Sermon for Oklahoma IV Conference

May 30, 2010

We are all connected – in the great circle of life, the sacred hoop, the wonder of God’s creation. Today the church remembers that sacred interconnection of all that is. Maybe part of what is wrong with the church is that we only intentionally focus on that interconnection once a year. It’s a theme throughout our life together, yet we rarely bring it into focus – even the hazy focus that’s the only possible way of talking about God’s inner reality.

If we understand that we are made in the image of God, then an intrinsic part of what we are is interrelated beings in community. That’s what the feast of the Trinity is about – that God’s own nature is a community of beings that is so aware of and open and vulnerable to each other that the sacred and divine community is one.

There is no time and place where God is not, for God precedes creation. Wisdom, as the creative aspect of God, is present and at work as creation begins, drawing all that is made into relationship. In the beginning, Wisdom was there. She may have other names in the tradition – white buffalo calf woman, for one – yet there is a deep awareness within us that God’s gracious creative spirit has been among us from the beginning.

The holy one has come among us in human flesh – most essentially in Jesus, yet also in his body, gathered through the ages, following his path. The image of God, the human face of God, is all around us, if we will only look and discover. God in human flesh continues to walk with us, through 500 years of struggle and suffering on this continent, through the destruction of war, and the waste of creation-destroying selfishness. God is here, and what peace we know in this life is a gift and sign of that holy presence.

Sometimes that reality of God as community, God as trinity, is spoken of as dance – the holy three whirling with and through each other’s reality. Native communities have long known the sacrament of dance as healing, able to draw many persons into one community. At times of great struggle and loss, the dance emerges yet again, like the ghost dance Wovoka called forth. Wisdom has planted in us that urge toward healing, reconciliation, oneness – even in the face of human sin and evil.

Our life on this earth is about the great dance of returning – going home, finding strength in a supportive, loving, and reconciled community, going back to the earth at the end of life, finding our home in God. It’s a journey that may have solitary moments, but it’s a dance that cannot be made alone. This dance will never be fully complete, yet we keep on dancing, the spirit within us yearning for more life, more healing, more oneness, and greater participation in that holy circle.

Wisdom dwells in this body gathered here, speaking forth words of truth, calling us into healing. Native communities know what it is to live deeply rooted in that holy wisdom of oneness with all that is. It is a wisdom that needs speaking, for words need to take on flesh and form in a world that has forgotten much about the truth: that we share one creator, that we are all brothers and sisters, we are siblings to all the rest of creation, that if one part of God’s body of creation suffers, all do.

The oil spilling into the sea south of us is a toxic reminder that none of us can escape the destructiveness of others – we are all connected, even when some refuse the dance. The marshes and shorelines that nurture and protect the many creatures who dwell in the sea and in the air and on the land are being destroyed and cruelly hurt. The damage will last many generations, and some parts of that system may never recover. As the marshes and barrier islands disappear, the dangers of hurricanes increase. More people will be flooded out of home and livelihood. Many who make their living from the sea are losing their means of survival – food stocks, shelter, and culture.

There are similar dangers at the other end of this continent, where other communities, livelihoods, and cultures are in danger from the lure of oil. The Porcupine herd, the Gwich’in people, the vast and fragile bounty of the tundra are under threat from the same greed for oil that has caused this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The greed of some, the belief that one group can dance alone, lies behind much of the suffering that native communities know: lands stolen, herds destroyed, lifeways prevented, spiritualities forbidden, hope too often crumbled and crushed. Yet we are all connected, and that greed will eventually destroy the greedy as well as those who have been robbed. If we’re going to dance, we cannot choose to avoid some partners – we must encounter the ones we’re angry with as well as the ones who bring us joy. The dance can’t be with only one clan or tribe – Wisdom calls us all into this round. Healing comes in the dance, as the dance of anger becomes lament, and lament moves toward compassion, and on through reconciliation toward peace.

We can only go home through the dance. There is no healing or wholeness or restoration or holiness except through the dance – encountering the sacred and earthly reality of this moment, grieving what needs to be grieved, and letting the spirit draw us in hope toward a healed future.

All the peoples of this land – the first peoples and those who came after, are in danger of forgetting the dance. The other peoples – the bird and deer and fish and whale peoples – are in danger of being shut out of the dance. The divine dance which creation reflects is waiting for all the peoples of this planet to rejoin and renew it. The spirits of all depend on it, to the seventh generation – and the seventieth.

Will you join the dance and draw others in? Will you dance with friend and foe and stranger? Will we let the dance make peace in us? Will we let the dance heal us all?