May the grace our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I had an interesting thing happen to me this week - I heard the same story told twice in a three-day period (a story I had never heard before), and yet the way that the story was told, and who was telling it turned it into two very different stories.
The story is set during the American Revolution, and it involves 500 Wolostoquay people, sympathetic to George Washington and the revolutionary cause, paddling down the river towards the English fort, and one English leader paddling upriver to meet them to try and negotiate. They met on a beach on what is now called Gorham's Bluff on the Kingston Peninsula, with the end result being that the Wolosotoquay paddled back upriver, and the Englishman paddled back down river with no attack made.
The first time I heard this story told on Saturday, the Englishman was the hero of the story, saving what we now know as New Brunswick from the Americans. The second time I heard the story told, just last night, it was told as a tragedy as the trust established during those negotiations on the beach led to treaties being signed a few years later - treaties that the European settlers have never fully respected.
When I shared on Facebook my experience of hearing the same story told twice, I used the hashtag, #HistoryIsNeverNeutral. How we remember, how we interpret, and how we tell history is never neutral, but is always being influenced by our own perspective and biases. Even when I presented the bare bones of the story two paragraphs earlier, despite my attempts to remain neutral, you can still pull out some of my biases. I chose to name the American war in the late 1700s The American Revolution rather than The War of Independence. I named the Indigenous people the Wolosoquay rather than the Maliseet, the Natives, or the Indians. I stated that the place where they met is now named Gorham's Bluff rather than implying that this had been it's name for all of eternity.
It is impossible to tell a truly neutral story.
Those of you who attend our weekly bible study (now on summer break) will likely recognize that this is the same problem that we have been running in to as we meander through the Old Testament. We run into contradictory statements (are Moabites good or are Moabites bad?). We run into horrific stories where it seems as though God it telling the people to commit acts of genocide and colonization.
One thing that I remind the group as we go is that there is no truly neutral reading of scripture. The people who recorded the ancient stories that we read in the bible carried their biases when they were writing. (For example, as we read the story of Moses and then Joshua leading the Ancient Israelite people from slavery, through 40 years in the wilderness, then crossing into the promised land, we are only reading the story from the Ancient Israelite perspective. We don't have the story as it would have been told from the perspective of the people who were already living in the "promised land.") And as we read and interpret the stories, we carry our own biases and perspectives - we are always reading these stories through the lenses that we carry (either consciously or unconsciously).
One of the most powerful things that we can do - both for reading the bible and in life - is to be aware of our lenses; to know what lenses we are reading and/or interpreting through. For example, when you come across things in the bible that contradict each other, how do you choose where to place the emphasis? (For me, I always try to keep Jesus's double-love commandment - to love God and to love your neighbour - as the lens that I read scripture through. I probably don't always succeed, but that is how I try to shape my biases.)
Getting back to that story that I heard told twice in the past couple of days, you have probably guessed by now that the second telling (a tragedy that resulted in treaties that have been broken time and time again) came from an Indigenous perspective. This story was part of last night's First Nations Storytelling gathering hosted by Quispamsis United Church.
As followers of Jesus, reconciliation is one of the things that we are called to. (A more "church-y word for reconciliation might be atonement - being made one, or the restoration of relationship.) In Jesus, fully human AND fully God, creation is reconciled ("made one") with God; and following in Jesus's footsteps, we are called to be people who bring about reconciliation.
Here, in this land that we call Canada, reconciliation between those of us who are descended from settlers on this land and the Indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before the first European settlers, is one of the most important (if not the most important) reconciliation that is required. Especially since the churches, including the United Church of Canada, played an active role in breaking the relationship through the Residential schools.
One current piece of reconciliation work has to do with searching a landfill in Manitoba for the bodies of two Indigenous women who were murdered last year. The United Church of Canada is participating in an advocacy campaign to #SearchTheLandfill - you can read the full statement from the church by clicking here. Yes, searching the landfill will be expensive, but reconciliation is costly work - just look at what it cost Jesus. Reconciliation MUST involve actions and not just words.
And now on to some announcements for this week:
Worship on Sunday will be at Summerville at 9:15 (outside in the cemetery, weather permitting; and as of today it looks like the weather might permit, so bring your lawn chair!) and Westfield and on FB Live at 11:15. We will continue our exploration of stories about women in the bible with the story of Lydia this week (Acts 16:6-15).
Movie Nights are back again next week, Tuesday August 1, at 7pm in the parlour at Westfield. After a couple of "heavier" movies, this week we are going to be watching one of my favourite animated films, How to Train Your Dragon. (In my world, dragons make any movie better!)
And my ongoing reminder to "Save the Date" for the Saint John Pride parade - Saturday August 12 at 1pm (gathering likely happening at 12 for those of us participating in the parade, but I'll share more details once I have them).
Finally, a closing thought for this week: here is a blessing/poem by Jan Richardson. It was originally written for the season of Advent, but she recently re-shared it to get through a grey and rainy Monday. (I love her poems/blessings - you may notice that they frequently appear on the backs of our bulletins!) You can read it by clicking here.
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."