Many of us recognize the acknowledgement of Indigenous land in the schools and other public spheres has become a political one, but we must ask, "How are we to respond as followers of Jesus? Is it best to just ignore what is happening or is there a way we can demonstrate a different posture, one that reaches for more in our journey of reconciliation together, praying for and blessing the flourishing of the indigenous people of Canada?"
Many of us in the Canadian Vineyard believe this is an important way to integrate the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer and speaking blessing, an open door that could have significant spiritual impact throughout our regions. One way we have found to do this at Strathcona Vineyard is to give glory and thanks to God our Creator for this land, as a posture of worship, recognising we are blessed to worship together on traditional lands of the First Nations who share the land with us. And then we bless the First Nations people in our area to flourish in our journey of reconciliation. This is something we have done for a number of years at our Sunday gatherings before we begin worship and it has borne much fruit!
As a movement committed to growing in ethnic and cultural diversity having a heart posture exemplified in blessing and prayer for First Nations people will inevitably have a significant impact spiritually in Canada. Additionally, over the years at Strathcona Vineyard as we have been praying this way we've also seen our diversity increase!
Our primary texts for this kind of posture and prayer has been Luke 10:27, where we hear Jesus' call, "...to love the Lord God with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself." Our practice, which is rooted in this text, is to give glory, worship and thanks to God for all He has made and let our acknowledgement of our Indigenous neighbours be an act of love. Later in Luke's gospel, Jesus is asked, "Who is my neighbour?", and he goes on to tell the story of a Samaritan. His Jewish audience would have expected him to hinge the story saying, "...but a devout Jewish man", when instead he completely jarred them by saying, "...but a Samaritan". Again, Jesus turned upside down their understanding of his kingdom – confronting their hearts by making the most marginalized person, the Samaritan, the hero rescuing someone devout Jewish religious leaders had chosen to ignore. Jesus revealed his active lifegiving presence coming not just to marginalized people, but through them. We also must pay attention to this call to neighbour love and welcome the work of the Holy Spirit through our most marginalized neighbours. Many people in the Church in Canada have recognized the stigmatization of Indigenous people bears great correlation to the Samaritans in the New Testament. As such, we must ask if blessing them and making room for them in our churches in new ways could be a significant way the Holy Spirit will work great transformational healing in our nation, and that such a move of God could come through Indigenous people.
The journey of reconciliation is not a one-time event but must be kept in the heart and prayers of all people. Churches have been trying to find ways to acknowledge the journey of healing we are on as a nation - this is why a number of churches have reached out to us at Strathcona Vineyard, because they've seen and heard a different posture and practice in our welcome of Indigenous people. Our focus at Strathcona Vineyard is not to ignore the plight of refugees or other people who stand in the margins but it is to acknowledge, as followers of Jesus, we are committed to remembering and blessing our Indigenous 'neighbours' who are amongst the most marginalised people in Canada and still suffering the fall out of residential schools and other very significant trauma.
A number of years ago I had a picture at the annual worship and prayer summit in Edmonton. I heard the sound of an Indigenous drum and I saw a group of Jesus followers begin to emerge from a valley. At the front of this growing group of people of various ethnicities was a group of Indigenous worship leaders, drumming and singing in worship to God. I felt that this picture was for our Canadian Vineyard movement. It is an image God has continued to remind me of as I try and create space for those who are very different from me. We've made many mistakes and often get it wrong, but we are committed to finding a way through together, watching for the life of the Holy Spirit emerging among us.