The questions that Eva asked lingers with me.
“What do you people up there in Waterloo think of us?”
“How do you see us on the reserve?”
I am wanting to ask Eva a follow-up question. How do you want to be seen? Because in this answer, I wonder if we might discover how we are missing the mark. Or discover how to build a bridge together one little stick at a time to cross the turbulent waters that trauma and discrimination have created, to calm the storm trauma has caused in lives and communities of our Indigenous siblings.
I also wonder,
How do people on the reserve see us living off the reserve? I suspect this might be difficult to hear.
I am grateful that we have Lana and Scott within our community, who are committed to reconciliation work. I anticipate the fruit this might bear. I hope to visit Music for the Spirit and that a relationship can be forged among some members of St. Matthew.
For, I am convinced that we are all created in this beautiful and relational image of God. And deep down each person knows who they are created to be. Yet I also am also deeply convinced that living in this image of God is likely harder for people on the margins. So much of life speaks to them that their life being of lesser worth. And this is simply not as God intends.
For you who are discriminated against, you who live on the margins of oppression, I want you to hear this: Your value doesn’t decrease based on someones inability to see your worth. (Quote by unknown author). So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Now, I also speak from a place of privilege. I am a straight, white woman with a good education. I am married to a well educated man and together we have three children. The bank owns most of our house but we were able to get a mortgage and buy in a desirable neighbour. We are both employed with good jobs. And so I have some privilege.
I have also tasted a little of what it’s like to be on the margins. In some ways, we all have and this helps us to be allies to those consistently on the margins.
I am learning, for me as a person of privilege, one way to help promote change is to use my platforms of privilege to speak out as an ally for those marginalized. I have long felt this to be one reason I’ve been called to the ministry.
Going on a Walk, Backpacks in Hand
A few weeks back I asked you to come on a walk with me. We both took along a backpack that other people had packed for us. When we looked inside, we found out that one backpack was full with helpful items, my favourite toothbrush wasn’t packed but I had most of what I needed to help me along. The other backpack was… well how do I say this…..empty.
But why is that we wondered. Then you my friend knew the reason before I. For my eyes were slower to see. You my friend said, it’s because I am a person of colour and you are white. Well at first, I didn’t understand. I thought I had earned all of this extra stuff in my pack from my hard work and that of my ancestors. They had raised me well, yes. But then I came to realize that some had been given to me just because of my skin colour.
That was painful to acknowledge. It left me feeling sad.
But, I recalled some words of scripture that reminded me of my privilege. And that God’s word has this remarkable power of softening the hardness that forms in our hearts. The gift of the law is that it reminds us of the ways in which we have missed the mark. And that too is grace.
Holding Up a Mirror
I recalled the story of Nathan and David.
Do you remember that story? Of course you do.
Nathan tells David about a rich and a poor person living in the same city.
The rich person had many flocks and herds but the poor person had nothing but one little ewe lamb bought for hefty price. When you are poor there is not margin for error with cashflow. The poor person care deeply for the lamb and it grew up with her children. The poor person let the ewe eat some of the families food which was meagre and in scarce supply. The ewe was so loved, it was like a daughter to her.
Now there came a traveller who came to the rich person for one of his flock but the rich person did not want to give away one of her flock. So the rich person decided to take the poor person’s lamb and the lamb was prepared for the guest.
Nathan tells this ghastly story to David.
Can you imagine how David the king felt about this? Upon hearing the story, David’s anger is kindled greatly. So angry was he with the ways of the rich person that he wishes death upon him and if not death, then the rich man needs to restore what he has taken, fourfold at that. David laments at how terribly the rich person has treated the poor person.
Except, David does not see who the rich person actually is….
Nathan speaks to David’s performative outrage.
Nathan says, David, you are that rich person!
David is aghast, shocked and maybe even a little defensive. He did not identify with the rich person.
The epistle asks of us?
Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
For a growing number of people, it is becoming obvious of how we are likely the ‘rich person’ in the story that Nathan told.
We are learning, that the sin of racism which is defined as a prejudice against someone based on race, that is reinforced by systems of power is a problem in Canada too.
As we learn about the insidious nature of systemic racism woven into the very fabric of society and how this perpetuates inequality and discrimination for those on the margins, we are called to live in the light of God’s freedom and love for all creation.
To this we are being asked to hold up the mirror.
And likely when we hold up the mirror we will be sitting in the seat of David.
And that’s a hard glass of water to swallow.
But water and the word, promise to renew us in our baptismal calling. Inviting us into God’s story of daily renewal to life abundant. And as we know, in God’s story, the transformational power of God’s life emerges even from such a place as the cross.
As we endeavour to put reconciliation into action, even though progress is being made, we will continue to miss the mark. Yet, God walks with us to provide grace enough for the journey and at the end of the day, forgiveness 70 times 7 when we miss the mark.
My one year old daughter has learned to say sorry. Sometimes she says it when someone else has done something wrong. At first, I didn’t understand what she was saying as her sorry is missing the ’s’ sound at the beginning.
My eldest daughter said to me, Mom it sounds like she is saying - Your Way.
I respond, Yes, I hear her say Your Way too.
I pause and wonder, maybe there is lesson for us about reconciliation in the words of a one year old.
Sorry, for us in not enough.
Maybe our sorry has to be,