Today is Davis Day here in parts of Cape Breton (in the mining towns).
As part of the day (also known as Miners Memorial Day) there is a church service and wreath laying ceremony in a local community. It rotates from mining town to mining town each year.
This year it was my town’s turn to host, and even more it was my church’s turn to host.
Here is the reflection I offered in the service this morning.
Alright, first I feel like I need to make a confession.
I come from away.
And as someone who “comes from away” I’m not entirely aware of the whole mining lifestyle and its impact on Cape Breton.
I moved here just about 5 years ago, and obviously the mines were long gone by that point. In fact, when I came the reclamation project on Pitt Street was nearly complete.
The signs of mining in Sydney Mines were completely gone, to the untrained eye. A hundred years of industry, removed, cleaned and replaced.
I don’t quite get how it all changed since I never saw it at its peak, other than some pictures here and there.
However, I do know a lot of stories that I have heard over the last 5 years as being part of this community and getting to know you all. I know how families were immersed in the company, a lot of families were held together by the industry.
There’s also a lot of pride in calling yourself a miner.
And there should be.
I grew up near a fishing village, surrounded by fishermen. I do know the power of the earth and how it can impact communities. I know how in the flash of an instant, lives can change. Families can change. Communities can change.
In a sense, although not entirely true all the time, at least at sea you can get warnings of danger. You can get weather reports. Great fishermen can read the wind and sky and know what to expect, even days in advance without the help of a meteorologist.
Underground you don’t get that. When the earth decides to move, it moves.
It’s right to wear the title “coal miner” with honour.
I can’t imagine what it had to be like. Knowing in the back of your mind there could be danger, even death without a moments notice. I guess, in a sense, you kind of numb yourself to that feeling.
As one who looks to the future in environmental preservation and energy generation, I’m glad we no longer need to send men and women underground anymore. Give me a windmill any day and let me breath the clean air, thank you very much.
But we still know there are many around the world who toil in the earth to feed our energy needs. People who take that risky step to descend below the earth, even today in precariously unsafe operations.
We need only to look at the situation in Turkey just a few weeks ago.
We also need to be aware of how many were treated by the company over the years. It is the reason why we gather. It is the reason we call this “Davis Day.”
To remember not only the risks that miners took underground, but also to remember the way they fought the injustices in their communities and the treatment of the workers and familues by those in positions of power.
They stood together for justice and fairness for their families and their friends. They were a community that looked out for each other. A trait we still see exercised today when someone in our community falls on hard times.
When I think about all that miners have endured, Psalm 139 speaks to me.
This is a great Psalm that speaks of God’s presence in our lives.
Even as it starts, it speaks,
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.”
A reminder of God’s ultimate understanding of His creation. How He is so intertwined with our lives.
God knows us. He knows our thoughts. He knows our fears. He knows what we are going to say before we even say it. That’s how well He knows His creation.
And aren’t we blessed to be part of it. We’ve been given this beautiful world to watch over and care for. From the minerals under the earth to the animals above, we are the caretakers of all that God has created.
He’s entrusted it to us.
The Psalmist continues,
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
We cannot hide from God’s presence. Even well below the earth, in the pitch black, God is with us.
His hand is there.
Always reaching out. Always being present. Even when we try to flee and run away… God is with us.
Sometimes we don’t know it. Sometimes we think we’re pretty good at hiding. And sure, we might fool our children occasionally. But we cannot fool God.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
God knows us. He knows us well.
He knows our fears. He knows our failures. He knows our pain.
Yet He will not leave us.
In fact, He went so much further. God sent us His Son to come and show us just how far He is willing to go for us.
His Son who would experience life on this earth. His Son who would experience laughter, joy, friendship, love… pain, loss, hurt.
His Son, who would experience all the evil and sin this world can muster. And he took it freely.
He took it so that we would know the depth of his love for his creation. For his people. For us.
He hung upon a cross for us.
God died for us.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
God does lead us.
Whether we are a miner, a teacher, a politician, a fireman, a soldier, a doctor, a hero, or a criminal, or anything else… God has His hand reaching out to us.
He knows us inside out. He knows our wicked ways. He knows our pain. He knows we are broken.
Yet He is still here.
Yet He still sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to show us a better way. To show us His love. To show us His incredible love.
So we will remember.
We will remember those who worked in the darkest depths of the earth. We will remember those who stood up for what is right and decent in how we treat each other.
We will remember how God was working among His people then. How God worked among His people wandering the desert. How God worked among His people when He came to us in Jesus Christ. And how God still works among us today.
This is the blessing we share as people of God.
We have a God who loves us deeply. Deeper than we will ever know while we are on this earth.
But we will be with Him.
Because He knows us. We cannot hide.
He is always there.
Here in this church, here in our streets.
And below them.
Thanks be to God for not giving up on His people. His creation.
And we seek to be good caretakers for that in which he has entrusted to us.
May we seek Him and His guidance as we continue to grow in our understanding of His love for us, and how we have been asked to care for His creation.
Thanks be to God.