I mentioned earlier that today we will try something a bit different, a combination of a sermon and time for small group discussion. I will first offer a sermon and then afterwards give you about five minutes to discuss together with your neighbours. For those joining online you are invited to discuss together using the chat on the church website, lutheranvictoria.ca/live.
We are dealt a difficult hand with the lectionary readings today given all the Jewish references and what is unfolding in the Holy Land. A couple things to consider is that we don’t interpret these texts in ways that encourage or enable anti-Semitism. We need to read these texts and hear Jesus’ critiques in the gospel reading in ways that put Christian leaders in the hot seat and those of us who occupy positions of privilege. Additionally we need to be careful not to try mapping critiques of Ancient Israel that we hear in Micah onto the modern state of Israel. These are not the same political entities, so it helpful to keep that in mind.
I want to focus on the reading from Micah, a prophetic text in Hebrew scripture. We hear a lot about false prophets in this reading. False prophets are people who tell you what you want to hear. Today we sometimes hear the voices of false prophets that spread confusion. Rather than simply convincing us of one viewpoint or another, today conspiracy theories serve as false prophets by casting doubt on whether we can ever know the truth. Take for example climate change. Despite the vast majority of climate scientists telling us for decades about the coming effects of climate change, we still hear voices saying, “Climate change isn’t real. Besides how would we ever know? Sometimes it’s hot outside. Sometimes it’s cold outside. There is no way of ever knowing for sure what human actions cause. The climate is changing all the time and our impact is likely very small.”
During the Covid lockdown we heard voices casting doubt around the safety of Covid vaccines. Despite doctors, epidemiologists, and scientists assuring us these will be largely helpful. We heard a lot of voices of doubt, which spread beyond the Covid vaccine to all vaccines. And these voices were easy to proliferate on social media and YouTube, especially.
Recently the Social Justice Committee hosted the Toxic Drug crisis. We heard from speakers on the skepticism around trying new ideas like providing safe drug supply to people suffering addictions. This has been shown to help reduce deaths, when people no longer have to rely upon unsafe means, and then providing paths to reducing drug use, and detox over time.
And politically we experience some of this when we’re told, “You can’t say that out loud.” For example the church message currently says, “Ceasefire Now!” Some people told us you can’t say that. Despite the legacy of Christians standing against war. We’re told that after over 1,000 Israelis have been killed and over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed, that we can’t call for a ceasefire because it’s not our place. Historically we know this is how genocides happen, when collectively everyone says, “it’s not our place to comment” and look the other way.
One way to counter both conspiracy theories and unpopular opinions on justice issues is precisely to talk about them as a community, which is different than just saying what people want to hear. This is why as church we support talking about climate and solidarity with Indigenous voices. As a church we have encouraged people getting vaccinated and wearing masks in worship for quite a long time until Covid became endemic and now we’re each evaluating safety measures. We are talking about ways to humanize people with addictions and see them included as our love of neighbour. We are supporting partners in the Holy Land. Last week on the “Let’s Talk Faith and Justice Podcast”, Boston and I had a chance to sit down with Haneen, a Palestinian UVic alumnus who grew up in Alberta. It was the first time I was able to talk to a Palestinian woman who could tell the story from her perspective. As someone who has studied human geography, she kept coming back to the land. And appealing to Canadians who have empathy for Indigenous peoples’ displacement from land, also to have empathy for Palestinian displacement from land. In our conversation we didn’t answer all the questions or tie up all the loose ends in a 30 minute conversation, but it was a place to start.
We also think about rising anti-Semitism and the importance of lifting up the Kristallnacht remembrance at Congregation Emanu-el this Thursday at 7 PM in downtown Victoria. Our Jewish partners with whom we are sponsoring a Syrian refugee family are inviting us to attend this event. It’s one way build relationships with people. I recall Rabbi Harry calling for peace both for Palestians and Jewish people at a recent rally for peace he led at Centennial Square.
Question for deliberation: What is one way as Christians and a church we are finding a prophetic voice, resisting the urge to tell people what they want to hear?