21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5
God speaks through the prophet Amos, to challenge the practices of the people of northern kingdom of Israel. The King Jeroboam II was a successful military ruler and amassed wealth, but he allowed idolatry and very quickly an underclass of poor and marginalised grew. A people who had grown complacent and indifferent to the needs of others. Hmm…sound familiar?
At Morning Prayer today (Friday, September 18), we remembered the ‘Founders, Benefactors, and Missionaries of the Anglican Church of Canada’. As usual, I read the information page for the day from ‘For all the Saints’ which is the main resource on such days in the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). I had to check the year of publication (it was 2007) because it was such a ‘sugar coated’ potted history with no reference at all to any of the injustices which the ACC contributed to directly or indirectly. I appreciate that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission was established the year after, but it was already obvious by then that serious sins had been committed resulting in systemic injustice.
If we are to grow with integrity and authenticity, we must celebrate the beauty of our history but not at the expense of ignoring our sins. This is not about being politically correct but following in the way of Jesus. For justice to flow, as I was reminded last night, we need to accept change where the status quo disadvantages others. I think there is far more work that needs to be done which will result in necessary change – in our worship, in our common life and our narrative about ourselves. In that change comes renewal and God-shaped justice, indeed, that is how God’s kingdom comes. There are still so many casual assumptions which underpin how we ‘do church’ that need to be re-examined in the light of the gospel and lived experience. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is alive and active and way ahead of us!
As we are in the Season of Creation, I wanted to share what I believe to be such a ‘Holy Spirit moment’ which Archbishop Mark Macdonald, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop for the ACC, recalled in preliminary remarks to a sermon he gave in August (http://sustainable-preaching.org/2020/08/02/proper-13-9th-sunday-after-pentecost/):
A number of years ago, I was sitting with a group of Indigenous clergy at a regional church gathering, a gathering largely populated by and representing the perspective of non-Indigenous people. The discussion at the gathering was about the now common proposal that we follow a “Season of Creation” in our schedule of daily and weekly Scripture readings. The season would identify texts that are specially focused on Creation and our relationship to it. As the discussion proceeded, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked behind to see the whole group of Indigenous clergy with very confused looks. One finally said, “I thought all of Scripture was about Creation.”
I am a supporter of a “Season of Creation.” The Indigenous point, however, is vital. An Indigenous reading of the Scripture is not filtered through the centuries of Western Scientism and Materialism and the progressive alienation of human beings from the rest of Creation. The alienating trends that have spread through the globalizing culture of money have made it difficult for people to see the underlying “Creationism” in every text of Scripture (Creationism is the best word I can find to describe a primary cosmological element of Scripture, the embedded point of view that there is an essential communion of humanity with the rest of Creation.). This view is primary and basic to Indigenous Peoples around the world. The symbiotic relationship between humanity and Creation is a defining feature and an existential commitment to the People of the Land and Seas.
I have heard many people say that we must import other more earth-friendly ideas to enhance our reading of Scripture, assuming that Scripture shares the basic cosmological assumptions of globalizing Western society. I would heartily endorse the application of science and other disciplines of knowledge and life in the illumination of Scripture. It is urgent, however, that the underlying Creation cosmology of Scripture be appreciated again, uncovered again. We must read it with this always in mind. The communion of Creation, so much a part of the Indigenous cosmology, is infused in every word of Scripture.
The sermon notes are well worth reading and I appreciate the insights the Archbishop gives, I hope you will find them helpful too. Here I don’t even begin to address the many and varied ways of oppression and injustice. For now, in this Season, let us reflect on the Creation aspect. It seems to me that part of our repentance is to allow such perspectives to shape our worldview and how we read the scriptures. That, in turn will adjust our liturgies and prayers, as indeed, was always the intention of Cranmer (the architect of the Book of Common Prayer) and those who followed.
To conclude, I want to bring us to the baptism rite of the ACC, which we will use to this Sunday, when Nathan is baptised. In the Baptismal Covenant, which we say together as a church family, towards the end the responses are:
Minister Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
All I will, with God’s help.
Minister Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God's creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?
All I will, with God’s help.
At a time of forest fires and the smoke here in Vancouver and COVID-19, the wisdom of the indigenous peoples of these lands, previously rubbished and suppressed, can do much to help us fulfill these vows, guided and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Let us be open to this fresh move of the Spirit and the transformation it will bring.
With love and prayers,