Rev. Philip Peacock, Executive Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
Rev. Philip Peacock, Executive Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Photo: The United Church of Canada

Are You Ready to Be Discombobulated: Sermon by the Rev. Philip Peacock

Can the church become discombobulated, destabilized, and even deranged? 

This was the challenge delivered to the General Council Friday morning, July 27, in a sermon by the Rev. Philip Peacock, Executive Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches for justice and witness. (The United Church is a member of the WCRC.)

“Today I ask you, as a fellow traveller on this long road to freedom, are you ready to be discombobulated as a church? We need to be discombobulated because only then will we learn to see ourselves from outside of ourselves, to be able to learn from others and then truly learn our limitations and possibilities,” said Peacock, a minister in the United Church of North India. 

“The question is how can we unlearn our privilege and learn to listen to others? This should not be an accumulation and an assimilation of the knowledge of others into our own systems. This means that we allow the other, and particularly the marginalized/broken other, to derange and destabilize us, to completely and fundamentally change us. That listening to the other really should twist us out of shape in a way that we are no longer the same,” he said. 

“Today we think about refugees and migrants, and it very easy for us to speak about opening up our homes and our borders to those who are less privileged. We pat ourselves on our backs and tell ourselves that we are hospitable, but the idea of hospitality has a notion of home locked into it. The idea that this is our home and we are inviting others into it. To adjust to our ways but perhaps what we need to do is be displaced and destabilized ourselves.

“I know the United Church is one that is committed to justice, but perhaps the question we have to ask is whether we, who are committed to justice that for us, rhetoric of justice itself has become an act of piety. That the production of texts and documents and apologies is part of an elaborate ritual that allows us to sidestep the real nitty gritty. The everyday acknowledgement of our complicity in injustice and the everyday commitment to transforming the system. 

“Perhaps it is upon us to reflect on ourselves and our own attempts at piety. What are we pious about and why do we indulge in acts of piety? What drives our pious devotion, to church, to vestments, to prayer, to devotion, to order, and rules of ministry and sacrament that you have been discussing over these last few days? To council?” asked Peacock. 

“Perhaps we need to deeply ask where does our love for order come from? And why do we continually value order over freedom? Have we drifted so far away from this prophetic tradition and located ourselves in the context of consolidation?”