Aboriginal Prayer Sunday Sermon from Bishop Mark

Aboriginal Prayer Sunday

National Aboriginal Bishop Mark McDonald – September 24, 2017

Sermon preached by Bishop Mark MacDonald, our National Indigenous Bishop, in St James’ Anglican Church, Vancouver, BC, on Sunday 24 September, the day of the 2017 Walk for Reconciliation.

In the Gospel Zone

It is so nice to be here and to join with you all on this exciting day and this exciting weekend. I am honoured to be here – thank you.

Now to begin: In the Gospels, the words of Jesus describe his actions and his actions help to explain his words. This may seem too obvious to be mentioned, but it is very important, especially with a Gospel like ours today.

To explain, I offer this imaginary. Imagine, if you will, that you are following Jesus throughout the Gospels, following up above him.  There weren’t any sky-cams then, but imagine you have one and are following him through the Gospels.  You will see that the action underneath is consistent: Jesus is followed by a crowd of people, so close in on him that someone can touch him and he doesn’t know who it is.  So, crowded that, to see him, you must climb up a tree to get a view.  So, crowded that, when he goes into a house, you must break in through the roof to get a chance to talk to him.

This crowd around him is asking all the important theological questions: “When do we eat?” “Who gets the best seats in heaven?, and so on.  It is almost as if they haven’t heard a single word he has said.   The contrast is so striking that I call this area, closely surrounding Jesus, the “Duh Zone.”  They are close to him, but they just don’t seem to get it.

Farther out, you see there is another circle, much more sparsely populated and quite different. Here is the Widow of Nain, Zacchaeus, the Woman at the Well, Blind Bartimaeus, and a whole group of very needy and marginalized people.  They are desperate and urgent.  “Help me, please!” They cry out. They get it.

Jesus connects with these people, over the crowd. He touches them or speaks just a word and their lives are completely changed.  They are in the “Gospel Zone.”

In the Gospel Zone, the Sermon on the Mount is fulfilled, the parables make sense, and the Reign of God has already arrived. In today’s parable, for example, it is the place where the last receive the wages of the first; the abundance of God’s grace touches the least deserving; and the wonder of God’s way among us astonishes and confounds our human, everyday, way of thinking.

The Gospel Zone is where Jesus tells us to dwell. The disciplines of our Christian faith are to help us see the Gospel Zone and, seeing it, they serve to keep us there.  It is the fulfilment of the parables, the dwelling place of the Spirit, and the place of God’s promises.

It should be noted that there are certain characteristics that predominate in the Gospel Zone. We find the oppressed there and the marginalized.  The addict and the streetwalker are there.  The proud are not to be found.  The complacent assumption of goodness is the mark of Duh.


The Gospel Zone is also a place of reconciliation – a place that is so very important for us today – a place where the returning son is welcomed and the shamed one is lifted. The survivor is healed and the wicked oppressor repents.

Canada is being offered a doorway into the Gospel Zone; an entry to the place of healing that the survivors of the Residential Schools have shown us. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, a new day dawns upon us.  The future of our country is to be found in this decision: do we take the hand that is outstretched in healing and hope or do we walk on in indifference and the ignorance that hides from the truth.

Today – in the Gospel and in reconciliation – we are being invited to walk in the Gospel Zone. Let us go forth in the Name of Christ.