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      Emptying yourself for Reconciliation

      TRC Sunday 2023 October 3, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer

      At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, 

      every tongue confess him, King of Glory now.

      These opening words from our Hymn of the Day 

      Echo our reading from Philippians this morning, 

      which could be called: An ode to humility.

      “For the love of God”, 

      Paul passionately begs us to show compassion and sympathy. 

      He encourages us to be “in full accord of one mind.”

      And this hopefully flows into our response to Orange Shirt Day.

      Why do we spend time on a Sunday morning wrestling 

      with the difficult and disturbing topic of Residential School Abuses?

      For the sake of Love, we do it, 

      and the sharing in the Spirit.

      We have to acknowledge our responsibility as descendants of the generations of those who perpetrated these horrors,

      Though we personally may not be guilty.

      We admit that similar harmful attitudes and stereotypes exist 

      that further add to the wrongs caused to First Nations, 

      slowing down attempts at Reconciliation.

      This isn’t an easy topic, 

      and perhaps sometimes the reality seems distant; 

      it would be different perhaps if we were living in Brantford or Saskatoon, 

      where Indigenous peoples form a more visible minority.

      “Please, do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (v3)

      In humility regard others as better than yourselves!

      This means that we shouldn’t only look to our own interest, 

      but we should look to the interests of others.

      In the residential school system, 

      probably many thought they were helping, 

      providing charity through a quote “proper, modern education”.

      Some no doubt had noble intentions, 

      while others had sadistic intentions 

      and took advantage of a system which asked few questions, 

      Had little accountability, 

      A system where the most vulnerable had no opportunity 

      to address wrongs, 

      as their humanity and equality with white folks was denied.

      But if we seek Christ as the model, he who humbled himself,

      Though equal to God emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,

      We too, like Christians, little Christs,

      We need to humble ourselves truly 

      and put away selfish reasons for helping.

      It’s not good enough to be humble for own purpose, for our own glory,

      In the vein of “look Ma! I’m so humble and helpful, ain’t that great?

      Now I get a plaque on a wall.”

      But to be truly humble,

      We need to discover the real interests of others,

      And try to see things from the other’s perspective.

      In the history of residential schools, had we stopped to ask questions, 

      consulted and listened, and not imposed our will,

      Had the system been properly funded,

      Employees vetted with due accountability for their treatment of the children under their charge, 

      with real consequences for unacceptable behaviour, 

      and firing sadists and abusers, 

      rather than sweeping the problems under the rug,

      That would have been a proper way to do things without selfish ambition or conceit, and much harm would have been averted.

      As Christians we should want others to flourish and to come to Christ willingly because they see God’s love through our love.

      Our faith should be attractive because they see how God humbled himself 

      and how we are invited to imitate this divine humility.

      It is part of the essence of God that

      “God does not exploit God’s power or embrace hierarchy” 

      and that

      “All of God’s acts, blessings and delights in creating are for others.”

      It’s in God’s nature to be sensitive to 

      “vulnerability, [and the] need and suffering of others.”

      (William Greenway from “Feasting on the Word”)

      The idea that God empties himself and humbles himself as an invitation for us to do the same, could be terrifying for those of us with privilege,

      But for the destitute, the abused, the suffering: 

      these are comforting words.

      God pulls the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.

      Ezekiel admonished us in our first reading to “change your ways and live”.

      We need to reject, like God, any form of false hierarchy,

      Dismiss any notions that some civilizations 

      are inherently superior to others,

      That “Enlightened Christianity” is better for example 

      than Indigenous Spirituality.

      White folks,

      We must empty ourselves of our privilege,

      And take steps of vulnerability and open ourselves to listening and learning,

      For example,

      By attending Indigenous Festivals,

      Attending Feather and Cross Events,

      Reading a good book by an indigenous author

      (I would recommend an Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King),

      Or come to worship on October 29th to hear the message and presentation by Stephen Jackson from Anishnabeg Outreach.

      The world is a brighter place when we recognize that

      All have value,

      All can be listened to,

      None are discounted,

      None are 2nd class citizens


      Every child matters.


      God is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

      Have courage;

      This is hard work!

      Acknowledging the sins of our white forebears,

      The sins of Christianity,

      Engaging the process of reconciliation with sincerity.

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