Increasingly I can only understand the Gospel story, to the extent that I can understand it all, as the story of the Indigenous people that surround me. For a more general survey of what this can mean see Dan Oudshoorn’s blog posts A Blog Commentary on Luke’s Gospel, written for Settlers in the Occupied Territories called Canada (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
For me this has culminated in the resistance at Standing Rock particularly as the Advent season begins. The elders and water protectors at Standing Rock have declared a spiritual act of resistance in protection of the land and the waters. The events surrounding these acts have an uncanny resonance with Advent.
Advent begins with apocalyptic imagery. In the prophets there are images of longing that seemingly unstoppable powers can be overcome.
Oh come, oh come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” – Mark 13:24-25
There are visions of the nations and wealth that will stream to God’s holy mountain in which the people will gather that they might learn war no more.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:2-4
And the nations have come to Standing Rock, the nations of the world represented by various tribes, religions, cultures, and causes (with military veterans being the latest to join putting down their guns with a commitment to ‘fight’ in the nonviolent ways led by the water protectors). The prophets say that the wealth of nations will flow to this mountain in that time as well, and it has with millions in monetary support as well as gifts of various sorts coming in.
Advent is marked by signs. At Bethlehem they followed a start at to Standing Rock they have followed a river and the Black Snake (from the Sacred Stone website: When we refer to the pipeline as a black snake, we are referencing an old Lakota prophecy that speaks of a black snake (zuzeca sape) crossing the land, bringing with it destruction and devastation.). And to be clear stars in the Ancient Near East were political symbols and a shift or sign in the heavens reflected a shift in the powers of the earth.
Around the world we watched as a buffalo herd came to show strength and support to the water protectors. We watched as the US empire doubled down in its power electing Donald Trump who heralded the ‘good old days’ of law and order (for white people). As Adrian Jacobs tweeted,
The eagle spoke concerning Trump.
The sparrow spoke concerning Bernie.
The buffalo spoke concerning #NoDAPL.
The colonizers did not listen.
The signs were given.
And then we heard news of the birth of a child.
We heard good news. A woman with child came to the camp to make a supportive space for other women there. She gave birth alone to which she later testified that the spirits of her ancestors surrounding her; this cloud of women calling her blessed. And she has named her child Mni Winconi, Water is Life.
I do not claim anything profound or original in these observations only to say that if ever I have felt the weight and presence of signs and wonders it is now. If ever I have got a sense of what it means to have the privilege of overhearing the Gospel, even at a distance, it is now. It is hopeful, deeply hopeful. But it is frightful because the Gospel is clear about the how the powers of this world will respond [as Adrian Jacobs reminded after posting this many ‘Rachels’ will no doubt continue to weep in the events to come]. God have grace and God have mercy this holy Advent. Protect our Water Protectors and protect Mni Winconi.