A word of gratitude to you at St Aidan’s, and to your clergy ~ Canon Lucy, Rev Jeff, Rev Marguerite, and Rev Michael – thank you for your hospitality in inviting me today – I look forward to the day I can come in real life… AND Thank You -- I know that you have been passionate and compassionate in your long dedication to education, reconciliation and justice work here, for which I am deeply grateful.  

Just what extent would any of us go to, to keep from looking bad in front of our friends/co-workers, families, bosses? Even though King Herod liked very much to listen to John the Baptist, “when he heard him he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him…” v. 20,  the king, in his mis-guided obligation to his own ego, his fear & greed in clinging to his perceived political power, in his intractable commitment to a fool-hardy and ridiculously costly promise, well, you know the next thing that happens – he orders the beheading of John the Baptist.   

We have so many John The Baptists – prophets – in our midst, who have been seeking lives of justice, salvation, transformation for their families and their communities ~   “We are here to read this story from the Bible, and to figure out what these texts have to do with us and our communities… what is God telling us to consider, to do, to change, to move, to engage, or to transform here today?” (Preaching God’s Transforming Justice, Year B)

Respect for human societies and cultures is an articulation of faith and hope:  God is present in creation and in history. Indigenous Elders say the Word of God is seeking, at all times and in all places, to become living and real. ~ from Archbishop Mark MacDonald  

In some ways, in our current context, the colonial structure in Canada has played the role of Herod – set up like an all-powerful ruler, with exploitative powers and self-serving interests – from which many continue to benefit, according to the intention of the Doctrine of Discovery.  

To this date, more than 1000 unmarked graves of indigenous children have been found across Canada --  Children, who now are our Teachers, if we have ears to hear.    _ Remember to be conscious of this tragedy: it is now, we are in the moment. Practice the presence of the moment – as we are taught by Brother Lawrence.   The numbers of unmarked graves are rising, and we cannot hide our faces from this pain.   

In the hope given to us in the Letter to the Ephesians, we know that we are considered family ~ we gain power by claiming to be children of God through Jesus Christ We live as God’s children ~ adopted in love and promise…     In Indian Residential Schools, run by the churches and by the government, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was read:  these same promises of family connection, belovedness, commitment and the seal of the Holy Spirit were upon these children… the children were baptized by Anglican, Catholic, United and Presbyterian ministers -- we promised to take care of these precious children of God , our siblings in Christ – and we didn’t do that.  

Some teachers and principals and staff were better than others, but the system itself was an implementation of a colonial structure – designed to take children from their families, away from their culture, to strip them of their languages and connections to the land – to “take the Indian out of the child.”   So even when there were good teachers, the whole Indian Residential Schools System was bad. In spiritual language, we would call it evil. Wicked. Destructive – destroying the family structures, with the purpose of clearing the land of the people, so another group of people could come in and benefit.  

Do the work. Figure out how to handle this pain. Talk to your priest, your fellow churchgoers, your families, your friends – Figure it out. Nobody else can carry it for us, neither should they – we need to look it right in the eye and own it. Own our part in it as current benefiters in our society. -what does that mean to you? to own your privilege? not be ashamed, but neither flaunt it and exploit it…  

Commissioner Marie Wilson of the TRC ~ said – Use Your Sphere of Influence.     When somebody says they are indigenous, First Nations, Metis – Inuit – don’t ask them how much?  It is very colonial to divide people up by some confused  idea of  # % /percentage  of identity.  instead – ask them:  how I can support YOU in your journey? & DO IT.  Validate them. Uplift them . Go the extra mile for them, as if they were adopted/ chosen family….    

This summer - re-read the Calls to Action – especially 71-76, Missing Children and Burial Information: re read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – 46 articles a road map to advance lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. It shows us that further steps must be taken to respect, recognize and protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples and to address the wrongs of the past. Read them with someone else – or in a little group – on zoom or in person – use it as a learning moment •          

Ask questions of yourself, of the texts, of our church: 

•           in what ways is colonization still alive today? how are we confronting colonization, and pursuing justice & reconciliation?

•           how do these texts – the Calls to Action & the United Nations declaration – relate to my spiritual journey?

•           which Call to Action will I or we together as a group  - “adopt”?

When we really open ourselves to implement these Calls to Action & The Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we will be a changed society –  transformed in grace, more fully human.      r

Re-read the Beatitudes & the teachings of Jesus - what does blessed mean?   -- do we twist it to mean that they somehow deserve their plight, that their reward will be in the world to come? do we twist the teachings to  disconnect the Reign of Heaven that Jesus teaches us is HERE & Now, in the present – to somehow be far from us, in a magical future??    

In hearing the continuing revelations of unmarked graves of children… as we will continue to hear this sad and devastating news…   We are called to react & respond – with support, and openness (versus violence and anger )— to respond with respect, building up community and opening our hearts and lives to new paths of justice, that will lead to reconciliation.  

Let us – those with eyes to see and ears to hear -- look perceptively, and gently, persistently ask questions:  where we can see that there is a national crisis -and our indigenous communities have been in a crisis for a long time – some liken it to a war zone – prior to the pandemic – then add the pandemic on top… with extreme conditions of lack of resources, many without water /opportunities for education / affordable & accessible housing / access to nutritious food to begin the list --   What is our response?

How do we raise up the people who are suffering,  and treat them as beloved, worthy, valued members of our county, our society, our families? How do we advocate for equity, for justice, for parity?  

If this happened in Toronto, in the Beaches - PWRDF would have been called in – Agencies would have been clamoring to assist – why is it OK to Not actively respond to the sites in Dioceses across the land – Territory of the People in Kamloops, Saskatchewan, Rupert’s Land, - coming to a Diocese near us?  

We have blinders on when it comes to racism – as a church, as a people – working very hard to deal with this – thanks be to God!!!  But -STILL – it is difficult for us as a church to understand – that responding with “good enough” is not enough…   These are crime scenes – bodies without proper burial, unmarked graves, no records… In Toronto, a discovery like this would automatically trigger forensic investigations…  

All this to say – the Children are speaking to us. They are refusing to be silent any longer – and we need to listen, to hear – this can no longer be covered up – Blessed are those who speak up – for justice will be theirs.

Let us pray:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. For God did not give us a spirit of docility, but of defiance, resistance and revolution. Go out into the world and defy the powers, resist the enemy, and join the revolution of love and justice. Amen. (*Liturgies from Below, Carvalhaes)