Sermon at Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama
I watched a powerfully moving video last weekend, made for public television. It was the first installment of a series called We Shall Remain, about interactions between the Native peoples of what we now call the
If that event, the Wampanoag-English feast, really took place, it was the result of courage, trust, and generosity, in the face of enormous loads of fear. The English died by the dozens over their first winter from starvation and disease, but in the spring the Wampanoag taught them something about how to survive â to harvest the bounty of the land and sea, and to plant appropriate crops. Interaction between the two groups was aided by Tisquantum, a Wampanoag whoâd been enslaved by earlier explorers and carried first to
But the fear on each side was immense. Fear by the English of people who spoke a different language and observed vastly different customs. Fear by the Wampanoag of invaders, with more powerful weapons, and the ability to resist the diseases that had devastated native peoples in the years preceding their arrival. Fear on both sides that one group would wipe out the other.
There was self-interest at work as well, in overcoming the fears that beset each group. The Wampanoag needed allies against their neighbors the Micmac and the Pequot. The English needed to learn how to live in this strange place. And so they began to act like what Isaiah sets before us as a vision of the divine dream: the wolf living with the lamb, a child playing with a snake, and an end to violence and war on Godâs green and fertile earth.
That holy vision of shalom, of a place and time where fear has been banished, is what draws together people of good will, and people who struggle to find a better will within themselves. That vision continues to push communities of faith toward a just peace in the
Our respective communities keep that dream alive by telling the great stories of our faith, and connecting them with those times when weâve seen a glimpse of their reality. Thereâs a very particular example of this happening right now in
There are congruent initiatives going on in Israel-Palestine, with groups of parents, childrenâs initiatives, and human rights groups that seek to broaden the vision of their own members and others about who bears the image of God.
The feast that Christians celebrate today is intimately connected to the expansion of our awareness â of the image of God, of Godâs possibilities and desires for all creation, and for the ways in which we might participate in Godâs dream. The coming of holy spirit we remember and celebrate today is an expectation of wisdom, grace, inspiration, generosity, and courage. We tell the story over and over again because we need to be reminded, because we havenât yet received all that holy spirit has to offer, because weâre still not quite able to engage and cooperate fully.
Americans of all faith traditions have stories to remember and tell that will challenge us. The stories of the first peoples of this land have been too often ignored and forgotten. If we can hear them, they will give abundant opportunity for us to hear Godâs lament and challenge. The spirit does not always sing sweetness and light in our ears â and the Pentecost images of tongues of fire and mighty wind are good reminder. That spirit may burn away old constructions of reality or ancient prejudice, and it may set us alight with a passion to transform this world toward a pasture of lions and lambs cavorting together. The coming of holy spirit as tornado or hurricane may destroy old certainty and open vistas for new possibility.
Iâve heard the spirit speak challenge to Americans to hear the stories of our elder brothers and sisters in this land. What would spirit say to us about our respect for their elder status, perhaps beginning with the Poarch Creek band? What does the average Episcopalian or Alabaman know of their history here?
Iâve read this week about high school students in
Iâve heard the spirit challenge us all to consider how we view our enemies, especially the ones jailed in
Iâve also seen the spirit blowing around this diocese, making peace of that shalom sort in many places â a new home for a family of Sudanese on
What does it take to make peace? Jesus gives it away, but not the way the world gives. Maybe he means that we donât have to pay taxes on our good fortune, or that it doesnât require paying shipping and handling to get the package tomorrow. No credit required! He says, âpeace I leave you, my peace I give you. Donât be afraid.â
It might be more accurate to say, âdonât let your fear immobilize you.â Weâre all afraid of something, even a mighty wind or a dose of fire, because itâs going to change us. Holy things do that. But as someone said, âcourage is fear thatâs said its prayers.â May God give us all the courage to receive a mighty dose of Holy Spirit and change this world toward shalom and salaam, the peace God has already given us the tools to build.