In Lent

40 Day Journey with Our Neighbors in Solidarity

Week 5: First Nations – ELCA Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery
Written By: Rev. Jonathan Steiner, Director for Evangelical Mission and Associate to the Bishop

John 9:1-7
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

9:1 As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Too often, I am blind to what goes on around me. As a young white man, I have inherited so many things that I see as blessings, but are things that have come at the expense of others. I was born blind to the pain of others.

Although Jesus says that neither the man nor the parents sinned in this story, we know that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I, and those who came before me, are sinners. The land that I live on was taken, forcibly and illegally, from the indigenous people who lived here already.  That is a hard truth for me to wrestle with.

In 2016, the ELCA (our national church body) passed a resolution, Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.  Essentially, we said that colonialism, the act of claiming what already belongs to others, is something for us to confront and stand against. While I have been proud to be part of a church that took this stance, I am often also blind to the current and ongoing injustice.

Vance Blackfox of the Cherokee nation and a leader in the ELCA, has also pointed out that the process of working for justice is not always lived out by the church. In closing an article about the ELCA statement, Vance wonders, “so, is the church willing to face the pain and hard work with us? We pray so. Lord in your mercy.”  (

As Christ opens my eyes to the reality of the world, to the things that I have inherited and been a part of myself, I am also commanded to “Go.” Simply seeing is not enough.  Being washed in the waters, I am called to now act. Through the waters of Baptism, the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin, but sends me out with new life to change the world.  

Will I face the pain and hard work with my indigenous siblings? I pray so. Lord, in your mercy.

  • What are things in your life that you have been blind to?
  • How has God opened your eyes to the world around you?
  • How have the waters of Baptism cleansed you?
  • How will you live out your faith with our indigenous neighbors?