Lenten Season Series, Part 7

Date 12 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry

This week’s post is the final thoughts about Lent and Holy week. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection. 

Lauren is a multi-faith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and spring’s allergies. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment. 


Thank you for reading! Thank you for joining me these seven weeks! Thank you for being brave! Thank you for exploring wonderment, awe, amazement, imagination, sparks of curiosity, and threads of inspiration! In this year’s final Lenten blog , we will express gratitude. 

Gratitude and wonderment are cousins. They tend to walk hand in hand. When we are filled with gratitude, exploring amazement is easier. When we are inspired by a sense of awe, we can communicate that as thankfulness. 

I am grateful for Holy Week. For those of you who do not observe these religious holidays, I offer you a quick primer about this “week.” Sunday, April 10, 2022 was Palm Sunday. It marked the last Sunday of Lent. This day was sometimes celebrated with a joyous parade and a waving of Palm branches, remembering when people saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem for the final time. He had journeyed outside of Jerusalem for a while, so when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, folks waved Palm branches. Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday commemorate the days when Jesus angrily flipped tables in the temple (because greed and injustice has no place in sacred space), and when Jesus predicted his death. Today is Holy Wednesday and tomorrow Holy Thursday. These two days mark when leaders decided Jesus’s radical culture of justice, compassion, redistribution, and equity needed to die along with Jesus, and when Jesus had the last supper with his disciples. Our reading below comes from these days’ events. Good Friday marks Jesus’s crucifixion and death. It’s a somber holiday where we remember Jesus’s teachings and radical love as what is good. Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent and is an occasion of grief and mourning. We remember Jesus was human, and we grapple with Jesus’s death. Holy week ends with Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. We celebrate and commemorate Jesus’s miraculous resurrection.  

Yeah, I know. That was not very in-depth, but it sets the tone for the rest of the blog post… 

Last month, I went to my first sweat lodge. It was my first sweat lodge because when I was growing up, I was told and believed that most Indigenous cultural practices were sinful. I was inherently sinful because of the color of my skin. These two beliefs are wrong. I know this because I went on a decade-long spiritual journey asking myself questions like are Indigenous cultural practices bad, sinful, wrong? Am I sinful because my skin isn’t white as snow? If these beliefs are Christian, am I a Christian? What would Jesus say? Why are these beliefs about my culture and my skin ascribed to Christianity? If I decide I am still a follower of Jesus, how will I be accountable for all of the co-opted and wrong stuff we all still believe? 

In the sacred text I’ve chosen to highlight today, John 18:1-27, there are actually two stories happening at the same time. Jesus has been detained and goes before his community’s religious leaders to answer for his outrageous behavior (particularly the table incident). He answers truthfully and with sass. Meanwhile Simon Peter (aka Peter) has a very different experience. Many interpreters of this part of Peter’s story call it “Peter’s Denial of Jesus.” In the sacred text, Jesus’s bold story is interwoven with Peter’s denials. Most readers of the text would pick up on the stark contrast and celebrate Jesus while shaming Peter. But, my dears, let me remind you: Jesus knows he’s gonna die. Jesus’s brave method, which I continue to wholeheartedly celebrate, tends to ensure pain, suffering, and death for a majority of martyrs.  

Let’s stop and breathe. A slow filling your belly breath in through your nose, and a slow audible breath out through your mouth…aaaaahhhhh. Do that a couple more times. 

Before we go any further, I have to tell you… I am thankful for Simon Peter’s denials.  

You see, in Canada and the US, there were a series of laws and governmental acts that made Indigenous spiritual and cultural practices and traditions illegal, sinful, and deemed wrong to do. The ultimate goal was genocide, both fast and slow. And, Indigenous communities were not the only peoples this method was used on. 

Resistance to these laws took many forms, more than I’m going to write about today. One form of resistance might be seen in Jesus’s method of bravely being himself and continuing to practice these traditions. And as you might guess, punishments were severe or deadly. Another form of resistance was blending an accepted religious tradition with the original one. This blending was already occurring prior to the unjust laws.  

The one I want to focus on today is the people like Peter, who hid or denied. These folks hid what they did by either hiding out in the wilderness or publicly denying involvement in illegal spiritual practices. Many times the people hiding had a protective layer of people who denied. People who hid might receive supplies from people who denied. Or people who denied might block access to or send warnings of intruders.  

Because of the hiders and deniers, I, in my early 40s, could learn about and participate in my community’s spiritual practices of sweat lodge from an Elder, a cousin. I will always have so much to learn, and I am deeply grateful to my ancestors who resisted by denying or hiding. 

As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting: 

  • I wonder where you find thankfulness and gratitude in the story. 
  • I wonder how your spiritual journey incorporates thankfulness and gratitude. 
  • I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in this story of Peter. 

The Retelling of that one night of Peter vs the community 

Judas, the disciple who betrayed, brought a company of soldiers and some guards who were employed by Jerusalem’s religious leaders. The guards came carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus knew what was up and that it was time to make his last goodbyes… 

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck one of the guards, cutting off his right ear. 

Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword away!” Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the guards took Jesus into custody.  

In shock, Simon Peter followed Jesus. When Jesus went in to be interrogated, Peter stood outside near the gate. A servant woman stationed at the gate brought Peter in. She asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s disciples?” 

“I’m not,” Peter replied. The servants and the guards had made a fire in the cold night. They warmed themselves. Peter joined them there, standing by the fire and warming himself. 

The servants and the guards asked, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s disciples?” 

Peter denied it, saying, “I’m not.” 

 A servant who was a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said to him, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?” Peter denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed for morning time. 


Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.

Lenten Season Series, Part 6

Date 6 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry

This week’s post is about redistribution and equity. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection. 

Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment. 


“That’s not fair!” 

I have said these words so many times. Sometimes I yelled it with indignation because my rights were impacted. Sometimes I whimpered these words with sorrow as my heart broke in grief. Sometimes I snarled these words with jealousy, fueling a bit of cruelty. “That’s not fair!” can convey so many emotions and meanings, but I cannot think of a way to say it that conveys a sense of wonderment. 

Oftentimes, we answer the cry for fairness with “Life isn’t fair”, like shrugged shoulders and a tough stance only helps us survive. But is it true? Is life, generally, really not fair to all living beings? 

Life and death are entwined and have always been. It’s true that no living being is guaranteed life without change or suffering. But how we approach life and death, how we have relationship with all of creation, that is up to us!  

We as a community and as individuals within our communities have agreed to live in this current system of injustice. We agreed for whatever reasons: it’s always been this way; some of us like the benefits we get for living this way; some of us have someone or something to blame for the suffering; we can’t imagine another way; that’s not how it’s done; it’s hard to turn over a new leaf; no community, that I know of, has done that before; and so on.  

Take a deep breath with me. Let it out slowly. Repeat this soothing breathing while considering the possibility that we can live together in ways that make life fair for all. Let’s open our sense of curiosity and stretch our sense of wonderment. What would it look like to make life fair for all? 

We learn from sacred texts and stories that fairness isn’t equality. Though, many times fairness must begin with everyone having equal amounts of resources. In many spiritualities, creation stories have a baseline of equality. From birth, we have either all we need, or a way to get what we need. At least, that’s what creation stories from across the global tell us. So this means what we do to each other diminishes what life on this planet gave us, originally.  

Justice equity is when our goal is justice (see last week’s post), but we recognize not all of our community will be able to live in justice. So, we as a community—together as a community—do something about that. Usually, equity needs the community to change how we use and pass out resources like food, clothing, tools, and ways of getting what we need, as well as how we show each other compassion, and chances for healthy growth and spiritual development all at the same time. This is called redistribution. 

Our sacred stories tell us we need a way to help get back to creation’s original gift and explore wonders beyond. When we listen to each other’s cultural stories, we hear inspiring systems of equity and redistribution of resources that allow communities to care for all living beings. We hear histories of people recognizing differences as spiritual gifts needed for the betterment of community. We also hear cautionary stories of what happens when those communities made mistakes or failed, and how they repaired relationships or not. 

In the Gospel books of the Christian sacred text, there are many stories of equity and redistribution, especially from the Gospel of Luke. My favorite story of equity and redistribution is in Matthew and Mark. It is the story of the Syrophoenician woman from Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. This story tends to be ignored when it shows up to be read in the Christian calendar, just as the woman in the story was. Or, this story is interpreted to gentle Jesus’s words, as though Jesus couldn’t have made mistakes or been influenced by the culture he loved. Today, let’s explore this story with curiosity and amazement. 

As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting: 

  • I wonder where you find redistribution and equity in the story and who is advocating for it. 
  • I wonder how your communities do equity and redistribution. 
  • I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in the story of the Syrophoenician woman. 

The Retelling of the Syrophoenician Woman  

Jesus was tired from the foolishness of his own people, especially people who should know better. He left that place and went into the district of Tyre. You know the one, over by Sidon. Anyway, Jesus told the disciples to let him have some self-care time. He entered a house, trying to hide out for a bit. But, nah, that didn’t work. News travelled quick, even back in the day. I think Jesus’ disciples were a bit gossipy, and you know how bored some townspeople are.  

This woman heard that Jesus was relaxin’ over at the Airbnb. She had a little girl, who had “an unclean spirit.” Townfolks said dumb stuff like that for anything they couldn’t explain. They didn’t know the full story. This woman’s daughter was brilliant, bringing sunshine to her life, even though being a single mother was extremely difficult. Not only that but her well-known relatives were Syrophoenician and Greek instead of being a Tyrian or Sidonite. Actually, this woman’s parents’ peoples were Canaanite, indigenous folks living on this land before any of these knuckleheads. On top of that, she wasn’t even the same religion as a lot of these folks… so yeah, life sucked here. She had decided a while ago to keep her head down and work those side-hustles.  

When this woman heard about Jesus, she said to herself, “I could get rid of this unclean spirit nonsense.” She and her daughter would still be considered outsiders as foreigners, but at least her daughter would have a chance at a better life. She ran to find Jesus, shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, son of David! I need help!” She thought if she talked like someone from Jerusalem, maybe he’d help.  

He ignored her. Of course. 

Jesus’ entourage didn’t ignore her. They wanted to get rid of her. Apparently, pushy women are annoying. 

“Well, that’s not gonna happen today” she thought as she kneeled in front of Jesus. She begged him to throw the demon out of her daughter. She would make this man see her, this man whose words carried so much power and access. 

He quietly gave some lame brush-off answer about not being for her people. And honestly, no one was for her people; it hurt so much! She thought about her daughter having a chance at a good life, not having to go through so much struggle. She felt more determination and continued demanding help. 

And this “great” man of God said, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 

Like, seriously!?! She sighed, if she had a nickel for every freakin’ insult, she wouldn’t need a blessing from this fool. So, she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Because if your logic is dumb and oppressive, I might as well point it out to your face, she thought.  

This Jesus looked at her for the first time. He grunted, “Good answer! Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.”  

Could it be? She ran home hopeful. When she returned to her house, she found her beautiful daughter there, bright as ever, playing with the next-door neighbor kid. The kid’s mom said, “I heard the demon left…” 


Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.

Response to the Pope’s Apology to Residential School Survivors

Date 1 Apr, 2022

Category Ministry, Reconciliation in Action

This morning, the Pope apologized for abuses against Indigenous children at Catholic residential schools. For decades survivors, advocates, and communities have been asking for the Catholic Church’s apology.

Though she is on sabbatical, Executive Director the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne shared a statement:

“The Pope’s apology this morning is an important first step towards completion of the TRC’s Call to Action #58 which calls specifically on the Pope, as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, to apologize, and to apologize in Canada. While it was unexpected to hear the words “I’m sorry” from His Holiness this morning, my hope is that it is an indication that when the Pope visits Canada later this year, that he make a formal apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to survivors. The apology needs to not just be about the actions of the priests, nuns, and other staff of Catholic residential schools, but for the systemic design and generational legacies of the school as a tool of colonization, oppression and cultural genocide. Then the apology needs to be backed up with tangible amends, like making whole on the financial reparations and release of all the archival documents set out in the Settlement Agreements.”

As part of the United Church of Canada, as an Indigenous-led organization that serves people who have suffered abuse because of colonization, residential schools, and racism, and as an organization committed to the pursuit of justice, we see this as a long-overdue but important recognition. We hope that leaders in the Catholic Church and throughout all communities of faith continue to take accountability and commit to truth-listening and reconciliation.

For more of FIRST UNITED’s work on faith and reconciliation visit our Ministry Resources and our Reconciliation in Action Resources.

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Recent Updates

12 Apr, 2022
Lenten Season Series, Part 7
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6 Apr, 2022
Lenten Season Series, Part 6
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1 Apr, 2022
Response to the Pope’s Apology to Residential School Survivors
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