Pentecost 3/Aboriginal Day of Prayer, June 18, 2017

Matthew 9:35-10:8

St. John the Apostle

“Just the Gospel”

When Jesus sent out his first followers to spread the message, he gave them strict instructions. Now that they had learned about God’s kingdom for themselves, they had to practice sharing this good news.  The twelve disciples had to learn how to be apostles.   And so, their first mission was to be amongst their own race and religion.

Here’s what they were to do:  heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.  Here’s what they were not to do:  go outside their own faith and understanding, like the Gentiles or the Samaritans, or to accept payment for their labours.   Altogether, a pretty difficult practicum.  But I believe that this is exactly why Jesus let them loose on the house of Israel first.  If they couldn’t make any headway with people with which they presumably shared a world view, how could they hope to proclaim Jesus’ word to the rest of humanity?

The point is, they were to take just the gospel with them, not their preconceived ideas about which people was closer to God, or what way of living was more holy, or what cultural norms would be acceptable in the Kingdom.  Yet down through the history of religion humans have struggled with keeping clear about the core of the message.  We wrap it up in the cultural understanding and practice that we have, and we present it as a package to those we proselytize.  Jesus was a Jew first talking to Jews.  But as his ministry continued, both Samaritans and Gentiles received the good news he brought.  They didn’t have to convert to Judaism in order to get near him.  They only had to learn to worship “in Spirit and in truth” as he told the Samaritan woman at the well.  And being a Christian in the first century didn’t mean you necessarily had to be a Jew first, as Saint Paul so ably argued.  So why, in the course of Christianity, did we think that being a Christian also meant being just like the dominant culture that brought the gospel?

This is the legacy of the colonial mindset; when one culture comes to another with the preconceived notion that it is superior.  With the Bible in one hand, it is even easier to imagine that we bring something of great value, therefore our way of living it out must be better than the society without this good news.  But the assumptions that creep in undermine and actually are in opposition to the gospel.  Where in Scripture does Jesus say that people are savages, or dirty or stupid, because they hadn’t figured out what God intends?  He laments the lack of understanding amongst his own Jewish people, and the lack of leadership amongst the religious leaders.  And so he sends his disciples out to demonstrate what God’s way really looks like in the context of his own culture.

By the time the apostles start spreading out to touch the lives of those who are beyond the borders of the Jewish faith, they have had some practice with Jesus about dealing with other cultures.  He didn’t always agree with some of their practices, but he listened to their stories and their questions.  He recognized the same needs for healing and acceptance and justice.   He never categorized them as less than human.  Jesus knew them as children of the same Father.

When Jesus sends us out into our daily lives, we have the same instructions as the first twelve.  Our task is healing and reconciliation, right where we are.  In the Message version of the Scriptures, Matthew 10:5-8 has Jesus saying it this way:

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers.  And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.  Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighbourhood.  Tell them that the kingdom is here.  Bring health to the sick.  Raise the dead.  Touch the untouchables.  Kick out the demons.  You have been treated generously, so live generously.”

We need to practice.  In our own neighbourhoods are people that have been here in this area much longer than we have.  Generations.  Millennia.  We have made mistakes in trying to proclaim the gospel to the indigenous people of Canada, and there is much work needed for truth and reconciliation.  Let us return to the gospel values that guided the first apostles, and set aside some of the cultural baggage that has alienated people from us and our attempts to draw them to Christ.  Let us take action in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Canada:

Listen now to the words of the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada speaking at the Chapel of the Mohawks, Brantford, Ontario, March 19, 2016:

Voice 2: “In renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery that drove colonial expansion – regarding “discovered lands” as empty lands; and treating the First Peoples of the land as savages to be conquered, civilized, and Christianized – our church described that doctrine “as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God”.

I remain deeply committed to enabling our church to let its “yes” in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery be a resounding and continuing “yes”.While much has been written about this doctrine, it is clear there is much more education required if we are to understand the political and spiritual arrogance inherent in it, and the force with which it was upheld through strategies aimed at systemic cultural genocide… I call on every diocese and territory of our church to ensure opportunity for learning about the history and lingering legacy of this doctrine…I am requesting that on National Aboriginal Day, June 21 or the Sunday closest, there be a public reading of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in every parish across Canada.

Narrator: Following are the voices of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by 144 nations in September 2007, and by Canada as “an aspirational document” in November 2010. These headings summarize the Articles of the Declaration affirming the rights and standards affecting relationships with indigenous peoples around the world. They will be accompanied by the voice of the principles guiding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC.

Narrator: TRC Principle #1: “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles (Note: it is recommended that the number of each article be read aloud to designate it clearly)

#1 Human Rights and fundamental freedom

#2 Equality

#3 The right to self-determination

#4 Autonomy and self-governance

Narrator: TRC Principle #2: “First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have treaty, constitutional and human rights that must be recognized and respected.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#5 Indigenous institutions, state participation

#6 Nationality

#7 Life, security, violence free, Guarding against genocide

#8 Cultural integrity and prevention of cultural destruction

#9 Communities and nations without discrimination

 Narrator: TRC Principle #3: “Reconciliation is a process of healing relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#10 Free, prior and informed consent prior to removal and relocation

#11 Cultural tradition and customs

#12 Spiritual and religious traditions; repatriation of remains

#13 Native language is fundamental to preserve culture. The guarantee to participate in political, legal and administrative proceedings.

#14 Education in our own culture and language

#15 Education and public information to promote peace in society.

 Narrator: TRC Principle #4: “Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacy of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal people’s education, cultures and language, health, child welfare, the administration of justice and economic opportunities and prosperity.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#16 Media and cultural diversity

#17 Employment and labour; protection from exploitation of children

#18 Indigenous decision making and institutions

#19 Prior consultation with free, prior, informed consent

Narrator: TRC Principle #5: “Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Voice 6: United Nations Articles

#20 Subsistence and development in economic activities; entitlement to just and fair redress.

#21 Improvement of indigenous living standards and special measures to ensure them.

#22 Ensure protection for elders, women, youth ,children, and persons with disabilities

#23 Determine and administer the right to economic and social development

Narrator: TRC Principle #6: “All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#24 Traditional medicine and holistic protection of resources. Progressive realization of physical and mental health.

#25 Indigenous peoples have distinctive spiritual relationships with their territories and have responsibilities to future generations.

#26 Land rights and legal recognition of indigenous systems

#27 Due recognition of indigenous lands and resources through fair process by strong participation

Narrator: TRC Principle #7: “The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#28 Indigenous redress and restitution for lands and resources

#29 Environment conservation and protection ; prevention of hazardous materials; restoring health impacted by such materials

#30 No military activities on indigenous land

#31 Cultural heritage, traditional property and intellectual property.

 Narrator: TRC Principle #8: “Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.”

Voice 9: United Nations Articles

#32 Determine and develop priorities and strategies for development

#33 Indigenous identity and citizenship based on customs.

#34 Indigenous legal structures and customary practices in accordance with human rights standards.

#35 Determine individual responsibility in indigenous communities

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #9: “Reconciliation requires political will, trust building, accountability and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.”

Voice 10: United Nations Articles

#36 Contact and cooperation despite division due to borders

#37 Recognition of treaty rights and observation of agreements.

#38 National measures for achievement of declaration articles

#39 Access to assistance from states and international cooperation

#40 Dispute resolution and remedies based on indigenous traditions and customs and international human rights law

#41 Full realization of rights through cooperation and assistance from UN systems and intergovernmental organizations

Narrator: TRC Principle #10: “Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.”

Voice 11: United Nations Articles

#42 Promotion and application of declaration articles through UN specialized agencies and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

#43 The rights and the declaration are the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world

#44 Guarantee of gender equality

#45 Nothing in the declaration diminishes or extinguishes indigenous peoples’ rights now or in the future

#46 Respect for UN Charter and promotion of the principals of peace, justice and human rights.

Closing Prayer: Merciful God, you call us to loving relationship with one another.Be with us now as we seek to heal old wounds and find joy again in this relationship.Replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.Give us the gifts of honesty and openness, and fill us with your healing power and grace.We ask this in Jesus’s name.Amen.

(Anglican Healing Fund prayer)

 Please read aloud the words for Voice 2

Narrator: Listen now to the words of the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada speaking at the Chapel of the Mohawks, Brantford, Ontario, March 19, 2016:

Voice 2: “In renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery that drove colonial expansion – regarding “discovered lands” as empty lands; and treating the First Peoples of the land as savages to be conquered, civilized, and Christianized – our church described that doctrine “as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God”.

I remain deeply committed to enabling our church to let its “yes” in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery be a resounding and continuing “yes”.While much has been written about this doctrine, it is clear there is much more education required if we are to understand the political and spiritual arrogance inherent in it, and the force with which it was upheld through strategies aimed at systemic cultural genocide… I call on every diocese and territory of our church to ensure opportunity for learning about the history and lingering legacy of this doctrine…I am requesting that on National Aboriginal Day, June 21 or the Sunday closest, there be a public reading of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in every parish across Canada.

Narrator: Following are the voices of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by 144 nations in September 2007, and by Canada as “an aspirational document” in November 2010. These headings summarize the Articles of the Declaration affirming the rights and standards affecting relationships with indigenous peoples around the world. They will be accompanied by the voice of the principles guiding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC.

Narrator: TRC Principle #1: “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles (Note: it is recommended that the number of each article be read aloud to designate it clearly)

#1 Human Rights and fundamental freedom

#2 Equality

#3 The right to self-determination

#4 Autonomy and self-governance

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #2: “First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have treaty, constitutional and human rights that must be recognized and respected.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#5 Indigenous institutions, state participation

#6 Nationality

#7 Life, security, violence free, Guarding against genocide

#8 Cultural integrity and prevention of cultural destruction

#9 Communities and nations without discrimination

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #3: “Reconciliation is a process of healing relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#10 Free, prior and informed consent prior to removal and relocation

#11 Cultural tradition and customs

#12 Spiritual and religious traditions; repatriation of remains

#13 Native language is fundamental to preserve culture. The guarantee to participate in political, legal and administrative proceedings.

#14 Education in our own culture and language

#15 Education and public information to promote peace in society.

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #4: “Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacy of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal people’s education, cultures and language, health, child welfare, the administration of justice and economic opportunities and prosperity.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#16 Media and cultural diversity

#17 Employment and labour; protection from exploitation of children

#18 Indigenous decision making and institutions

#19 Prior consultation with free, prior, informed consent

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #5: “Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Voice 6: United Nations Articles

#20 Subsistence and development in economic activities; entitlement to just and fair redress.

#21 Improvement of indigenous living standards and special measures to ensure them.

#22 Ensure protection for elders, women, youth ,children, and persons with disabilities

#23 Determine and administer the right to economic and social development

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #6: “All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#24 Traditional medicine and holistic protection of resources. Progressive realization of physical and mental health.

#25 Indigenous peoples have distinctive spiritual relationships with their territories and have responsibilities to future generations.

#26 Land rights and legal recognition of indigenous systems

#27 Due recognition of indigenous lands and resources through fair process by strong participation

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #7: “The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.”

Voice 2: United Nations Articles

#28 Indigenous redress and restitution for lands and resources

#29 Environment conservation and protection ; prevention of hazardous materials; restoring health impacted by such materials

#30 No military activities on indigenous land

#31 Cultural heritage, traditional property and intellectual property.

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #8: “Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.”

Voice 9: United Nations Articles

#32 Determine and develop priorities and strategies for development

#33 Indigenous identity and citizenship based on customs.

#34 Indigenous legal structures and customary practices in accordance with human rights standards.

#35 Determine individual responsibility in indigenous communities

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #9: “Reconciliation requires political will, trust building, accountability and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.”

Voice 10: United Nations Articles

#36 Contact and cooperation despite division due to borders

#37 Recognition of treaty rights and observation of agreements.

#38 National measures for achievement of declaration articles

#39 Access to assistance from states and international cooperation

#40 Dispute resolution and remedies based on indigenous traditions and customs and international human rights law

#41 Full realization of rights through cooperation and assistance from UN systems and intergovernmental organizations

 

Narrator: TRC Principle #10: “Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.”

Voice 11: United Nations Articles

#42 Promotion and application of declaration articles through UN specialized agencies and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

#43 The rights and the declaration are the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world

#44 Guarantee of gender equality

#45 Nothing in the declaration diminishes or extinguishes indigenous peoples’ rights now or in the future

#46 Respect for UN Charter and promotion of the principals of peace, justice and human rights.

 

Closing Prayer: Merciful God, you call us to loving relationship with one another.Be with us now as we seek to heal old wounds and find joy again in this relationship.Replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.Give us the gifts of honesty and openness, and fill us with your healing power and grace.We ask this in Jesus’s name.Amen.

(Anglican Healing Fund prayer)