Monday, December 5, 2016

Begging for Forgiveness

Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to take your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.
                  Wesley Clark, Jr.

Veterans receive the blessing of sage at the ceremony 12/5/16.

"So to live a 'forgiven' life," writes Archbishop Rowan Williams in Resurrection, "is not simply to live in a happy consciousness of having been absolved."

I read these words today--this second Monday in Advent--and I'm stunned, somehow convicted by the insight.  So often, in the church, we treat forgiveness as an endpoint, as a fixed point in time, even as salvation itself.  Gain this "happy consciousness," and live with the certainty and clarity of grace.  

But Rowan Williams--like Leonard Crow Dog (below) and so many others at Standing Rock this fall--resists.  Forgiveness is practice.  Forgiveness is soulforce.  Forgiveness is a way of life.  "Forgiveness," writes Rowan Williams, "is precisely the deep and abiding sense of what relation--with God or with other human beings--can and should be; and so itself is a stimulus, an irritant, necessarily provoking protest at impoverished versions of social and personal relations."

I wonder if this might be the great legacy of Standing Rock, the great legacy of all the tribal leaders and indigenous activists, all the environmental advocates and pilgrim veterans who have gathered over the spring, summer and fall.  They have--in their blood, in their muscle now--a "deep and abiding sense of what relation" can and should be.  And this is everything.  It is some kind of "a stimulus, an irritant" and this we need on this blue planet more than anything else: "necessarily provoking protest at impoverished versions of social and personal relations."

How stunning that the Sioux invited U.S. vets and activists to Standing Rock today, for a ceremony of healing and forgiveness!  And check out the link on Huffington Post (here)--because the pictures and words are astounding.  This was never about making the past "right," or rewriting history so the rest of us can sleep.  It's about relationships, and it's about imagination, and it's about healing for generations yet to come.  'Tikkun olam,' my Jewish friends say.  Mending the broken planet.

In my community of choice--the church of Jesus' friends--we have so much to learn.  So much to learn from Leonard Crow Dog and Wesley Clark, Jr. and all the veterans, all the activists, all the tribal leaders at Standing Rock today.  We too--like those veterans--must learn to ask for forgiveness and expect not magic, not some "happy consciousness," but grace and transformation and discipleship.  Forgiveness will not 'absolve' us--but will provoke protest and a deep commitment to new relations and new patterns and new visions of life together.

And that, in this age of Trump, is everything.  

Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota elder and highly-regarded activist, left, places his hand over Wesley Clark Jr.’s head during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.