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      God’s Work is to Create Connections Among Us

      July 4, 2021 by Carey Meadows-Helmer
      Filed Under:
      Pr. Carey

      Sermon Pentecost 6B 

      In the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about family camping trips in the Adironacks, to the tallest peak called Mount Marcy or in Algonquin, Tahawus.  Robin recalls how her family taught her the importance leaving the site in good shape. Cleaning up the campsite had the goal of leaving it better than they found it. They’d also leave some dry kindling and wood for the next campers to start a fire. The next campers might arrive at nighttime only to find the surprise of firewood already prepared. A warm fire could be easily lit and dinner cook.  For them, this was an act of creating connections. You’d never see the people who would next camp on the site nor would you receive a word of thanks, but still, by helping out the next campers in this way, connections were being forged.

      The Gospel text for this morning has a lot to do with connections being forged.  God works to create connections among us that aren’t power over but power with and power beside. Most of Jesus’ ministry is about strengthening connections with the oppressed, while calling into question the undisputed authority of top religious officials.

      In the work of making connections, Jesus calls the disciples and sends them out in twos. And so I am not surprised that they are ask to go forth with some vulnerability. Empty handed to rely upon the welcome and hospitality of the people they encounter.  All they take along are the gifts of their body.  Their ears, eyes, mouth, nose, hands and heart to listen to their surroundings and respond accordingly. 

      Connections are made by calling and sending. We wonder, where is the Gospel? I hear a little Gospel in a few places. 

      It’s comforting to know that the disciples are sent out in pairs. They don’t have to go about it on their own. They are meant to do it in together. Partnerships are lifelines that build further connections in this interconnected cosmos or make us see the connections that are already present.

      There is also Gospel freedom in taking only the gift of yourself and no possession, not needing anything else to do the work to which God calls.

      Yes, two little parcels of Gospel.

      I was surprised to discover a littler more when Jesus tells the the disciples about the scenarios they might encounter when sent, of both being welcomed and not welcomed. If you are not welcome, Shake off the dust from your feet, they are told. 

      Those words, actually and surprisingly hold a deep breath of Gospel good news. In those instances where your way or experience, who you are is not welcome (or understood or appreciated), when no one is listening, shake off the dust from your feet and move on. You are not bound or obliged to stay.  You do not have to stick in any situation that is unhealthy for you.  Walk or run with the wind from that place that does not welcome you to a place that will because they do exist.  Walk or run to a place of healing and wholeness and more.   

      Rico, a Lutheran in the US tells about finding a church home. ”At my old church, they didn’t accept the way that I dressed or acted. I needed to leave. Luther Place actually accepted me. They accepted me as a person, you know? They weren’t judgmental. Belonging to a church that accepts the LGBTQIA+ community was like a big starting point for me to start going back to worship. It’s the best.”

      For some people, shaking off the dust is a good option. But it’s not always that easy is it…. To shake off the dust and move forward. 

      When trauma is experienced, fight or flight can be the strong response that follows. There is a lot of trauma in the world these days. I imagine, for some the words to leave and shake off the dust of your feet might be of extreme comfort.  

      For myself, I am fortunate to have a good marriage and family life, and to serve in a good parish and to have served in good parishes over the years. My family of origin is healthy and supportive. I am fortunate. I carry with me of a stick-with-it-ness. 

      Yet, even I find comfort in these words.  They remind us that we’re all children of God. Loved and cherished and that God does not force us to be in any situation that isn’t healthy for us. 

      There is also another way. Some people choose to stick it out because they want to see change.

      Jeff Chu, an author and one of the keynote speakers at our recent synod assembly, is a gay candidate in the Presbyterian church who is awaiting ordination. But the church is still debating whether gay people are worthy of ordination. 

      He is sticking it out because he wants to see change in the place where he is planted.

      Or like the women 40+ years ago who endured the debate about whether they’d be a distraction in the pulpit, leading men to betray themselves in sinful lust as an argument against inclusion in ordained ministry.  

      Some strong women decided to stick it out because they wanted to see change in the places they were and are planted. And change happened and is happening.

      Or Laura who is Metis and Catholic who writes that she will not leave the church over the current scandal but calls upon her fellow Catholics to overturn tables and demand justice and transparency.

      For some people, sticking it out is the way the forward. They want to be the change that needs to happen.  They want to make those connections of healing and wholeness in the world.

      For some, sticking it out is the best option.

      For others, wiping the dust off their feet is in their best interest.

      No judgement, only love and curiosity. You know you, you do you. Because God loves you, child of God.

      Brene Brown writes in the Gifts of Imperfection:

      Our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together. 

      This is so poignantly true in our life as a country, in this place at this time.

      Many people struggled with Canada day this year. 

      In the the local news, one headline said, 

      The truth is that Canada was never a perfect country — so let’s pause to mourn ... learn ... and move toward healing and reconciliation.  

      Many people felt moved to learn and do something. Wearing orange instead of red.  Reflecting with a candle instead of celebrating with fireworks. Walking peacefully together. Donating to or buying from our Indigenous people.  But this is not enough, we know. There certainly needs to be accountability. 

      And so like many others, in light of recent awareness of past events, I’ve been really struggling with this text. Because this text is about sending out people to preach and live the Gospel. Those who the church sent, the religious missionaries released into the Indigenous communities of Canada and beyond, caused unprecedented harm and trauma.  Those sent did not bring the Gospel.  And it seems like some of the sent continue to not deliver on any concrete relief measures to the oppression.

      I am saddened, disappointed and angry to hear of the the unmet financial obligations, to raise funds that were supposed to help survivors, with counselling and support for their families.  While at the same time, even more money was being raised to build a new church. Unacceptable. 

      I am disappointed to read that the pope will listen to the struggle of Canadian Indigenous peoples on Vatican soil rather than travelling to their communities and lives. 

      I cringe to hear an archbishop say that some good came out of Residential schools Catholic Church is being persecuted. 

      People are watching how the church responds.  And it’s time to listen deeply and step up in very concrete ways.

      Woe to the person of privilege and power, the church that says, we did all we could and yet did nothing, the archbishop, that says the wrongs of the past, are not our wrongs to bear, to the ones who continue to perpetuate oppressive colonial systems and racisms.

      While the Lutheran Church may not have had a direct role in residential schools as did other mainline protestants, we still play an important role in righting and re-writing wrongs and can set examples of Gospel love, generosity and good will moving forward. Even though we haven’t been been asked to give money to the reconciliation / restoration efforts.  Maybe it’s wise to do so anyways.  Remembering how we are all connected.  Yes, we are the imperfect body of Christ, what happens in one part of the body impacts the whole.

      What is needed for healing?  I don’t know.  I still have a lot of homework and listening to do. But concrete actions of love carry some gravitas. Words are simply not enough. 

      Let’s increase our stride in matters pertaining to justice and run this race to the finish line.

      Who are the sent? The church often thinks it’s us. Sometimes it is us. But as I have said before, it might be the most vulnerable who come into our midst to show us the way, to teach us God’s love and to lead us to a place of liberation and a wholeness that is intended for all of God’s good creation.

      Yes, God is all about making connections. God’s connections are about releasing the captive, freeing the prisoners and leading us to a life that is whole and abundant.

      I love the words of the hymn we are about to sing. It is called, God’s Work, Our hands.  The first verse of the hymn resonates especially with some of the past and present ministry at St. Matts.   Listen to the lyrics:

      1.   God's work, our hands: working together,

      building a future, repairing the world,

      raising up homes, planting new gardens,

      feeding the hungry and shelt'ring the cold.

      Bless, God, our hands as we work in your name,

      sharing the good news of your gospel.

      Now let’s sing together, God’s Work, our Hands,  of all of the connections God is working in our midst. The hymn can be found in your hymn package.

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