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AGM Devotional by Rev. David Neufeld - on Deut. 7:4-6
The text I have chosen for this morning is about history - not interpreting, but creating history.
Charles Cooper, in his commentary on Deuteronomy, says, "These attitudes are not commendable in the full Gospel light. They belong to the incompleteness and inadequacy of the OT revelation."
These attitudes display a deep sense of superiority. Israel alone is the pure holy and loved of all the nations on the face of the earth.
In this world view there are only two types of people - God's holy chosen people and the pagans of the world. How similar to the atittudes of colonial Europe. The Doctrine of Discovery reflects this ancient bias. It enabled the immigrants to lay claims to lands and resources around the world - North America, South Amercia, Asia and Africa. Tehy could do this because they had superior weaponry and they could do it in clear conscience because they believed they were the chosen of God and all the rest of the world that was not Christian was pagan. A very convenient bias.
Last summer Sue and I visited the last province of Canada that we had not yet visited - Newfoundland. What a wonderful and beautiful place. Wherever we went we looked for signs of Aboriginal presence - we could not find any. We asked people - no, there were none.
When we got back to St. John's we went to THE ROOMS Museum. There, on the third floor in one corner we found an exhibit regarding the early inhabitants of Newfoundland.
The Inuit from Labrador had come there in the summers to fish and then returned to their homeland for winter.
For a thousand years there was also an aboriginal tribe called the Beothuk that inhabited Newfoundland. They inhabited the coastal areas in the summer to fish and then moved inland for the winter.
The immigrant Europeans were not prepared to share with the original inhabitants - they prevented them from returning to the costal areas to fish in the summer - literally starving them out. There is even evidence of bounty offered for elimiating the Beothuk. The museum indicated that the last Beothuk died in 1822.
When researching the matter on the internet I found article on this tragic affair. The articles were also followed by letters from individuals who indicated that the Beothuk were not exterminated: they were part Beothuk - their ancestors had married immigrant males to hide their identity to escape annihilation.
Our ancestors that moved from place to place over the centuries were not that vulgar in their beliefs. But I have come to the conclusion that there is a pattern of bias and prejudice that has followed the immigration of Anabaptists.
Wherever our ancestors went - Ukraine, North America, Paraguay - they did not acquire unoccupied land: they were given and/or purchased land that was tkaen from the original inhabitants. Perhaps they were so grateful for the opportunity and blessing that they did not look further?
It is interesting to observe that when a Mennonite performed in a manner less than appropriate, he was called "du Russ," "You Indian," or "du Shalupe."
We have been eager to send missionaries around the globe - to convert the pagan. Only recently have we recognized that God has been making self revelation around the globe since the beginning of time. There is indeed good reason to go far and wide to share the good news of the revelation in Jesus but in a gentle way that is also eager to experience the faith and love that is already in these places - God was there long before the missionaries arrived. We have much to share and we have much to learn from these cultures.
We have come to realize that revelation was given to and received within each culture around the world. When we have assumed that there was not revelation, no faith and no love in the misison field we have done great harm to the cause of the Kingdom of God.
I have encountered aborigianl elders who have boldly declared that they have no problem with the Jesus they read of in the Gospels, but they have great difficulty dealing with what the church has done to them in the name of Jesus.
John Cutland is currently doing research into "re-contact Spirit places" in south weastern Saskatchewan. I had the opportunity last fall of spending a day with him and showing him the pre-contact Spirit places around Herschel. The aboriginal peoples were separated from their sacred spirit places and these places ended up in the "ownership" of immigrants. In his document John says that the current owners may not know it, but they have become custodians of these scared places. This fact opens up all kinds of doors for reconciliation between the first nations and immigrant peoples if only the land owners are open to it.
One day after conducting a tour of the sacred places at Herschel for a school group, I walked quietly behind two young girls of aboriginal descent - one excitedly said to the other, "This is our heritage!"
We not only have the privilege of sharing Christ with the first inhabitants of these lands, we can preserve and promote their ancient places of prayer and teaching. We can honour their vision quest sites and their teaching stones and the teachings associated with them.
Obviously, we must boldly declare that what was done to them in the name of Christ was definitely not done in the Spirit of Christ.
There is no room in our world for the notion of being God's chosen, if chosen mean no one else is chosen.
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