Canada Day

Fr. Ross’ Sermon, July 1, 2012

Scriptures: Isaiah 32:1-5, 16-18; Psalm 85:7-13; Colossians 3:12-17; John 15:12-17

What does it take to live together – as friends, as a couple, as members of a family, in a community or as part of a country?

In Canada the phrase, “peace, order and good government”, is often used to describe the principles upon which Confederation took place, defining the purposes for which the Canadian Parliament should legislate.

In addition to its technical purpose, the phrase “peace, order and good government” has also become meaningful to Canadians as way of characterizing not only our political culture but our broadest values as a nation. In the 19th century, when the phrase was still being freshly interpreted, it was not uncommon for the word ‘order’ to be interchanged with the word ‘welfare’, meaning the protection of the common wealth, the general public good.

These aspirations are not unique to Canadians nor even relatively new in the experience of the human race.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God points to a future for the nation of Israel when, “My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.” This is surely God’s intention for all of us – for the whole human race in our communities, whether large or small.

And how will that wonderfully utopian future be realized?  Again, Isaiah proclaims that this will be the case when the focus is on:

  • Being in right relationship with God, with each other and with our environment
  • Providing shelter and protection
  • Actually observing and listening to each other not just seeing and hearing
  • Practicing good judgement and clear communication
  • Searching for what is noble and honourable (not the latest flashy foolishness or the most scintillating scandals)

Good principles, all – but what gets us to that point?  Paul, writing to the Christians in the city of Ephesus says that by practicing the following disciplines as individuals, we become more able to function together as a group:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Meekness
  • Patience

And as a group together in community:

  • Bear with one another (that’s just reality – we are always moving back and forth between tolerance, acceptance and appreciation for each other)
  • Forgive each other (Remember that you have been forgiven – so you also must forgive)
  • Clothe yourselves with love (wanting what is best for the other)
  • Be thankful (in the context of community, this also means being thankful for the diversity and gifts of each other)

Ultimately, we need to take to heart what we have learned from Jesus:

  • Avoid no one; exclude no one.
  • Remember the ‘least’ and share what you have so that everyone has what they need.
  • Stick to the heart of God which reaches out across all time, not the cultural/religious structures which change over time.
  • Challenge cultural norms and practices which are destructive to the human race and the world in which we live
  • Live sacrificially.
  • Know that we are all part of a bigger picture.
  • Look for examples of God and God’s work in everyday life.

And we would want to do any of these things and learn how to increase our ability to live together so that no matter what happens in the political sphere we are part of a community of 33 million (plus) people that is continually teaching itself how to live in peace and order by protecting the common good. And when it comes time to do things collectively like address issues of poverty here and abroad, or respond to a world economic crisis, or elect governing bodies we will be able to do so – because we are living towards what God – in many ways and through many voices has called us to.

Jesus said it this way: “Love one another as I have loved you.” – in this way you will grow into the kingdom of God.

We are not a theocracy nor are we a ‘Christian’ nation – but all of these principles are universally accepted as the best way (by whatever name they are known). The constitutional summary is, “Peace, order and good government.” May we who are part of this national experiment called Canada continue to live into that hope, with God’s help.

Amen.

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