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Mountain Sunday

By Joan Kessler

Isaiah 65:17-25

The passage you just heard read is a favorite of mine. If I was asked what passaged summarizes the good news of the Old Testament story, I heard them this morning. Creation is never finished, it is constantly unfolding in small and monumental ways. There are some things to think about on a sleepy Sunday morning…words to take to ourselves and reflect on if but for a moment…

This ending passage from the prophet Isaiah opens with the call to look, to notice, to see with new eyes what is going on all around you. It’s an acknowledgment that things of the past have been difficult, but they have brought you to this time and this place. Creator is busy at work, inviting you to come home, to come back…this is the moment to begin again. The Jerusalem you left isn’t the Jerusalem you are returning to….neither is the Lake Country or the Kelowna or the Vernon…something new is happening….look and see! What is being reconciled….what is being brought together again…what is being won over and made friendly once more?

The work of Truth and Reconciliation, the reckoning of our colonial past and present practices, comes home to us today as we wear orange shirts and prepare to observe September 30 as a day of intention for learning the stories of survivors of the residential school system…no more will the sound of weeping be heard, nor the cry of distress. On Friday, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an apology for the Church’s role, acknowledging the suppression of Indigenous culture and language and the many forms of abuse that were committed. The statement also took responsibility for the remaining trauma survivors and subsequent generations have suffered. The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Roseanne Archibald, welcomed the apology but stated, on behalf of her people, that reconciliation will happen when the Pope himself comes to them with an apology. Reconciliation is a two-way process, ever creating, evolving, moving forward. What role can I play in this ongoing healing…what assumptions do I need to examine, what are the things I don’t know about Indigenous history and culture that will give me a better understanding of what they experienced? Because knowledge is power and when I become intentional about doing my reconciling work as a white settler, I help ensure that the dark past of aggressive assimilation, of land taken away, of children removed from their families and their culture, are never repeated.

Isaiah calls the Israelites to come home…it’s not the home they left some 70 years earlier. There is nothing left of the Jerusalem of their ancestors. There is a familiarity here, they’ve been told the stories, but now they have to rebuild and reintegrate. Wild fire victims returned home after weeks of displacement and separation from their pets, livestock, their personal belongings, all pieces of their identity and place in the world. And we know some returned to the devastation of charred ruins, burned out shells of what they worked all their lives for…gone in the blink of an eye. Now the work of how to start over begins, and there is the likelihood that some will not return but will relocate, the trauma of the loss too great to bear. It is the tragic result of hot and dry conditions. We must begin to look at our choices and how they are impacting our environment and the climate. Reconciling to our hurting earth cannot be delayed any longer.

And Friday night we received the announcement that a deal had been reached and Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were on their way home from their arbitrary detention in China. There has been little in the news these days that brought me more joy than hearing they were on a flight back to Canada, the home awaiting them with their friends and families to greet them. I try to imagine what they have experienced the past 1019 days…they have been exposed to artificial lighting for 24 hours a day. What was it like for them to know natural light and even darkness again…how will they pick up the pieces of their lives? I was struck by the injustice of it all as their counterpart who spent the same amount of time here in Canada in the lap of luxury. What do we learn about ourselves ,and our place in the world from events such as this? It is something to take some time to reflect upon.

On this Mountain Sunday, the last of our Season of Creation, we consider reconciliation and what it means to bring back together that which has been separated. How do we heal and make reparations to our Creation. The mountain is a symbol of grandeur, of majesty…it is seemingly changeless yet it weathers storms and is subject to erosion through snow and ice and wind, the ground too beneath the mountain’s feet also shifts continually. From my experience of living on the prairies, mountains produce obstacles to a direct path. To reach a destination to the west, for example, one has to travel south, then north, then perhaps south again before you reach the place you intended to go. The work of reconciliation is much like a mountain for me today. It is also a metaphor for the Infinite’s holy indwelling…the words of hope Isaiah leaves us with are inclusive and just. The wolf and the lamb, the lion and the ox, are enemies of one another. But in this vision, they eat and lie together in peace. This is our lasting hope also, that when we say Every Child Matters, that is the lived reality. And when Every Child Matters, then it carries forward so that every teenager, every adult, every senior and elder also matter. We create a home where there is access to healthcare, affordable housing, food on tables and respect for all peoples and their cultures. It’s a tall order, friends, it may look like a mountain but we can find our way through this work. If there is a message I take with me from this Season of Creation it is the Infinite One isn’t finished…creation is still unfolding and we can do small things that have a loving impact on our natural environment and our human relations as we share this earth we call home. May it be so. Amen.

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