... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Day of Pentecost 5 Year B Father's Day,
Message July 01st 2012

Nationality and the Message of Christ

Text: John 15:12-17

Today we celebrate Canada Day, the festival of our nationhood and who we are as a people. And while the revised common lectionary does not recognize it with distinct readings, our Anglican cycle of Propers does. The readings for today thus center around those elements which make for a strong country grounded in the ideals of equality justice peace harmony and freedom.

Canada, the world’s second largest country and possessing the largest friendly border, has consistently been among the top countries in the world from a desirability point of view – education, freedom of expression, health, natural resources, cost of living, social services and so on. But what is it that makes us a country?

In ages gone by and in some other parts of the world, that question could be answered in things such as ethnicity, geographical boundaries, resources, language, culture, strength of arms, armies, dictatorships and uniformity. The problem with each of these is that it defines in its’ citizens who is in and who is out. It is an exclusivity type of identity enforced by brute strength or psychological ploy. We have certainly witnessed what happens in countries defined by ethnicity – genocide, tribal warfare, poverty and deplorable human states. Countries defined by religious fanaticism fare not much better. Such countries result in oppression, loss of decency, loss of freedoms, loss of vision, and loss of concern for those outside the inner circle of survival.

Fortunately there are other ways and other mandates which can govern nationhood and which can define who the people are. These include unity of purpose, common social ideals, social justice, vision of otherness, equality of all people and boundaries which are not set down by physical attributes. Canada is one of those countries within this umbrella of statehood. Described as a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, we embrace equality, social justice, welfare, common goals, freedom of expression and a due balance between societal and individual rights privileges and responsibilities.

But how did we get to this stage? What historical landmarks enable us to be here today in such a wonderful country and blessed with so much? Some might argue that all we have stems from the struggles of our ancestors in Europe and especially England. Some would contend that the Magna Carta was the pivotal turning point for our society and what we have evolved into. Some would draw the line at a late time frame citing the industrial revolution or the religious reformers looking for a new way. And perhaps all would be right, for it has been a journey – a journey into discovery as to living in community with an attitude of harmony and love as opposed to greed and selfishness.

Looking back as far as we can, we have seen countries and nations rise and fall. Each in turn has been built on strength of arms, wars, self-concern and ethnical or religious identity. True, the Roman Empire tried to incorporate different cultures, but they still fostered a vision of Roman superiority. Few had viewed a vision of utopia but were counted as dreamers. However, one did come on the scene who changed people’s thoughts and visions – not on a grand scale but one person at a time, That person was Jesus. And his message was one that was centuries old even in his time – love God and love neighbour. Yet his understanding of the summary of the law encompassed more than what had been previously held.

In his closing words to his disciples he echoed God’s message to all people. Just as the disciples had not chosen Jesus, but that he had chosen them; so too we have not chosen God, but have been chosen by God who in grace and mercy has opened an offer for a much greater and nobler way of life. John’s Gospel sets out a list of things which make for a different foundation of identity – an identity as God’s people and a framework around which all countries ought to be established.

Jesus’ desire for his companions was that they might have joy – abundant complete joy. That joy was the joy Jesus had in the relationship he himself shared with God. This is not a promise of prosperity or wealth or anxiety-free living. Rather it is an attitude of trust in God and the promised covenant. In this attitude anxiety is replaced with strength of conviction which enables one to look beyond the adversity of the present and form a mind-set capable of handling whatever might be encountered. It also enables people to have a vision of greater possibilities with regards to interpersonal relationship and see in one another a child of God.

And if a child of God then we are able to see one another as brothers and sisters despite whatever race colour or other divisions might at first appear to separate us. This leads to the second in Jesus’ list – that of love. For Jesus love encompassed not what we call love but what God deemed as love – the self-giving concern for others even to the point of laying one’s life down for others. And that is exactly what he was about to do when he spoke these words. His death, his crucifixion was the liberating cost for the lives and souls of all people, freeing humanity from the grips of sin and the evil one.

A third element of Jesus’ understanding of the Law was that people would be friends. No longer was there to be divisions of people – teachers-students, masters-slaves or servants, haves or have not’s. Friends know one another, are kept in the loop as to why certain things are done and hoe processes work. More still friends have access to one another. In the Old Testament times Moses was considered as servant of God as were David, Joshua, and Isaiah. However Abraham was considered a friend. This difference was that God spoke to Moses, David etc., when God needed things done. Abraham always had the ear of God at all times. Jesus in denoting his followers as friends implied that he would always be there for them and they always had his attention. It follows then as friends to Jesus we are friends one to another and we should have the ears and attentions of one another at all times.

Finally we have been given a commonality of purpose – to do the will of God and in doing this we have a unity of vision and unity of being and a unity of life. This is not the same as uniformity in which all things are exactly alike. Unity can have diversity, can have multiplicity, and can have differences. What unites is the common purpose.

In these and so many other ways Jesus established a direction of thought and understanding which grew as the mustard seed into something greater, allowing people to become a new community, a new nation and a new people. As we celebrate Canada Day may we experience God’s heart, Jesus’ teaching and the Holy Spirit’s counsel in all our thoughts words and deeds so as to grow into the full stature of God’s desire for us.