Dunsford United Church Bulletin – August 22, 2021
Service modified from Being a Good Neighbour: Indigenous Day of Prayer – June 20, 2021
No one can paddle two canoes at the same time. Bantu proverb
WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS
ACKNOWLEDGING OUR KINSHIP
Creator, we come together today as diverse, united peoples to give thanks to you, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
We come to listen, to learn, to sing and pray, to consider our place in the order of
things you have created and are creating.
It is right and good to give thanks for the land on which we stand, for this is wisdom we learn from Indigenous peoples of this land―that we are one with the earth, its waters, air, animals, and plants.
Such wisdom, our interdependence with all life, is something too easy to forget in our busy lives! It is a gift and a challenge to us to remember.
And so we take time to acknowledge the lands on which we now live.
Many of us have come from other places, arriving from distant shores, our families arriving years ago or some of us more recently. When settlers came, they were met by others who were already here, already knew these lands, already lived rich and full lives based on ancient and proud cultures.
We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga people with whom Treaty 20, Williams Treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are, and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and the people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshipping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect, reconciliation and right relations.
For we are all kin in Christ, “All My Relations,” with each other and this earth, its waters, air, animals, and plants.
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES
Let the Light of Christ remind us of our connection to the holy.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy One, you are our rock,
a foundation upon which we stand.
Fill our hearts now with joy at your deep, abiding presence.
Encourage us by the teachings of Christ to live
with care and compassion for self, friend, and neighbour.
Bless us now as we reflect on our relations
with Indigenous peoples―our kin―
as diverse yet united peoples. Amen.
HYMN OF PRAISE: “Called by Earth and Sky” MV #135 (Words: Pat Mayberry)
Called by earth and sky, promise of hope held high.
This is our sacred living trust, treasure of Life, sanctified, called by earth and sky.
Precious these waters, endless seas, deep ocean’s dream,
Waters of healing, rivers of rain, the wash of love again. Refrain
Precious this gift, the air we breathe; wind born and free,
Breath of the Spirit blown through this place, our gathering and our grace. Refrain
Precious these mountains, ancient sands; vast fragile land.
Seeds of our wakening rooted and strong, Creation’s faithful song. Refrain
Precious the fire that lights our way, bright dawning day.
Fire of passion, sorrows undone, our faith and justice one.
Called by earth and sky, promise of hope held high.
This is our sacred living trust, treasure of Life, sanctified,
Called by earth and sky, called by earth and sky.
While we can‘t take up the offering as we used to do in the sanctuary, it is still an important part of our ministry. We acknowledge and thank you all for your contributions to the church whether via PAR or other means.
“For the love of the world Jesus offered everything he had, even life itself. In response to his generosity, we offer our gifts and our lives to God. Amen”
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD
Genesis 1:26‒27 – Humans shall have “dominion”
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Matthew 22:34‒40 – You shall love your neighbour as yourself
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
MEDITATION: “Finding Neighbours Everywhere”
It’s Indigenous Day of Prayer in the United Church, and who is ready to celebrate? Today is a day we set apart in our church’s calendar of celebrations to honour neighbours, relatives, kin that most of us don’t get to see very often.
Or maybe that’s not quite right, for it’s possible that some of us have connections with Indigenous communities either as family or friends or―wait for it―as neighbours. It’s possible that in our neighbourhood, town, or city there are many Indigenous people we haven’t yet had the chance to meet. For so long, many of our congregations have been oriented around other communities―especially the dominant, often White, Eurocentric communities who came to these shores as Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. For so long, many of us have only gotten to know Indigenous peoples we’ve met on television news or in the movies, leaving our heads swimming in often narrow and negative stereotypes of who “they” are rather than the truth: quite simply, Indigenous peoples, like all people, our neighbours.
What else can we conclude after hearing from Matthew’s gospel? Jesus is so clear to the lawyer who asks him the question about what following God and true religion is all about. It’s about love, he says. Love for God, love for self, and love for neighbour as for self. Jesus’s answer stops the lawyer in his tracks as it can stop us in ours. This is a core teaching of our faith that suggests that paying attention to neighbourliness―how we love our neighbours, maybe especially the ones we don’t get to see very often―is essential to celebrating who Christ is and who we are as we follow Jesus day by day.
Jesus was not one to stop finding neighbours at the end of a block or within one religious, social, or ethnic community. We know from the gospels he was constantly on the move back and forth between different, often rival, groups. He seemed to have no fear of arguing with the elite lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, or even Romans who defined the power structure of his time and place. He likewise recognized, spoke, ate with, and healed people of Syrophoenician background, Samaritan background, humble people, those with no claim to power, fortune, or fame. To Jesus, God opened up possibility for relationship, friendship, where others saw only reason to condemn. His capacity to see a friend in a stranger is humbling, isn’t it? I often wonder how he managed it on a day-to-day, practical basis. Can you really go through life thinking the whole world is your neighbour?
It’s a question that becomes especially captivating for a celebration of kinship like the one we gather for today. You see, for many Indigenous peoples, one could say that the whole world actually is their neighbour! The traditional teachings of many nations have long acknowledged the essential oneness―the essential neighbourliness―of all living and non-living things. Traditional knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, has opened up a spiritually rich horizon of neighbours that includes not only the clans and kin of a particular tribe or nation but also kinship with the essential elements of life such as the air, the waters, and the land with its plants and animals.
Let’s just sit with that for a moment. For many Indigenous people, what we would call the gifts of creation―the plants and animals, the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, the land warmed by the sun by day and lit by the moon at night―these gifts are as much neighbours as we are to each other. This is wisdom that comes from Indigenous peoples’ experience of living in this land for generations. Rather than hold a dominion model over creation, such as the one we inherit from our ancient Judeo-Christian myth in Genesis 1, many Indigenous peoples celebrate stories of how creation taught them how to be human, how to live respectfully and with honour among all Creator’s other beautiful creatures. It’s a whole different mindset. It’s a whole different orientation to what and who are kin. And very sadly, it’s a beautiful part of the gifts Indigenous people offered to share, but were rejected, when our settler ancestors came to these shores.
The consequences for holding such differing understandings about being neighbours has been devastating. Devastating to the generations whose ancestors signed treaties with the Crown expecting to share in the abundance of these lands with the newcomers―not be dispossessed of it. Devastating to the generations who increasingly found themselves outnumbered by the newcomers pouring into their traditional territories, newcomers who had no conception of how the land was to be treated, no conception of how to live interdependently with the animals and plants, with the waters and the air. In other words, no conception of how to be a good neighbour.
Instead of recognizing the offer to share the land, the settling peoples saw the land as ripe for the taking. Treaties were broken, reserves were created, and residential schools were built. A whole government apparatus was put together to control Indigenous peoples and their land, attempting to reduce sovereign nations to wards of the state.
Attempting, and still at it we know. We who benefit from this system―people who see the land not as living and sacred but as patches of ground to fence and resources to exploit―we are caught up in the sins of our ancestors. So many of us don’t see the lie upon which so much of Canada and our wealth is built. And this continued unwillingness to recognize our failure to be good neighbours to the peoples into whose lands we moved is a cause of grief not only for Indigenous peoples but also to those other neighbours―the land, waters, air, trees, plants, birds, animals, and fish upon which we all depend.
Despite all the harm colonization has brought to neighbours Jesus would have us love, we celebrate that Indigenous peoples are our neighbours.
If Jesus were here, can you imagine what he might suggest we do? He once told a lawyer sent to trick him his summary of faith: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” By reaching out to meet Indigenous neighbours, we can signal we’re catching on at last. Jesus had no reason to fear anyone he met because he knew each person already to be kin to him as gifts of God. To follow his lead, neither should we. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
O God, we come together as a human family, blessed to be alive, blessed to be on this land, blessed to have neighbours as diverse as your creation. You surround us with air we breathe, water we drink, all manner of living plants and animals that delight us and sustain us. Thank you, Creator, for all you provide. We take a moment in silence to ponder the blessings you give us―of family, friends, places to call home, the food we eat, the web of life in which we with all creatures live, move, and have our being. Hear us as we give thanks…
O God, we thank you for Indigenous neighbours and friends this day. And yet we lament, too. We lament that historic and contemporary racism continues to mar our relations. We lament the church’s role as beneficiaries of an economic and governance system that privileges settler peoples at the expense of the First Peoples of this land. We lament apathy in the face of the need for change, change that recognizes the sovereignty of the First Peoples and recognizes at long last, in ways that make a difference, the sacredness of the land and the need for all of us to walk humbly upon it.
O God, for the witness of strength, caring, and love of Indigenous peoples, and for the struggle for what is just and right, open our hearts this day. Encourage us to listen more, speak less, participate in the movements for change that will bring us together in good and respectful ways. Encourage us to make friends, get to know someone’s story, and share our stories too, without fear, for in Christ we know we are all kin, relatives, with you and with each other and with all living and non-living things.
We pray in the name of Creator, who is Mother and Father of us all. We pray as well in the Spirit of Christ, whose words continue to guide our lives today as we say:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
HYMN: “As a Fire Is Meant for Burning” VU #578 (Words: Ruth Duck)
COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
As God’s united yet diverse peoples, we go to become neighbours to each other and to the earth.
For in Christ we are all kin. We are called to be neighbours, to share generously with each other.
As we learn more, respect more, love more, we all can gain, not lose!
God as Creator will be our rock. Christ and Spirit be our guides.
CHORAL BENEDICTION: “Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works” VU #308 (Words: Dakota hymn, Joseph R. Renville)
Many and great, O God, are your works, Maker of earth and sky.
Your hands have set the heavens with stars, your fingers spread the mountains and plains.
Lo, at your word the waters were formed; deep seas obey your voice.
Grant unto us communion with you, O star-abiding one.
Come unto us and dwell with us, with you are found the gifts of life.
Bless us with life that has no end, eternal life with you.
Read Sherman is minister of Trinity United Church in Montreal and participates in right relations work in Conseil régional Nakonha:ka Regional Council.
DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH
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