July 25th, 2010 at the main Sunday Eucharist, the parish of St. David of Wales welcomed K’alwilimhl Laxha Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.
As it was the fourth Sunday of the month the worship (Lil’gidim Amaa Dalk’askw –The Lord’s Supper) was presented in the Nisga’a language.
The Reverend Michael Batten and the St. David of Wales faith community are well into their first year of partnership in ministry with the Nisga’a Tsamiks Vancouver Society, a group dedicated to helping indigenous persons adjust to living in an urban environment.
The liturgy flowed beautifully in the Nisga’a language accompanied by songs and drumming. Included in the worship were the lectionary readings in English and some traditional hymns.
Bishop Mark began his sermon by referencing the readings for the day: Hosea 1.2-10, Colossians 2.6-15 and Luke 11.1-13 and how they all had something to say to Indigenous people living in urban areas who may feel like strangers, even though the land hosting the urban environment is indigenous.
He shared a personal story that had taken place a few years ago when he had accompanied an “elder” to a place overlooking the two rivers in St. Paul, Minnesota. From their vantage point on this bluff they were able to take in all of the urban development of the Twin Cities that had sprung up around the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Bishop Mark asked the elder what he thought of what had developed on the land and the answer surprised him. The elder replied that he liked the city, he liked the development of the land and he was impressed that a place like the Mall of America could be built nearby and attract visitors from all over the world. To the elder, the two rivers are like a man and a woman who unite to produce abundance, to him the growth and urban development was an appropriate outcome for the joining of the two mighty rivers.
Bishop Mark admitted that he did not share the elder’s vision but he appreciated his insight.
Bishop Mark went on to say that the Old Testament is a story of indigenous people who end up developing in an urban environment much like the indigenous peoples of North America.
Indigenous people find the story of Jesus and the Cross particularly compelling because Jesus was an indigenous person who ran afoul of an occupying power. The mocking words that the Romans applied to the Cross, King of the Jews really meant “King of Nothing.” But in the reading from Luke, Christians are made aware that we are all in the “same boat.” Jesus gives us a prayer and he gives it everyone. This prayer is a prayer of hope and a way of life. He invites us to think as a group, to focus as a group and to unite in community. The first word is OUR because we pray together, it expresses our “familyness” with whoever wishes to share.
Our inability to get together is always the inequality of economics, the desire for and the possessing of “things.” Jesus’ words do contain a remedy for this as well, The Lord’s Prayer is a prescription for those who are sick in the soul due to the overwhelming desire for things. In the prayer, we ask for forgiveness and we say that we are prepared to offer forgiveness. The prayer describes the essence of our lives trusting in God. We may become overwhelmed by the life around us and we lose our spirituality. We lose our ability to appreciate the sacred, a sacred place like Vancouver. Not what was built but what was here given by God that inspired the building. The power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen.