I liked Parker Palmer's two images of a broken heart that Karen described for us this morning. It strikes me that one - using the sharp remains of our broken hearts to confront others - is much easier than the other - opening our broken hearts to healing, compassion and empathy. Obviously the second is more loving, more peace-building, but I think that is a pretty uncomfortable place to be. If, as Karen imagined, the Ninevites heard Jonah with open, compassionate hearts, it was probably a little uncomfortable to hear him telling them to repent or turn away from their lifestyles.
It reminded me of a feeling of discomfort I had just a few days ago, while reading some articles in the most recent issue of Maclean's magazine. Scott Gilmore talked about recent incidents in the U.S. where racial tensions have resulted in violence, and how there is a certain smugness amongst Canadians as we observe our neighbours. We say to ourselves that the events of Ferguson or New York or Cleveland wouldn't happen here, that that kind of racial tension doesn't exist in Canada. Gilmore challenges this, and argues that Canada's race problem is, in fact, even worse than the U.S. Another article details Winnipeg's experiences with racism. These things are uncomfortable for me to hear. It is uncomfortable for us to open ourselves to those stories of injustice, to hear about how our Aboriginal sisters and brothers are treated.
To their credit, political and Aboriginal leaders in Winnipeg held a press conference after the magazine came out. They admitted that racism is evident, not just in Winnipeg but across Canada, highlighted some of the anti-racism work that is taking place, and committed to continue to work for justice.
To me, this is what Karen was describing this morning. Thinking about how those who are oppressed or who are victims of injustice see us. It is listening to those stories and opening ourselves with compassion and love. And it is repenting - turning from current ways of living that are unjust - and seeking justice and love instead.
(Just a small side note... We in the church have been working for right relationships with Aboriginal people for some time now, but we are still not there. If you're interested in learning more, in opening yourself up to these stories, one of the study sessions being offered with Winter Wednesday evenings will consider how the church can better relate to Aboriginal communities.)