Easter Year C
A café in Toronto is to us, what the town square was to locals and travelers alike in villages in first century Palestine. Taking a quick detour from my compulsive list of daily activities, I deke into the café at the corner of King St. East and Jarvis. Filled with other delightful misfits and strangers I find solace in their company. As I snuggle up onto the only remaining seat on a bench with my earl grey tea, a young woman smiles at me.
Breaking news at the top of the hour is alarming: “The former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and the former Minister of Indigenous Relations Jane Philpott have been removed from the Liberal Caucus!” My neighbor and I begin to talk. A woman at another table is moved by our animated conversation: “What has happened?” she presses. Seemingly the only three in the café that know the events of late, our debate begins. We agree, at the heart of the “SNC-Lavalin” matter is not just a personal misunderstanding, but rather the power of corporations to define the overarching political and economic landscape above public interests. I am ever more incensed with the reality of corporate power when the news continues with the coverage of Canada’s climate change. The report is “beyond grim.” It warns that Canada’s climate has been warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the world! In Northern Canada, it’s even higher.” As our communal lament continues, a man with his back turned to us as he leaves, snaps: “I am tired of this conversation they should just move on, this is the way the world is.” His aggressive afront is disheartening, even as he leaves without the respect of listening. It’s the deadening silence from so many others who remain fixed to their phones though, that fuels my disappointment more.
As a woman seeking faith in the world, Zac Poppen’s work on religious disappointment helps. In critiquing Simon Critchley’s book Very Little – Almost Nothing: Death, Philosophy, Literature,” Poppen says:
“As a result of the violent, unstable state of this world, and this existence, I am continually asking the twin question of ‘what is the meaning of life? and ‘what is justice?’ … My theology begins with disappointment … it forces me to deal with the problem while not letting the problem escape … It is at the edge of my tears and anger that I forge my theology, philosophy, politics, and ethics as I purse justice-for-each.”
Luke’s Gospel reading (24:13-35) this week, is as mystical as it is gritty. The author chooses to have the second appearance of the resurrected Christ take place in the company of two relatively unknown travelers. We meet them walking on a dusty road on their way to Emmaus. It is a small village seven miles outside Jerusalem. It remains under Roman imperial rule. The Romans squashed the Jewish uprising (66 C.E.) slaughtering thousands, enslaving many more, and burning down the Jewish temple (70 C.E.) as they reclaimed the city of Jerusalem. And, here now, the hoped for, Messiah has just been crucified.
The colossal levels of disappointment of the travelers is immediately felt. With still many miles to go, they are “talking with each other about everything that has happened” — “intensely examining” (as Greek words for talking and discussing mean). As Jesus comes up and walks along side of them, “…they stood still, their faces downcast.” (24:17) and explain to the stranger, “…some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not find Jesus.” (24:24) With frustration they press upon this ignorant stranger: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days.” (24:18) The fixer Messiah is no longer. Their hopes dashed, their future abysmal, they explain: “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; … We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (24:19-21)
Slowly then, the risen Christ is revealed to the travelers and their foolishness dispelled. As he walks beside them, Christ challenges: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! … And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”(24:25-27) “Stay with us,” they plea, “for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over… When he was at table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (24:25-31) Instead of power over others, the risen Christ offers them a transformative power of love as friend and travelling companion. On the journey among unknowns, in the invitation of strangers into their hearts, by evoking the wisdom of the ancestors, and in sharing a communal meal, the spirit of God comes. Their eyes are opened, hearts are warmed!
At the time of writing of this article, I attend a panel on Aboriginal Governance at Toronto City Hall with Indigenous Women Elders, scholars, and committed activists. The message, “we have all been colonized,” is stark and disturbing. These women identify, the desire to exploit “our” land, “our” women, and “our” children, the historical realities of white supremacy and greed as obstacles to living good ways of Aboriginal governance. Instead of colonial systems of rule, these Indigenous women, remind us that Aboriginal ways of governance are rooted in listening to the land, following clan systems of decision making and roles, and in recognizing the place of humans among all of creation not over it.
While sharing a meal after the panel my disappointment lingers. The story the young black woman in the café shared with me comes to mind. I realize she like these Indigenous women knows all too well the unbending weight of a colonial history, corporate greed, and sexism. The truth is daunting and disappointing. And yet these Indigenous women commit to continuing to walk this road together with settlers and migrants, sharing wisdom, undoing this colonial history, and laughing. Hearing their wisdom amongst strangers and friends alike, that together delight in this bannock, jam and tea, I am thrown into the mysticism of hope.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, an American journalist, author, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist says: “Be a nuisance where it counts; do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics – but never give up.”
Silence and indifference, or “just move on” are not the responses that will assist in dealing with the disappointing truths that define the current historical and political landscape we live with. However difficult, we must face the truths of Canada’s genocidal history vis-à-vis relationships between settlers, and the First Peoples. Daunting as it is, we need to face the realities of climate injustice and environmental racism. However, complex we need to acknowledge the increasing power that corporations have, to influence political decision making in favor of unfettered resource extraction at the cost of Indigenous sovereignty and political integrity.
The theology of disappointment does not ask us to live a life of despair. On the contrary. The resurrected Christ revealed to us walking on the road to Emmaus, amidst the travelers’ facing the signs of the times is the Easter hope we need. Our hope lies in embracing disappointment together with those on the margins, and with strangers in our midst. It creates a crevice into our souls where the spirit is released pulling us toward informed action and journeys of communal care together one for the other. So, let us not dismiss our Good Friday tears. But let us also hold space together to hear Creator’s call amidst our dismay. The sacred earth depends on it; a true reconciliation depends on it; the quality of our relationships with one another and all creation depend on it.
Diane is a guest on lands defined under Treaty 13 also known as the Toronto Purchase which was signed on August 1, 1805, by representatives of the Crown and certain Mississauga peoples. These lands have been home to many other First Nations including the Wendat (wen-dat), Anishinabek (ah-nish-nah-bek) Nation, the Haudenosaunee (ho-den-oh-sho-nee) Confederacy, and the Métis (may-tee) Nation. She takes her responsibilities as a guest very seriously including: ensuring equal rights, hospitality, and demonstrating a willingness to learn from First Nations. As a Christian she also takes her responsibilities very seriously to ensure that she continues on the path Christ paved for us which includes challenging patriarchy imperialism injustice and oppression particularly where ever the Church has been guilty of any or all of this. She lives in deep gratitude for the hospitality and wisdom, teachings, and spiritual ways that Indigenous people on this territory and wherever she travels and works continue to share with all of us. She is committed to living reconciliation as a spiritual practice that is founded first and foremost on truth.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.