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A Harvest of Righteousness

James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a and Cry Your Tears by John Trudell, a Santee Dakota activist, performance artist, actor, and poet


Sunday September 19th, 2021


Thank you for being here today, in whatever plain of reality you are worshiping with us, we welcome you here, whether this is your first time here or this is your spiritual home. Welcome!


Today is the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost and in the United Church of Christ, it is also Just Peace Sunday. So as we come to this time in our service, I invite you to let yourself arrive, to take some deep breaths and to tune in to whatever word God has for you today. Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19)


For almost a month now, we have been exploring the theme: what do we do when? We started with: What do we do when the world feels broken? Then we asked, what do we do when the world is angry? What do we do when we have gotten it wrong? What do we do when the world doesn’t see us? And today: What do we do when our history is harmful?


What do we do when we are daring to acknowledge the truth, but aren’t exactly sure what to do with what we find? It is clear that some don’t want to see the truth and we can’t change that, but what if, what is needed is enough of us willing to be doers? That’s how the book of James begins, reminding readers that followers of Jesus are those who dare to be among the doers, he says, not just those who hear the word, but do.


We don’t know exactly who wrote this ancient letter. And we don’t know exactly who was meant to hear it, if it was addressed to a particular group. And we don’t know exactly when it was written because there are no references to external events. But we do know that most of the book of James, almost in its entirety, are imperatives- commands to the newly forming faith community. Which is why, as scholar E. Elizabeth Johnson noted, “would go a long way toward explaining the letter’s lack of popularity in a church that does not like to be told what to do.” Some call James the bossiest book of the entire Bible.


Because the whole point and nearly at every turn is that you can’t just listen to the teachings, no the kin-dom of heaven is at hand, these are actions we must take. We cannot just be hearers of the word, we are to be doers, called to be among the “peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits…”


So to me, the first part of the answer to what do we do when our history is harmful, what do we do with the wounds of our past, we dare to be among the doers, among those who try to make it better, among those who restore, believing more justice and love are on the way. We dare to be among those who try day in and day out, for a life beyond bitterness and blame, for a life of gentleness and generosity, willing to yield, as the scripture says, as we yearn together for what we know is right, sometimes slowly clearing the way for healing and hope.


And here is the second part of the answer, and we don’t talk about this much in our flavor of Christianity, we are called to resist the devil. This ancient text just comes right out and says it to us: Resist the devil and it will flee. And perhaps what this means is that if you want to be among this crowd, this community of believers, if you are doers of these teachings, know that you must be committed to resisting all of the devils around you. But these devils don’t show up with pitchforks and oddly fashionable red gowns, these devils show up in the form of greed, in the form of loyalties driven by egos’ needs, these devils show up in the form of misplaced anger and rage. These devils show up as the entitlement white people feel for the land that our ancestors stole. These devils show up as the need to sanitize history so our role in it is clean, which means we just tell part of the story or we don’t tell it at all. And I am now seeing these devils show up at school board meetings and city council meetings and in congress, demanding that what is special belongs just to some, whether it be the right to vote or the right to drink clean water or the right to live inside. These devils are active in conversations about affordable housing and healthcare and about what should happen with the land at Fort Chambers. These devils are showing up everywhere demanding they are the real victims. And the devils of white entitlement allow us to forget that for more than 14,000 years indigenous ancestors hunted, traded, held ceremonies on this land.


And this gets me to the other part of the answer to what do we do when our history is harmful? It’s this: We dare to remember and to tell the true stories. But as the poet John Trudell said, these stories are often hidden by the push for power and profit. As you heard, “Money talks while the government listens, Compiling files on ones who think different …”

Because the truth is that Euro-American settlers came to Boulder Valley as miners in 1858 and at that time Chief Nawath (Left Hand)’s band of Arapaho people were living here, under the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851, which the miners violated this treaty and forced the Arapaho out of the Boulder Valley.” Later, in 1864, John Evans, the governor of the territory, recruited white settlers whom they called “Indian fighters” specifically to kill Native people and further the settlement of this place on stolen land.

And even Boulder-area recruits mustered into service, drilled, and trained at Fort Chambers, that very spot. And it was Col. John Chivington who led Boulder’s regiment to Sand Creek where they carried out the grisly massacre of over 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people -- mostly women, children. I have learned it is the only National park with the word massacre in its name.


“We remember the Civil War as a war of liberation that freed four million slaves,” But historian Ari Kelman reminds us, “it also became a war of conquest to destroy and dispossess Native Americans.” Sand Creek, he adds, “is a bloody and mostly forgotten link” between the Civil War and the Plains Indian Wars that continued for 25 years after Appomattox.


This might be counterintuitive or seem that way, but I believe this is part of drawing nearer to God, drawing closer to who we say we are, having the courage to deepen our commitment to be not just hearers of the word but doers. As Right Relationship Boulder presents us with these questions, I invite us to listen, “Whose voices, stories, and images have been erased or denigrated? Whose stories have been sanitized and mythologized? How can we bring all our peoples and their histories together with a common commitment to truth, respect, and justice?”


Beloved of God, what do we do when we are daring to acknowledge the truth, but aren’t exactly sure what to do with what we find? Here’s the way: Dare to be among the doers, among those who try to make it better, among those who restore, believing more… justice and love are on the way. Dare to be among those who try, day in and day out, for a life that is about justice, beyond bitterness and blame, toward more generosity and gentleness, yielding as we yearn and learn together toward what we know is loving, sometimes a little slowly, but aiming to clear the way for healing and hope. Dare to resist all of the devils around you- the devils of greed, of loyalties driven by ego needs, the devils of anger and rage, the devils of false entitlement and sanitized history. Dare to remember and tell the truth. Dare to tell the real stories so we can one day live into new ones. Beloved of God, let us have the courage to deepen our commitment to not just be hearers of the word, but doers; let us be among the “peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits…” right here and right now, producing among us and beyond us, what can only be described as a harvest of righteousness. May that be so for each of us. Amen.



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