Simple Moodlings \'sim-pѳl 'mϋd-ѳl-ings\ n: 1. modest meanderings of the mind about living simply and with less ecological impact; 2. "long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering" (Brenda Ueland) of the written kind; 3. spiritual odds and ends inspired by life, scripture, and the thoughts of others
July 1st is Dominion Day, also known as Canada Day. It's a wonderful day to celebrate a wonderful country of beauty, diversity, and freedom... and a day to reflect on our sense of identity...
Once again, my best friend is giving the reflection at her church this morning, and a good one it is! It flows from today's gospel reading, which is Mark 5.21-43. Happy reading, and Happy Canada Day!
on “Who(se) am I?”
Several years ago there was a TV beer
commercial where a man comes out on a stage in a plaid shirt and does a rant
about being Canadian. He gets really excited and louder and louder. “A toque is
a hat, a chesterfield is a couch and it’s pronounced zed not zee. … My name is
Joe and I am Canadian.” The ad became
very popular, I think because it feels good to shout out our pride.
Well, my name is Cathy and I am
Canadian, and I’m proud of it too. Canada is a wonderful place to live. We are
so blessed. So lucky. A great way to find this out is to travel and I did that,
living in England for two years when I was in my twenties. It’s startling for a
young person to realize we’re not the centre of the universe after all but at
the same time learn we have so much to be grateful for. Canada is a good place
to come home to.
One thing that makes us Canadian is
sharing our stories. Some of the Canadian stories I love include Terry Fox, Tommy
Douglas, Banting and Best, Anne of Green Gables, the Last Spike. One of the
best parts of my work is hearing the stories of people in this church. They are
great Canadian stories, too. The vision and creation of a railroad that ran
from sea to sea is brought to life for me when I remember Reg’s story of going
to war as a young man and taking the train for five days to Halifax where he
caught a ship for England. When he got there, he stayed with some relatives who
didn’t believe that there was a railroad on this earth long enough to travel on
for five days. They thought Reg was telling a tall tale and he couldn’t
convince them otherwise. I’ve read about D-Day and seen the movie “Saving
Private Ryan”, barely able to watch the opening scene of the Normandy beach
landing, it’s so intense. Then I met Bill S. and heard his story about being
there, working as a communications officer on one of the landing craft. He
lived that intensity and it’s an incredible story to hear. In another story, a
13 year old Gloria travelled with her family by car across the country, moving
from Quebec to Vancouver Island in 1951. On the way, they had some adventures
including the three kids coming down with chicken pox. Some years later, Gloria met a Lake Cowichan boy, named Ron who was a boom man on
the log booms before they used boats, nimbly walking along the logs with his
cork boots and pipe pole. When I heard that I thought about the Kate and Anna
McGarrigle song that I love, “The Log Driver’s Waltz”, in which a log driver
learns to step lightly making him the favourite of the girls at dances.
So it’s a good day to celebrate our
stories and celebrate our wonderful country. Like that commercial we can be
proud to say “I am Canadian.”
Being Canadian is part of our
identity. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about identity in the context
of our spiritual life. In the first half of life we need to establish our
identity, a healthy self-image. When I graduated from nursing, I got a job at a
summer camp. When people called me “nurse”, I looked behind me to see who they
were talking to. My mother, who was also a nurse, worked on a maternity ward for
a couple of years before she got married. And yet when she brought her first
born home from the hospital, she cried all the way home because while she may
have cared for babies, she’d never been a mother. Eight years later she had
four kids calling her Mom and a good one she was.
We consolidate our personalities along
the way too. I’m Type A or Type B. I’m introverted or extroverted. We tell
ourselves, I’m good at this, not good at that.
I’m successful. I’m a failure. Churches have an identity too. We’re progressive,
we’re Bible based, we’re righteous, we’re sinners, and so on.
So we develop our identities and
that’s good and necessary but then in the second half of life, we are called to
go deeper. Going deeper means to look
beneath our self-image and personality to who we truly are. I can ask, “Who am
I?” but I need to ask, “Whose am I?” And
the answer is I am a child of God. I have come from God and belong to God. By the time we reach middle age, our
identities are so entrenched that we think that’s what our life is all about. We
forget that we are more than Canadian, a nurse, a woman, a member of the United Church… That deeper part of ourselves is our true self, that which is one
with God and all creation – that self that is beneath that shell we call our
If we think our identity is all we
are, we tend to take that pretty seriously.
It tends to make us think we are separate. We are this and not that. And
human nature doesn’t trust what we are not, nor do we understand it. We are so invested in our identities that we
are easily upset and offended and self-righteous. While on vacation this
winter, Jim and I were at a busy tourist site and there were a lot of people
moving both directions down the paved path. There was barely enough room to
walk three across but group after group came towards us walking two or three
abreast so I was constantly stepping out of the way. Because I am a person that
follows the rules, I think everyone should follow the rules which were clear to
me: everyone should walk single file when passing. I got more and more offended
and upset and I stopped stepping aside, squeezing past people which really
didn’t make me feel any better. I could hardly notice my surroundings I
was so annoyed. Afterwards, I thought about how silly I was. Everyone was just
having a good time (except me). If I’d let go of keeping my identity as the
behaviour police, I might have had a better chance at being open to God’s
spirit in the beautiful surroundings and in the people surrounding me.
This is certainly where road rage
comes from, and probably most conflicts. Our identity is offended.
Another problem with taking our
identity too seriously is that we think we’re in control. This can also prevent
us from being open to God’s spirit to work through us. As a helper, I’m quite
familiar with this. I have an idea that it’s up to me to fix everything, help
everyone. A situation arises in which there is a need and I put up my hand and
call out, “It’s okay, God. I’ve got this one.” I usually end up trying to
control others (in their own best interests of course) and it usually doesn’t
work too well. Those times I am, by the grace of God, open to the moment are
usually amazing moments, and healing moments.
Our identities keep us bound up. We
can’t think outside the box. We’re too busy performing our roles and
controlling our environment. We can’t be as open as we might be. Jesus did not
live this way. He knew whose he was. He
said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11) and “I and the
Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus knew that God not only creates life but
lives through us. Jesus knew it so well that that core of light spread to the
very edges of his clothes so that when the woman with the hemorrhage touched
the hem of his garment she was healed.
always loved this story. I always thought it was about the power of the woman’s
faith, but I’m realizing it’s also about how open Jesus was, right to the edges
of himself and beyond. Jesus did not have borders. That didn’t make him a
pushover. To the contrary. Jesus was connected to his true identity in God and
didn’t spend all his energy making sure his worldly identity was looking good.
likely what all the people jostling around Jesus were doing. I can imagine
their thoughts… “Woowee, here I am with the celebrity Jesus. If everyone back
home could see me now.” Or “I wish that disciple would quit hogging Jesus. It’s
my turn.” Only one person was as open as Jesus and that was the woman with the hemorrhage.
All the people milling around were in contact with Jesus but only the woman who
reached out in faith received his healing power.
Her self-image was probably at rock
bottom. You could say she had nothing to lose or you could say she had nothing
in the way. Propping up our ego and clinging to control can get in the way of
God’s healing power. Suffering can open
us up. It shows us that our identities are fragile things, that we’re not in
also in the reading this morning had that lesson thrust upon him. We know he
was a leader, I imagine of fairly high status, but his status could not keep
his daughter from getting seriously ill. In the reading we see a man humbling
himself, throwing himself at Jesus feet and on his mercy, utterly dependent.
And then, to add insult to injury, when time is critical and every second
counts, Jesus is interrupted by the woman touching his garment and he takes
time out to attend to her. If I were Jairus, I would have been wild with
frustration. I would think I could control the situation by getting Jesus to
move faster. Jairus learned that he was
utterly dependent on Jesus, on God.
utter dependence on God is not bad news. It’s good news. It’s The Good News. We are
God’s. God is at the centre of our universe. We can relax. No more keeping up
appearances, only gratitude. When we think our external image is all there is,
there is a lot of pressure to measure up and keep up the status quo. This is not to say that having an identity is
a bad thing. It’s human and necessary. But keeping a humble and open heart will
lead us down the paths of grace.
Today is a day to celebrate… celebrate
this wonderful country we are so blessed to live in, celebrate the stories of
this country and our own stories, too. And celebrate, knowing that while we are
Canadian, even more than that, we are God’s and created, loved and able to love.
Thanks be to God.