May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
This summer I've been listening to the Hunger Games audiobooks (the original trilogy - I haven't read the prequel). Thank you, New Brunswick Public Library! I first read these books over a long weekend back in 2012, so it has been interesting to re-visit them a decade later.
If you aren't familiar with these books, they are set in Panam, North America at some unspecified time in the future. War and climate change have re-shaped both society and the land so that it is organized into The Capitol and 13 Districts. The Districts exist primarily to support the excesses of The Capitol - each district is responsible for something (e.g. mining, agriculture, fishing, electronics, soldiers). One of the ways that The Capitol maintains their control over the Districts is by pitting them against each other, with the ultimate annual competition of The Hunger Games where children from each district fight each other to the death until a single victor emerges. It is a brutal society.
Over the course of the books, the Districts rebel against The Capitol, led by District 13. In the final book in the Trilogy, you watch the rebels led by District 13 begin adopting some of the tactics used by The Capitol to win their rebellion. Bombing with mass civilian casualties. Lies and manipulation with the idea that "the ends justify the means." And the ultimate reversal - a plan to subject children of The Capitol to a version of The Hunger Games.
At the end of the series, The Capitol has been overthrown, and the former Rebels are now in charge. The deck has been shuffled and those who had been oppressed are now the leaders.
As I listened to these books this summer, I found myself thinking that this couldn't have been what Jesus meant when he proclaimed again and again that the last shall be first and the first shall be last in God's kingdom. Surely he couldn't have intended that those who oppressed now should become the oppressors under a new regime.
Towards the end of the book, after the war is over, two different characters reflect:
Character 1 (Plutarch): "Now we're in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated. But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction."
Character 2 (Katniss): "Something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like ... But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen." (Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay, Chapter 27)
These statements resonated with me. A world where one group is pitted against another, where those who have are unconcerned with (or even antagonistic towards) those who have not really is a world that benefits no one. And yet in our human-ness, we tend to keep falling into this way of being.
All of which has me wondering, what might a world that is truly transformed look like? Surely this kingdom of God that Jesus keeps teaching us about must be about a transformation that goes deeper than just shuffling the deck.
I invite you to use your sacred imagination to picture what this sort of world might look like! What might a world look like where every single person (and every single part of creation) is able to flourish and fully be who they were created to be? A world where not only has oppression ended, but entire systems of oppression, the very concept of oppression has been broken?
On to this week's announcements!
Pride Parade - as I mentioned last week, we are registered as Two Rivers Pastoral Charge to walk in the Saint John Pride Parade on Saturday afternoon. The Parade Route goes from King's Square down to the Marco Polo terminal, beginning at 1pm. If you would like to join us: the parade is assembling at 12pm on King Street East across from the burial ground - look for me when you arrive. You are invited to wear bright clothing and accessories - I will be bringing rainbow face paint as well as our churches' rainbow flags for us to wave and carry. And if you are creative, feel free to make a sign to carry! (Click here or here or here for inspiration.) Feel free to get in touch with me for more information; or if you are interested in carpooling in to town.
Movie Nights - Tonight's movie (Wednesday) is Sister Act (1992 movie staring Whoopi Goldberg and Dame Maggie Smith); next week we will be watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021 movie starring Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker - I watched it earlier this winter and thought that it was excellent, so this is my excuse to watch it again!)
Sunday Worship - this week, we will be worshipping at 9:15 at Long Reach (outside, weather permitting) and at 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live. Continuing our journey through our favourite hymns, this week we will be looking at "My Love Colours Outside the Lines" - what does this hymn tell us about God and about our relationship with God?
Westfield United peeps - two weeks ago, a stack of large plastic bins was left on the ramp into the door off the parking lot. I've been trying to figure out why they were left there! Were they left there for someone to pick up? Where they left there to be brought into the church? For 2 weeks, they have been sitting on the ramp and no one has been able to offer any enlightenment! If you know anything about these bins, can you please let me know (and if I still don't know anything by the weekend, they will be disposed of, as they are partially blocking the ramp).
And that is it for announcements this week!
For a closing thought this week... I've already shared what I've been listening to at the beginning of this e-mail, so let me share what I've been reading this summer. I started the summer reading Permanent Astonishment - a beautifully written memoir by Tomson Highway about growing up in the far north of Manitoba (close to the borders with both Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, now Nunavut), and later attending a residential school. And now I'm just about finished reading The Miramichi Fire: A History (links to an article about the fire by the same author) by Alan MacEachern about the 1825 fires in New Brunswick - it has been fascinating to learn a bit more about the history of the province I now call home. Next up, I'm looking for something lighter (after all, it is summertime!), so I am going to be picking up a mystery novel from the library later this week - All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming! I hope that your summer has also been full of good things to read and good things to listen to.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."