Preached at an online worship service for All Saints, King City, Diocese of Toronto, 21 June, 2020
Readings: Isaiah 40: Isaiah 40:25-31, Philippians 4:4-9 , John 1:1-18
My first liturgy with the parish of All Saints (ASKC as they call themselves) was done by Zoom, a novel experience for me. I was pleased that the lay leaders wanted to be part of the Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Day of Prayer (NIDP).
Today offers lots of resources for parishes and individuals who want to learn more about our relationships with our indigenous brothers and sisters and with our work of reconciliation.
The national church’s observation of the NIDP can be found here.
The NIDP sermon by Andrew Absil, Bishop of Toronto, can be found here.
A great meditation by Todd Townshend, Bishop of Huron, on the sinful first effects of the Doctrine of Discovery on Christianity in North America is here.
Finally, here’s my homily for today:
The majestic first lines of John’s Gospel invite us to think about the area gift of creation as being of all things, for all peoples. We are told, simply and emphatically, that “All things came into being through him” (Jn 1:2). There is no qualification. based on race, or heritage, or supposed degrees of civilization. Everything is created by the same act of God’s graciousness. Everyone who is fully seen by God, fully loved by God, fully bathed in the light of Christ: “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (Jn 1:4).
It was the besetting sin and tragedy of the West, in its various stages of imperialism, that the doctrine of creation was not applied equally. The establishment of Canada as we know it was based on the premise that western civilization was the ultimate gift of God to a chosen race. Even the most well-intentioned missionaries, including the heroic explorer priests vividly depicted in the stained glass of my seminary’s chapel at Wycliffe College, were caught up in the belief that they should bring civilization to the benighted natives of the hinterlands. Today we are still trying to understand the damage of the Residential Schools, one of the results of this tragic mindset of colonialism.
Christianity is not about judging cultures based on race, the supposed attainments of civilization, or other misguided metrics. Rather, Christianity has always been, and should always be, about the creation of a new culture, the culture of the Kingdom of God, in which all are created and loved equally by the same gracious creator. That teaching has always been part of our faith. St. Paul, for example, wrote in Galatians that “ all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Sadly, this teaching has gone unheeded.
The work of Reconciliation that the Anglican Church has been called to in these last few decades has begun to teach us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ as equals with different ancestries, cultures, languages and traditions. At the same time, Reconciliation is about much more than feeling sorry for the sins of our ancestors and their consequences. Reconciliation calls us to the hard work of reimagining Canada, not as colonialism made it, but as God would have it be.
This worship service can either be a token gesture, or it can lead us into the deep and hard work of reconciliation. Our national church website offers a wide range of resources for parishes that want to engage in this work. We are called to build relationships with native groups and native ministries, such as Kairos or the Anglican Toronto Urban Native Ministry. We can speak out as citizens and voters about issues that should trouble our elected leaders, such as police violence to indigenous peoples, or the shocking fact that shockingly high numbers of indigenous children from northern Ontario die in our child welfare system.
As an Anglican parish, we can support the indigenous ministries of our national church with our prayer and with our pocketbooks. We can learn about our past and disabuse ourselves of myths and distorted narratives, such as how a few hardy settlers tamed an empty and barren country. Our Anglican church website lists 150 practical things that a parish can do to make reconciliation real in our local context.
Let me finish by saying that for much of my life as an Anglican, I did not know much about my indigenous brothers and sisters in Christ. Even after my ordination, I thought that reconciliation was someone else’s work. Today, I’m thankful that my first act with this parish is to observe this important day. I pray that this service helps us rethink what it means to be Anglican, to be Canadian, and to be created by the Creator who love us all equally.