26 April 2013
CPT OUTREACH REFLECTION: Forgiving
by Chris Sabas
After fifteen months of full-time service with CPT’s
Justice Team, my view of peacemaking is broadening from
Sider’s 1984 challenge, embracing the cross and the Spirit of The Way
and standing in front of weapons, to also challenging the church to transform
violence and oppression through outreach, education, advocacy and liberating
To this end, Interim Outreach Coordinator Sarah
Thompson, Canada Coordinator Esther Kern, Director Carol
Rose and I visited four churches in Leamington, Ontario on Sunday 14 April. We were asked to focus on children.
I chose “For the love of Christ urges us on”
(2 Corinthians 5:14-21) to center my remarks on Canada’s shameful legacy of government-funded,
Schools. While the
last school officially closed in 1996, the number of indigenous children in
care today surpasses the height of
the residential school era. Instead of
being at home with their families, tens of thousands of First Nation children
are in foster homes, staying with distant relatives or living in institutions.
Titling my message, “May
Our Children Forgive Us,” I intended to hold the
stressful relationship between St. Paul and Corinth as a mirror for
non-indigenous Canadians wrestling with notions of reconciliation and living in
right relations with First Nations of Turtle Island.
Upon arrival to the church that Sunday morning, I
knew I would have to venture ‘off script’.
Someone had spray-painted sexually explicit language at various places
on the church building and property. The presumption was that the person, or
persons, were youth, children.
From what I could observe (not having met most of
the congregation before), emotions varied: curiosity, anger, bewilderment,
perhaps indifference. I met with the
pastor in her office. Before we prayed
together, she asked me to incorporate what had happened in my remarks. She knew
the title and focus of my message as well as the Scripture passage. Together, we explored creative ideas of how
to channel feelings of violation, hurt and anger into the living embodiment the
Apostle Paul had envisioned.
After the call to worship, the pastor referenced the
graffiti. She voiced gratefulness that a
representative from CPT was in their midst to provide insight, and invited
everyone to a dialogue after worship to discern the community’s response.
In addition to my selected passage, the lectionary
reading of Matthew 6:25-34 was read. As I thought and prayed on what I might add,
“Strive first for the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 6:33) occurred to me, and
I scribbled the following conclusion onto ‘the script’: “This morning
reminds us, as we participate in Christ, striving for the Kingdom of God, our
engagement with our youth – regardless of skin color or background – will be
challenging. Not only ‘may our children forgive us,’ but ‘may we forgive our
So we still get in the way – of systems,
principalities and powers – through discourse, by brainstorming and even by sharing
soup, bread and fellowship. And as we
cross paths with many gifted, generous people committed to nonviolence, their liberating
love gets in our way, too.
I think our children will indeed forgive us.