Grace to you and peace from God the Father Almighty and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I'll bet you didn't know that today, October 10, is Canadian Thanksgiving Day. It falls on the second Monday of each year. Like their neighbors south of the border, most families observe the holiday with turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberries; and the Canadian Football League holds a nationally televised doubleheader, the Thanksgiving Day Classic. How original is that?
Thanksgiving in Canada coincides with the United States' observance of Columbus Day, which commemorates Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492.
Columbus Day has become an increasingly controversial commemoration. Descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere consider Columbus nothing more than a mass murderer who committed atrocities against the Native Americans who occupied this land. In recent years, they've renamed this day Indigenous Peoples' Day, as a protest against Columbus Day. In many places across the U.S., there will be celebrations promoting Native American Culture and commemorating the history of Native American Peoples.
At the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans in August, the voting members voted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.
This so-called doctrine goes back to 15th century, when Papal documents gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they "discovered" and lay claim to those lands for their Christian Monarchs. Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be "discovered", claimed, and exploited. If the "pagan" inhabitants could be converted, they might be spared. If not, they could be enslaved or killed. This doctrine has been primarily used, even to this day, to support decisions invalidating or ignoring possession of land by Native peoples in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments.
The most vivid current example is Standing Rock, North Dakota. Since early August, members of the Sioux nation and their supporters have set up protest camps in an effort to halt construction of a $3.78 billion, four-state Dakota Access Pipeline. The tribe maintains that the pipeline would potentially damage its drinking water and irrigation, as well as desecrate several areas of significant cultural and historic value to the tribe. For the time being, construction is halted.
The protestors at Standing Rock come to mind as I reflect on our Scripture readings for this 22nd Sunday after Pentecost. They touch upon the themes of prayer, persistence, perseverance, and patience.
In our first lesson, Jacob wrestles with a man whom we presume to be God. In Paul's letter to Timothy, he advises his young disciple to be persistent and have the utmost patience. And in our Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the need to pray and not lose heart.
Prayer, persistence, perseverance, and patience are inextricably linked. Yet they don't guarantee us that our prayers will ever be answered in our earthly life. It may appear that God does not hear. It may appear that injustice and evil are prevailing. The challenge that God puts before us is to refuse to give in to appearances and continue to trust God to act in God's way and in God's time.
I invite you to pray for the people of Standing Rock as you wrestle with Holy Scripture this week. May God grant you a spirit of courage to boldly speak out against injustice anywhere.
+Bishop Abraham Allende