Reconciliation and the River of Life
by Liv Larson Andrews
We pulled into the parking lot of a gas station along the Columbia River, passing by a stand selling Coke and fry bread. Ponderosa pines gave shade to picnic tables in an adjacent campground. It was a sunny, warm August day. Sunlight danced on the water as people swam. But we didn’t come there to fill up the car or swim in the river. We came to pray.
In Reconciling All Things, Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice propose that, “the first language of the church in a deeply broken world is not strategy, but prayer.” Reconciliation is both the goal and the means of the Christian life. We are called in baptism to join the risen Christ in the “ministry of reconciliation” as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians. And, the image of God’s reign on earth is of cosmic reconciliation, when everything is restored and all brokenness has been healed. Reconciliation is both the end of the road and the journey along it. While we yet await the fullness of Revelation 22 to break in upon our world, we work toward that vision as the baptized people. Our call is not to separate ourselves from the broken world and wait. We are sent back into the world as servants of the reconciling risen Christ.
My family added three pale faces to the crowd that journeyed to come together that day in August. Most others were Spokane, Colville, Yakima, and Okanagan tribespeople. A few members of the Lummi tribe from the Washington coast came. I was the only person in a clergy collar. A kind man asked if I had been in an accident (and so wearing a neck brace). I explained, but wondered later whether a more full and honest reply might have been to say yes, and confess my complicit involvement in the generations of “accidents” and intentional hurts waged on the tribal peoples of the Northwest. The particular brokenness that called together the prayerful group that day was the story of the river: pollution, poverty, degradation, and the disappearance of salmon.
Elders spoke of homeland and sacred sites flooded over by the building of the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. The Columbia River Treaty of 1964, signed by the United States and Canada, made no effort to consult tribes or first nation peoples. There were no provisions for the thousands of families made homeless, crop less and salmon less nearly overnight. Fish had provided 70 percent of food energy for several tribes. It has been close to impossible for these cultures and communities to recover. Their White neighbors often do not know that history, nor do they wish to hear it. Standing in the sun, I discover—or remember—how my story is tangled up in theirs.
The Rev. Liv Larson Andrews is the pastor of Salem Lutheran in Spokane, Wash. She lives with her husband and young son, and dreams of hosting a lectionary-based cooking show.
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