Indigenous Ministries

The Journey – Wintertalk Sermon by Cornelia Eaton

January 31, 2015
Indigenous Ministries

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen
Psalm 19:14

Ya’ah’teeh:
From the Universal Sky, through me, to you, I greet you in the name of the Holy Ones.

First I would like to introduce myself. I’m Cornelia Eaton from Navajoland Area Mission. I am of the Salt Clan People (Maternal Clan), born for my father’s clan, the Mud Clan People. My paternal grandfathers are the Mexican Clan People and my maternal grandfathers are the Red Bottom Clan People.

I’m a mother to two teenagers, a wife, a daughter, a niece, an auntie, and a grandmother—to my late brother’s grandchildren, and a friend to many.

I’m also a postulant for Holy Orders, a student of my elders, medicine elders, my bishop, and currently working toward a Master of Divinity degree at Vancouver School of Theology/ Native Ministries Program.

I was raised on the Navajo Reservation and continue my life with my family on my childhood stomping grounds. My late father Yazzie Mason was a deacon in the church. And my mother Alice Mason, who sends her greetings, is a lay pastor of 40 years. She says she is retired but that’s not really true as she continues at her own will to continue to serve the church.

I’m grateful to be here among relatives and friends. I am honored and humbled to stand here before you in this sacred place.

The other day, I asked my daughter, “What was one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous sayings?” My daughter is straight forward person most of the time and sometimes responds with a one liner or with one word. And her reply was, “Dream.”
I stood there waiting for more words to come from her, but that was it.

I asked her this question because for the years I have attended many Winter Talk gatherings, all began here for me. And for some of us who are here as well. Winter Talk always had been held on the weekend of Martin Luther King holiday and so my thinking took me to Martin Luther King. What was interesting is that the next day, at work, I received a text message that read, “President’s Day weekend.”

Since today is President’s Day, and thanks for the President’s Day reminder, I could have been totally off with my sermon this morning, however, I believe Martin Luther King would have told us continually, on any given day, to “Dream.”
And so,

The gospel speaks to me in this way and this is what I would like to share with you:

We are on a journey.

“I am the true vine and my father is the vinedresser.” This journey involves faith and hope toward healing and transformation surrounding our histories, ourselves, and our communities.

Recently, Navajoland’s aspirants and postulants traveled to Hweeldi’—the “Place of Suffering”—also known as the “Long Walk.” Hweedi’ is located in Fort Sumner near the eastern borderline of New Mexico and Texas located hundreds of miles from Navajoland. In 1864 the Navajo were rounded up by United States Military and marched to the “Place of Suffering.” Many did not make the journey there or even back to our homeland.

Navajoland aspirants and postulants retreats happen at least 3-4 times a year and this trip to Hweeldi’ was one in the planning for some time. It was important for the aspirants and postulants to go back there so that we as a people continue with the healing journey from such trauma. The majority of folks who went had not been to Hweeldi’ and to set foot on the grounds where many of our Dine’ ancestors died from hardships in the hands of the U.S. Calvary. Their visit made a huge impact in their lives as they became aware of the intergenerational trauma which began from the “Place of Suffering.”

At Hweeldi’, there are a few trees and brushes, no rivers, no canyons or mesas, no mountains, no sheep, which are all essences to the Navajo way of life. They are our songs and prayers as we walk in the beauty way.

A few years ago my mother and I visited Hweedi’ as well as we were on our way home from Texas. I remember my mother’s words as she shook her head in shock at what she saw. In her native tongue she said, “Oh my God, how could we have ever survived this place. Our ancestors must have been very strong in their faith and prayers to survive.” My mother was speechless after those words. She shed quiet tears and then offered corn pollen into the wind as her offering of Hozho’ to the “Place of Suffering.”

Going back to such places begin the healing processes. It helps us to connect to our inner crystal, the essence of our being.

You see, one of our Navajo winter stories of discipline, printed in Leading the Way, the center crystal was placed in our hearts. The People were debating where life’s answers could be found. They debated perhaps the crystal could be placed in the canyons, under a rock, in a tree?

But then Coyote comes along and hears the conversation. Coyote grabs the crystal and the People are in shock. Coyote says to the People, “I know where to place this crystal so that you don’t have to search FAR for your answers.” He raises the crystal and places it in the hearts of people, and concluded, “There, problem solved.”

Coyote, surprisingly did some things right, perhaps to challenge us and to be aware of our inner crystal.

Elders say that going to the very center of our being is essential. In my Navajo tradition there is a ceremony called the “Deer Way” which is a ceremony that leads a patient back to harmony with the Universal self and the Cosmos. A deer hoof print ceremony is created on fine sand in a Ceremonial Hogan. While the patient journeys, the medicine elder chants the patient into the footsteps of the sacred deer, a journey to home—to their identity. Like these repeated rituals, we travel back to the first emergence, to the hiddenness of God, to the “Supra-Natural” where “It has always been.” The place where in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word is God.

In the same way, we journey again and again with Christ in God. Just as with each of your respected cultures and traditions, you each have emergence stories that you carry. They lead you back to your ceremonies and prayers, to where “It all began.” Our ceremonies and prayers continue to dwell within us in Its faithfulness to this day. They never have left us.

God wants that for us. In His faithfulness He never abandons us on our journey, in our awareness of our histories, our healings, and our transformations. God wants us to be whole. This in itself can be a challenge for us, yet God assures us that through the Divine we will bear fruit. However, as individuals of faith we cannot do this alone, even as a community of faith we cannot do this alone. We need each other. As a people of ceremony, we are on our way of being and becoming by way of healing and transformation. God chants us into new branches as we discover the more within us.

This is a two way journey.

Not long ago, I sat and prayed with a medicine elder. We went to the canyons surrounded by sage, juniper and pinon trees. The aroma of medicine brushes and trees swirled all around us. It was there I sat facing a young juniper tree. It was a place where I set the four sacred mountain stones.

The medicine elder shared this story with me in Navajo:

“This juniper tree is like us. We will grow like it and with it. It knows, like you, what it needs. It has a being. It has medicine to offer in healing times. It depends on the Earth our mother to nurture it. It depends on the Sun. That is how it is sacred. If it needs pruning, it will “unlearn” something about itself, so that it can continue to grow again yet differently. This juniper tree yearns for ‘Long Life may I live. In Beauty may I Live.’ It does what it needs to help itself. As human beings, we will need to do the likewise.”

Abide in me, and I in you. Our journey is like so.

As you journey be reminded by these words:
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be with you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15: 11

Let us pray:

Gracious Creator, thank you for the Universal songs of peace which flows freely in our mind, body, and spirit. For they remind us that we are the prayers which you sing, of which we carry in our ancestral bloods. Chant in us songs of healing and hope for we are sacred beings of rituals, of divine mother, for they help us to listen to the gentle words of the Holy Ones. And as we journey together amid ceremonial prayers of beauty, for they whirl in our fingertips, we are of healing hands. May each of you be blessed in your journey, may you bear more fruit, and may you Dream anew with Christ in God, and of the Holy Spirit.

In Beauty it is finished. In Beauty it is finished.
Hozho’ , Hozho’

Amen.

Winter Talk St. Crispin’s
Wewoka, Oklahoma
February 18, 2013

Lamentations 1:1-7, 10-12, 16-17
Romans 3; 21-28
John 15:1-11

Contact:
The Rev. Bradley Hauff

Missioner for Indigenous Ministries