First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:15-22
Second Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
Gospel Reading: John 6:56-69
The passage reading from Ephesians that we heard today is often interpreted in terms of spiritual warfare but I think it would be better understood as Paul telling us that God's way, in light of the teaching of Jesus Christ, is spiritual peace-fare. To be strong in the Lord is to surrender to God's grace. The whole armour of our God is love and justice. The Word of God is a living word and must be understood in terms of our lived experiences. As we can see today, when things look so hopeless, our elected leaders are abandoning social structures that promote the common good to entities that are not blood and flesh but are transnational economic interests that are exploiting human as well as natural resources. In the United States corporations have been deemed persons, yet they are not accountable for their behaviour as an actual flesh and blood person.
The Greek word usually translated as “righteousness” would be more aptly translated as fairness or justice. The breastplate refers back to the breastplate or hoshen, in Hebrew, of the high priest mentioned in Exodus. Therefore, we could rightly say that we are to arm ourselves with justice.
We can explore what putting on the whole armour of God means for us. If we keep in mind the words of today’s Psalm:
· The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, those who act with justice,
· The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
· Many are the afflictions of the righteous, those who act with justice, but the Lord rescues them from them all.
The apostle also tells us that the word of God serves as our helmet and sword. So, I would say that for Christians, the whole armour of God that the apostle is talking about is prayer, love, peace, justice and truth, informed by the Gospel.
It may all seem so daunting because in all parts of the world today, it appears that corporate well-being is more important than the health of all living creatures and the planet. I have watched documentaries showing that corporate practices have made environmental degradation a global illness affecting all areas of our planet; and where certain scientific and military endeavours are posing threats even beyond our planet. This could indeed be seen as “cosmic powers of this present darkness.”
In 2006 and 2007, I went with Christian Peacemaker Teams to the Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation in north western Ontario. We had the opportunity to see, experience, and learn from people who remember how to live in away that respects the sacredness of life. We saw how a natural forest is a diverse, interdependent ecosystem. We learned how the forest supports the plant and animal species that also support human life.
Unfortunately, we also saw clear-cuts and their results. We saw people being forcibly disconnected from the very life that sustains them. The trees, the animals, the plants that they coexist with and had a living relationship with are being destroyed. The areas that have been clear-cut have been replaced with a mono-culture of genetically engineered trees.
In a short one hour drive we passed several of these tree farms. The clear-cuts destroyed the habitat of several species of animals, birds and plants and in turn the loss of food, medicines and other resources that sustain three of the community’s families.
Even closer to home, now, oil is being extracted from the tar sands in Alberta. The oil sands produce the world’s most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming. In addition, there is a strong government push to construct pipelines from the tar sands through British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. There are oil tankers that are coming and going through our waters now, and plans to increase the number of these tankers.
But to demonize those commanding harmful economic practices that are causing global warming, poverty in most of the world, water, air and environmental destruction on a cosmic scale is not what we are called to as Christians. The apostle Paul tells us to put on the "breastplate of righteousness", that is, to align ourselves with justice, and to make ourselves ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
To refuse to demonize those that are doing so much wide-spread harm is not easy. However, we must remember that if we demonize we are playing the same game as the rulers, the authorities, and the cosmic powers of this present darkness.
It’s a huge task, where do we begin? I’m can’t give you the answers but I will give you some things to think about. How do we begin to make ourselves ready proclaim the gospel of peace? Although we can start with ourselves, the road to salvation and the way to follow Christ is not a solo act.
Some starting places for us would be
· To cultivate peace within ourselves.
· To heal our own alienation from the natural beauty that our loving God created.
· To look at the natural world as God did and see that it is good, not because of it’s usefulness to us, but because like us, each item in nature is infused with the breath and word of God.
As a congregation, you are a member of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. This organization unites Canadian churches and religious organizations in a faithful ecumenical response to the call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). So KAIROS is a good place for a group to
· To obtain resources on human rights and/or eco-justice and learn about the issues
· To participate in KAIROS justice actions and initiatives
· To contact the local chapter of KAIROS
· To host a KAIROS workshop
As I said earlier, I don’t have the answers but I do know that we are called to work together to bring about the kin-dom. I know that if we work together in organizations like KAIROS, we can transform the urge to demonize by working to bring about the transformation of darkness into Light. As the song says:
We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.
Peace and All Good, Amen.