We are all invited, because we are all treaty people. You probably know how the First Nations and those who came from nations in Europe entered into treaties with each other to create a new partnership on this land, one that respected everyone’s contribution and represented promises that would endure.
In my teaching, I like to draw connections between the idea of treaties and the biblical idea of covenant. We see covenant throughout the Bible, when God shows his willingness to enter into partnership with humanity. A covenant is a pact made between free people that endures forever. Sounds like a treaty, right?
I don’t want to say they are the same things, because covenant and treaty come from different traditions. But I would say there is some wisdom in connecting what we know from ancient Israel to modern Canada.
One of those connections is the humility that it takes to live out covenant and treaty. If I am going to honour an agreement that unites all the people around me, then I need to remember that my personal experience and my personal preferences are only one thread in a large tapestry of lives woven together. Sometimes, being true to my identity as a treaty person will ask me to make a sacrifice, or to re-examine some of my prejudices. Just like if I live in the covenant that Jesus made, I will need to remember not to think of myself first, but to pay careful attention to my relationships.
Another thing we see in the Bible are the consequences of breaking covenant. Many times, God agrees to save and provide for his people, and they turn away from him, making promises that they break, and basically trying to rip God off. The result of breaking covenant is always oppression, violence and suffering. This week, we remember the treaties because forgetting them also leads to oppression, violence and suffering. Justice, peace and harmony are much better ways to live, but Canada’s history has been too much marked by pride and greed that turns people against each other.
In the Bible, it is always God who forgives. He keeps offering his covenant, even up to and beyond the murder of his own son, Jesus. After the terrible deed is done, Jesus comes back in resurrection, refusing to be refused, and offering his hand in forgiveness.
When we live in Canada with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, we live with a visible expression of the Spirit of the Merciful Christ. When Residential School Survivors insisted on justice and raised their voices with courage, the survivors directed the monies of the settlement towards hearing truth and bringing reconciliation. In other words, after they had been wounded so deeply, they still stretched out the hand of healing.
If you’re a Christian, like St John Paul II, then you will see the God of the Bible represented by the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
The God of the Bible delivers and promises a feast. A feast is where healed people gather to eat together and strengthen relationships. We know God has a party planned, a feast where all peoples sit down and rejoice in each other. Each day, each moment with each other, is one more opportunity to accept the hand of healing. Let us remember and live out the good promises of covenant and treaty this Friday.
Let us pray.
Grandfather, Great Mysterious One, you have been always,
and before you, nothing has been.
There is nothing to pray to, but you.
The star nations all over the universe are yours,
and yours are the grasses of the earth.
Day in, day out, you are the life of things.
You are older than all need, older than all pain and prayer.
Grandfather, all over the world, the faces
of living ones are alike.
In tenderness they have come up out of the ground.
Look upon your children, with children in their arms, that
they may face the winds and walk the Good Road
to the Day of Quiet.
Teach me to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that live.
Sweeten my heart, and fill me with light. Give me the
strength to understand, and the eyes to see.
Help me, for without you, I am nothing.
Black Elk, pray for us.
St. Kateri, pray for us