Pentecost 19 Creation – Orange Shirt Day – September 30, 2018

Rev. Lyle McKenzie    Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Esther 7:1-6,9-10,9:20-22; Ps. 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Esther… the original book doesn’t even contain the word God…

nor covenant, or law/Torah

Although the focus is the peril and rescue of the people of Israel and a sense of God’s providence in Queen Esther, and Mordecai

and Esther’s courage in testifying to the King to save her people…

and Esther and the people’s piety in prayer and fasting…

It’s a melodrama worthy of jeers and boos, cheers and hoorays…

And of what relevance?

– to the Hebrew scriptures and Bible, contested as late as 400CE

– to a reading today and our lives and world?

What relevance?

– One woman comes forward to testify to her story of sexual assault by a nominee for the United States Supreme Court…

Is Christine Blasey Ford like Esther?

– Countless women’s stories testifying to their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, challenging power and their being silenced and powerless… but finding their voices and the strength in standing together, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and more

Are all these women like Esther?

What relevance?

Phyllis Webstad’s orange shirt story, bringing her story and the stories of other residential school survivors and their families to light, to the truth, and confession, and toward healing, toward reconciliation

Many of us are just beginning to hear and understand these stories of indigenous children and their families in residential schools and the trauma for generations, and all of us together… and it needing to change us now… for the future…

Esthers, all of them, and many more, women of courage, of faith? risking, sacrificing their lives to save their people…

Hear what the Spirit is saying!

James, James, James, for weeks now… going on and on about works, practical/ethical matters over faith and theology, pray, confess, feed, care for your neighbour/sister/brother/sibling whose sick and suffering, cheerful or wandering, because… faith without works is dead? What about grace? Grace! God’s grace is the freedom to act, so act, as neighbour, as Christ, living faith…

– Praying friends, acting in prayer for the little ones, children and young people of this community and beyond, held in prayer… held in living faith…

– Orange Shirt Day, hearing, remembering the stories of residential school survivors, of indigenous people in our nation and world, seeking understanding together and a way forward together, toward reconciliation and healing together… in living faith in our common Creator…

– Time of creation, wonders of, weavings of, daily acts of, prayers of, songs of, God’s good creation, and the ill we are too often perpetrating by commission or omission and the call to act, faithfully, gratefully, carefully, for the sake of all creation and the generations after us… in living faith for creation…

– and so much more in faith and works for the wellbeing of all, neighbours in need of food security, affordable housing for students and elders, safe passage and home for refugees, help for victims of violence and oppression at home and across the world, inclusion and solidarity with those of differing sexual orientations and gender identities, prayers for the sick and any in need,  learning, stewardship, worship, partnership… as Church of the Cross of Christ Jesus in living faith… all by God’s grace…

Hear what the Spirit is saying!

And Jesus, telling his jealous or protective followers to include others in the wide embrace of God’s dominion work in Jesus’ name… Who if they are not against us, are for us… from exorcising demons in past and present times to offering a cup of water, no one will lose their reward…

And how critical is it?, how critical that we not cause to stumble one of God’s little ones… not stumble ourselves with hand or foot or eye… it’s life and death, it’s hope or hell, its salt or tastelessness, because Jesus cares and desires this much, God cares and desires this much, to warn and threaten us with the truth of our ways and their consequences, when we fail to follow, fail to act, Jesus/God cares and desires to redeem and free us and all humanity from ourselves, and graces humanity, by Jesus’ own sacrifice and life, to act in Jesus’ name, live in Jesus’ name…

Hear what the Spirit is saying!

Jeremy Dutcher is the 2018 winner of the Polaris prize for music in Canada. He is a classically trained tenor and member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. His first and prize winning album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa combines ancient ancestral songs recorded in 1911 on wax cylinders by anthropologist William H. Mechling with Dutcher’s own musical compositions and singing. It was an elder, Maggie Paul, who encouraged him to learn more and listen to the original Wolastoq songs, which he did, meticulously transcribing them over a number of weeks. He said, “When I first got to hear these voices, that work for me was a profoundly transformational moment in my life. It was a process of deep listening — to sit there… and really hear what these voices had to tell me.”

I want to play one of his songs, Mehcinut, with his voice and the voice of his ancestor singing together…

It’s beautiful and profound, what we hear, and what is happening in combining these two voices of past and present, to preserve the past and transform the present…

When the Polaris Prize was announced, Dutcher shouted out in his own language, “All of my people, this is for you,” and then said in English, “Canada, you are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance. Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?”

“To do this record in my language and have it witnessed not just by my people, but every nation from coast to coast, up and down Turtle Island — we’re at the precipice of something. It feels like it.”

“I do this work to honour those who have gone before, and I lay the footwork for those who have yet to come.”

It feels like Jeremy Dutcher has heard what his elders and ancestors are saying and singing to him and he is witnessing to that in a profound and critical way, a living and transforming song.

It feels like what we seek to do every time we gather around these words and sacraments/actions of grace in Jesus’ name, to hear Jesus’/God’s words and the voices of our ancestors, and all that the Spirit is saying. And to act in that Spirit of grace and life, for our neighbour, this world and all creation, because it is critical, urgent and vital that we do. Because if salt has lost its taste, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Hear what the Spirit is saying!

Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.