Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Shakin' it up

It was an interesting experience this last weekend. When the fellowship/Church body QueenJaymz and I belong to formed, we jokingly decided to call ourselves First Church of the Short Yellow Bus (Reformed). The joke, however politically incorrect, is that we are not very good at being Christians. I don't think any of us are, if we are honest with ourselves. Anyhow, we consider ourselves the "Special Ed" of the Church. We even have a "member" named Ed, who we've deemed "Pastor Special Ed." It's all in good fun.

Anyhow, one of our members is Richard Twiss of Wiconi (pronounced 'which-o-ni' like 'rice-o-roni' except with 'which' instead of 'rice' and no 'ro' on the 'ni') International, which put on a huge pow-wow in Turner, OR over the weekend. He tapped us to serve his "Native homies," as he calls them. We watered and tended to the needs of the drummers and dancers, manned tables and assisted on a few levels with meal service. There was lots of dancing in the sacred circle, much drumming and chanting, and prayers to "Creator" and "Grand-father," which is what God is called in Native American terms (or theology, if you will).

I'd never been to a pow-wow before, so it was very different. This one being of Native peoples who were followers of the "Jesus Way" (you don't say "Christian" among Native peoples because it was a "Christian nation" that made and subsequently broke every treaty the federal government made with them). As the chief of the ceremony said, "Every foot-fall is a prayer for your family, your friends and your people." I have been contemplating physical forms/acts of worship lately, so I really dug that. I watched a tribal elder bless the sacred circle with burning incense and herbs. The smell of rosemary, lavender and sage were heavy in the air as he walked around to the four "corners" and prayed. Something sacred and sanctified was happening that I had no category of reference for...and I was loving it.

The prayer was really what shook me, though. It did so in a very positive way. The man blessing the ceremony, the sacred circle and the dancing there prayed to "Grand-father," because that is the most honorific term in Native American culture. To merely call the Lord "Father" would not be giving Him His appropriate place in their eyes. He thanked Creator for sending "Jesus the mighty warrior" to "Turtle Island" to show us the way to Him. He closed with prayer for safe passage through this life, "until we soar into the sky like an eagle, following the stars, His lights to the great lodge, His dwelling in the heavens."

A couple of years ago, perhaps even just a year ago, I would have been infuriated by that prayer. There was nothing in it I had ever read in the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, it seems to fly in the face of the way I interpret the Bible. But...that's just it, isn't it?

We tend to forget that our culture colors the way we see God, Jesus and Scripture, and, because of that, we tend to try to force our cultural coloring down the throats of those who might profess belief in Jesus. Anything their culture brings to the table is heresy, but our pagan beliefs and practices are okay to be reformed and purified for God's glory (Easter and Christmas, anyone?).

I was stirred up in my thoughts about Isaiah 55/56. God's command that we ensure that the "outsiders" and the disabled never have a reason to say "I'm second class in the kingdom of God." I also thought about the separation of the sheep from the goats that Jesus talked about. I envisioned it anew as I thought of those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel say, "Dear Jesus, your face looks so very familiar, but...I don't ever recall meeting you. When was that?" To which, of course, He responds, "I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink; hungry and you fed me..." It was the religious, well theologized, heavily churched people of Christ's day that He swept aside as goats. We need to consider that as we live our lives and talk doctrine with others who see things in a different light.

Just a thought as I close here. As the Lord hid Moses in the cleft of the rock and He announced His name as He passed by: What did the Lord say His name was? "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin." I'm cutting off the last half because that is His business to determine, not ours. My point here is that He said His Name is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, keeps lovingkindness for thousands and forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. That's His Name as He told us. So, we say we pray all things in Christ's name, but do we? We talk about doing things in the Lord's name, but are we exercising what that truly means, or are we fooling ourselves that a more correct theology/doctrine is what doing things in His Name means? Even worse, are we assuming that just by announcing "in your name, Father/Jesus/Grand-father" we are doing/praying in His Name? Are we taking His Name in vain by violating what He said His Name is? We certainly are if we are sacrificing compassion at the altar of doctrine. He didn't say, "full of right doctrine" when announcing His name to Moses. So why are we saying that to the whole world before compassionate, gracious and keeper of lovingkindness? Maybe we need to get out there and start telling those who don't believe in Him the Good News. Maybe if they knew what His Name is they'd like Him, and that Jesus fella who He sent.


Niki said...

Excellent post. Sounds like you both had an amazing experience. We have a Native American friend who "smoked us out" (blessed us) as we were moving away from Wichita. It was such an honor and blessing for our family. His wife gave me a shawl that she wore at a pow-wow and he gave Benny a hand made shirt. We still cherish both gifts and the sweet fellowship we had with them.

MugwumpMom said...

Wow, that would have been an amazing experience. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. You say "we don't say Christian" because it was a christian nation that dealt poorly with them...I don't know about there, but here, in Canada, it was in the name of "christianity" that so many of our native peoples were taken from their families, and put into residential school and "forced" to accept "christianity" with beatings, and abuses. That form of "christianity" spoke nothing of love and mercy and acceptance. The native people have an understanding of the spiritual realm that when joined with the love of God/Grandfather, is breathtaking to behold. It's called power.

Also, glad you have a blogger buddy living so close to you now...I'll have to remember that a 2 - 3 hour drive isn't so far next time I cross the border down to your neck of the woods.

Hope all is well with you and yours

Dapoppins said...

There is alot here to comment on and I probablly missed your point but...I went to a few pow-wows as a kid and loved them. I always wanted to be an Indian princess.

And...the scripture verses you pointed out are some of my, okay, all of my favorite old testament verses. I love the story/truth of when Moses wants to see God's face. and think it would make a powerful children's book.