Selected Sermons

We wish Rev. Jope a wonderful, refreshing Sabbatical…..”See you in September”


Sunday July 21, 2019:


Sunday July 14, 2019:


Sunday July 7, 2019:

“Simplicity”

By Rev. Kelley Warner

Several things influenced the direction my reflection will take for today such as seeing my mother-in-law in the throes of downsizing and reading todays scripture verses. What can these texts tell us about being missionaries in today’s world?  Why does Jesus require that the messengers take nothing with them?  Lastly what does the Naaman story tell us about privilege and expectation? Next Sunday we will delve a little more deeply into the story of Naaman and look at where one should one go to find healing? Today’s focus will primarily be on the story of the mission of the seventy.

Luke’s travel narrative uses the number seventy and in other texts seventy-two which has a symbolic significance. James W. Thompson says that “this reflects the author’s normal practice of reporting stories with echoes from the [Hebrew Scriptures] Interpreters have observed either an allusion to the seventy elders in Israel  (Exodus 24:1, Numbers 11:16) or the table of nations in Genesis 10:2-31…this indicates the expanded scope of the mission, foreshadowing the time when the larger circle of disciples will bring the message of the kingdom “to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8).[1]

The story of Jesus sending out the seventy tells us the purpose of their swork was to offer peace, cure the sick, exorcise demons and share that the kingdom of God was near. Jesus says to them, “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.[2]” So why was Jesus asking them to travel so lightly. Well there are a couple of theories about this. According to David J. Lose these instructions show us that “inescapable vulnerability is implicit in the mission to which Jesus calls his disciples. The seventy will be going into a hostile world, yet Jesus doesn’t arm them for battle; rather they will go out like lambs[3].” Elaine Heath points out that “It also means having the courage and freedom to go forth in vulnerability and intentional poverty, to travel lightly, and to depend on the hospitality of others. It means a non-violent response to rejection at the hands of others…everything about the apostolic mission …subverts the systems of power and privilege in the world.[4]” Their focus was to be on the gifts that came from God, not on the personalities or possessions of the messengers who brought them. This powerful calling continues for all Christians even today.

A modern theory put forward by some is that ‘living simply’ is a spiritual practice. As with so many spiritual practices it often takes time, intentionality and a willingness to let go of things. Father Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upwards says that it is often in the second half of life that we are poised to be able to do this spiritual practice. And as in many spiritual practices there are complex challenges. Before we explore this further, I want to share a couple of stories that illustrate how challenging this way of living is.[5]

Last weekend we moved my mother-in-law from a two-bedroom apartment into one room in a senior’s residence. It was a stressful and emotional process as she went through her belongings making decisions about what to get rid of and what to keep. For her these possessions were not just stuff for many items represented stories and people she had loved and, in some cases, lost. Her grandmother’s spinning wheel, her aunt’s china, the teak furniture she acquired early in her marriage, paintings and much, much, much, more.

 I must say it made me pause at the thought of having to go through the same process. So far, the closest I have come to this experience was packing up for a renovation after 25 years of living in our house. It was at times overwhelming trying to pack up all the possessions we had accumulated over the years. I am also embarrassed to say that the number of clothes I own is staggering and yet I wear very few of them. I suspect I am not alone in this actuality. The popularity of Marie Kondo and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up supports this premise. Kondo is Japanese and advises others on how to de-clutter their homes. She also approaches this process as a spiritual practice, always beginning her consultations with a prayer upon entering a client’s home. She believes each item has its own spirit. She has her clients hold each item and gauge whether the item evokes joy or not and if not to give thanks before letting it go.[6] Understand please that this is an experience of exaggerated materialism is for people with money not the poor. Why do we feel compelled to collect stuff?

 These items represented what Father Richard Rohr calls the first half of life. It is what he refers to as a “survival dance” a time when young people are trying to acquire an identity, security, career, possessions….what Rohr refers to as a container for their life. Rohr points out that the second half of life is about finding the meaning of life, finding wisdom, finding our soul and becoming an elder. This is what Rohr refers to as the time of a “sacred dance” but to achieve this a person must be willing to “let go” of much that was acquired in the first half. In all of life this is the reality that everywhere there is the theme of death and resurrection, loss and renewal, change and new beginnings. According to Rohr, all human beings require some suffering and challenges that push us out of our comfort areas in order to progress us spiritually. Rohr suggests these themes are found throughout our biblical stories.[7]

Are there advantages to purposely going through life with less or for purging stuff you no longer need or can keep? After utilizing Marie Kondo’s techniques, Cate La Farge Summers wrote an article for One Kings Lane called “8 Lessons Our Editor Learned from the Decluttering Bible” on downsizing her wardrobe.” Here are some of her findings:

Getting dressed is no longer a chore. Digging through an overstuffed closet was painful. Now my closet feels richer, loaded up with good things that I’ll get a little thrill from wearing.

#2 I’ve identified the true holes in my wardrobe. It turns out that I own only one pair of sandals that I love and have no really joy-giving jeans. Now, instead of shopping vaguely and coming home with something I already have, I really know what to hunt for.

#3 I’m collecting things I really love. This process has made me pickier, and by not frittering away cash on so-so things, I’ve been able to make more-thrilling purchases.

#4 Treating your things with respect makes them look better. And to coin a new Kondo-ism, sometimes respecting something means letting it go. My son’s babysitter took a few scarves that had been clumped in a sad pile and ties them into beautiful headscarves.

#5 Cleaning is so much easier. Yes, I still have to tidy—But now that everything flows into order, the cleanups are much fewer and farther between.

#6 All sorts of decisions are falling into place. This might be the best payoff of all: Once you’ve looked at hundreds of things and asked yourself if they give you joy, decision-making gets a lot easier: which book to read, which projects to pursue, what to make for dinner, whether to say yes or no to the many optional obligations that come our way.[8]

 

What have I learned personally about travelling lightly came from a trip I took to Palestine/Israel with Christian Peacemakers. I was limited to a very narrow backpack to contain what I needed for the trip. It was another process of decision-making that I did decide what was most important for me to take. Some items included a washcloth instead of a towel for drying, documents and wallet, toiletries, an iPad, medication, limited clothing, a silk sleeping bag liner, a water bottle, a journal and hiking boots attached to the outside of my bag. Minimalist to say the least. Here are some of the advantages I experienced: The participants shared from what they had adding to the group’s comradery; it was easier to keep track and not lose things; it took less time to get ready to go anywhere and it was less burdensome to carry and maneuver my belongings while travelling. I too learned a lot about the hospitality of our hosts who graciously offered up food and stories for us to partake in. We truly felt God’s presence and blessings while there.

Before we leave this topic of simplicity, I want to talk about what the Naaman story reveals to us. We read in the scripture:

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.[9]

 

Naaman almost cheats himself of his healing because of his arrogance and feelings of entitlement. He was expecting the royal treatment. According to Carrie N. Mitchell, “Naaman pridefully expects his wealth and power to obtain his cure. When that fails, he expects a theophany from God in order to heal him.”

Richard J. Shaffer Jr. says, “As [we continue to be] messengers we have a powerful calling. The Lord appoints us to go out into the world ahead of him. We are not to find on our own way to live in Jesus’ footsteps; instead we are given specific instructions to share the good news with vitality and anticipation. Our authority is not in our status, possessions or abilities; but, like those first messengers, we are to encourage everyone to follow and submit in the name of our Lord.[10]” So as in all things we give thanks to Yahweh who created us, Jesus who knew the value of simplicity and Spirit may she continue to grow our souls. May it be so.


Acknowledgements:

[1]  James W. Thompson et al., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 3 eds. David L. Bartlett, and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 215

[2] Luke 10: 3-4 NRSV

[3] David J. Lose, Feasting on the Word, 217

[4] Elaine Heath, Feasting on the Word, 216

[5] Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, ( New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2011)

[6] Marie Kondo, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering and Organizing, (New York, NY: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale, 2014)

[7]Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, ( New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2011)

[8] Cate La Farge Summers, “8 Lessons Our Editor Learned from the Decluttering Bible”  https://www.onekingslane.com/live-love-home/marie-kondo-book-declutter/, accessed July 5, 2019.

[9] 2 Kings 5: 9-12, NRSV

[10] Richard J. Shaffer Jr., Feasting on the Word, 218.


Sunday June 30, 2019:

“Who are we Canadians?”

By Rev. Kelley Warner

 

            We are poised to celebrate Canada tomorrow on July first. Canada is an amazing country vast in its scope, beauty and within the last decades diverse in its population. I want to reflect this morning on how we should approach Canada day considering our historical relationship with our Indigenous peoples. The scripture verses today speak to me about the justice work of reconciliation. I delight when I hear that Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”  Clearly Elisha is committed to carrying on the work started by Elijah as commissioned by God. Psalm 77 was a little more difficult for me as I imagined it being read by an indigenous person. It was difficult because the reference is to God’s trustworthiness in ensuring Moses and Aaron reached the “promised land” even though there were other nations already there. It helped somewhat when I changed God to Creator and looked at the images of Creator in nature then we hear:

I cry aloud to Creator,
            aloud to Creator, that he may hear me.
                In the day of my trouble I seek the Creator;
            in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
            my soul refuses to be comforted.

I will call to mind the deeds of the Creator;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O Creator, is holy.
What god is so great as our Creator?

 You are the Creator who works wonders;

  you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
 the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

When the waters saw you, O God,
 when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
 the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
 the skies thundered;
 your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
 your lightnings lit up the world;
 the earth trembled and shook.
 Your way was through the sea,
 your path, through the mighty waters;
 yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
 by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

 

Galatians 5 reminds us about who and what we are called to be as Christians:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

And

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

 

I guess we did not consider indigenous people to be our neighbours when we came as settlers to Turtle Island. One catalyst for the direction I am taking came from a decolonizing workshop I attended in the past at Knox United entitled, My Home ON Native Land. In the morning we shared stories about our ancestors who came from various places in the world and then we identified values and descriptors we heard in the storytelling. We named some of these values as courage, perseverance, hard work, determination, to name some…the undertone revealing our admiration and gratitude for our ancestors and acknowledgment of the difficulties they faced forging a new life in a homeland unfamiliar to them. As the recipients of the legacy of these settlers we can understand how our educational system focused on these aspects of our Canadian history. We now acknowledge that our history books were incomplete and did not tell the whole story.

            After lunch we were in a session led by Dr. Troy Patenuade, a Cultural  Anthropologist who did an exercise very similar with what we did here this morning asking for identifiers for all things Canadian. He wrote all these identifiers down on a large sheet of paper and when we were done he placed a large circle around the words and then he wrote down the name of many First Nations Communities around the outside of the circle: Cree, Ojibway, Iroquois, Haida, Inuit, Kootenay, Blackfoot, Mi’kmaq, Metis, Anishnabe…and so forth. Dr. Patenuade then drew a large circle around these. So now we have a circle within a circle. Dr. Troy explained that what is inside the centre circle, is a social construct shaped over time since just before Confederation. He went on to give two similar analogies, proposing that this social construct is like water in a waterbed or water in a river bed, is nested in a much larger and older context. Living in this context we indigenous and non-indigenous people have impacted, informed and shaped one another.

This idea was also put forward by John Ralston Saul, in his book, A Fair Country, that Canadians in general have been shaped by the First Nations….this influencing, this shaping is deep within us. He goes on to say that “Whatever our family tree may look like, our intuitions and common sense are more Aboriginal than European or African or Asian…” Conversely those who have watched the documentary, Making of an Elder may have got a chuckle from the irony of the Blackfoot man’s name in the film. His name?….Cowboy SmithX. Another chuckle emerged around Cowboy’s affinity for what else….golf. We learned that golf courses in southern Alberta opened up for indigenous peoples when non-indigenous peoples were required to be in church. In the documentary it was also explained that many indigenous communities began hosting rodeos and dressing up as cowboys because these were sanctioned and acceptable outlets for gathering in lieu of the outlawed Sun Dance and Potlatch.  As well some indigenous peoples did embrace Christianity, others some combination of Christianity and Native Spirituality and for some Christianity and the Church are huge hurdles on the journey towards reconciliation. Unfortunately, the drive for colonization led to the desire for all Canadians to be assimilated into this new nation that was being formed and this almost led to a complete cultural genocide for Indigenous people. This led to many problems for Indigenous people and for many there is still anger.

Not long ago I had the privilege to hear Elder Casey Eagle Speaker and his granddaughter talk at St. Mary’s University. That night I learned a lot about grace and strength. Casey began to share about his residential school experience at St. Paul’s in Alberta beginning at the age of four. What was very telling was his granddaughter’s visceral reaction to hearing his story. She was visibly upset. Casey confessed he had never shared his story with his children or grandchildren so that they would be spared the outrage and anger he had suffered. Casey was so angry at his own parents that he did not return home after he left the school. He as many did turned to alcohol until he realized that this was not helping. The story Casey shared was horrific, and the shock is that although he didn’t publicly name them the abusers, he could have. As an act of healing he returned to confront five people about the abuse, three being dead, one who was now senile and the last who wept in contrition for what had occurred.

Many times, I have heard startling stories from men and women who have suffered traumas and either bury them so that their burdens are not laid on their love ones or turn to abusive behaviours on others and/or themselves. Before you retaliate with the position that not every residential school was harmful, I will agree but there were many who did suffer. It was not just the residential schools but a tsunami of factors such as the destruction of the buffalo, the creation of a reserve system, the Indian Act, the state of dependency, poverty, illness and starvation, outlawing indigenous practices and ceremonies, loss of language and other influences.

Awhile ago I took an online course on Native Spirituality and I was struck by some words that were presented one day. As a Christian woman the words resonated with me because they use a crucifixion image and then offer possibilities for resurrection. As well, you will hear references to the next generations, and this convinces me that we need to instill in our children and grandchildren the importance of working towards reconciliation. Passing the mantle just as Elijah did with Elisha in our scripture verse today. Here are those words expressed by Dan, a Lakota Elder, quoted in the book Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn:

There is no more time for fighting. Our anger must be buried. If I cannot bury mine, it will be for my children to bury theirs. And if they cannot bury theirs, it will be for their children, or their children's children. We are prisoners of our hearts, and only time will free us.

Your people must learn to give up their arrogance. They are not the only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have worshiped the Creator and loved their families in many ways in all places. Your people must learn to honor this.

It is your gift to have material power. You have much strength not given to other people. Can you share it, or can you use it only to get more? That is your challenge - to find the way to share your gift, because it is a strong and dangerous one.

It is my people who must stand as the shadow that reminds you of your failures. It is our memory that must keep you on the good road. It does you no good to pretend that we did not exist, and that you did not destroy us. This was our land. We will always be here. You can no more remove our memory than you can hide the sun by putting your hand over your eyes.

I am sad that the Creator saw fit to destroy us to give you life. But maybe that is not so bad, for is that not what your religion teaches you that he did with Jesus? Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made us able to accept our physical death.

Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made the Creator see that we, alone, could save you, who cared so much about things that should not matter.

Maybe it is we who are the true sons and daughters of God, who had to die on the cross of your fears and greed, so that you could be saved from yourselves.

Is that so strange? I do not think so. Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, the Creator, He who you call God, knows that our people were always willing to die for each other. It was our greatest honor. Maybe the greatest honor of all is that we as a people were able to die for the whole human race. Wakan Tanka alone knows these things. 

This is why the work of reconciliation is so important. Patenuade says and I quote, “Reconciliation is about trying to dismantle the boundary around the social construct without destroying the identity within.” I interpret this to mean that we don’t hold so tightly to how we define our institutional systems: educational, judicial, religious, and healthcare but allow room for conversations between indigenous and non-indigenous people to work together to make changes that work for the betterment of both. I celebrate that changes are beginning to happen in these institutions and corporations as they hire indigenous strategists and routinely consult with Indigenous Elders to make space for indigenous ways alongside non-indigenous approaches.

Going forward let us to continue to shine as Canadians. Let us not shrink from the difficult work of reconciliation but with courage and perseverance may we live into the virtues and values we espouse towards the goal of creating a country and a world where there is enough for all and where everyone is valued. As in all things we give thanks for Creator who is known in all our hearts, Jesus who modelled reconciliation and to Spirit may she indeed bring healing to this great nation. Amen.

 

 


Sunday June 23, 2019:

“Celtic Christianity for Canadians”

By Rev. Kelley Warner

 

A woman who belonged to the United Church of Canada was in Ireland with a group that were enjoying the beautiful antiquities of the country. Another Canadian woman expressed her particular appreciation considering Canada’s brief history. Our UCC woman stepped up and challenged her notion of Canadian history saying something like, “Indigenous people have been in Canada for many thousands of years and there are ancient medicine wheel cairns that rival Stonehenge and other sacred sites.

So, today’s reflection combines my love of Celtic Spirituality and Indigenous wisdom and not surprising they connect with today’s scriptures. Several years ago, I saw Riverdance, an Irish dance performance, and something deep in my DNA ached with a homesickness for a land I have never been to, but that I know my ancestors came from. I have long been interested in Celtic Spirituality and in the past I enjoyed an online course on Celtic Spirituality presented by Carl McColman, some of which I will share with you today.

Next came the awareness that this Sunday is Indigenous Peoples Sunday. For the last four years I have been blessed to sit within circles with Indigenous and Non-indigenous people in working towards reconciliation. It has been difficult at times, as when I have sat in circles where pain and anger were directed at me because I have inherited white privilege as an ancestor of colonial settlers. I have experienced Indigenous people who have raged: at the loss of parents as role models, at residential school conditions and abuses, systemic barriers and oppression, intergenerational trauma, loss of ancestry, culture, roots, and language.

Alternatively, there have been a multitude of times where I have felt transported to another realm sitting in the presence of various elders, as they generously shared their wisdom and traditional knowledge. I have also experienced hope for reconciliation when I have sat in circles where indigenous people have outnumbered non-indigenous people, and many having been educated and employed in professions and committed to the work on reconciliation. My challenge today was to choose which indigenous elders to feature and talk about. Lastly, I was struck by how today’s scriptures, Celtic Spirituality and Indigenous are speaking with similar voices.

What can we learn, especially about spirituality and wisdom, from these ancient cultures? And how can we apply the principles and viewpoints of Celtic mysticism and Indigenous wisdom to our lives here in the twenty-first century? I believe people and all creation benefit from entertaining different perspectives and approaches to life.  I will limit my reflection to a few interesting observations of shared concepts I noted between the two these being: ‘Diversity and Mystery’, and connections to ‘All My Relations’. There are other common characteristics, but time constrains our breadth of exploration.

Beginning with “Diversity and Mystery,” both ancient approaches were shared orally, originally, without a sacred book to inform and unify their foundational stories. For both, this meant a great diversity of rituals and stories that developed differently in different regions and communities. McColman shares that, “Celts spoke different languages, worshipped different gods and goddesses, and venerated different elements of nature as they made sense of their lives.”

I was to learn the same holds true for our indigenous people. A group of around twenty-four sat in a circle with a buffalo hide in the centre at St. Mary’s University. We were about to hear stories from Pavlo Russell, an indigenous elder from the Blood Nation. Pavlo explained that the Blackfoot Confederacy, is comprised of many different nations, each with their own ceremonies, traditions, songs, colours and culture. This is important for us to know because too often we see all Indigenous people as being the same. Sometimes their differences lead to conflict even amongst themselves.

Along with this diversity there is an element of mystery that can be thought of in two ways. “First, there is simply so much about Celtic spirituality, especially from the pre-Christian and early Christian eras, that we simply don't know. Even with the myths and legends and poetry, our knowledge of ancient Celtic spirituality is fragmentary,” according to McColman. For Indigenous People in Canada, the transmission of their culture was interrupted and sometimes lost through the efforts of colonization and assimilation into the newly formed Dominion of Canada.

The other sense of mystery is in the sense of awe and gratitude expressed in both Celtic and Indigenous practices. Both embrace what McColman describes as “the idea that God [Creator] is present...God is not elsewhere. God is present in nature. The Spirit is present in the waters of holy wells and the rustle of leaves. We encounter the sacred in the good earth, the flowing water, and the heavenly chalice that forms the sky above us.” Both felt that rather than being distant, that a mystical divine presence was always present and as close as the ground beneath their feet.

We sometimes forget that Christianity began as a deeply mystical spirituality that was later overtaken by creeds and doctrines and moralism. Before this according to McColman, “Their spirituality was a spirituality of inclusion and coming together. For them, wisdom meant finding God present in nature, finding a path to holiness in the ordinary rhythms of life, and enjoying prayer and meditation not as a way of escaping life, but rather to bring blessing into the middle of each and every day.” In the same way, Pavlo explained that “our life’s purpose is a journey to find our soul. To do this we must combine the spiritual with the physical. He goes on to clarify that, “the mind is a dictator giving us negative self-talk, that can interfere with this process convincing us to make choices that are not helpful to us. Most importantly Pavlo says one must strive to be present in the moment and to love oneself. Every day should start with a spiritual practice: a smudge, meditation, yoga, a walk…. And to give thanks to all the relations….relatives, animals, mother sun, mother earth, father moon, for all the good and the bad.”

In both Indigenous culture and Celtic Spirituality there is a deep reverence for the divine, animals, ancestors and all creation. The artwork on the cover of our bulletin was created by artist Christy Belcourt whose art of a buffalo we used for the bulletin. She says, “I am Michif (Métis) artist. My ancestry originates from the Métis community of Manitou Sahkahigan (Lac Ste. Anne) in Alberta, Canada. My people, the Michif people of Manitou Sakhigan, are Buffalo, Moose and Fish people, meaning we owe our existence to the earth and to these animals. We share with other Indigenous Nations an inheritance of a worldview connecting us to all things on the earth and in a lived state of gratitude towards all who sustain life.”

            At a recent conference in Winnipeg I listened to Niigaanwewidom James Sinclair an Anishinaabe, originally from St. Peter’s (Little Peguis) Indian Settlement near Selkirk, Manitoba speak about what it is to be connected to “all the relations”. He presently serves as the head of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. He spoke about his young daughter’s passion and commitment for the standoff at Standing Rock where indigenous people were standing up against oil company who wanted to run pipelines under the water on the reservation there. Niigan choked up a little when he explained his daughter whose name means the “light that shines off the surface of the water” wanted to make sure that the waters remained clear and not tainted with murkiness from possible pipeline breaks.” He explained that indigenous people see all things in creation as familial relations. The water is a relation…an aunt, an uncle, a brother, a sister…this is a concept difficult for us non-indigenous to grasp.

You might also be interested to learn that animals, creation and ancestors also play a big part in Celtic Spirituality. Common place is lifting up the names of saints, which include our deceased relatives, at Celtic worship services during prayer time. Human ancestors are believed to be present and involved in the earthly goings on of their loved ones as well as the divine, angels and fairies.

Before we leave this focus, I want you to consider our biblical stories that recall the saints of the past as well as Jesus and then look to today’s scriptures which highlight ancient believers’ capacity to connect creation, God and us. Listen to the poetry of these images of God connected and looked for in nature:

From I Kings 19:1-15:

·         “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree.”

·         “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”

·         “At that place he came to a cave and spent the night there.”

·         “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

From Psalm 42:

·         “As a deer longs for flowing streams so my soul longs for you, O God.”

·         “Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts all your waves and your billows have gone over me.”

·         “ By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,
  a prayer to the God of my life.”

·          “I say to God, my rock,”

As I conclude I want to compare our last text from Galatians, something from my Celtic Spirituality course and Indigenous viewpoints:

From Galatians 3:

·         “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Consider how this compares with something from my Celtic Spirituality course:

·         “Heaven and earth. Spirit and matter. Male and female. Time and eternity. This world and the otherworld. Poetry and silence. In Celtic wisdom, none of these are "either/or's" -- they are all "both/and's.”

Native Wisdom espouses the notion that all living things are connected, to each other and to the Creator, an expression that asserts the basic philosophy of many Native Americans, according to which plants, stones, two-leggeds, animals, sky, earth, moon, spirit helpers, ancestors and—most significantly—the Great Spirit are related; good health results from harmony between all beings. Emily, an Indigenous woman expands on this, “I cannot exist without you and you cannot exist without me. What I do affect you and others and what you do affects me. Everything we do has an effect on others and on our world. It means that everything has a spirit and that’s how we are connected to each other as well as to the Creator. The image of the Creator lives inside of us and we need to recognize it in others. We are all the children of Mother Earth, we are all brothers, sisters, cousins. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, The weak, the strong, the rich, the poor, the young and the old. We are all related. We are related because we share the same breath. We are related because we are from the same place. We are related because we are. What is, is.”

So now, here's the question: What part will you play in carrying on these traditions honouring connectedness? How will you relate to the wonders of the natural world? What stories (of your own, or from the mists of history) will you pass on to others? What artistry shall you give yourself to, to create in some small way more beauty for this world that so desperately needs it? So as in all things we give thanks for Creator who created all relations, Jesus who embraced diversity and Spirit who continues to whisper to our hearts as in ancient times. Thanks be.