Epiphany 6 – Stolen Sisters February 17, 2019

Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria   

Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1,1Corinthians15:12-20, Luke 6:17-36

They are some of the most important words of the Bible. Jesus’ blessings and woes, assurances and warnings, that are critical to hear, to let sink in, to trust, to love, to live, by God’s grace.  

But I want to tell you more about the drum making workshop I participated in yesterday. It was at the Anglican Cathedral, organized by a few women there, together with Martin Brokenleg. Sarah was the leader, an Indigenous woman who works as a cultural liaison in public schools. She began by inviting Diane to welcome us to the territory, because Sarah is not originally from these lands. Diane, spoke first in the language of the Lekwangen, and then translated the words into English. She said she always likes to tell a story. She told us about being in a store with her grandchild, and just faintly hearing another child in the store, singing. She listened, and thought, that sounds like the Lekwangen celebration song. She listened more closely and heard it again. And she was sure this little voice was singing the celebration song. She moved around the store to locate the voice, trying not to be a “stalker” she said. And came across a little girl, not even school age, following behind her Mom, looking at things, and singing, the Lekwangen celebration song. She took out her phone and recorded the sound just for a few seconds, to capture the beauty and hope in that little voice, and a song of celebration learned somewhere continuing to be sung.After Diane’s warm greeting Sarah opened the circle, by telling us her name, about her ancestors that were with her in the circle, and a little about how she was feeling, on a scale of 1-10. She told us she was nervous about being in a church, because that was not a positive experience of her upbringing. She asked all of us, about 16-18 people to do the same, and we did and learned a lot about each other in a short time.

Sarah then shared teachings, from her own and the traditions of this area, about time and relationship to the land, (A single strand of 500 beads, each bead representing 20 years… beads near the marking contact with non-indigenous people, and other significant events from that contact, so much of which is only in the last few beads…) And she taught us about the drum, and the practise of drum making, and how we would be making drums together.

Sarah welcomed Jessica who would be helping us, a woman from Nuu-chah-nulth territory. (Jessica told us a story about Nootka sound and “Nootka” people, telling Cook on his voyage to “nootka! nootka! Which means “go around” – they smile at being known as the “go around” people.) They sang a song together with a drum and rattles before we began. They started by smudging all the materials and tools on the table, the drum rings made by men at William Head correctional facility, and then ourselves, if we felt comfortable. We gave thanks for the trees that made it possible to make the drum rings, the elk and deer that gave their lives so we had hides to make the drums, and the ancestors who gave the teachings.

We worked under Sarah’s guidance, first punching the holes in the hides, then stringing them, then tensioning and re-tensioning until the skin was tight, stringing the handle and tying everything off four times; and helping each other, if any were struggling. Sarah closed the circle, by inviting each of us to name what we were grateful for. Sarah was grateful for feeling comfortable in a church space, warmly welcomed and cared for. I said I was grateful for all the teachings of these women.

Through the morning I was very aware of the Stolen Sister march that was to begin as the workshop was nearing its end. These three indigenous women, and more in the circle, their strength and graciousness, in themselves and their traditions, and shared teaching, and the profound tragedy of other women like them murdered and missing, and the far greater risk to their lives as indigenous women in Canada.

And woe to us, if that does not change. And the great importance of our joining as indigenous and non-indigenous people together to remember missing and murdered indigenous women, and two spirit people as well, and the urgent need to stand in solidarity, to hear and remember and seek the change that is needed together. And what a source of strength and hope these women, and others like them, are for women in their communities, and for all women, and for all of us together.

I have also been very conscious of the story surrounding Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Prime Minister and government of Canada. She too, as Canada’s first Indigenous Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, is a woman of great strength and ability, and by all accounts, integrity. It is a great loss to see her no longer in this role, given all the contributions she has made, and no doubt would have continued to make for the good of this country and for greater reconciliation as indigenous and non-indigenous people together. There is much we do not know and do well not to prejudge anyone. But woe to those who have other purposes, including those who are rich, full and falsely praised, for you will be hungry, weep, and mourn like others before.

Large crowds press to hear Jesus, to be healed, to touch him. And Jesus looks at them and blesses those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, defamed, promising that the realm of God belongs to you, and you will be filled, laugh, and leap for joy, because your reward is great with God. And still looking at them Jesus speaks warnings to those who are rich, full, laughing, praised, now, for you will be hungry, mourn, weep, and falsely praised.

This is all good news. Even if it doesn’t feel like. Jesus in faithful prophetic tradition offers blessings and woes, blessing those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, defamed, oppressed, violated, hurt, trapped, struggling, blesses you with hope of a great reversal of wellbeing of God’s desiring; And says woe to you and me, whose economic and social privilege and position will be reversed if it is not for the good, is at the expense, of others, especially those poorer and more in need than ourselves. How can this blessing not be good news to those who need God’s blessing most. And how can this not be good news for those of us enjoying the privilege of food and security and good favour, to be corrected, challenged, changed by Jesus’ words and actions so that all are fed, comforted, laugh, rejoice in God’s and one another’s good favour?

I stopped at the open house at the Mosque yesterday, seeing many people there, hearing from the Imam that others from this community had stopped in, and a great atmosphere of friendliness, openness, laughter and joy in being together.

I got asked by a Times Colonist reporter why I was there. I explained I was a co-pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross and the connection to the Imam through UVic Multifaith Services, his attendance at Lyndon’s installation, but mostly about the importance of standing together publicly in solidarity as neighbours, especially with people that experience prejudice and violence in our community and nation. And they took a picture of Ishmael and I standing together.

Jesus’ gracious blessings call us to compassion and solidarity, hope and purpose and peace together. And woe to us and our world when we fail, and how we failed the 21 BC Indigenous women whose names we have heard and seen this morning, and so many more. But the blessing of God’s grace be upon all to return, return, return, forgiven and freed to follow Jesus in compassion and hope, again and again and again.

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