By Rev. Joan Kessler
Luke 10:1-11; 16
I have been thinking a lot the past few days about the Canada Day we just celebrated and maybe you have too. This year was the first time since 2019 that public celebrations have been widely offered in communities across our country. I am thinking about how much things have changed. I don’t even know if I can capture my feelings into words, other than to say something is different. When I see a Canadian flag these days, I have this moment of hesitation. I wonder what the bearer thinks and believes about nationhood. Do they think the same or differently from me?
There has been a movement this past week to reclaim the flag; to remind ourselves and each other that our flag should always be a symbol of freedom and inclusion of an open country that welcomes newcomers to create a rich diversity. Our Prime Minister reminded us that the flag represents our accomplishments and our desire to improve; that the maple leaf continues to stand for compassion, hope and justice.
I attended the pancake breakfast and festivities with some of you at Swalwell Park on Friday morning. And it was wonderful to be outside with friends and fellow residents alike, dressed in festive red and white. But in the days leading up to Canada Day, I was a bit worried over how I would approach the maple leaf, our flag.
Over the past half year or so, the flag has changed. It became a symbol of protest and polarization around all things COVID-19. It has decorated vehicles, emblematic of a particular ideology. The City of Ottawa and the rest of the country braced itself Friday for potential demonstrations and unrest. I even heard this concern expressed on Friday here in Lake Country – no one wanted to see any trouble befall the festivities. All that was wanted was a peaceable good time with friends and family and neighbors. And that was exactly what I experienced with great gratitude to all who organized and volunteered to bring back this celebration. Canada Day 2022 was like hitting the reset button. We have learned and experienced things from the pandemic. Peace should not be taken for granted. The hard work of reconciliation is before us.
Today’s gospel reading from Luke speaks to me of this tension. In Luke’s day, the Roman Empire was firmly in control of all its territories. The Roman Peace, or Pax Romana as it was commonly known, was the promise of peace through the subjugation of lands. Roman armies travelled from place to place, conquering smaller powers. They came promising protection for hopes and prosperity in exchange for tribute and obedience. Sounds sadly familiar, doesn’t it? This conquering and colonizing brought material and cultural wealth to the Roman centre, while leaving the common-folk in the occupied lands to pay the price.
We take up with Jesus this morning, preparing to send the seventy out into the fields to share good news of God’s peace. There is more work than Jesus alone can manage and so he instructs this group of 70 or so (interestingly, it is in my estimation the average size of a United Church congregation these days) he tells them to be on their way and to take nothing with them that will “weigh” them down, or maybe distract them, from what they are needed to do. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and do not stop and talk to anyone on the way. Be a good and gracious guest to those who welcome you into their homes and don’t be picky and complain about the meal that is set before you. Say to them, “Peace to this house.” And anyone there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, peace will return to you. If you should face rejection, do not worry. Console yourself by shaking the dust from your feet and move along. But as you go, bid them farewell and the assurance that the kin-dom of God has come near.
Peace is oftentimes one of those words and concepts that gets thrown around a lot. Everyone wants “peace”. No one, or almost no one, wants conflict. And yet our world today is rife with conflict. The war between Russia and the Ukraine and the escalating possibility that more nations will be drawn in… This Canada Day weekend, I have been thinking of this possibility. What will it mean to us to go to war, to fight for peace? Because war is always waged in the name of peace. God’s peace is different. It is a peace founded in life, rather than death; on relationship rather than enmity; upon entering into mutual hospitality; sitting at table together and breaking bread rather than building walls of division and exclusion. It takes not military spending – no take back the flag kind of sentimentality. It is the peace of life and is never meant to impose your views upon another, but rather to recognize when it is time to move on and shake the dust from your feet, an act of resolution that in Jesus’ day meant, “I leave you be”.
What do we take from the story this morning? Or maybe the better question to ask is what do we leave behind? This work of being in community means leaving the material possessions of wealth and status behind. Take no purse, no bag, no sandals for your feet. Just go barefoot and let your being walk the path and really feel it. Oh, and it will be painful at times. Maybe we leave behind fear and insecurity that we aren’t enough, that we won’t have enough. Perhaps being right isn’t as important as being in relationship of give and take and reciprocity. This is important to consider as we embark on a most likely economic downturn. When we peel back these things, I believe that is where God’s peace is found. Right there on the road and around the table.
How shall we as a community of faith approach peace-making? With hospitality and open arms and open doors, not just to those we know or agree with but with our neighbors who see things differently than we do? What are the outcomes that give us the most satisfaction? Are there things we need to challenge about ourselves? Are there things we need to celebrate and affirm? I look forward to joining you on the road, friends. God’s peace to you this day and always. Amen.