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Virginia Theological Seminary Sermon – November 28, 2012
Observance of the Full Communion Accord between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church
Psalm 131 & 132
Zechariah 13:1-9
Luke 19:11-27

Anpetu Waste my good friends. Good Morning, my Lakota name is Wanbli Sina Win or Eagle Shawl Woman. I am Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

I admit had a very hard time relating to the readings of Luke 19: 11-27 as a Lakota Christian.

I know, I know… in a general sense you could say WELL they were speaking of servant-hood. RIGHT? Yeah, I guess so. But to me THIS type servant-hood was done in all the wrong ways. JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION.

I can relate more to the bigger picture in the beginning of Luke 19, where Jesus pardoning a sinner Zacchaeus who displayed COURAGE to climb a sycamore tree over the thick crowd to see Jesus. He was rewarded by Jesus going to his home. Zaccheaus promises to give half of his possessions to the poor, and repay it four times over anyone he has extorted anything from. Luke 19:9, “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

LOST can be interpreted in a variety of ways, as well as SIN and in both passages are seeking salvation in two VERY different ways. Yet the last verse of Luke 19:26 has the KING calling his servants to BRING THOSE ENEMIES OF MINE WHO DIDN’T ME TO BE KING…BRING THEM HERE AND KILL THEM IN FRONT OF ME.

WOW… kill them in front of me. Today we can barely imagine what that must be like. Yet, this has occurred in our history of Church. MOSTLY, these readings reminded me of how wrong man can be. And how wrong intentions and actions can be interpreted.

If you look in history you see this same violence played out, in the name of God, countless times. The Doctrine of Discovery, or Manifest Destiny, in the 19th century gave the government and churches the “inherent right to conquer and rule”. This Doctrine was also the justification for expanding beyond the Louisiana Territory, justified the War with Mexico, and even justified slavery…besides pardoning the GENOCIDE of Native Americans through massacres and executions.

One of the most significant, historical and largest US mass execution was the Hanging of the 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862. As we approach Advent, a time I cherish…I also remember that December 26, 2012 will mark the 150th Anniversary of this day where Abraham Lincoln initially condemned 303 Dakota and Ojibwe Indians to death. Death by hanging for the crimes of theft resulting from desperate people confined to reservations by the government as they faced starvation.

A little known fact is Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple, intervened writing to Abraham Lincoln, as well as coming here to Washington, DC to plead for their lives. Lincoln reviewed the cases and reduced the condemned to 38. HOWEVER you may be a surprised to learn that of the 38 executed, 37 were baptized. As they walked to their death, they sang a Christian Hymn in the Dakota Language.

Hymnal #385
1. Many and great, O God, are thy works,
maker of earth and sky;
thy hands have set the heavens with stars;
thy fingers spread the mountains and plains.
Lo, at thy word the waters were formed;
deep seas obey thy voice.

2. Grant unto us communion with thee,
thou star abiding one;
come unto us and dwell with us;
with thee are found the gifts of life.
Bless us with life that has no end,
eternal life with thee.

Everytime I hear this hymn I think of these men…condemned to death and singing their death song…a Christian hymn as they were BROUGHT TO BE KILLED IN FRONT OF thousands of CHRISTIANS…the day after Christmas, 1862.

But this isn’t the only evidence of an mass killing right after Christmas…On the morning of December 29, 1890… troops from the US 7th Cavalry came to disarm the Lakota on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. One version of events claims a deaf tribesman was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it. A scuffle over rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing many unarmed men, women, and children as they fled. By the time it was over, at least 150 Lakota men, women, and children had been killed…some estimates placed the number of dead closer to 300. The dead lay on the plains for 3 days, as a blizzard came. When the snowing ended, they were gathered and buried in a mass grave at Wounded Knee. One of the most chilling images is one of these troopers posing in front of the open grave with their guns. At least twenty troopers were awarded the coveted Medal of Honor for their part in this event.

Woundedknee1891

So yes…everything I was taught is the exact opposite of Luke 19:11-27. As a Lakota I was taught to value:
1) Wacante Oganake, “To help, to share, to give, to be generous.”
2) Wowa-unsila, “Pity, Compassion.”
3) Wowauo-nihan, “To Repect, to Honor.”
4) Wowa-cin-tanka, “Patience and Tolerance.”
5) Wowah-wala, “To be Humble, To Seek Humility.”
6) Woohi-tike, “To be Guided By Your Principles, Disciplined, Bravery and Courage.”
7) Woksape, “Understanding and Wisdom.”

We must remember our values, even in the most dire of times. We must also remember our church has a past. A past that SHOULD NOT be forgotten, a past that STILL LIVES with us today. A past that had led to many contemporary issues Native Americans face today due to poverty.

Like Zaccheaus, we know we are all sinners in some way or another… as we move forward as Christians we also seek SALVATION through the Son of Man and knowledge…and then we are no longer LOST. In contrast, Native Americans would say they were never LOST.

So this week after Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for that we are not ignorant of these events… we can give thanks for our church’s repentance for the Doctrine of Discovery… we can give thanks for those who have COURAGE to open their minds to the truth so they can continue to heal a people still struggling with this outright WRONG done to their ancestors… we can give thanks for our partnerships in ministry in dioceses and with our relationship of full communion with the ELCA through our “COMMON MISSION”. This mission includes a partnership with projects surrounding poverty beginning to address this injustice to Native Americans, and many others.

Psalm 132 cries out “Lord, remember David…and all the hardships he endured…” And so as we begin Advent, we remember those ancestors who displayed COURAGE in the face of death singing their death song. We remember those children, who became my great-grandparents, who continued to uphold their culture to the next generation so that together, as servants of one Creator Tunkasila, we can move forward with wisdom and compassion.

Pilamaya, Mitakuye Oyasin. Thank you, all my relations. AMEN.