Instead, we ended up with four baptisms at church yesterday morning --and 65 people, despite the blowing snow and wind. During the peace, the parent, Godparents and newly baptized stood before the altar, and everyone came and shook their hands. It takes time to do that. But it is a worthy offering and welcome.
And, we began a funeral for A, in his early 40s. There were lots of children. Lots of grandmas. Lots of prayer --which we will continue today. There was a drum group up from Rosebud --I am now familiar with the funeral songs sung by our local singers --but these songs were not so familiar, and so I sat by the drum and let the pulse of their singing enter me, stir me. A little one, just walking, came and stood close, moved by the drum as well -she did little squats in rhythm to the down beat. Then she would falter and fall, look for her mother's watchful eye for affirmation, stand, and begin again. Bump. Bump. Bump.
As much as I wanted to, I didn't move any part of my body to the beat of the drum. None of the women did, and I take my cues by watching... At one funeral a couple months ago, while we were eating and the drum playing, I did move in time with the drum, setting my leg and arm to the downbeat --I couldn't help myself. There was a light touch to the elbow, and the words 'Mother Margaret, we don't dance at funerals' quieted it me.
Once I was ashamed to be corrected. But, someone once seeing that put a hand on my shoulder and said, they wouldn't tell you if they didn't want you to know, and if they want you to know, they want you to stay....
Shame. What an awful thing. Is it because it strikes at the heart of identity? --at the heart of personhood? --at the heart of belonging?
One of the Lenten movies I want to show goes to the heart of identity and belonging.... And shame. Shame at being Native. Shame at having a different way of knowing --a different way of seeing --a different relationship with the cosmos. And is it possible to be and know and move in a different way and still be Christian?
I think much of the Church would say, No. You have to understand this, this and this and believe this, this and this. Hence, the Creed. Fear of difference made orthodoxy. Fear of difference made the Inquisition. Fear of difference made the Reformations.
And, we are in an age of greater reformation than any time before. Modern physics alone has changed the dogma of science (e.g. --matter is NOT constant, but constantly coming and going... and, time and multiple parallel times of being blow everything away) --and a biological view of Matter changes our sense of identity --that we are not just related, we are One.
But those grand schemes do little for the daily patterns of life and identity here on the plains. I want to touch something closer to home.... the Shame of being a Christian.
Yeah. I said it --the Shame of being a Christian --identified with violence, colonialism, imperialism, racism, genderism, dogma, orthodoxy, anti this and that --not the Shame St. Paul speaks of --as being identified with the death of a vulnerable outcast criminal... but the Shame of having to own the brokenness of the world....
Which is, perhaps, a good place to start. Taking us to our very roots. Acknowledging betrayal and power as the root of the cross, from which springs the blood and wounds....
How can I, this Ash Wednesday, not confess the violence and wrong done in the Name of Christ, here, in this place.... How can I, this Good Friday, not see and know the betrayal of the Church, here, in this place.... How can I not?
How can I say that the involvement of the Church as part of the perpetration of lustful greed and violence for the sake of nationhood was full of good intent?
How can I not be ashamed?
At prayer this morning (Hebrews 1:1-14)
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire.”
But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.”
But to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Aye matey. There it is. Shame is a folly and conceit. Shame is full of selfhood.... Shame is sin blushing with pride.
There is no pride in claiming to be a child of God, an inheritor of heaven, redeemed and saved. That is the natural order of things.
It is freedom and liberty to not worry about the spirits or the latest fashion of which power is running where and doing what --or even to worry about my soul (which I cannot separate from my body if I am a whole person). It is freedom and liberty to not worry about salvation. It is freedom and liberty to not worry about identity --there is only One identity which we all share. It is freedom to be free of the conceit of selfhood.
It is freedom to weep for the sins of the world, and to feel them in flesh and blood....
It is freedom to trust that God is already doing more than I can imagine to redeem even those actions which in my conceit I might consider 'good'.
Perhaps that is what I must preach... liberty from the conceit of self.
But mustn't a working knowledge of self come first then?
'Round and 'round we go.
Hey God, it's margaret. I pray for D, recovering in the hospital; for C who fell and broke her hip; for A whom we bury today at a forgotten graveyard; for that grave outside the fence --dug the year there was so much snow they were afraid to dig inside the fence for fear of striking another grave --I pray we can move the fence; for those affected by the storm in the north east; for those who suffer from the cold here; for those here who are ashamed; for those here who are striving to make an identity beyond what history has handed them; for the courage to be and live in love, without conceit, or even any thought of justice... you know what I mean --because justice in this world is always paired with might and right... and your justice gets hung on a cross. Just sayin'. So... amen. And help us. Help us remember who we are --your children --not that infantilization crap --but a statement of relationship. That close. Same flesh and blood as yours, Father. All of us. Thank you. Amen.
Off I go.