cousins as if they alone, with their lifeboats weighed down by their shoot-em-up culture, are at risk of sinking. But we have our own baggage stowed deep within our holds which has the power to sink us.

National Indigenous Peoples Day: a day scarcely etched in our calendars for the sake of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. Not even a day set aside to reveal what lies in the bowels of our own lifeboats can convince us to jettison the baggage of imperialism or forgo legacies of colonialism, which we are hell-bent upon preserving even if it means that Indigenous women and girls are thrown overboard, indigenous men beaten and incarcerated, while families and indeed whole nations are denied safe drinking water; water: water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink.

We breathe deeply of the winds of racism, while denying that the very air we breathe is polluted by systems designed to ensure that the white privileged few continue to enjoy the benefits so many of us have grown to love and to horde, convinced that if the first inhabitants of these shores would only learn from us how to swim, all would be well. The winds of racism carry with them abuse, while poverty howls, dis-ease wipes out family after family, and violence destroys, and we turn away, continuing to deny that we have the power to save them all. So, we don’t save anyone of “them,” because they are “them” and not us. Let them, those people, the “others,” save themselves, there is only so much that we can do. Besides, they don’t want our help anyway. They would rather be left to their own ways. So, we narrow our gaze, trim our sails and hope for calmer seas. Relieved whenever we hear one of them, one of the “others,” condemn us for our delusions of grandeur, which allow us to imagine ourselves as “their” saviours.

Friends, the powerful metaphor offered to us by the anonymous gospel storyteller we call Mark is designed to open us to the reality of the relentless storms which rage all around us. Using familiar symbols designed to conjure up images of the fears we all harbour deep inside the very fibers of our being, the gospel storyteller wants us to feel the lashing winds which threaten to separate us from one another, as we desperately seek to survive. We have been distracted for too long now, arguing about whether or not this miracle story actually happened exactly the way it was written. It simply doesn’t matter whether or not Jesus of Nazareth preformed miracles.In fact, a miracle worker living 2000 years ago doesn’t matter at all when people are dying and being killed here and now. What matters to those who are threatened by storms or who are perishing in storms, or who are mourning the death of victims of storms, is not whether or not some guy living 2000 years ago had the power to change the course of nature. What matters to those in peril on the sea is what you and I and they are going to do in the face of the howling winds of racism, disease, poverty and violence. For this miraculous story to be worth anything at all, it needs to be able to carry us away from the realities of the ordinary into the dream of a future where miracles are actually possible.

It has always annoyed me that Jesus lies sleeping in the back of the boat, lying on a cushion no less, while his followers are in fear for their lives. I know that according to the story, Jesus was tired. He’d spent the whole day, saving those around him. The crowds had gathered and were pressing in on him and the only way to get away from their incessant demands was to get in a boat and sail away. Who among us hasn’t needed to get away from the incessant demands of others? We get it. Jesus was tired. We’re tired. I don’t want to hear about one more killing. I’m sick of hearing about racism. I’m smart enough to know that I’m one of the privileged. I know that the systems of power and control favour me and mine. What can I do about? Besides, I don’t hate black people or indigenous people. I wasn’t raised to think I’m better than anybody else. Yeah, I know the system ensures that I remain one of the privileged. But I didn’t ask to be born white and powerful, any more than they asked to be born poor and powerless. I can’t save them all. Besides they don’t want a white saviour. We keep hearing that white privileged people need to shut-up, listen, and learn because our solutions are not “their” solutions. So, I just sail on, sparing only a prayer and some small change for those who are flailing about in stormy waters.

It sure would be nice if Jesus was the answer to every question. If not Jesus then that big something more than me, that God fella, the old bearded white man in the sky, sure has a lot to answer for, leaving us alone to flail about, letting untold millions sink to the bottom. No wonder, I read this story and I want to scream at the god of my dreams, “Wake up. Don’t you care that so many people are drowning?” Wake up we need you to do something.    Help us!    Save us! I’d really like to believe that if we shout loudly enough that God will hear us and that God is powerful enough to make a difference, to save us, and to save “them.” I’d sure like to believe that there’s a master mariner powerful enough to still the winds and calm the seas. Peace! Be still!

Like many people, I am reeling from the onslaught of the news and I too, am trying to make sense out of what I do and don’t believe. Over and over again the familiar words we at Holy Cross, use to close our worship services each Sunday ring in my ears: “Go in peace. Be LOVE in the world.” Be LOVE in the world! It would be so much easier to rely on a force more powerful that I to quell this storm. And yet, we profess to follow a saviour who taught that God is LOVE; a saviour who embodied the LOVE that IS God.

Be LOVE in the world? Be God in the world? God in the world? We are part of a church which teaches that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the ONE in whom the LOVE that IS God was embodied. I smile every time I remember, Dom Crossan saying, “Do you want to know what God looks like in the first century?  Well, Jesus is what God looks like in sandals.”  Jesus is what LOVE looked like in the first century. Jesus is the Christ precisely because he was LOVE in the world. Christ is God in the world. The Church teaches us that we are the body of Christ. In the words of Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours.” “Christ has no hands now but yours.” Being Christ in the world means being LOVE in the world.

Being LOVE in the world means to stop seeing ourselves as disciples cowering in fear, terrified that the storm is going to cause the seas to rise up and drown us. It is time for us to see ourselves sleeping in the back of the boat, resting on a cushion. For all those who are afraid shouting for a saviour to wake up, we, you and I the followers of Jesus, we are the body of Christ. It is time for us to wake up, speak-up, and calm the storm which is raging. We have the power together as the body of Christ to command the winds of racism, disease, poverty, and violence to cease. Together we are the Body of Christ and together we are so much more powerful than any storm. If it really does matter to us that our sisters and brothers are going to drown, if we really do care, then it is time to wake up and speak up. It is time to put an end to the power of white privilege to in-spire or to give breath to the winds of racism, disease, poverty and violence. There is work for each one of us to speak up. We all know the power of racism. We have all, at one time or another remained silent in the face of racism so as not to rock the boat. We all have relatives and friends who are trapped in delusions of superiority and have spouted racist comments and we have let them pass. We all know or have been those people who deny that our systems are rigged so that one race, the white race, maintains its power. It is time for each of us to speak up and to take some risks, we have to rock the boat even in the midst of a storm. If our particular part of the sea appears quiet, we have to have the courage to see our reflection in those calm waters and take a long hard look at the way we live our lives. We need to examine the systems that we are engaged in to seek out injustice and to do our part to create peace through justice. Together, we are a power which is stronger than the raging storms or the treacherous waters. In the past we have used, or allowed our power to be used, to save ourselves along with those few we have deemed worthy of our rescue.

Slowly, some of us are learning that the ways in which we have exercised power from positions of privilege have only increased the ferocity of the winds of racism, poverty, disease, and violence. It is long past time for white privilege to remember the ONE so many of us profess to follow. Jesus may have rocked that boat when he spoke up, but he very quickly turned his attention to calming the seas. Together we, the Body of Christ must use our power to calm the seas. In the open letter to Canadians, the Chiefs of Ontario asked Canadians to: “Make a personal commitment to change the narrative by listening, challenging racism, educating yourself and sharing your power, space and platforms.”

The storms raging around us will not end until the winds of racism, poverty, disease, and violence are deprived of breath. So, what might being LOVE in the world look like for those of us who are privileged? Well, we may not need to put on sandals, but we will surely need to take off the trappings of wanna-be-saviours. To be LOVE in the world will mean taking off our capes of privilege, by listening to those who are drowning outside the boats we have crafted. We can begin by taking onboard the Chiefs wisdom:  listen, challenge racism, educate ourselves, and share our power, space and platforms. It’s time for us to wake up to the power of LOVE which lives in, with, through, and beyond us; the power which is the LOVE we call God.

Peace…be still….peace….be still…..peace….be still.

It all begins when we are awakened to the power which lies sleeping within us all. Together we can command the winds to cease, so that as the seas are stilled, peace can be restored.   It is long past time for us to wake up, speak-up, to risk rocking the boat, and begin the difficult work of stilling the storms raging around us, by listening to those who are drowning in the turbulent waters of white privilege, challenging racism whenever and wherever we find it, educating ourselves, and sharing our power, space and platforms.

It is time for us to be LOVE in the world. The seas will only be calmed when we work with and for one another to put an end to racism, an end to disease, an end to poverty, and an end to violence. Wake up, there is no miraculous saviour who is going to do this for us. We are the body of Christ. We are in God, and God is in us! God is not a caped crusader. God IS LOVE. In the LOVE which we call God, we live and move and have our being.” Wake up, speak up, rock the boat and be LOVE in the world. Be LOVE in the world so that peace may begin to break out on these turbulent of seas. Peace…be still….peace….be still…..peace….be still. Let it be so, dear ones. Let it be so here and now, be LOVE in the world.  Amen.

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