Ecclesiasticus 2:1 - 11
Does anyone know what special day we are celebrating today?
All Saint's Day
Who knows what a Saint is?
Someone who tries really hard to treat people kindly and do the things that Jesus asks us to do
- even if it's something that is really hard to do
- and even if some people don't like it.
So what do you suppose All Saint's Day is? Want to take any guesses?
It's the day that we remember and honor all those saints who have lived before we were here, and who worked very hard to follow Jesus and tell other people about Jesus - and to treat all people fairly.
So today I'd like to tell you a story about an Indian man who is in our church calendar of saints. His name is Enmegahbowh, and he lived in Minnesota over 150 years ago. And part of the time he lived very close to Little Falls.
Enmegahbowh was an Ottawa Indian who adopted the Ojibwa Indians as his own people when he married an Ojibwa woman. He was the very first Indian to be ordained an Episcopal priest. He was ordained in 1867 when he was 47 years old.
In this story Enmegahbowh was living with his family and some of the Ojibwa people north of Little Falls a little ways. Shortly after the Civil War started in 1861, there were some white men who started doing some really bad things. They started tricking and then selling young Ojibwa men. They would take the young men to St. Paul where they would sell them to other white men who didn't want to fight in the Union army - so those men would buy an Indian man and send him to the army instead.
Not very long after all this started, three braves came to Enmegahbowh and told him that their sons had been taken and sold. They were very angry and they told Enmegahbowh that they planned to kill the white men who had done this.
Now Enmegahbowh had been teaching his people about the message of peace that Jesus taught - and he did not believe in fighting or killing people - even if they were doing awful things.. And he also knew that if these braves did kill the men who had sold their sons, it was almost a sure thing that a war would break out and almost all the Ojibwa people would probably be killed - there just weren't enough Ojibwa braves to win a war against the United States. .
He knew that these fathers had every right to be angry and furious about what happened to their sons.. But still he didn't believe in killing. And he knew that if they did kill those men, there were a lot of white people who would use that as an excuse to go to war against the Ojibwa people. So what do you think he did?
Well he asked the three braves to give him 7 days to see if he could do something to put a stop to what was going on. The braves agreed to wait for 7 days - but only 7 days and no more. Now the people he needed to talk to were in St. Paul which was about 150 miles away and he didn't have any money to buy a ticket for the stage coach. How do you think he got to St. Paul?
Well, his wife made two pairs of new moccasins for him and Enmegahbowh walked and ran all the way to St. Paul. He got to St. Paul in three days. By the end of the 4th day he had papers with orders from General Sibley and a promise that the selling of Ojibwa men would stop. Enmegahbowh got back home on the seventh day. The braves listened to what had happened and looked at the papers from General Sibley. They put down their weapons and went home peacefully.
Enmegahbowh was a man who believed very strongly in peace - he was known for saying, "let peace rule in my heart," And he was willing to do a lot of very hard and sometimes very scary things to bring Jesus' message of peace to his people.
Give cards with Enmegahbowh icon to the children and show them the holy water blessed by The Rev. Juanita Palmerhill from the White Earth Reservation - that we will use when we renew our baptismal vows...ask a child to help with sprinkling the water.
By the way - The Rev. Juanita Palmerhill is the first Ojibwa woman ordained to the priesthood in Minnesota.
It was a time of bitter hostility when many people on both sides wanted revenge. Many white people were filled with hate and loathing for the Indian people they did not understand, and saw no real reason why they should. Many Indian people wanted no part of a white world that seemed to promise them little more than total destruction of their way of life. Neither side wanted anything to do with the other. Resentment, hatred, loathing, and rigid self-righteousness permeated the air. It sounds all too familiar doesn't it?
As our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, wrote this past week - we have just "... come through one of the most vitriolic and divisive election campaigns any of us has ever experienced." For some, the re-election of President Bush is cause for rejoicing. For others it is an occasion of deep despair and anguish. I doubt that many of us would disagree that our country is more polarized than it has been in a very, long time. Many people are entrenched in rigid positions that simply will not entertain the possibility that there could be anything of value in the views of "the other side."
In today's gospel, Jesus says - "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Jesus calls each of us to be makers of peace. What does that mean? I don't think it means to just cover it all up and carry on as though everything is "just fine" - nor does it mean that we can remain isolated and apart from those with whom we disagree. I think it means that we are called to actively seek reconciliation in the context of a truth that is far greater than any one point of view - or any single belief can possibly encompass.
That truth is the remarkable message of Jesus Christ - a message which promises that a broken world can be made whole again. But whether the promise in that message is fulfilled is up to all of us This old world will only be made whole again when we stop looking for how we are different, and start seeing how we are alike.... when we stop searching for where we disagree and how the "other side" is wrong - and start talking with one another about where we do agree, and where the "other side" may have a valid point.
Our battered and broken world will only be made whole again when we look into the heart of every single person that we encounter and remember that the Christ lives in that person just as surely as the Christ lives within each of us.
Enmegahbowh had the grace and humility to do just that. He knew that all of God's children, no matter how reprehensible their behavior might be, must be treated with the same dignity and respect we would offer Jesus of Nazareth - for that is the only way that the Christ within him could touch the Christ within the other, and find that common ground upon which to build a true and lasting peace.
If Enmegahbowh were here today, I believe that he would ask each of us to listen to the Christ within ourselves - the Christ that calls us to seek the Christ within every person we meet.
With our Presiding Bishop, let us pray that in the difficult and challenging days ahead we may all be faithful - as Enmegahbowh was faithful - to what our God requires of us: "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God."