June 20, 2021 – Third Sunday after Pentecost and National Indigenous Sunday
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Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome. Today is National Indigenous Sunday, the Sunday before Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day tomorrow. Canada’s First Nations People have been in the news a fair bit lately so I thought it might be good for us all to reflect on our relationship with Indigenous peoples in our worship today. Some of the prayers I will use in this service were written by Rev. Stewart Folster, an indigenous Canadian who was born on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation’s reserve in Manitoba. Now retired, he formerly served as an ordained minister of the PCC, working in the Saskatoon Native Circle Ministry.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Bob Smith
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship with Rev. Bob Smith, joining in unison with Rev. Helen Smith, while consulting the text below (the audio is part of the Welcome message recording above); or just use the text below.
Spoken by One / Spoken by All
One: We come together to worship the God and Father of us all.
All: Let us put aside our differences and be united in our love of the Creator.
One: We come together to seek healing and reconciliation.
All: Let us go forward together in the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit.
One: We come together to honour and affirm our faith as children of the One God who created us.
All: We give thanks for all God’s mercies toward us.
Book of Praise – 314 “God is love: come heaven, adoring”
- Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
- Words (1922) by English clergyman Timothy Rees (1874–1939); music by English clergyman Cyril Vincent Taylor (1907–1991), tune Abbot’s Leigh, 1941.
- This recording made by St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Owen Sound, October 2020.
Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Eternal and gracious God, we give you thanks and praise for all your blessings this day. We remember your Son Jesus, who gave us the ultimate gift of love, who gave everything of himself so that we may have his mercy and his forgiveness. We remember the Holy Spirit, who come to be with us now, as a gift from your Son Jesus Christ so that may always have your strength and guidance and know you are always with us. All praise be to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
O God, we know that we can never be perfect, that in spite of the how often we have been shown your way, we can be condescending and selfish, and we have ignored the suffering of the poor and needy. Lord, forgive us and help us to treat all people as our equals. Help us to reach out to the needy and to bring the good news to the poor. Help us to fulfil the ministry that Jesus started and calls us to continue, to bring your love into the world through him. It is in his name that we pray, and join together to offer the words that he gave us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon and the Peace
Paul writes, if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace. Thanks be to God.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
“The land on which we worship and serve is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
It is an honour to be able to worship and serve On these traditional lands.”
That is the acknowledgement of the land that is included on our Tidbit newsletter each week, and when we worshiped together would be read occasionally as a reminder of our history. It seems appropriate to think about what it means on this National Indigenous Peoples Sunday.
This acknowledging of the land is actually a practice which we have borrowed from indigenous people. From long before we “settler” people started using it, whenever indigenous groups gather for a meeting or are offered the podium in someone else’s forum, they begin by acknowledging and thanking the first nations people on whose original land they are gathering.
Whether they are in an expensive hotel ballroom, or a grassy hillside, or a government building, or a church basement, they remember the people who first called that place home. “We thank the Mississaugas of the Credit on whose land we now sit.”
We tend to think of the history of a country like Canada as beginning at Confederation 154 years ago or with the first European explorers who “discovered” North America maybe 400 years ago, or even the Vikings another 500 years before that.
But we often forget that for 6 or 7 thousand years first nations people lived in this country in robust civilizations that had certainly stood the test of time. They had a fairly sophisticated system of government, distinct identities locally and regionally, an ability to organize communal hunting and care for the needy in their communities, a spiritual life with an appreciation for the complexity of creation as a sacred home for them, an honouring of their ancestors, and a great sense of responsibility for the generations who would follow them.
And since our forbears appeared, there has been a certain tension between our peoples. No one disputes the fact that in the contest to be the first to live in most of North America the race isn’t even close – indigenous people win handily. They were here first.
This is land that first nations people in Canada would not have thought of as theirs to own, for that is a concept which makes little sense to them, but at least as theirs to live on, and to use with respect, to support their lives, so that it would sustain following generations as well.
This is the same land into which our forbears moved. There were treaties signed about dividing up that land and those representing the Canadian government may or may not have made them honestly and in good faith but sooner or later, most of them were not honoured. Which leaves us, a couple of hundred years later, with hundreds of those disputed land claims that are still unsettled.
I know this is a touchy area all over the place. But one place where we meet, where we bump into each other, is over these land claims.
When we lived in Calgary, the city was in the process of building a ring road that encircled the entire city, as a way of helping us all get around, and frankly, to help truckers get around the city without having to go through it. When we were there, they had completed three-quarters of the circle, and the remaining quadrant, the southwest, was being held up because that section of the city ran smack up beside the land of the Tsuu T’ina first nation people. The city had taken the position that they should be able simply to take over the land that they wanted, with little negotiation, and a pretty weak offer of compensation.
There was more than a little resentment amongst people in the city, when the Tsuu T’ina people stood up to them, and said, “Not so fast.” And the whole project waited, for those conversations to happen. I can understand the first nations group wanting to be pretty careful signing off on any of the little land that remains for them to live on, and wondering if there is any reason that they should trust people with skin the colour of most of ours, when our track record tells them we’re a bad risk.
You know, concern for the land is something that should resonate with us as the people of God. One of the strong themes of the Old Testament one which goes right back to God’s covenant with Abraham, was the promise of a land for God’s people.
It was that promised land that they sought in their desert wandering, and there had never been a party quite like the party they had when they finally arrived.
It was that same land they wept for when they were carried off into exile, their sorrow so overwhelming that the songs of their homeland caught in their throats when they tried to sing them in Babylon.
It was the same land described so wonderfully in Isaiah 65, which they longed for and could picture so vividly, and which they worked so hard to rebuild when they finally found their way back. All that is part of our foundation story as the people of God.
So it should not be hard for us to imagine the longing of first nations people in Canada for their ancestral land, the pain of their feeling of betrayal that it has been taken from them, or the depth of their longing to recover it.
The Biblical story actually carries parallels to our modern experience. Psalm 105 unabashedly tells us that when God first gave them the land, they “took possession of the wealth of the peoples” there. I wonder what the original occupants of that land thought about it all. It all makes you wonder a bit, doesn’t it? Is our arrogance about the land built into our spiritual DNA?
There are countless other issues concerning the first inhabitants of Canada which should be of concern to us as Canadians, and as Christians, issues which diminish the life of these first nations people — desperate poverty, substandard housing unsafe drinking water, widespread substance abuse and skyrocketing suicide rates among young people.
And there is the sad story of residential schools, brought into such sharp focus for us a couple of weeks ago when the remains of over 215 children were found on the grounds of a residential school in BC. The schools were operated in Canada in part by the churches, whose record, we have come to realize, included terrible abuse and a systematic, intentional taking away from indigenous children their language, their culture their identity, and sometimes their lives.
While our PCC has been implicated in some of the lawsuits, I am at least proud that our church has been in the forefront of seeking healing and reconciliation with those who have been abused, and trying to make sure that there is a process for settling the claims that doesn’t take forever, and where compensation actually goes to those whose lives were shattered, and not lost to legal fees.
And maybe that gives us a hint as to where we might stand on all of this as the people of God, how we might try to understand these issues and what steps we might take to be on the side of God’s justice and righteousness.
Paul calls on us in 2 Corinthians 5 to take up a ministry of reconciliation, of bringing people together breaking down barriers, healing old hurts and betrayals. As God has come to us in Christ and reconciled us to God through Christ so God calls us to the same work in the world. In the matter of the struggles of first nations people in Canada and how we might look for a peaceful and just existence with them, we could at least stand on the side of dealing with them honestly and fairly. We can do that as people of faith and, with our forebears, as people with something to answer for.
We can acknowledge, as we begin our conversation, that we are standing on land that was once the home of their forebears and give thanks for their care of it. We can seek to understand Canada’s first nations people, to get to know them, to listen to their stories, to learn of the richness of their heritage and their contributions over the years to the life and culture of Canada today.
We can learn from them something about community justice through their healing circles; something about an understanding of community that puts it above the whims and indulgences of the individual; something about being at peace with the land; and learning to live as one element in its complex makeup where all things are connected, something they figured out centuries ago, but which we are learning only grudgingly even today.
We can come to these conversations in a spirit of confession, acknowledging that we and our culture have reduced a once proud and self-reliant people to poverty, and closed them away, out of sight, in what are often little more than ghettos. We can admit that in trying to make them like us, we have disregarded their life and culture, their deep spiritual awareness, and their respect for the complexity of the creation and care for the land which kept them alive;
We can acknowledge that we have taken their land which they loved and respected and cared for, and developed it and used it up, and left it often unable to support life in any form. And in our role of seeking to be reconcilers, and follow the commandment to love our neighbour, we can honestly be part of solutions that are just and right and which can pave a way for a future partnership where we are all richer for knowing each other.
Isaiah 65 speaks of the longing of the people for security in their land and how in God’s new realm it should not happen that a people’s land would be taken from them for others to use and enjoy. Maybe we can imagine that the hope of the first nations in Canada might be exactly that as well. And maybe, in reverence for God, who has created both the land and all of humankind we will be able to be reconciled to one another so that we can live together with peace and respect on this land that God gave us all.
- “Draw the Circle Wide”. Words (1994) by Canadian Anglican clergyman Gordon Light (1944–). Music (2008) by American academic and church music composer Mark A. Miller (1950–). Words and music copyright © 2008 Abingdon Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed on the keyboard and with vocals by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope
Holy and gracious God, we come to share the gifts with which you bless us each day. We know that when we show your love to all the world, the world will be drawn to you, and through our gifts we can be part of that outreach. We pray that our gifts may be the blessing that will save life, bring hope, and serve to build up your kingdom.
Great Spirit, we give you thanks for this day you have given us, and for the gift of life. We thank you for the four directions and for the gifts of life that each of them brings to us. We thank you for the birds and for all the creatures that fly, for the wind and for the air we breathe. We thank you for the animals that are willing to give up their lives for us so that we might have food and clothing and blankets and shelter. We thank you for the mountains and the rivers and lakes and oceans, for everything that swims and for the clean water we have to use and to keep things growing and alive. And we thank you for your Son Jesus who taught us how to share and how to love, how to put others before ourselves.
Lord, we pray for this world, and especially for all the indigenous people in every part of it. They are often victims of racism, marginalized and discriminated against by people in power whose actions or inaction perpetuate their suffering. Lord, we pray for all these peoples and we ask for your support, guidance and healing presence to be in their midst. Lord, lift them up and help them to find justice and equality and healing and peace.
We have been devastated by the news of the graves of 215 children at a residential school in BC, more children who never were able to return to their families from schools they should never have been forced to attend in the first place. We pray first for healing for the children’s families and communities, who are met again today with pain no one should ever have to bear. We also acknowledge the actions of your church, our complicity in running residential schools and taking children like these from their families. We repent for the pain and ongoing harm we have caused, and ask for the will and wisdom to act to end that harm. Forgive us, and help us in our commitment to work for healing and reconciliation.
Great Spirit, inspire us with your ministry of reconciliation, and continue to lift us up so that we can show the world that the love of Christ is still alive. Help us to continue to be disciples of Jesus, joined to all peoples of this world as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surround us with your loving arms so that we can be one people, and so that we can support each other as we journey in your name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Praise – 736 “For the healing of the nations”
- Note the famous tune used, though it is not the one in the hymnbook.
- Video with on-screen words identical to those in the hymnbook.
- Words (1965) by Anglo-Dutch clergyman Fred Kaan (1929–2009). Music (1907; tune “Cwm Rhondda”) by Welsh composer John Hughes (1873–1932). Words © 1968 Hope Publishing Co.; music in the public domain.
- Audio and video recording made by Reveille United Methodist Church, Richmond, Virginia, as part of their June 7, 2020 service.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go out into the world in peace,
and whatever you do, in word and in action,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
giving thanks to God through him.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-06-19 at 16:55 – First version.