june 14th, 2020 – from where we are

O Lord our God,
     teach our hearts this day
   where and how to see you,
     and where and how to find you.
Teach us to seek you,
     and may we love you when we find you.
    St. Anselm

All creatures of our God and King
     lift up your voice and with us sing
   O praise him, alleluia
Thou burning sun with golden beam
     thou silver moon with softer gleam
O praise Him, o praise Him
     alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
     ye clouds that sail in heav’n along
   O praise him, alleluia
Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
     ye lights of evening find a voice
O praise Him, o praise Him
     alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
Let all things their Creator bless
     and worship Him in humbleness
   O praise him, alleluia
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
     and praise the Spirit three in one
O praise Him, o praise Him
     alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
Lasst Uns Erfreuen
St. Francis
David Crowder and Brent Milligan

Holy Spirit, You have called your Church to be a sign
      of hope in a world without hope,
   to be a healing community in a broken world,
      to be a people of peace in a world at war with itself.
Forgive our failures of the past
   and create in us a vision of unity and hope,
     of love and sharing,
that we might be agents of your gospel for the whole world;
     through Jesus Christ Our Lord
Baptist Union of Great Britain

Breathe, breathe on us now
   open your mouth
     and speak the word that heals this broken ground
Say, say what you will
   as we are still
     as we breathe the very breath of God

Oh, Spirit of God
   here with us now
     giving us life again
Breathe, breathe on us now
   fill us with your love
     send us with your power
Spirit of God
David, Michael, & Lisa Gungor

Hey everyone, it’s good to be with through the technology of waves and wires.  I hope you are finding some moments of rest and refreshment this weekend.  Last Thursday the government made the announcement that churches may now hold gatherings of up to one hundred fifty people if proper protocols are in place.  In consultation with the Elders, the staff is working on a reopening plan for the church.  It will take us some time to fully develop the plan, including making the necessary adjustments to our facility, cleaning procedures, and gathering protocols.  The target date for reopening is July 5, but that could change if we don’t feel that the reopen plan is ready.  (We won’t meet before then, though.)  I will continue to keep you updated as to where things are with this.


This week there are several resources available for downloading.  They are all underneath the link for this liturgy and I will be explaining them as we go along.


First, I want to take a quick moment to flag an eight-month spiritual formation course that will be offered this coming fall.  I realize that most of us are just looking forward to getting to summer and really have no idea what fall will look like for us, particularly in light of COVID.  So this is just to make you aware of the opportunity as ‘something that you may wish to access’ if it works for you.  Over the coming weeks we will be posting clips of people speaking of their experiences in being a part of The Journey.  Today you can hear Robin, who is our staff point person for the course, talk about The Journey and her experience as a facilitator.  To access this, just click the link below the link for this liturgy.


Just a reminder that June is National Indigenous History Month.  It is a month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.  As a way to begin thinking about this, Kari has put together a guide to help us learn about and celebrate Indigenous peoples and their culture.  There is a link to download the guide right below the link for this liturgy.  Each week we will provide an additional resource geared to help engage our thinking and challenge the status quo of our living.  I will come back to that later in the liturgy.   


The tragic death of George Floyd reignited outrage and protest around the world over police brutality, but it obviously goes deeper than that.  It has brought back into the spotlight many of the issues we often steer clear of or simply leave simmering beneath the surface of status quo living. Things like racism, privilege, power structures, human rights, advocacy, justice, and value.


This is an important moment in time, in our history.  It asks of us our best thinking and it asks of us our best actions.We need to wrestle with how we can represent Jesus’s vision of peace and love and justice in the context of these issues and work to find ways to affect change.


I do want to preface this series by saying that, as always, it is ok for you to disagree with me.   You also will have thoughts and ideas that are valuable to this process and so I would love to hear from you.  Drop me a note or a text and let’s visit.


I suppose there are a hundred ways we could begin talking about this and wrestling with it.  There will definitely be some uncomfortable things said, not necessarily by me, but by those who critique the pervading cultural ideals around privilege, and white supremacy.


There is a map you can download that gives a general sense as to what I am referring to when I speak of the West.  (The map was developed by in conjunction with Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations)  I point this out because the reality is that by and large, the power and voice in the Western World has been, and continues to be, held by white males.  In this series it is my intent to create space for us to hear from people who have been marginalized by this power structure. This liturgy has been shaped by the experiences and insights of Jennifer Bailey, Grace Ji Sun Kim, Reggie Williams, and Michelle Nahanee.


So today I want to think about race and begin to explore how these ideals have brought about a false and harmful way of defining what it means to be human.


So what is race?  The idea of ‘race’ is actually a modern idea.  It originated from anthropologists and philosophers in the 18th century, who used geographical location and physical traits like skin color to place people into different groupings.  This served to create the belief that ‘race’ is biological in nature.  The truth is that race has no genetic basis.


This flawed principle laid the groundwork for the belief that some races were superior to others, which in turn created global power imbalances that benefited white Europeans over other groups.  Part of what continued to drive these ideas related to economics and capitalism.  It is seen occurring in colonialism, imperialism, the slave trade, and practices of domination.  The idealized race was white and so system and structures for whites only began to emerge – it created a white supremacy.  And in many ways the Church was a mobilizing force this narrative.


An outworking of this became the justification of social inequalities being natural among ‘different races.’  Race began to become a benchmark by which some people were denied rights and freedoms that others took for granted.  As the race concept evolved, it justified the extermination of Indigenous Peoples, slavery, exclusion of Asian immigrants, the taking of land, and so on.  This is what ‘White Privilege’ refers to – that there are advantages to being white in terms of access to opportunities and resources.


Reggie Williams, the theologian not NFLer, said (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘When we talk about race we aren’t really speaking about categories of human beings.  What we are talking about is a central idealized human being (white) around which all of humanity gravitates in its various manifestations we describe as diversity.  The history of race has been the effort to stabilize this central notion of white being the idealized human. 


As I mentioned before, the Western Church has also been a part of this problem.  In many ways, Christianity has theologically driven these idealized notions of ‘whiteness.’   For the last two thousand years most of the voices of Christianity were white males.  God became gendered as a white male.  (The top of the idealized notion of race and gender)   Father, Son, and Spirit all male. 


Jesus was a marginalized, poor, likely dark skinned Jew living in a colonized state under the rule of an Empire.  (Let’s remember that to escape Herod his family fled to Egypt, presumably to blend in). 


But all of a sudden we have a white Jesus.  And this idealized white Jesus becomes the face for the true ‘chosen people’ (ideal people) the Western Church.  And there was an empowerment for them to take land, to acquire wealth by justifying and legitimizing the buying and selling of human beings, to eradicate customs and ways of living of the Indigenous Peoples.


Now I think it should be pointed out that while this was the dominant form of Christianity in the west, it wasn’t the only ‘brand’ of Christianity.  There were those who pushed back against these ideas and practices.
But because this idealized notion of whiteness was both culturally and religiously the dominant way of thinking we have to find our way of owning and addressing the systemic problems it has brought about   To combat this, we need to identify and change policies that give advantage to some groups at the expense of others.


We will continue to work out these ideas, but today I want to finish with this.  Grace Ji Sun Kim points out that, Jesus came with a message of love and liberation.  And if it becomes distorted it leads to death.  It leads to things like racism and white supremacy. So we reflect on Jesus’s message of liberation, seeing those who are marginalized, and those who currently suffer under systems of oppression and make changes in how we live.  We have to ask ourselves the hard questions about the way we participate in and benefit from privilege.


For us as Canadians, one of the places of marginalization and brokenness lies with the treatment of the Indigenous Peoples.  We have talked about reconciliation, but it seems that we as a country have stalled a bit in actions to make true change.  Perhaps part of this lies in a feeling of being overwhelmed with the question, ‘what difference can I make?’.


So over this month we will be highlighting a resource called Decolonizing First.  It is a workbook to help form a pathway for change.  You can download the first few pages under the link for this liturgy.  Each week we will be putting a few more pages out to help us as a community once again intentionally engage in, as the author writes, ‘peeling back the layers of denial we’ve all be taught to normalize’ in order to bring healing and restoration.  We have purchased twenty-five copies of the workbook and are happy to buy more if there is lots of interest.


Following our closing prayer, you can simply listen to the last song, or you can download and watch the accompanying video.  (The link is underneath the link for this liturgy).


May our hope and imagination be linked with Jesus’s work of liberation in restoring and making all things new.

God is not a man
   God is not a white man
     God is not a man sitting on a cloud
God cannot be bought
   God will not be boxed in
     God will not be owned by religion


But God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
     God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone


God is not a man
   God is not an old man
     God does not belong to Republicans
God is not a flag
   not even American
     and God does not depend on a government


But God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone
     God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone


Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians
     and even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President
     everybody, everybody, love, love, love, love, love


God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
     stop the hating, please just stop the hating now cause God is love
Michael Gungor

Let us pray together:
From where we are
     to where you need us,
   Jesus, now lead on.


To mend the fabric of this world
     until it refashioned into the shape of your kingdom,
   Jesus, now lead on.


From where we are
     to where you need us,
  Jesus, now lead on.
Baptist Union of Great Britain

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