St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon

May 30th Trinity Sunday, 2021                                                Tasha Carrothers


Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm  29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17


Holy One,

forgive what we have been

sanctify who we are, and

direct what we shall be.


forgive what we have been

There are not supposed to be mass graves outside Kamloops. That horror is elsewhere. Cambodia. Bosnia. Rwanda. Not just down the road from our summer camp.


On Thursday, the Tk’emlups te Sec-WEP-emcs First Nation confirmed that a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School revealed the remains of 215 children. Some as young as three years old.


We know how this happened, why this happened. For over a century, the government funded boarding schools for indigenous children and Catholic, Anglican and Methodist missionaries ran them. Both church and government assumed that indigenous people were backward and that white English-speaking people were superior. The best thing was to eradicate everything indigenous; teach the children English, give them a basic education and equip them to be domestics and labourers. It was for their own good.


This was the myth of progress, the white man’s burden. I’m sure that some believed that they were acting in the children’s best interests. Others knew that it was the perfect opportunity to exploit and abuse vulnerable children.


We know now that adults who abuse children were likely abused themselves. That hurt people hurt people. But it was the belief that white Christians were superior to indigenous children and adults that gave them the opportunity to perpetuate that violence.


Many must have known about the abuse and chosen to remain silent. All would have known about the children who died.


Some were deluded. Some were wicked. Some chose to look the other way.


A profound quality of the Triune God, the One Holy and Undivided Trinity, is the idea of community. The notion that God has always been and will always be in relationship. That which we call God, what we call the Trinity, is

wondrous divine love

that freely gives of itself

to others and

creates community, mutuality, and shared life.


Love that creates community, mutuality and shared life.


What happened in those schools was a rank misuse of power, a complete abandonment of community, mutuality and shared life.


What can a person do in the face of such evil? Remember. Grieve. Repent.


***


Holy One,

forgive what we have been

sanctify who we are, and

direct what we shall be.


Sanctify who we are

Please God, renew your image in us.


The harm that people inflict on other people and on the created world is called moral evil. It’s different from natural evil; that is, disease, accidents, and natural disasters. It can be tempting to think that progress will lead to the eradication of moral evil, that somehow that was then and this is now. That we know better now.


But all we need to do is look around to see that the idea that progress will displace moral evil is obviously mistaken. Look around the world to sweatshops filled with black and brown people, look in our country to missing and murdered Indigenous women. In fact, the notion that some people have progressed more than others is itself a source of grievous harm.


So why doesn’t God intervene to put a stop to this kind of thing? To protect vulnerable children?


Because God’s power is not coercive. Love cannot be forced, be compelled, be demanded. We are not God’s puppets. God persuades, nudges, pursues. We are free to respond, to return love for love, and we are free to walk away. We can misuse our freedom.


God does not direct us; instead, God is with us. God shares our suffering. God is not absolute power, but is creative, sacrificial, and empowering. Our Three-personed God

loves in freedom,

lives in communion, and

wills creatures to live in a new community of mutual love and service.


We are not God’s puppets, but God chooses to work through us. Isaiah understands the contradiction so clearly. In the presence of God’s overwhelming glory, all he can think of is his unworthiness: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” He knows that we misuse our freedom.


Perhaps this is his unspoken prayer—sanctify who I am, sanctify who we are. If you will work through us, then please God, make us worthy of the task. Isaiah is able to respond to God’s call only after he has been sanctified by God, transformed by God. He does not act out of a sense of superiority or out of his own worthiness. He is able to let God work through him because he has been transformed by God.


And what about the school survivors, their families, their communities? Still recovering from the dreadful legacy of hurt? Rebuilding from the destructive effects of genocide? Paul speaks the truth when he says that you are beloved children of God. And God’s endless love works through you.


What is our prayer, knowing that we are free to act? Free to walk away or free to return love for love?


***


Holy One,

forgive what we have been

sanctify who we are, and

direct what we shall be.


Direct what we shall be

Where to from here? From now? What does it mean that God’s image can be and is restored in those who did terrible abuse and those who were damaged by it?


What does it mean to be loved by God, to be incorporated into this wondrous divine love that both is and creates community, mutuality, and shared life? To be incorporated into our three-personed God who is creative, sacrificial, and empowering?


All of the pain of the world is encompassed in the suffering of the Son, the grief of the Father, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, the comforter, that element of the Trinity that blows where it chooses. The Holy Spirit who leads us, the children of God. Who gives us courage and hope, so that we, renewed, may work for the reconciliation of all.


What is our action, knowing that flawed as we are, we bear the image of God, that God chooses to work through us, and that the Holy Spirit guides us?


***


Holy One,

forgive what we have been

sanctify who we are, and

direct what we shall be. Amen.