Sunday Reflection: Finding Place

The recording of today’s service will post here later today. You are welcome to offer an offering to the church using the “donate” page above.

Tomorrow is Indigenous People’s Day.  There is so much we could reflect on with that topic.  For the moment, let us honor those who are indigenous to this place.  

If you haven’t heard of it, or haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book Braiding Sweetgrass.  It’s a book of essays, so you don’t have to read it in one sitting and has a wide range of accessibility.  Robin Kimmerer is a scientist (botany) and a Native American.  She writes about finding place and connecting in the world and to nature.  She talks about some of the things we have to overcome, but she does it in a way that is open and welcoming, thoughtful, and despite the topic(s), it’s not full of doom and gloom.  

She talks a lot about give and take.  Reciprocity and love. That’s it.  There’s your book teaser for the week.  

Indigenousness.  Finding place in the world.  Setting down roots.  It’s been coming up a lot lately.  Maybe for you as well.  Maybe as we’re spending more time at home, we’re thinking more about roots and what that means.  

I was given an assignment recently.  Two, actually.  The first asked: who is indigenous to the land I call home?  I had a decent idea, but I was surprised that I didn’t have the answer.  I didn’t know who exactly was indigenous to this place.  You would think I would have looked something like that up years ago.  

The second question was: where am I indigenous to?  I couldn’t fully answer that either.  I have some idea of my heritage, but I didn’t have a full and clear picture for myself, especially centuries back.  The question dug deep when it asked where would you have lived when your people were more tribal, not just where did they live before they got on the ship that brought us here?  Where did your ancestors live during, say, the Roman Occupation of Europe?  The centuries around Jesus’s time.  

Where would my people have lived during the time of Jesus?  That also brought up, who would my people have been worshipping during the time of Jesus?  That wasn’t one of the questions, but of course, it became on of mine.  

It was a really interesting assignment.  Maybe you’ll decide to take up the assignment yourself.  Maybe you already know.  

Roots.  Home.  Lands.  People.  

There’s a quote, I’m pretty sure it’s from Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, that says when we stepped off the boats onto America, we kept one foot on the land we left behind.  The theory on this is that this straddling place keeps us from fully coming “home”.  We continue to feel uprooted and unsettled.  Not fully here, but no longer there.  Displaced.  

I remember moving back to New England and how deep the ties seemed.  I remember the joke that you’re not actually local until you’ve lived here for at least fifty years.  I was lucky to be grandfathered in to place.  

Roots.  Home.  Land.  People.  

I think in many ways this is The Human Story.  Where do I belong?  What land belongs to me (or what land do I belong to)?  Who are my people?  What is my place?  These are the big questions.  Universal.  

You can see it all over the Old Testament…the Hebrew Scriptures.  All the way back to Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden.  Losing place and searching for place, roots, home.  Safety.  

We’re still very much seeking safety. 

In many ways, we’re feeling more disconnected and uprooted than ever.  Do you know your own indigenous roots?  Have you thought about it?  Where are your roots?  And are your roots your roots?  Do they feel like home and comfort and safe?

Roots.  Finding place is universal.  Finding home.  Maybe especially as Americans; America being such a young nation.  Think about it, at what point are we just American?  I remember being asked where I was from as a kid and to be stubborn, and feeling very mutt-like, I would say: “American”.  “No, really, where are you from?”  “America.” I could feel my roots trying to take hold here and yet feeling unmoored when those questions came up. As adult, I can guess the questioner too was sorting out place and home and people. Identity.  

When are we American vs. Irish American, Italian American, Native American, African American, Mutt American…?  And it is good to become only American?  I certainly don’t have that answer…

It seems very true that we have one foot here in America and one, or many, foot(feet) somewhere else.  

No wonder, perhaps, that we feel so uprooted.  We’re struggling to find “place” in the world. Physical place and our place.  Maybe roots are important.  Are we rooted?  

Maybe that’s a root (yes, pun intended) part of a bigger problem.  When we don’t feel part of a place, we don’t have the connection that makes us desire to protect it or the people on it.  We may feel a big national pride, but do we protect the small places that make up the big?  Do we make our communities better (or run away to a better place instead)?  Do we take care of our land and place?   

Indigenous.  The story is to get home.  Back to the Garden.  What if the Garden is right here?  Here in this place?  And here in our hearts?  Stories have power. Maybe we need to get out of the story that we have some place to get to and stay right here.  

Faith and religion.  I think that is also a part of our roots and our place.  They create places of comfort and connection.  Places of people.  “Your” people. You know, even if you don’t go to church, that there is worship happening.  That’s comforting. 

Yes, I am one of the first to say you don’t need a church to worship, and yet I DO believe that church buildings ARE important.  There’s something deeply sad and tragic when a church building closes or is destroyed.  I was on the top of Mount Tom this past week and looking down, there is something comforting and affirming about all those steeples rising up above the towns.  When they are gone…that deeply saddens me. It’s not just place, but home and roots.  Heritage and history.  

And faith.  Faith even without a building.   

I took a class late last year. It was a yoga based workshop, but offered with Christian scripture and theory.  I sat in the class and did a lot of listening. What I took away from taking that class was how uprooted people are.  Many had found yoga (and other disciplines) in seeking to get back to spirituality and Grace, when for whatever their reasons they had lost faith in Christianity.  

But something was missing.  These people were quietly trying to get back to their roots.  And, for many of them, that root was in Christ.  They loved the other spiritual disciplines, but it wasn’t fully “home”.  And yet, they no longer felt fully home in the church.  There was something magical about watching their relief, as if coming home for the first time after many many years, when they felt that that they could bring Christianity back into their lives.  That they weren’t alone.  It was powerful to watch.  

People are seeking a place to call home.  People are seeking their roots.  Where are you seeking?  Where are you indigenous to?  Maybe it’s in Faith.  Maybe it’s in place.  Maybe it’s in community.  Maybe it’s all of these things and more.  Maybe you are a constant Seeker.

I feel blessed that we are rooted in place, history, community, land, and faith together.  We may feel it and express it in different ways, and yet still these ties that bind connect us and keep up safe.  We may still feel a little unmoored and unrooted and unsafe at times, but we are rooted in home with one another.  And we welcome and become a Haven to those who are seeking a place of comfort on their journey of finding place, roots, and Grace.

May we remember all that we have to be grateful for.  May we remember where we call home and may we allow the roots to deepen so that we may be protected and protect.  Reciprocity of place.  

Blessings and Love.

Closing Blessing (remain standing): BLK 851 (Lakota)

My spirit is one with you, Great Spirit.  You strengthen me day and night to share my very best with my brothers and sisters.  You, whom my people see in all of creation and in all people, show your love for us.  Help me to know, like the soaring eagle, the heights of knowledge.  From the Four Directions, fill me with the four virtues of fortitude, generosity, respect, and wisdom; so that I will help my people walk in the path of understanding and peace.  Amen.  

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