John the Baptist:
A Prophet who in his day and age called the people of Israel to Truth and Reconciliation
Today we celebrate the feast of the birth of John the baptizer. We first hear of him even before the time of his birth. He leapt for joy whilst still in his mother ‘s womb. When, as a fetus he comes into the presence of the Christ; the yet to be born infant of Mary. Luke recounts the meeting of the pregnant cousins, Mary and Elizabeth.
Up there in Judean hills, during the time of their confinement, the two women kindle for the first time the ongoing relationship between the two boys, one who would change the world..
It was the same John who as an adult would stride out of the Judean wilderness down by the Jordan River proclaiming that all should be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, in preparation for the one who would come after him, the great Messiah, the One for whom all had been waiting.
We celebrate the John who would speak truth to power. The King of Jews, Herod the one who had only his own interests at heart, a puppet of the Roman overlords and their co-conspirator oversaw the oppression of his own people.
In speaking up John would end up like all the other prophets of Israel, punished by death. John reminds us all, especially in this day and age, to speak up against injustice wherever it occurs, whatever the consequences.
Before this could happen, while down at the Jordan, he reminded those who would listen that there would be someone greater than he who would lead the people from sin and redeem them. It is John who points the way of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That beautiful river, the Jordan is the life blood for the people of Israel even to this day. Without it the country could not exist. There could be no agriculture and the whole area would revert to a barren desert. Nothing could exist without the presence of the Jordan.
Today as we celebrate the summer solstice, and work toward truth and reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of this country, we will gather down by the river, our own river here in this place, where we will acknowledge before God our own need for repentance of our own sins. We will acknowledge our need for forgiveness and reconciliation in the presence of our indigenous brothers and sisters.
In truth, water continues to play a sacred role in our lives as a symbol of our baptism and our rebirth into the life of Jesus. The Mississippi River here in Almonte is the life blood of the town which found its purpose in harnessing the energy of the river for electricity and the in refining raw wool into clothing and other textiles.
For all people – for those in first century Palestine, for our indigenous friends and for us here today, water is a sacred gift from the creator. It is the sacred gift which no one should be denied.
It seems hard to believe that access to clean water is still a basic necessity of life and in the case of the people who live on the Pikangikum Reserve do not have that basic necessity.
Pikangikum Reserve is a community of 2,200 inhabitants 100 km north of Red Lake where many of the necessities of life are absent. No running water. No indoor plumbing. This year in particular there have been a disproportionate number of suicides among the young people.
Working in partnership with Frontiers Foundation, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund is assisting the band leadership to provide 10 homes in the community with a cistern to collect drinking water and waster water holding tanks as well as the necessary fixtures and fittings to make it all work together.
In addition, 4 young residents will be provided with the plumbing skills to maintain the system.
In partnership with Habitat for Humanity 5 youth from the reserve are getting valuable training in construction learning basic carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills. As a result, these youth are expressing an interest in taking on other projects in their community.
Habitat for Humanity has the intention outfitting 10 more homes with this new water system at some point in the near future.
We gather today down by the Mississippi River, the river first given by God to the Algonquin people, to seek forgiveness for our sins, to pray with our indigenous brothers and sisters for forgiveness and reconciliation amongst all people, to celebrate the work of John the Baptist who knew we could do nothing without turning back to our Creator upon whom our whole life depends.
We look to the Primate’s Fund and the work of its two partners, as an example of the outcomes of forgiveness and reconciliation. And we give thanks to God for all of that he has done this day. Miigwech.