I am re-printing Brian Fraser’s reflection for Canada Day from the online church Casa.
As we approach our national holiday in Canada, my attention is drawn to the fact that most of those in my wonderful group of reflective, resilient church servants and friends are ‘settlers’ in our lands. We or our ancestors came ‘from away,’ and dispossessed the peoples who were on these lands when we arrived. We or our ancestors were often fleeing some form of tyranny and seeking a space to construct a different reality. But did we?
There is an old Canadian hymn, written by Robert Murray and sung to ‘Ellacombe’ that begins with these words, “From ocean unto ocean our land shall name you Lord, and, filled with true devotion, obey your sovereign word.” They were written in an imperial time for an imperial purpose. But what might happen today if our devotion and obedience was to a decolonizing Jesus and what might happen today if Jesus’ friends critiqued the imperial powers and pretensions of this age as resiliently as he did in his.
The First Nations version of the Canadian flag below speaks powerfully to me about the reconciliation I pray and work for among all the peoples who call or seek to call Canada home.
We pray to you this day, O Lord,
deeply aware that the treasures you created us to be,
and that we still have the potential to become,
are enmeshed in earthen vessels
and entangled in generations of rebellion
against your loving constraints.
You created us to be a little less than you,
but still less.
You created us to work with you in cultivating creation,
but with you.
You gave us astounding gifts to serve you,
but to serve you.
Help us see
that our fears and angers,
that our violence and victimizing,
that our exploitation and excess,
all arise from the rupture in our relationship with you.
Help us see, simultaneously, that you embrace us
with a forgiving and redeeming love
that changes everything.
In Jesus Christ, you reconciled the world to yourself.
That is gospel.
That is eternal life.
That is justice, kindness, and humility.
May your lands be peopled with friends
who find in devotion and obedience to you
the true source of flourishing.
This flag was designed by an Kwakwaka’wakw artist named Curtis Wilson on Vancouver Island.
Brian Fraser is minister with Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC. He served for 17 years as dean of St Andrew’s Hall, the Presbyterian College at the University of British Columbia, and taught Canadian church history at Vancouver School of Theology. You can find out about the work and witness of Brentwood at http://www.brentwoodpc.ca.