This is a sermon I gave before Canada Day two years ago. I think the message is still a valid one for this July 1. I think it also applies to the U.S.A. for July 4th.
Our True Home and Native Land
Message for June 30, 2013
Mollie Pearce McKibbon
I remember witnessing a disturbing scene several years ago. I was at the National Arts Centre, a symbol of our national identity, when a young man outside came to the wide glass door, pounded upon it crying out , “I just want a bed.” After a few minutes a policeman came up to him and led him away, hopefully to a bed somewhere. Suddenly, I felt wrong. Not only did I have a bed to go home to, but I was having the great privilege of attending a night of orchestral music in a very elegant theatre. A little of the enjoyment went out of the evening.
Jesus once reminded one of his eager disciples that following him would not be easy, not a life of elegance or comfort.
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9: 58)
This seems particularly relevant this week after hearing of all the people in southern Alberta who have lost their homes or have had them so badly damaged with water that they will need to be rebuilt. It also brings the mind the many people in Oklahoma who are having to rebuild their homes. How difficult it must be to go back and see all the damage done by natural disasters!
Just moving can be very traumatizing, especially if it is unexpected and none of a person’s belongings go with them. I have six cousins living in Alberta. Half live in the northern part of the province, the other three live in the southern portion. Thank goodness, only one of my cousins and his wife had to be evacuated. They had only just moved back there from B.C. and luckily their furniture was still in storage in B.C. However, their clothes and books were not.
My family moved every two years when my father was in the navy, so we were rather like gypsies. We really didn’t have an attachment to any of the naval quarters. Perhaps that was why, when my mom moved out of her home into Stillwater Creek, she adjusted so readily to her new circumstances. When my brother took her back to our home for a brief look around, Mom shrugged and said, “It’s just a house.”
I have always thought it sad to have to sort through someone’s belongings after they die. Any clothes in good repair go to the Salvation Army. Jewelry gets divided up among the family, books are chosen or taken to the second hand book shop, and furniture is picked over or auctioned off. In the end, everything is disposed of and the realization hits that we really all just borrow things during our lives. We can’t take it with us.
Now this might sound depressing, but actually it isn’t. It helps us to remember that we are just “spiritual beings having a human experience”. We are living in borrowed bodies. This outer shell is simply a casing to make our spirits mobile while we live on earth. As a matter of fact, we are not in the exact same bodies we began in. Our body’s cells are constantly dying and being replaced. Each cell has the blueprint of how we should look throughout our lives and day by day we change.
As Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians “ But we have this treasure in jars of clay” and farther on “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…So we fix our eyes not on what we see, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.”
This planet is not our permanent address. We are all of us immigrants to this country. Paul wrote of this to the Corinthians, “That as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” He also wrote, “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
As much as we love Canada, we are citizens of another realm entirely. Our home and native land are God’s Kingdom, not here on earth. So we really are homeless to a degree. We mustn’t get too attached to objects or lifestyle. It is only ours temporarily and then passes to the next generation. The one thing we can keep and carry with us into heaven is our faith, our trust in God.
The “treasure” that we have in clay jars is the most precious thing. We have the knowledge of the future ahead of us and it is not one of sadness, but joy. Today I watched a very moving video of a young woman dying of cancer. She was surrounded by her family and talking to the singer/actress Bette Midler. Somehow, Bette had made her acquaintance by e-mail and then had spoken to her on the phone. This particular day she called to talk to the young woman after a show. They exchanged greetings and affectionate chat. Then Bette asked her if there was anything she could do for her. The young woman replied that she would really love to hear Bette sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings”. Graciously, Bette complied and sang the song with so much real feeling and compassion. It is the best way to use the gifts God has given us, to make someone else’s time on earth a bit brighter. At the end they both broke down in tears at the part where Bette sings “You will go higher, higher” and I thought yes, this is sad, but it is also wonderful to know that one day they will meet again in heaven if they believe in Jesus.
This is the wonderful treasure that we have. We know how much Jesus loves us because he proved it on a hill call Calvary. We know that God loves us and has planned our future to be with him and that we will all rise again as our Lord did. That takes the sting out of death. That makes our sadness only temporary.
Jesus is making places for all of us, just as he promised his disciples. We know that the promise he made was not just for them, because he prayed for us too, that we would have life and joy in its fullness. Because of this and the realization that what we have is only borrowed, we need to be more compassionate and generous towards those who have so little on this earth. When I say generous, I am not just speaking of money, but of consideration and loving kindness. I am speaking also of smiles,encouragement, and pleasant thoughts.
Pleasant thoughts might be the most difficult part. It can become a habit to blame newcomers to Canada for the ills of our country, and much as we love it, we must admit our country is not perfect. The truth is that those newcomers are just that- new. Most of our ancestors were new once and went through a process of learning to adapt themselves to their new environment. It takes about three generations for a family to become at home in a new land. The first generation carries all the age old disputes and attitudes from their homeland, many of which get passed on to the next generation. By the third generation, these disputes and attitudes are not even a memory, and new habits and ways have taken their place. It is important that we are understanding and patient, not to the point of trading in our hard won human rights or compromising our sense of justice, but to be confident enough make them welcome.
You and I have a heavenly citizenship, but that makes it all the more important that we do whatever we can to improve our place here on earth. It means that we need to use our God-given talents to contribute what we can to making this place safer and more just for our succeeding generations. To do this we need to do what we can to make homelessness and poverty less and less likely. We also need to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Think of how wonderful this country would be if all of us were singing songs of praise to God and living out his Will here while on earth.
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”