Rev. Alex Wilson
September 29, 2019
Rev. Alex Wilson

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Why do you follow Jesus? This preacher from Nazareth. Maybe it all started when you were baptized as a baby, or were you an adult convert? Maybe you aren’t even baptized. Yet there is a draw which brings us back for more, when it comes to following Jesus. It's an odd relationship, in that, we’ve never met him like we have our friends or family. Yet he’s just as important as they are for us. We read stories and interpretations of stories about him, and sometimes I wonder if what I do in my life is really following the Jesus of Nazareth, galilee, and calvary, or if it's just a watered down version of discipleship that doesn’t really require my life to feel very unstable as I follow him. I mean, let's be honest, we aren't very likely to be killed for our faith in this city. We are less likely to lose a job, or be denied a loan from the bank because we follow Jesus. So what's the risk for us, what's the cost for us to follow christ? It's the power of relationship, and its ability to mutually transform us and the world, something of more worth than all the wealth we could possibly imagine.

The fourth gospel, John’s expression of Jesus’ life and ministry, is one of great beauty and challenge. It is beautiful in the imagery it uses to connect us to the world of Christ in John's lens, and challenging because of the work it requires from us as we continue to build the kingdom of God. For John, the incarnation of God in Jesus is central to understanding how it is we move and build what it is Jesus died for. The kingdom of God, in John, is built on relationships vertically with God and horizontally with creation. To say that God became human in Christ goes a step deeper than just being with us, God had to be one of us, to live, love, laugh, and die as we do, to truly be in relationship with us. So when Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel, you and I, to follow him this morning, this is more than just an invitation to a casual acquaintance. Its an invitation to a relationship which transforms us and the world.

Transformation is defined as a process of dramatic change in form or appearance. There are many events in Scripture that point to transformations, from Jesus’s own, to the healing and transformation of those who follow him. This transformation is always preceded by a moment of relationship- of deeper understanding and mutual learning, like the one in our Gospel this morning, when we are seen and heard for who we are. Sometimes being seen is hard, because we don't like attention, and sometimes being heard is weird because we don't trust ourselves to know what to say well enough to make a difference. Yet, in Christ, we are given the ability to see and know how to build relationships with one another in the midst of the unknown, we sit and listen with a ministry of presence and love, a ministry which transforms our world. From 1880 until 1996, the Anglican, United, Roman Catholic, Presybertian, and Government of Canada, ran residential schools which were intended to build, foster, and help indigenous people fit into life in Canada. On September 30th, every year for decades, indian kids were collected from their families and villages and sent away to school. They were divorced from their traditions, their culture, their language: their relationship with everything that made them who they were was taken away- which continues the intergenerational challenges within indigineous communities to this day. So we mark, as a parish, church, and nation, orange shirt day, as a moment in our continuing road to wholeness with all God's creation, to stop, listen, learn, and be transformed by what we hear. Reconciliation is more than just an apology, and is not about sitting in shame forever over what we did. Reconciliation is about taking the steps necessary in restoring the God given identity to people through relationship by listening to the stories of survivors. Sharing who we are, in the midst of relationship with others, is the beginning of becoming what we see- which is Jesus’s humanity among us.

As you arrived, you may have seen the basket with orange ribbons in it. I invite you to join me in wearing one of these ribbons everyday of the rest of your life as a reminder of our daily need to listen, learn, engage, and reconcile with the indigenous communities of this country, as we learn to be together differently. We will be taking a special offering this morning for the work of the Anglican Healing Fund, which directly helps indigenous communities overcome the outcomes of residential schools, and there is a resource table in the narthex with the beginning of the stories of Indigenous voices around this country. When I first started down this road of reconciliation, I felt so overwhelmed and unsure of where I was meant to go or how to act. The curated resources in the narthex are all written by or in collaboration with indigenous voices, and can help form our first step towards a powerful relationship which honours all of God's creatures, you, me, and the indigenous peoples of this land. Reconciliation is a movement of the heart, a moment of authenticity, so do not feel forced or shamed into something. Not wearing a ribbon does not make you a bad person, your questions are welcome here. We have to start somewhere, maybe today is that somewhere for us.

This is the power of relationships, that in the freedom of sharing our relationship with Jesus- a relationship of listening, learning, and presence among us, we will transform the world to create a just, equal, and fair place where all of God's creatures can live in harmony, connected to their identities, their languages, their gifted abilities given to them by the creator- a relationship where we are richer for having that diversity among us. 

Jesus says this morning, to follow him into the deepest and most profound relationship of our life. In following Jesus, we move from isolation to community by listening, learning, and building relationships of reconciliation with one another, and the world because our very humanity depends on it.  How will you act on that call to relationship with indigenious and non-indigenous people in your life this week?