Rock Your Mocs Week

November is National Native American Heritage Month 2015 in the US. November 8-14 is the worldwide “Rock Your Mocs Week” in which Native Peoples stand together in solidarity by wearing their moccasins. Columbus Day has come and gone, but most indigenous First Peoples of the Americas wish that it was gone forever. The sentiment is captured in the t-shirt that pictures First Peoples with the caption, “Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.” We are glad to be called Christian because Jesus walked in our moccasins, but not so much because Native Theology has been underappreciated, squelched, subverted, and persecuted by so-called “Christian” European theological doctrines and the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a papal bull that formed the basis for a series of US court cases that stole Native lands for non-Native use and ownership.

The Washington Redskins are still named as such. Wouldn’t it offend you if they were called the “Black Skins” or the “White Skins?” “Redskins” is so offensive because it is something Native People don’t call themselves. It is a designation by oppressors against their enemies. The Pilgrims better be glad that the First Peoples that took care of them didn’t use their numerical advantage to their benefit. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the Pilgrims who numbered around 50 should have been thankful that the American Indians at the celebration, numbering over 90, were peaceful. That peace didn’t last long because the Pilgrims in their strict Calvinism felt they were made in God’s Legal Image and were “called” to subdue the land and the Native Peoples. They broke the peace and have been doing it ever since. I am thankful that Wesleyan theology in the United Methodist Church promotes that we are all made in God’s Moral Image and Social Image. These better reflect both the theology and the principles of First Peoples.

God’s Moral Image denotes that God does right and not wrong, and doesn’t break treaties or steal land. United Methodism’s most distinctive doctrine is based on Matthew 5:48’s injunction, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” United Methodists emphasize that God doesn’t save us through Jesus Christ to leave us the way that God found us, but transforms us for the transformation of the world. First Peoples understand full well the need for rules and respect for elders. We know that society works best when we reflect the Creator’s support of reciprocity; i.e., that one cannot expect to live without consequences and interdependence. Respectful give and take is God’s solemn plan for the way that we should live in the world.

Interdependence is held in common as a core belief of all Native Peoples. This is truly an acceptance of the United Methodist belief that all humans being are made in God’s Social Image. If God exists in the community that we call the Trinity, so should we live in harmony. First Peoples also know that it doesn’t just mean that we should work together as humans, but also in harmony with all of creation: two-leggeds, four-leggeds, and no-leggeds. Conference, which is such a keen word in United Methodist polity, is a distinctly Native value and custom. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we embraced the values of doing what is best for everything and work together for the common good?

We find that these values permeate the Bible. In Genesis 1 the creation poem is a wonderful way to teach interdependence and reciprocity. Day One with the creation of light and darkness corresponds with the two things made on Day Four that have stewardship over the light and darkness: the sun and moon. Day Two gives us the creation of sky and water and Day Five reveals the creation of the birds and fish that have stewardship over the sky and water. Day Three is the creation of land and vegetation, and Day Six has animals and humans as stewards over those. Day Seven’s Sabbath rest for God shows that Creator God has stewardship over everything. It is a beautiful poem of interdependent relationships that should promote harmony and value among all of creation. Native Peoples are not pantheists that believe God is everything, but we are people that are panentheists who believe God is in everything.

Interesting, isn’t it, when Satan tempted Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, he offered Jesus the “kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matthew 4:8).” This presupposes that there is innate glory among the nations, all nations. There’s also glory among all people and all things and we should treat them so. What this means to me, as I celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, is that I need to do everything that I can to appreciate God’s glory and image in everything. If God’s glory is to be unveiled in society, I need to do my part in doing the unveiling.

We need to unveil the glory of God in our churches, schools, arts, entertainment – in every social structure known to humanity. The students of the University of Missouri have taught us a lesson this week, and so have First Peoples. Let’s work together and see God’s glory everywhere. Where it is marred, let’s clean it up. Where it is lacking, let’s recreate it and unveil it. Jesus came to walk in our moccasins to do this very thing, the Incarnation leads to Redemption and to Entire Sanctification!

Mocs Image

Christmas & Panentheism!

N. Wilder’s “Grace Confounding” states about Jesus, “He came when he wasn’t expected as he always does, though a few on the night-shift had the release early. He came where he wasn’t expected as he always does, though a few Magis were tipped off…he is always one step ahead of us.”

In a similar vein, one of my favorite television shows, until it was cancelled, was “Joan of Arcadia” which even in its title reminds one of Joan of Arc and her visions of God. The show takes place in a ficitional town named “Arcadia” where Joan Girardi lives. The show was the creation of Barbara Hall, a spiritual seeker herself, who dares us to consider that God may be one of us. In the show God appears in a variety of cryptic personages: as a bum, a goth teenager, a little girl, etc. Please don’t get hung up on the imagery, especially as Joan Osborne’s song, “What if God Was One of Us?” plays at each show’s opening. It seems sacrilegious at first glance to see God, the Divine, as “a stranger on a bus, a slob like one of us (one of Osborne’s lines),” but Jesus’ incarnation in Bethlehem dares us to broaden our horizons and ask how this world would be different if we did treat the people we would normally ignore as if they were God. I’m not suggesting some heresy that we treat people as if they were gods in an idolatrous way, but as if they were carrying the precious imago dei, the Image of God, within them. That doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, especially if the end result is worth the risk.

Perhaps you have heard the story of the monastery that was dying for lack of new monks. There was a negative spirit that permeated the whole place, evidenced by much jealousy and blatant apathy toward one another in the community. In desperation, the monastery’s leader went to the hut of a wise hermit deep in the forest. The abbot described the lack of love among the monks and asked for advice about what could be done to foster better relations. The hermit simply responded by saying, “The Messiah is among you.” He said nothing more.

Upon his return to the monastery the abbot told the monks what the hermit had said. As a result, people who were once either envious or apathetic about one another started asking themselves, “Could the Messiah be Brother Andrew the baker, who humbly does his task?” or “Could the Messiah be Brother Simon the chief gardener, who with great kindness provides us with food to eat?” Their wonderings included everybody and the effect was miraculous. Because of the wise hermit’s statement the monks began treating each other with such love and respect that it indeed seemed that the Messiah was among them. The monastery began to grow and thrive because of their newfound love for one another.

The Messiah is among us, too. Of course, I know that Jesus is the Messiah, the one-and-only. However, we’ll never begin to experience the power of the gospel until we SEE Jesus in everybody, both friend and foe around us. Open my eyes, Lord!