“Wake Up and Dream”

Right now, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan are considering whether or not to renew a key legal challenge to Line 3. Line 3 is a proposed pipeline that would transport nearly a million barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. The pipeline corridor would travel through untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples, through the Mississippi River headwaters to the shore of Lake Superior. Line 3 would contribute more to climate change than Minnesota’s entire economy.[1]

Also, now, the city of Minneapolis has stated their intention to remove the barricades at George Floyd Square. Residents of the area have maintained this intersection as a place of protest, a visible symbol of the urgent need for deep, systemic change. These neighbors have published a list of 24 separate, concrete demands for justice. At the conclusion of their document, they say:

As the city meets our demands for justice, the barricades can be negotiated for removal. If action is not taken by the City to meet our demands for justice, members of the community that live in the George Floyd Square Zone are prepared to maintain street barricades and take the protest of 38th Street East and Chicago Avenue South into the heart of every significant neighborhood that is unbothered by the death of George Floyd or the spirit of anti-blackness involved in his death and that of many others.[2]

And, finally, now, we are in the process of evicting neighbors from the only homes they have. This week, the Minneapolis park police cleared encampments at Elliot, Kenwood and Powderhorn parks. The fact is, people are sleeping outside all over our city—sometimes, around our church building. A neighboring congregation has its own mini-encampment. No doubt, this is an uncomfortable and unsustainable situation for everyone involved. People’s belongings are strewn everywhere. Bushes and doorways are being used as bathrooms. Addiction and mental health concerns are going unaddressed. Crime is happening. A lack of hygiene and physical distancing is a huge public health concern.

This morning’s passage from Romans continues the discussion about love, specifically the sort of love we are called to embody as people made new in Christ. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” As I said last week, Paul isn’t primarily talking about feelings of love. This is love as a verb, love revealed through our actions that show respect and care for self and neighbor. As Paul puts it, this love “fulfills the law.” Or, to say it another way, it meets the demands of justice. Then Paul seems to switch subjects suddenly: “Besides, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” At first, I thought these two parts of the passage were disjointed, unrelated. Eventually I realized that love and urgency are absolutely connected.

In April of 1967, Dr. King spoke about the Vietnam War at Riverside Church. He uttered these words:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.[3]

Friends, love that lacks a sense of urgency is not really love. Love calls us to act now, to respond to the demands of justice now. We cannot wait for a more convenient, comfortable moment. We cannot delay action until we are more prepared or informed. In a very real sense, “later” is another word for “never.” “Justice delayed is justice denied,” as Dr. King also said. There is still time to love ourselves and our neighbors, to live together sustainably, with justice, as members of earth’s community. The time is now to stop Line 3.Call the Governor and Lt. Governor at 651-201-3400 and urge them to direct the Department of Commerce to resubmit their appeal. The time is now to reimagine policing. Read and respond to the demands of the community members who are tending the George Floyd intersection. You can find them at this link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/12BMbbDb7iUs9YPxHbCfgNPPCaq0vPPWI/view?fbclid=IwAR1FV4mBY_giUvBLo0Thnn3irBLjBOx-ER5NEqXApQSKCpGEqkWJhO9sybI. And the time is now, at the city, county and state level to raise the revenue we need to provide homes for everyone.

As the call went out this week to take action to stop Line 3, I remembered the trip I made with other clergy to the Standing Rock camp. It was usually warm for November. The dry green-brown hills glowed in the late fall sun. We were there, as clergy people, in answer to a summons from a local Episcopal priest. He called us together to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, the edict of the church that declared the divine right of European settlers to take the land, kill the land’s inhabitants, and destroy their way of life. In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted this doctrine into law.

As we arrived at camp, at dawn on the day of repudiation, we were invited to participate in a water ceremony. People came forward one at a time. The leader poured water from a silver pitcher into our hands. As the ritual proceeded, we sang: “Water heal my body. Water heal my soul. When I go down, down to the water, I feel whole.” Later that morning, we burned paper with the words of the Doctrine of Discovery printed on it. But it was the simple reverence of the water ceremony that felt to me like a fresh invitation to set my mind, body and spirit free from the shackles of colonialism, from the prison of white supremacy. The ceremony is about recognizing our kinship with the waters, and thus with all creation. This ritual speaks out of a culture that believes in the personhood of water, that believes that water has its own rights and responsibilities. Indigenous cultures teach us to view water as one of the neighbors Paul was talking about when he said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And “love does no wrong to a neighbor.”

I’ve been reading The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. This book is about a resolution introduced in the US House in 1953. The bill used the language of “emancipation” to describe a process of erasing tribes and canceling treaties. The main character in the book, Thomas, is based on Erdrich’s grandfather, the tribal chairman at the time, who fought against this bill. Erdrich describes how Thomas muses over the meaning of this legislation:

E-man-ci-pation. Eman-cipation. This word would not stop banging around in his head. Emancipated. But they were not enslaved. Freed from being Indians was the idea. Emancipated from their land. Freed from the treaties that Thomas’ father and grandfather had signed and that were promised to last forever. So as usual, by getting rid of us, the Indian problem would be solved. Overnight the tribal chairman job had turned into a struggle to remain a problem. To not be solved.” (pp. 79–80)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Paul was speaking to people whose lives were defined by hierarchies of obligation. The small and weak owed the powerful their very lives. And the powerful owed no one anything. Our government’s attempt to terminate native nations echoes in my soul as I consider all the ways the powerful continue to dominate our common agenda in these days. Sovereign nations have said a clear “no” to Line 3. Neighbors of 38th and Chicago have declared they are not finished with their protest. And those living in tents have no place else to go. And yet the powerful continue to believe they have the right to build pipelines, to open streets, and to bulldoze camps. All of us are part of a system that drives us to view those experiencing oppression as a problem to be solved, as a mess to be swept out of sight. Those of us who are used to feeling secure with the way things are, are conditioned to deal with the discomfort and fear of times like these by suppressing dissenting voices and attempting to erase their lives.

Paul, instead, pushes us boldly toward an entirely different way of being. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” he commands, using the same verb that refers to putting on clothes. I imagine this Christ-clothing to be an external garment that reminds us who we really are on the inside. This clothing protects and equips us for the adventure of acting with the urgency of love. It frees us from our perfectionism and our fears. It empowers us to move ahead even when we don’t feel ready, to try something new before we understand all the implications. This clothing of love de-centers whiteness. It decolonizes us, body, mind and spirit and opens our hearts to the joy of diverse voices and stories.

Paul invites us to build a community of love—love as a mutual obligation to do what is good for each other, and love as a common commitment to fulfill the demands of justice. The time is now, Paul tells us, to welcome seismic shifts in power and resources. The time is now to change our view of who we are and how we are related. The time is now to wake up and dream. Amen.

[1] (https://www.stopline3.org/#intro)

[2] https://drive.google.com/file/d/12BMbbDb7iUs9YPxHbCfgNPPCaq0vPPWI/view?fbclid=IwAR1FV 4mBY_giUvBLo0Thnn3irBLjBOx-ER5NEqXApQSKCpGEqkWJhO9sybI

[3] http://inside.sfuhs.org/dept/history/US_History_reader/Chapter14/MLKriverside.htm