Sunday, April 23, 2006

April 30, 2006 - Year B -Easter 3

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

Peace goes beyond the comfort of ignorance or being consciously deceived. A way to peace is through awareness of sin and suffering and a moving beyond them by steps, individual and communal, to a place of safety in gladness.

As the week proceeds we prepare ourselves for a holistic peace beyond a piecemeal peace.


  1. Luke 24:36b-48

    "Have you anything to eat?" When the response is, "Yes", the action is to share. In United Methodist circles this next Sunday is Native American Awareness Sunday. Hear this story:

    Knowing Who You Are

    by Ray Buckley 
    Director, Native American Communications Office

    Some history-altering events happen quietly. Like Seuss-esque descriptions of Christmas in Whoville, we stand amazed that something has happened without much noise, without trappings. We are almost embarrassed. It doesn't fit the model. And then we hear the singing.

    The story is simple. Yupik native people on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, separated from their Yupik relations in Siberia during the Cold War, began to make the trip across the Bering Strait in boats. As the exchanges increased, so did the intentional sharing of personal lives and personal faith.

    Yupik People, or "Real People," still exist as hunting and gathering societies. They continue subsistence living on the land, islands, and sea of north-northwest Alaska and eastern Siberia. Their lives continue to revolve around the fish, caribou, polar bear, seal, walrus and whale.

    In the past, St. Lawrence Islanders had traded seal oil and walrus for caribou products with their Siberian cousins in the Chukotka region. In a society that promoted sharing as a cultural foundation, it was normal that the Gospel would be shared as naturally as a meal or the rewards of a hunt. But there was also a determination. There was risk and danger. There was suspicion on the part of the Chukotka government, and neglect by many agencies and state organizations in the United States.

    There were pressing needs. As economic conditions in Russia became severe, life in Siberian Yupik villages became difficult. Food was scarce, and many families were forced to eat their dogs.

    In Anchorage, Alaska, Della Waghiyi, a beautiful, United Methodist Yupik elder, heard the reports from Chukotka. Della (whose husband, John, had been one of the first St. Lawrence Islanders to cross to Siberia by boat, after the Cold War) wept when she heard the news. Unable to eat, she contacted the Rev. Jim Campbell, a non-Native United Methodist pastor, and together with members of the Moravian Church, the ministry to Chukotka expanded. From the heart of one woman, to a small congregation, to a small missionary conference, God brought about a series of events that caught the attention of the world.

    The quiet miracle is that most of the people directly involved in this story are Yupik. The faces crossing the Bering Strait are Yupik faces. They are American Yupik and Siberian Yupik. They would not think of themselves as missionaries as much as family. And family doesn't allow family to go without.

    What has emerged quietly and strongly is something we have not yet seen in the history of missions among Native people. It is the emergence of a new church. Native voices, speaking through native culture, becoming the Body of Christ in a native society. In this process, neither the richness of Yupik culture nor the Gospel has been compromised.

    There has been wisdom in the history of the Yupik Christians, who have not seen the leaving behind of those things inconsistent with the faith as synonymous with Yupik culture. Rather, they have believed that the work of God in their lives would produce a people of faith, and God has chosen to strengthen them as a people who hunt walrus, seal, and caribou, and at whose singing, the angels fold their wings.

    Despite international conflict and forced separation, the Yupik have held tenaciously to their connectedness and their responsibility for each other. And that is shaping the emerging Yupik church.

    Yupik culture in Siberia is being preserved both as self-awareness, and as means for economic development. The concept of communal sharing has expanded beyond the Yupik community to all people in need. The traditional values reflected in the relationship of people to creation as a whole, and responsible subsistence living, are impacting environmental policies. The Gospel is being preached, the hungry fed, the naked clothed and justice sought.

    The church will be different, but it will be valid. It will be valid, because the provisional work of Christ is also for Yupik. And the provisions of Christ are for those who speak Yupik, choose a subsistence lifestyle and maintain a connected society.

    Often, Native ministry emulates the larger church. We develop a bureaucracy, in the belief that ministry must first be regulated and funded. We must have jurisdictional ministries to prove that the church supports us. We wait for the apologies or the election of a Native bishop. We wait, sometimes quietly, sometimes not, for the credibility that comes with the recognition of the church.

    The danger is that we don't often believe ourselves, what we are asking the church to believe. We're not quite sure that in this time, in this place, that the voices of Native people have something to refresh the Body of Christ. We are not quite sure, Native or non-Native, that God can do anything with just our obedience.

    God is waiting for us to get in the boat.

    When Della Waghiyi sings in Yupik, it is like the soft clicking sounds of knitting needles. The sounds are rounded and smooth with glottal inflections. There is a glow on her face. She is a person who seems intimate with her Creator. But there is also another sound. It is the sound of the loaves and fishes, in Yupik baskets, being broken once again, to feed as many as are hungry.

  2. 1 John 3:1-7

    To be a child of G*D who doesn't claim to be the only child of G*D is a blessing to one and all. It seems to take a heap of living and walking with others to pull this off. It is worth it and as Karen Armstrong reminds us in a radio interview, we don't get to a compassionate image of G*D by improving our image of G*D, but by beginning to practice compassion (this allows us, then, to see this quality in G*D).

    Here is a link to some liturgical elements that might be connected with this passage and with our sister and brother Native American children of G*D. The site is usually a tad slow in coming up, so patience.

  3. Psalm 4

    In many ways poetry is the common language of all people. Yes, it is difficult to translate, but there is a feel that comes with cadence that moves beyond the content.

    Here is a connection between the Psalms and Black Elk's Prayer found at

    Psalms Relating to Black Elk's Opening Prayer

    Psalm 4
    4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.  
    4:3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.   

    Psalm 24
    24:1-2 The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it;
    for He has founded it on the seas,
    and established it on the rivers.   

    Psalm 25
    25:4-5 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
    Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.   

    Psalm 86
    86:1-7 Incline you ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
    Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
    You are my god;
    be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all day long.
    Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
    For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
    Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my cry of supplication.
    In the day of my trouble I call on you,
    for you will answer me.   

    Psalm 136
    136:1-9 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    O give thinks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    O gives thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
    the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

    Black Elk's Opening Prayer
    Hey hey! hey hey! hey hey! hey hey!
    Grandfather, Great Spirit,
    you have been always,
    and before you no one has been.
    There is no other one to pray to but you.
    You yourself,
    everything that you see,
    everything has been made by you.
    The star nations all over the universe
    you have finished.
    The four quarters of the earth
    you have finished.
    The day, and in that day, everything
    you have finished. 

    Grandfather, Great Spirit,
    lean close to the earth
    that you may hear the voice I send.
    You towards where the sun goes down,
    behold me;
    Thunder Beings,
    behold me!
    You where the White Giant lives in power,
    behold me!
    You where the sun shines continually,
    whence come the day-break star and the day,
    behold me!
    You where the summer lives,
    behold me!
    You in the depths of the heavens,
    an eagle of power,

    And you, Mother Earth, the only Mother,
    you who have shown mercy to your children!  
    Hear me, four quarters of the world--
    a relative I am! 
    Give me the strength to walk the soft earth,
    a relative to all that is!
    Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand,
    that I may be like you.
    With your power only can I face the winds.  

    Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
    all over the earth
    the faces of living things are all alike. 
    With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.
    Look upon these faces of children
    without number and with children in their arms,
    that they may face the winds and
    walk the good road to the day of quiet.  

    This is my prayer; hear me!
    The voice I have sent is weak,
    yet with earnestness I have sent it.
    Hear me!  
    It is finished.
    Hetchetu aloh!

  4. Acts 3:12-19

    "You Israelites!" can be affirmation or dismissal. It is so easy to make determinations of who is in and who is out. A part of our peace is moving beyond categorization of people, whether an individual or a community. Hear this story:

    Opinion: Knowing Who You Are

    by Ray Buckley

    It was not always popular to be Native American. In many areas of the Americas it still is not. Yet, as Native American art and music have come in vogue, and portrayals in motion pictures and television have become increasingly positive, many people are reaching for a Native identity. Sometimes the identity is a fascination with Native culture. Sometimes it is the unexplainable attraction and identification with those who have suffered. Sometimes the roots are close at hand and easily accessible. Sometimes they are faraway or non-existent.

    In the political arena, the boundaries are not equitable, but they are at least, identifiable. Blood quantums and/or substantial documentation to tribal heritage are the criteria. Therein lies the confusion and the strength of Native people. We were, and are still, tribal people. Whether full-blood or metis (mixed-blood) , on this side of the border or the other, we are who we are, because our people recognize us. Our strength as people has always been our ability to define ourselves and those who will be called by our name.

    In the church, the lines are not always clear. It is our mission to reach out to the disenfranchised. We seek out the lost, spiritually and culturally. In our effort to increase Native American awareness within the church, we have stressed the presence of Native Americans in every facet and region of American life. In many areas of the church, where there is no longer a strong tribal presence, it has sometimes become easier to "discover" a Native person or group. To fulfill our own expectations of ministry, we have offered "Indianness" as a prize, and then, often resented those who have taken it.

    The face of Native American ministries in the church can be a confusing one.

    Is there a ministry to those in "Native discovery" within the mission of the church? What should be the role of Native Americans in ministering to those seeking to find acceptance within the Native American community?

    Helping individuals find identity, is a mission of the church. That identity is found in our relationship to God through Christ. That identity is also found within the Body of Christ. Our ministry, therefore, is to all persons. Period. That means that as some Native American ministries grow, others will be drawn to the faith community. What is essentially a Native American-based community may no longer meet the church's criteria of a Native American congregation or fellowship. There may be too many non-Indians.

    There is a political function that the Church at large, and the Native church in particular, can pursue. We can address the issues of tribes and individuals and support them in their quest for justice. We can actively seek social justice for all Native peoples, but by doing so, we must recognize the right of tribes to define themselves.

    We can assist those with legitimate claims to tribal affiliation by helping them identify the steps to recognition and net-working them within the faith community. Those who are re-discovering their heritage, which often includes tribal members, often fall prey to pan-Indian apologists who negate tribal traditions in favor of what "all Indians do".

    We can also minister to those with marginal claims of Indian ancestry, by assisting them with avenues of learning about their heritage. Just as critical, is assisting them in appreciating all of the cultures which make up their background, and loving the person God has made them. To attempt to create something "Indian" is to circumvent the validity of their identity in Christ, and to raise Native identity to an idolatrous level. It is also to risk losing for the church those unique characteristics that God has given persons for ministry.

    We must, however, recognize that tribal membership is not the "end-all". Membership in a state or federally recognized tribe is a valuable social and political tool. There are many persons of significant Native ancestry, who, due to tribal or governmental regulations have no legal status as Native people. In some tribes, membership is lost if one marries outside of their tribe. In some the blood quantum is 100%. In some, one can only join the tribe at birth or age 18. There are many thousands of Native people who were "adopted out" before acceptable laws were passed, and were never registered. During the relocation of Indian families in the 1950-60's, many children born away from reservations were unregistered, and still are. Status is merely a matter of documentation. It does not measure the heart or consciousness of a Native person. It is an appropriate time to begin addressing the issues of non-status Native people. It should begin in our church.

    We must not be afraid to "speak the truth in love". We alienate tribal communities when we are free to label persons as Native American indiscriminately. We cannot use the words "Native American" to legitimize ministries, even if it suits our purpose.

    We must also learn to use "of Native descent", and "Native American advocate", with equal value for the heritage and gifts that God has given those persons. These are our children, grandchildren and friends. The circle of our arms is wide, and they are part of us.

    Sometimes the best pastor for a non-Native church is a Native pastor. Sometimes the best leader for a Native American ministry may be a non-Native leader. Sometimes it is not the best thing to establish a ministry for the sake of having one.

    Our mission as the church is to love the world, not to make them Indians.

  5. 1 John 3:1-7

    [a repeat post to correct a bad link. -- Bad Link! Bad Link! is not a helpful way to speak so let's revise that to an incorrectly formatted link.]

    Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness.

    What law are we talking about? Well, it comes in the next section of 1 John and elsewhere - the law to love one another. This is a law requiring intentional action that can't be met by benign neglect. This is a law requiring intentional action that builds both the one and the other up, assists all toward larger wholeness from where we are (moves toward a more open future).

    One of the ways in which we can most clearly see this lawlessness and thus see sin is to open our eyes to issues of race and poverty. Here is a PDF study on race and poverty that looks quite usable to illustrate the ways in which we play at sin rather than play at being G*D's children.

    It is important to look at race and poverty to remind ourselves of how lawless we are, but not to look so intently that we miss the missing love and focus only on how far short we fall.

  6. Luke 24:36b-48

    You are witnesses of these things. What things? Our fear of the unexpected (a flight or fight response seems to be on a hair-trigger and very strong). One thing that helps manage that is an expectation of the unexpected.

    We are also witnesses of joy and disbelief living side by side. Our tendency is to emphasize one side of that pairing, or the other. One thing that helps us keep perspective is to anticipate them both being present, even if one appears in the foreground and the other takes the momentary background. We don't need to make up a story that would prioritize them.

    We are also witnesses of the importance of table fellowship, whether it be ritualized bread and cup or a piece of broiled fish (or my treat today of smoked salmon).

    We are also witnesses of the promises and threats of the past coming to fulfillment. This makes us a bit hesitant about the pronouncements we make in this day because of their echoing into tomorrow and coming back to haunt in different circumstances.

    We are also witnesses that we are but witnesses. No eternal truths here. We simply say what we have experienced. We don't need to fudge the truth to make G*D look better, ourselves look better, or our enemies look worse.

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