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The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, (Proper 12)

God Restores Us

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9-14; Psalm 42; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Through all of life's hurts and sorrows God is there to restore us. God restores us when we are hurt by others. God restores us when we hurt ourselves. God restores us even when we hurt for no reason. That is the theme that flows through the readings this week. It is a theme that resonates for me as we celebrate National Aboriginal Sunday. Hopefully it resonates with us on a deeply personal level as well.

God restored Elijah. He is on the run. The "Rambo" like prophet had stood up against the ungodly forces of Ahab and Jezebel and had revealed the far greater forces of God over the followers of Baal. But it had not accomplished what he expected. The powers that be had not turned to God, and now Jezebel was out to get him. He feels alone in his struggle, totally alone. He cannot put aside what has happened. He is alone, and he alone is the one able to set things right in Israel. He suddenly loses courage and flees for his life.

It is a familiar story if you really think about it. It is easy when we meet opposition to run as fast and far as we can. We feel defeated and despondent. The whole world is against us. We can become soured or angry by what has happened.

That was how Elijah was feeling. He had reached a point of hopelessness. He sat down under a tree, ready to die. And there in the wilderness God restored him. God took care of him, supplying him with food and drink.

Still Elijah kept running. He hid out in a cave. There God met Elijah. Not as he might have expected, with a great show of power, but in the stillness and quiet, God spoke to him.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked him. He poured out his complaints. “The whole world is against me. I alone have remained faithful to you. They are out to kill me.” God put things into perspective. He is not alone. He does not have to do it all himself. He needs however, to trust God and let go of the past. Our loving God restores us even when we hurt ourselves.

Our Aboriginal people need restoration. They need redress from the past. They have been hurt by government policies. They have been hurt by the Institutional Church. We as Canadian Anglicans have a great deal to repent of when it comes to Aboriginal rights. Our government made treaties with them as nation to nation. We have not lived up to the intent of those treaties. Instead we removed them from their ancestral lands. In an attempt to assimilate them into 'white' society, we shipped their children off to Residential schools, many run by the Anglican Church, destroying family ties and uprooting generations of people. Many of the schools were places of abuse. Even the good schools were places that deprived the children of their relationship to their family and tribe, to their language and cultural heritage.

Work has been done to restore our Aboriginal people. We are beginning to listen to the stories of abuse, of deprivation, and neglect. Yet Canada has still to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It gives them basic rights that every Canadian should expect and enjoy – health, freedom, work, traditions, representation in government. It outlines their right to an environment that supports their livelihood. Why is our government unwilling to sign the document? Why are we not insisting that they do so? We have a call to right the wrongs of the past and be part of God's plan of restoration.

Stereotypes still abound about our Aboriginal peoples. For the most part we are able to ignore their plight saying that their situation is the same or better than that of other Canadians. This is despite findings by the Auditor General of Canada which highlighted the critical shortage of adequate housing on reserves and findings released by Statistics Canada that point to concerns about health, education, housing and water safety for off-reserve Aboriginals. In fact statistics show that the majority of Canadians blame their poverty on lack of effort rather than circumstances, many citing substance abuse as the greatest factor.

God restores us when we hurt for no reason. What an amazing story of restoration we have in today's Gospel. In the person and work of Jesus God confronts and defeats evil so that a human is set free to live the life God intends him to experience. We may not have the same understanding of evil or of demon possession as is present in this story of the deliverance of the man from Gerasene. However, we can see Jesus present in the life of the demoniac, in the lives of the townspeople, and present in our own lives, restoring us to faith, removing our burdens, setting us free. We can certainly see the need for such restoration in the lives of the mentally ill and those victimized through discrimination.

Some people become legitimately burdened by the cares of life. Life is not always easy. Being a Christian does not guarantee that we will not suffer. Sickness, the death of a loved one, unemployment, marital discord, all the troubles of life that people face, can make them feel alone. Is there a God? If so, is God listening to me? Does God care what is happening to me? Why do I feel so alone in all of this? Hopefully it is evident even in our modern day world that God relieves distress, expels demons, cures illnesses and restores lives.

The man whom Jesus healed was so grateful for his restoration to life that he wanted to accompany Jesus and the disciples on their mission. But Jesus pointed out to him that he had a mission of his own. “Return to your home,” Jesus told him, “and declare how much God has done for you.”

The message from God to Elijah was similar. “What are you doing here?” He left the warmth, the silence, the peace of the cave and went out into the community, no longer feeling as if he was on his own, but knowing that God was present with him and would help him to be the leader he was meant to be.

God has done great things for us in our lives. We need to declare how much God has done for us. We need to share the experience of how God is at work in our lives. Especially we need to be aware of the ministries to which God is calling us. To be advocates to the poor and those in need. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To be Christ for our community. Thanks be to God.
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