Service Title: Struggle & Lament: The Land is Not Ours to Possess
Speaker: Zachary White, Kairos Center
Scripture: I Kings 21
I hadn’t heard the story of Naboth’s Vineyard until I found a sermon by the fourth century church father Saint Ambrose of Milan last year. I shared it with the Freedom Church’s Wednesday Bible study, and now with Adam’s chapter 19 in We Cry Justice, our community is reading this ancient tale in light of the struggle of the Apache Stronghold to protect their sacred land Chíchʼil Bił Dagoteel or Oak Flat, in Arizona. “In these times, we must confront these systems that covet land and seek god-like power over life and death. And to do this we will need to continue to look for leadership in those places where the rejected live and fight.”
In I Kings, a man named Naboth is killed by a greedy king for refusing to sell the land of his ancestors. It is with a heavy heart that I reflect on this story from the land of the Lenape, hailing from the Chinook lands of the Lower Columbia River. Because we stand on the blood of those who, like Naboth, died protecting the land of their ancestors.
We stand on stolen land soaked in blood. God tells Cain, “The blood of your brother cries out to me from the ground.”
When we tell the story of what’s happening and who’s responsible I think we have to name at least three Arizona senators. One, John McCain, who defrauded this strip of land by deception, land protected by Eisenhower under the US Forest Service. McCain made the transfer in a last minute amendment to a 2014 defense authorization. Now astronaut Mark Kelly and Kristen Sinema represent the state of Arizona, as Resolution Copper runs on schedule to mine U.S. Forest Service land…Apache land for private profit.
What would Elijah say, to the rulers facilitating the sale of sacred ancestral Apache land to the devil of corporate greed? He would say what he said to King Ahab after he killed Naboth, You have sold yourself to do what is evil in God’s sight.
In our Wednesday bible study, Kris Olsen from West Virginia PPC said when she’s angry at those who don’t understand our movement to end poverty, she finds herself realizing it’s because they don’t know what it was like to experience what she experienced. They don’t know what it’s like to experience homelessness. These senators don’t know what it’s like to be taken from your land and killed. It’s a great offense to me, a settler, that when the United States in 2011 sent a Seal team to kill Osama bin Laden, they gave their target the codename “Geronimo”, equating a terrorist with the Apache medicine man and warrior, who fought bravely for the land of this people and died a prisoner of war of this country.
I want to read words Naelyn Pike of the Apache Stronghold shared last sunday. Quote: “We as native people today walk with a ball and chains that tell us we’re stuck on the reservation, that we can’t pray, that our culture is dead. But with the fight for Oak Flat and the Apache stronghold, our great weapon is prayer. To everyone today who’s listening, that’s what I ask of you: to pray for the fight, to pray for Oak Flat, and to pray that the congress will do the right thing and see our religion as equal.” Unquote
Praying is what poor and indigenous people across Arizona and beyond did today at the annual march and run at Oak Flat. They prayed with their feet as they moved, with their lungs as they breath air, and their voices as they cry justice.
As Apache Stronghold leader Wendsler Nosie says, “As it was with the beginning of our people, so we must defend all of humanity: with one prayer, one drum, and one circle.