Sunday May 19 Native American Sunday

Scriptures:

Revelation 21:1-6

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

John 13:31-35

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

“A New Commandment” 

As I study this week’s scriptures in light of this being when we honor Native American Sunday, I am reminded of one stark reality: we as human can be incredibly cruel to one another.  Though it should not come as a surprise, I am never the less often left in disgust at the level of violence and hatred which one group of humans can bring to bear on another group of humans.  Oh, we have a myriad of excuses; they are a different color, religion, political affiliation, national origin, etc.  It is so obvious that we as a race (and yes there is only one race) are innately inclined to hate those different than us.  We even go as far as to spend time and energy looking for said differences so we have an excuse to hate.   

When European settlers came to the New World, it was most often in a quest for riches or at least self betterment.  What they found was a land filled with natural resources and precious metals.  Unfortunately, they also found a land already inhabited.  But of course these natives were savages who had less worth and rights than civilized Europeans.  Therefore it must be God’s will that we subvert them and tame the land they were too stupid to use correctly.  Thus began what many have called a “holocaust” and some almost genocide.  Though we have no way of knowing the exact population of the Americas when Columbus arrived in 1492, we do know that millions died due to disease, military action, civilian violence, and other reason over the next 500 years.  Of those left in the US, many were forced to live out their existence on reservations.  Many in other countries have fared better, but not much.  I believe it is safe to say that white Europeans simply looked upon Native Americans as nothing more than a nuisance species for much of our country’s history.  It is alarming to think that when the British/Australian government was looking for a way to deal with their “nuisance species”, the proud Aboriginal people, they studied how we in the US dealt with our native population.   

Of course, it perhaps even more alarming to know that when Hitler and his cronies were looking for a solution to their Jewish problem, they simply cast a gaze across the Atlantic to look at how we dealt with our freed black population under the Jim Crow laws.  Of course, this type of legal control did not satisfy Hitler’s blood lust, but it did get the ball rolling in that direction.  These are not facts we should be proud of.  They are also facts which prove humanities capability for violence and hatred.   

History is filled with similar stories of hatred.  And of course the Church is not immune.  Thousands of Protestant Christians and Jews were tortured and killed during the Spanish Inquisition.  Many of the atrocities committed over the centuries against so called “savages” have been either sponsored or at least indorsed by the Church.  Divine right, manifest destiny, and even evangelism have served as adequate excuses for many wars and massacres throughout the history of the Church.  Each of these were touted by popes, bishops, monks, priests, and other “men of God” as viable reasons for one group to usurp the political, religious, and even basic human rights of other human beings.  

When we hear the words of Jesus from the above passage in John read, how do we validate our past behaviors?  How do we look others in the eyes and proclaim the Gospel?  Is it any wonder why many in the world see the Church as a group of hypocrites hiding behind a disguise of divine love?  Jesus made a difference not because of what he said, but because how he lived out His words.  It is only when we practice what we preach and say we believe that we too can make a real difference in the live of those so many times hurt by the very institution we support.   

No, we cannot undo the sins of the past.  But we can refuse to commit like sins in the future.  We can do this by living into our vows as Christians, living into our faith, and living into the example of Jesus.  IT can begin with us.  We cannot erase the mistakes of the past, but we can seek to not repeat them.  Only then can we say we are hearing and obeying the New Commandment.

Pastor Mark Templeton

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