This land is your land
this land is my land
to Vancouver Island
from the Arctic Circle
to the Great Lake waters,
this land was made
for you and me.
There is a sense in which having a land to call home is the meaning of life. It is one of the great themes of our whole sacred story, the Holy Bible. Creator God forms the whole world. God gives it to the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and to you and me. After thousands of years of a really bad mess, what is the end of the whole story? It includes a new heavens and a new earth: all is well again; God dwells with the people and all things.
Today, we are not living in the Garden of Eden, nor are we in the New Jerusalem by the River of the Water of Life, with the Tree of Life growing there. We live in history between these, in the mess. Sharing the forests isn’t going well; sharing the lobsters is not going well. Sharing this land is not working out, is it?
I recently visited some people at their summer home. What a beautiful spot! It’s a lovely old house, its big windows letting in the light and showing the view of the harbour and the far shore. There is just one problem. The neighbours. The neighbours who own the land beside and behind them. The neighbours who wanted the land surveyed, to clarify how to share the driveway. The neighbours who did not like it when the surveyor showed that the driveway to their garage was half on the other property. The neighbours who went to the trouble of walling off one of their garage doors, and putting up a solid wooden fence all along their property line. The story of the neighbours goes on.
I hope you never have such neighbours. But an extreme example points out how we all have our moments of failing to share this land well.
We find this in the sacred story we tell on Sundays. The Bible is filled with squabbles – and massacres! – over land and who lives there, despite the great hopes and promises, like those given to King David, three thousand years ago.
Myra helped us know again that scene when David imagined building a great Temple for God, and for the great symbol of the presence of Yahweh God, the Ark of the Covenant. Then, the prophet Nathan hears from the LORD, and tells David, ‘no.’ You are not to build Me a house. I, God, will make you into a house – a dynasty of leadership. Anointed kings, on into the future.
The promises here are like those that had been spoken before to others, and would be spoken again.
I will make of you a great name.
I will give you a place, a land.
I will make you live in peace.
I will raise up your descendants to rule.
This will be forever.
A professor gave some special lectures for Acadia Div College this past week. Dr. Chris Wright talked about the promises and purposes of the Israelites being like a miniature version of the whole world. We have God, and creation, and people. They start off like a triangle, and in good relationships with each other.
When this breaks down, God works, and keeps working, at repairing it all. And the special people of God, with their special, promised land, are a miniature version of this picture.
The Holy One wants to use them to reach and bless the whole world. Remember Abraham being told he will be blessed, to be a blessing? Later, David and the kings are part of that work. But it does not get close to completion until the final Davidic King arrives: Jesus of Nazareth. His place and his land are like no other – they are complete. Jesus is for all tribes and nations, for all creation. Finally, the answer to the healing has come. It is He. God, and the land, and the people, will finally be in harmony and in accord. Brought together, blessed.
We are coming before God, today, as Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada. We have shared some of the same words and prayer items that thousands of others are, all across NS, NB, PE & NL, this month. We are a group of 400+ congregations. There is value in banding together, in sharing our identity, in doing some things together, and in pooling our resources. Hey, each congregation began thanks to the work of others.
I could highlight any of the many ways we, 400 churches, cooperate to get some things done. We have our own bank, of sorts, the Baptist Foundation. That helps churches, or the Divinity College, get a loan to build something new. We have our own collection of senior citizen’s homes. Irene Redmond lives in one, in Shelburne. We have our own staff to serve the congregations and our pastors, such as Peter Reid.
Because of the unrest in our lobster fisheries in southwest NS lately, I thought it fitting to remind us all of our Atlantic Baptist Resolution, just last year, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There is a Preamble, to explain our Atlantic Baptist perspective on this. There is the actual Apology to Indigenous people that we adopted, an Apology copied from that given by Canadian Baptist Ministries three years before. And there is a list of ten Action Items, half of which I had put in the bulletin this Sunday. The whole document is available from our Baptist Office in Moncton, including on the website.
We, Atlantic Baptists, have joined with other kinds of believers across Canada, to speak about this moment in Canadian life, here on Turtle Island. To speak of what we have heard and understood. To speak our confession and apology. To speak our intentions to do new things in new ways now.
So, our action item number 4 is Develop and implement initiatives to inform pastors and their congregations of the history and present-day realities of Indigenous peoples in Canada. As you can read, this includes being provided with a free video course to study this. That video course is right there, available to us now, on the CBAC Website: “Walking in a Good Way With Our Indigenous Neighbours.” Our own Baptist Indigenous Working Group created this course.
This is just one glimpse into what our Master can do with a fellowship of Baptists that stay together and work together. In this case, we can speak together about some issues, as well as listen and learn about these issues of colonialism and multiculturalism, truth and reconciliation, here in this land.
It is about land, and water, isn’t it. It is about a place. This place we call Nova Scotia, or Nouvelle- Écosse, or Mi’gma’gi, or something else. Is this also a place for all God’s people?
We are quite a mix of peoples, from all over the globe, together on this land. Our little county has quite a representation from these four main NS groups: Indigenous, English, French and African. There are plenty of Christians among these, not to mention other ethnicities.
To walk in a good way with our neighbours on the land is an excellent path. Some of the Biblical roots of this are in places like 2 Samuel 7. How so?
I see here it is God who said to the Hebrew King, ‘I will make of you a great nation.’ God will do it, if anyone does. Remember the problem in the days of the tower of Babel? They said, ‘Hey, let’s make a name for ourselves.’ It is a people who rely upon Creator to make something of them who will prosper.
It is also the LORD who appoints a place for the people. And promised peace from their adversaries. And that their leadership will be established, kings from the line of David, in this case.
We go back again to that picture of God and the earth and humans. It is all gift. Yes, it is broken. But the start, and the finish, is beautiful. So says the Spirit, through the scriptures. Creation is good. And a new creation is promised. See Isaiah 11, or Revelation 21 and 22. It is our living on the land and sea now that is the challenge – this broken land, inhabited by broken people.
We must live with the promises of God on our lips. We live in faith and hope, following the Master.
At age 14, Kiera Hui wants to create a cleaner world for her generation. And she’s off to a great start. For her eighth grade science project, she developed a plan to better protect the environment. Her project made it to the Toronto Science Fair last year – it then went on to compete in the Canada-Wide Science Fair. Her experiment? An alternative way to clean up oil spills and reduce waste. She won the silver medal.
Kiera attends Spring Garden Baptist Church in Toronto with her family. Her love for God’s creation and science inspired her to dig deeper to find an innovative way to conserve the environment.
“Our world is constantly being challenged, and despite all that we know to conserve and reuse, very few people actually do it,” says Kiera. “I hope to be an example to others by being innovative and bringing big ideas to fruition; I also hope other youth will express their ideas to the public and know that it is a true possibility for it to become a reality.”
(Kristine Brackman Mosaic, Winter 2020)
It is Jesus who helps us be good neighbours, to people, and to the earth. It is He who teaches us the ways of peacemaking, amid our strong tendency to get violent. It is Christ, a real, physical human, who shows us that this world is good, and shall be renewed, and shared.
This land is your land
this land is my land
this land was made
for you and me.