God is good! And so is gracious disruption. In turning over the tables in the temple, teaching that the last shall be first and uplifting the poor, the humble and the marginalized, Jesus gives us clear direction to problematize our inherited beliefs about superiority, privilege and entitlement.
In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul begs us to “wake from our sleep.” We are in the International Decade for People of African Descent. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, working against racism in South Africa, said, “And you remember the rainbow in the Bible is the sign of peace. The rainbow is the sign of prosperity. We want peace, prosperity and justice and we can have it when all the people of God, the rainbow people of God, work together.” How can we, as an institution and as “the rainbow people of God,” work together to disrupt and dismantle racism? Our gospel speaks to issues of injustice and inequality in health and wealth, access and priority; how can we put into words and action the call to change the policies, structures and systems that oppress and hold each other down?
The deep and insidious colonial messages that shape our society need to be challenged, uprooted and addressed for the freedom of each and all. When Moses came into the Promised Land, there were people already living there. When the Europeans came to Turtle Island/North America, there were people already living here. There is a long pattern in the human story of imposing upon one another, dehumanizing and dispossessing in order to gain. One of the side effects of colonization is that it influences everybody in its reach – so all the people who came to Turtle Island as settlers or who were brought as slaves were adversely persuaded to be ashamed of their own cultures, languages and customs. How many second- and third-generation Canadians have lost their family heritage, which also needs to be personally researched and reclaimed? I encourage you in your personal discovery, as it adds richness and depth to your faith, your family, your community.
There are also glimpses of hope in our sacred stories, like in the stories of Ruth and her mother-in-law, and the Good Samaritan. Where are the glimpses of hope in our present stories, where the liberating message of Jesus infiltrates and indwells to expand the reign of God? Where is our Church in need of the good news of decolonization? Where can we participate with integrity, humility and respect?
Another place to unsettle ourselves is in the Final Report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which outlines 94 ways to systematically dismantle racism and inequity, and to reconstruct the fabric of our life together through child welfare, education, language and culture, health and justice. When we work together, bound by our strong faith in Jesus and our willingness to serve the radical gospel of inclusion, our story can be transformed. Reconciliation is a spiritual discipline, a way of life, a process in which we are constantly engaged, renewing, expanding. Our history is also about the future: what are we willing to do about it in 2020? How can we speak up, step outside ourselves to encounter others, disagree agreeably? How can we support one another to persist, continue on, stay in the fray? Whose voice is missing – or to whom do we need to listen, that we might have ears to hear?
Also consider the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to end poverty, promote deep and sustainable peace, and protect the planet. This is where we must connect with young people who are crying out for our attention. Their voices must be heard, and our policies and structures must reveal our responses to their insights and concerns. Our Church is not separate from our world – it is in the world. The young people who are not in our churches are still part of our parishes, our families and our communities in vital and powerful ways. How do we hold each other to account? How do we challenge our internal and unconscious assumptions about superiority and ageism? Where do we seek wisdom?
Have courage. Ruth Bader Ginsberg says, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” Take a step. Who would we be if we decided to love our neighbours for who they already are, as beloved of God? Who could our neighbours be if they were freed from our prejudice and expectations? Who are you being called to radically include? What is Jesus and the gospel calling us to in 2020?