Reflecting on who — and whose —we are

Rev. Tracy Heilman
Thursday, March 21, 2019
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            Rev. Tracy Heilman

Lent is a time to decide again who we are, to get back on the path that Jesus walked, away from self-interest towards a promised land for the whole people of God.

After the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, listen to these words from Luke 13:31-35:

“At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me,[a] Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[b] you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.

My understanding of citizenship has been reshaped by Sterling HolyWhite-Mountain and Robert Hall, two young Blackfeet linguists and teachers, who speak on the Blood Quantum system used by some tribes. If your blood must be “pure” to be a member of the tribe, you have to intermarry, which eventually kills your people.

Alternatively, you marry “outsiders” which will dilute the “purity” of your blood. Hall and HolyWhite-Mountain contend that citizenship isn’t defined by blood. We are shaped by our stories. As people who grew up on the reservation, who speak the language, who have returned to the reservation to teach and contribute, they are Blackfeet, no matter their Blood Quantum.

I know I am French because of family stories about ancestors who were horse thieves in France who made their way to the United States to avoid jail.

What are the stories that define who you are, that shape how you live? Jesus is defined by sacred stories of his Jewish people, by the ancient prophets who risked their lives to speak the truth of God’s love. So when he is warned that Herod wants him killed, Jesus responds with conviction and courage. He knows what God calls him to be, a mothering hen that puts himself between any who seek to harm God’s beloved. The sacred stories of his people prepared him for this Lenten journey, this life unto death.

The book “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman, tells of having the courage to do hard things: “One day, my dad and I went for a walk. Going down a gully, my dad suddenly said to me, ‘Coraline — run away. Up the hill. Now!’ He said it with urgency so I ran away up the hill. As I got to the top of the hill, I heard somebody thundering uphill behind me. When my dad reached me, he picked me up in his arms and swept me over the hill. Then we stopped, panted, and looked back. Yellow wasps filled the air. While I was running up the hill, my dad stayed and got stung, to give me time to run away. I only had the one sting on the back of my arm. He had 39 stings. He said he wasn’t scared when he stood and the wasps were hurting him. Because he knew he had to give me time to run away. He said it wasn’t brave because it was the only thing he could do.”

When Husne Ara Parvin put herself between the shooter and her wheelchair-bound husband in the Mosque, it was the only thing she could do.

When Naeem Rashid tried to wrestle the gun away from the shooter, dying for his attempts, it was the only thing he could do.

When Jesus called out Herod and pledged to protect the people, it was the only thing he could do.

Who do you say you are? May it be that you find yourself, your deepest values, your strongest convictions, and the source of your strength and courage within the sacred stories of the people of God.