Acknowledging our First Nations Relations
Each week we begin our service with an acknowledgement of territory. But too often, when we do things on a regular basis, they become simply words and we forget what is behind them. With the events of this past week and a half, I felt it was important to acknowledge how far we still have to go in our understanding of the historic relationship between first nations and settler people, and to forging a new relationship as we go forward.
We have heard a lot in the past week about the 215 bodies found at a residential school sight in Kamloops BC. But we need to remember that through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, more than 3,200 children were identified as having died at residential schools across the country. We need to also remember that estimates based on residential school populations, mortality rates, poor record keeping and the number of children simply listed as missing, put the estimated number of deaths in residential schools far higher at a minimum of 8,000 to 10,000 with some estimates saying the number could be as high as 100,000. We all mourn these losses and we all acknowledge that they should never have happened.
Last week Janet shared a statement and prayer offered by Rev. Murray Pruden, Executive Minister of Indigenous Ministries & Justice for The United Church of Canada. Today I want to share with you a prayer offered by our Moderator the Right Reverend Richard Bott.
O God, we are grieving. O God, we are shocked. O God, we are horrified.
But, God, if we truly listened, we can’t be surprised.
The Elders and the Communities had already told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told the governments and the world, the stories of the children, dead and buried, unnoted by the settler systems, but never ever forgotten by their siblings, their parents, their communities.
We grieve for the Indigenous children, taken from their homes and parents by the government, handed over to the responsibility of the Christian church, the children who died under its care, never to be held by their families, never to be returned to their communities― not only the 215 children of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc
and other Indigenous communities along the west coast and interior whose bodies have now been found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds, but all of those children whose bodies have not yet been found who died in any of Indian Residential Schools.
We grieve for the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools, the children who did come home, but were changed by their experience, the children who grew up, and have the trauma of remembering, again, what happened to them.
Even as we give thanks for their families and communities, who hold the stories of the children, who have kept searching, who keep searching, we grieve that that search is even necessary, that even one child was taken, that even one child died,
that even one child’s death went unnoted by the system.
Help us to stop, to sit in silence, to remember the names we do not know.
May their spirits have peace, and their bodies be brought home to their lands.
Help us to take this grief, this shock, this horror, and turn it into right action―
action that works for right relations― action that works for healing and justice and hope.
And, please, don’t let those of us who are settlers and descendants of settlers,
newcomers to this land, let the horror, the shock, and the grief just be an outpouring of words, or tears, or ineffectual hand-wringing.
Let this be a moment that changes, a moment that transforms the brokenness,
that we might walk in right relations, for the good of your children, for the good of your world.
These things we pray, in the name of the one who brought Creation into being,
in the name of Jesus, our teacher and friend, in the name of the Holy Spirit, whose wings spread across the sky.
Amen and amen.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, let us remember that the light of Christ shines in each and every person, in each and every part of creation. Let us remember that we are call to shine this light for others, but we are also called to recognize and honour that light shining in those around us and now as the candle burns, let us join in our Call to Worship.
Call to Worship
* Our Call to Worship this morning is taken from a Lent 2005 liturgy from the Seekers Church community.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to turn stones into bread.
Facing temptation, we too often turn bread into stones.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to use power for its own sake.
Facing temptation, we too often take power that belongs to someone else.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to test the promises of God.
Facing temptation, we too often want God to do what we should do ourselves.
In worship we come to seek God’s help to overcome the temptations we face. So come, let us worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Divine Love, you have never promised us that we would not face temptation. You have never promised us that we would not face difficult times and troubling situations. You have never promised us that we would not have to make difficult decisions and deal with times of hardship and sorrow. But you have promised us that, no matter what we might have to face in our lives, we would never have to face these things alone. Be with us today, reminding us that at all times and in all situations, you are with us, guiding, supporting and comforting us each step of the way. Amen.
Gift of Music Dear God who Loves All Humankind VU#608
Each week, throughout this summer, we will be looking at only 2 scriptures that help us explore the themes reflected in the Disney movies.
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-13, 23-24
Many people forget that there are two totally different stories of creation in the book of Genesis. Today we look at part of the second story, the story of Adam and Eve and the garden we call Eden.
Luke 7:36-39, 44-50
While Jesus was visiting in the home of Simon the Pharisee, a woman who was known to have led a “sinful” life enters and begins to wash his feet with her tears, dry them with her hair and then pour expensive perfume over them. Jesus tells everyone there that in this act of love, the woman’s sins have been forgiven.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a milestone in motion picture history. It was the first full-length animated feature and established Walt Disney studios as the leader in this unique and emerging art form. It was an unqualified success both commercially and critically.
The Disney version of this old Grimm’s fairy tale introduced characters and songs that are still loved by millions of people around the world. Yet Disney, ever the perfectionist saw only how the picture could have been improved. At the time Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, he told a reporter, “We’ve learned such a lot since we started this thing, I wish I could yank it back and do it all over again.”
As anyone who is familiar with the story knows, one of the key elements in the plot is a poison apple. In her jealousy over Snow White’s great beauty, the evil queen uses a poison apple to try to destroy the innocent young heroine.
There is another story that uses the symbol of a poison apple, as the means by which an evil one tries to destroy another innocent. It is much older than Snow White, and it is found in the book of Genesis. Although the Bible never actually names the fruit from the forbidden tree as an apple, tradition and myth have long identified it as the such. In fact, it is quite possible that the Brothers Grimm actually had the “apple” of the Garden of Eden in mind when they wrote the story of Snow White. Perhaps it is not coincidence that these two stories should reflect some of the same message and the same lessons.
The two villains in the stories may, on the surface, appear very different but they also have a great deal in common. When we first encounter the Queen, she is wearing a golden crown and rich robes. Although strikingly beautiful there is a coldness about her beauty that is chilling. And she is obsessed with her own beauty. She regularly consults her magic mirror asking, “Magic, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Each time the mirror assures her that she is the fairest, and the Queen gives a triumphant smile.
That is, until the fateful day when the mirror reveals that the beauty of the queen’s own step-daughter, the Princess Snow White, has finally eclipsed her own. The Queen has long been aware of Snow White’s beauty and has dressed her in rags and forced her to work a scullery maid in the hope of diminishing or at least disguising her beauty.
But we soon become aware that Snow White’s beauty is far more than skin deep. When we first see her, still dressed in rags, and scrubbing the stone stairs and drawing water from a well, she is singing. Her beautiful voice and kind gentle mannerisms attract not only the doves that gather around her, but they also attract the interest of a passing prince who is captivated by the sweet young beauty.
The evil Queen, determined to remain “the fairest in the land” orders her huntsman to take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her. The huntsman obeys, but when the moment comes to kill Snow White, he is unable to bring himself to murder such a sweet young girl. Instead, he warns her to flee from the Queen’s jealousy and never return.
In terror, Snow White turns and runs into the deepest, darkest part of the forest. After a terrifying escape from the evil Queen’s huntsman and with the aid of the friendly, forest animals, Snow White is eventually lead to a tiny cottage that, we later learn, belongs to the Seven Dwarfs.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, the Queen discovers the huntsman’s deception and decides that she must deal with Snow White herself. She magically transforms herself into on old hag and then creates a poison apple which will kill Snow White with one bite, trapping her forever in a sleeping death.
In her disguise, the Queen makes her way to the home of the Seven Dwarfs. There she tries to convince Snow White that the apple is a gift from a harmless old peddler woman. When Snow White hesitates, the queen tells her that it is, in fact, a magic wishing apple and just one bite will make Snow White’s deepest wish and longing come true. Although she still hesitates, having been warned by the Dwarfs not to talk to strangers, against her own better judgement, Snow White accepts the apple and takes a bite.
In the Genesis story, the man and woman, Adam and Eve, are placed in a beautiful garden, a paradise called Eden. They are told that they can eat any of the fruit that grows there except for one tree. The fruit that grows on the tree of the knowledge of right and wrong is forbidden. The couple are warned that, like Snow White, if they eat the forbidden fruit, the poison apple, on that same day, they will surely die.
The villain in this particular story is the serpent, who is often interpreted as being the devil in disguise. Like the Queen, who appears to Snow White as a harmless old beggar woman, when the serpent appears to Eve, he seems to be kind and gentle. In the story of Snow White, the Queen convinces Snow White to taste the apple, not only because it appears beautiful, but because she promises Snow White that one taste of the apple will make all her dreams come true. The Queen offers Snow White the one thing that she is sure Snow White cannot resist.
In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent, like the Queen offers a taste of a fruit that looks beautiful and perfect. But like the Queen, he goes beyond the appearance of the fruit and convincing Eve that if she were to take just one bite of the forbidden fruit, she would not die but would become like God. The serpent, knowing that above all things Eve wishes to be like God, convinces her that this is the true reason that God has forbidden her from eating the fruit, and so, like Snow White, Eve takes a bite.
In both these cases, the poison apple does not appear poison. It appears beautiful and tempting. But it also appears to hold the promise of wonderful things happening and of deep desires being fulfilled. Temptation, in all its many forms, is like that Poison Apple. And like that Poison Apple, it seldom appears to be what it actually is. The false beauty and false promises that Poison Apples exhibit are often very hard to resist. And so, as so many of us often do, both Snow White and Eve gave in the temptation. Both were unable to see beyond the beauty and the promise, and were unable or perhaps unwilling to face the consequences of eating that Poison Apple.
But the story doesn’t end there. There is an antidote for Snow White’s living death. It is loves first kiss. The prince, who had been captivated when he first heard Snow White sing, had never given up on finding her. But when he finally found her, it appeared he was too late. She lay there, as beautiful in death a she was in life. The prince could not resist, so he bent down and kissed her. And with love’s first kiss, the beautiful Princess Snow White opens her eyes and reaches out to her prince.
In the story of Eden, Adam and Eve are warned that if they eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of right and wrong, they will die. The serpent promises that instead they will become like gods. But neither of these things happened. With the first bite of that forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve know that the serpent had lied. They are not like God, but instead they realize that they are naked and exposed before God, and so they cover themselves.
When God, walking through the garden, finds them, he knows the truth instantly. They have eaten the fruit that had been forbidden to them. They could not deny it. Once they had gained knowledge, they became aware of themselves and of who they were in relationship to God.
Because of this, God knew that they would no longer be content with the simple life of the garden. They would no longer be content having everything provided for them and never having to do anything for themselves. And so they could no longer be a part of the Garden of Eden.
But they did not die. Instead, God sent them out of Eden to make their own way in the world. Once they left Eden, they had to learn to care for themselves. They had to learn to till the soil, to build homes and to provide what they needed to survive. They had to learn to do more and to become more than they would have ever had to do if they had stayed in Eden.
So why didn’t God just get rid of them and create a new, more obedient Adam and Eve? Perhaps, like the prince who was so enthralled with Snow White, the answer is simple. Love. God could not destroy what God had created, because it had been created with love.
Both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the story of Eden affirm for us three things. First evil and temptation do exist. It doesn’t matter whether you see that evil as an incarnation of Satan or if you see it as the worst parts of our human nature, evil does exist.
But evil does not always appear evil and this is the second truth we learn. Evil often comes in beautiful and appealing disguises. If it did not, it would not be so tempting and it would be much easier to resist. If we could immediately see all the negative consequences of the decision to give in to temptation, most people would not give in. But evil often disguises itself in beautiful the promise of beautiful and appealing possibilities.
The third thing we learn from both these stories, is that, even when we give in to temptation, there is always a way back. And that way back is always the same. Love.
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was love’s first kiss that proved to be the antidote to the poison apple. In the story of Adam and Eve, it was God’s love for them that rescinded the punishment of death.
Like Adam and Eve, there are times that we have all wandered away from God’s plan for us. Like Snow White there are times that we have all given in to the temptation of that promise that is too good to be true. Yet we have also been promised that, no matter how far we may have wandered or how serious the temptation we have given into, there is always an antidote, and that is God’s love.
May we all drink deeply of that love as an antidote for all the guilt, and fear, and temptation that poisons our lives and relationships. May we receive it, not as a magic poison to fulfill all our dreams or make us gods, but as a guiding force and creative catalyst in the living out of our own stories. Amen
Gift of Music Love Is the Touch MV#87
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. Normally we would be asking God’s blessing on the gifts that we place in our offering plates as well as the gifts we offer through PAR or through online donations. But today there are no offering plates so instead we remind people that as well as PAR and online donations, people can also drop donations off at the church by using the mail slot to the left of the office entry. As always, however, we need to remember that our financial contributions are only one of the many things that we have to offer. We offer our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitment and our prayers. And so, whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray; Loving God, as your spirit touched and blessed those disciples long ago, bless the gifts that we offer you today that they may be your grace and your power and that through your spirit they may be a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, although we may not have a prayer jar in which to place our prayers, we take a moment of silence to offer our personal prayers for all those named in our hearts, thoughts, and minds as well as those who are on the hearts and minds of all those gathered here … Amen.
Report from Region 15 AGM
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, your grace and mercy always test our readiness to receive them. We seem to be hesitant or even afraid to believe that we can be loved and forgiven. Open our hearts to receive your love and to share that love with others. Gracious God, steer us through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil.
Today we pray for those who are being acutely tempted: tempted to look the other way when wrong is happening in their workplace tempted to misuse their gifts for a sordid purpose; tempted to allow untamed emotions to hold sway; tempted by the corrupting power of money; tempted to stay in a rut rather than strike out on new paths for Christ Jesus.
Generous God, steer us through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil. We pray also for the many who feel pushed and tested almost beyond their endurance; those in positions of responsibility who feel overloaded to the point of collapse; those pressured from all sides by factions in workplaces or communities; those who suffer watching a loved one suffer till they feel they can bear no more; those whose patience with a difficult friend is almost at breaking point; those facing persecution whose faith seems stretched beyond their limit; those whose inner being endures a misery which no human word can understand or alleviate.
Merciful God, steer us through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil. We also pray for those who seem to be in a position of advantage: the happy, that their happiness may always be used for goodwill and compassion; the strong, that their energies may be used wisely and gently; the clever, that they may employ their mental facility for good not evil; the rich, that their wealth may be shared for the uplifting of the poor; the powerful, that they may use their position as a blessing to humanity; and those of strong faith, that they may walk humbly and support those less strong. Loving God, steer us through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil.
None of us know the full extent of the pressures that someone else may be under this very day. None of us know the full extent of the joys or sorrows faced by those around us. Yet we trust and believe that you know, and so, in prayer, we lay all our joys and sorrows, all our care and concerns, and all the joys, sorrow, cares and concerns of those we love before you now asking that you will steer us all through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Closing Hymn Be Still My Soul VU#652
So now, wherever you go, remember to keep your feet moving forward, your hands outstretched to others, and your heart open to God. Because we know that wherever we go, God is with us, now and always. Go with God.