Bloom with Expansiveness: God's Values and God's Kindom
This week has been full. Certainly full of news, and I hope also full of rest and moments of joy for each of you. When we experience full weeks, it’s a delight to be able to lean into this community and process them together. All are welcome at our weekly Worship, weekly Bible Study and other monthly ministries as we lean into making sense of the world together.
One of many things making this week full has been the brutality against Haitian Migrants at our border in Texas. As our government took steps to keep emigrated Haitians safe from deportation, Haitian Migrants in Chilé and other South American countries took it as a sign of hope that they would be welcomed into the United States. As thousands of hopeful migrants arrived at the border and crossed, they were met with brutality as border patrol officers on horseback used their reigns as whips to corral them. These beloved children of God were met with hostility, greeted with violence, and treated as less than human.
These bodies faced viciousness that some of us foolishly believed to have been eradicated. We know this treatment is in opposition to God’s love and justice, and our scripture for this week speaks to it.
We encounter God’s vision of justice in this week’s scripture from the Gospel of Matthew. This week’s scripture brings with it a parable about what the Kindom of Heaven is like. Let’s read together with an ear for what this scripture may tell us about our pursuit of justice as we seek to realize God’s kindom on Earth.
1 “The kindom of heaven is like the owner of an estate who went out at dawn to hire workers for the vineyard. 2 After reaching an agreement with them for the usual daily wage, the owner sent them out to the vineyard.
3 “About mid-morning, the owner came out and saw others standing around the marketplace without work, 4 and said to them, ‘You go along to my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is fair.’ 5 At that they left.
“Around noon and again in the mid-afternoon, the owner came out and did the same. 6 Finally, going out late in the afternoon, the owner found still others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’
7 “‘No one has hired us,’ they replied.
“The owner said, ‘You go to my vineyard, too.’
8 “When evening came, the owner said to the overseer, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, but begin with the last group and end with the first.’ 9 When those hired late in the afternoon came up, they received a full day’s pay, 10 and when the first group appeared they assumed they would get more. Yet they all received the same daily wage.
11 “Thereupon they complained to the owner, 12 ‘This last group did only an hour’s work, but you’ve put them on the same basis as those who worked a full day in the scorching heat.’
13 “’My friends,’ said the owner to those who voiced this complaint, ‘I do you no injustice. You agreed on the usual wage, didn’t you? 14 Take your pay and go home. I intend to give this worker who was hired last the same pay as you.
15 “’I’m free to do as I please with my money, aren’t I? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “Thus the last will be first and the first will be last.”
[Matthew 20:1-16 (ILB)/ Mateo 20:1-16 (NVI)]
These labor hiring practices – all workers congregating and farmers coming to hire laborers from the selection – are still happening today in rural America. It is one of the common ways that migrant workers are hired. When people hire workers from these places, they pick the most desirable first - those whose bodies most closely resemble their ideal employee. In situations of employment, the ideal is the individual who looks most productive - the strong, the young, the able.
In our parable, the estate owner makes multiple hires throughout the day, hiring bodies that grow less and less likely to resemble their physiological ideal. Because of this, we can say with some certainty that those hired last are those whose bodies least resemble the cultural ideal.
The estate owner, whose decisions map out for us what justice looks like in the kindom of Heaven, pays those who are less desired – those who worked just one hour – the same amount they pay the strong, able individuals they hired at the beginning of the day. This is justice in the kindom of God.
This parable teaches us unequivocally that God values all bodies equally. Unlike our society which operates on white supremacist values and prioritizes the American-born, able, white, cis-gender, straight man, God does the reverse. God sees those least valued by a society, calls them, makes their burden lightest, and pays them first. This is justice in the kindom of God.
As made clear over the past week, America continues to devalue the immigrant body. Our policies and actions at our Southern Border as new migrants arrive reveal this. Instead of offering refuge, we refuse to welcome the stranger. As our society continues to locate a person’s value by their proximity to being a cis-het American white man, we continue to deny the justice of the kindom of God.
It is my prayer, Beloved, that we might break out of this system of valuing others and of valuing ourselves. May we see that all bodies are holy, needed, and welcome, and may this truth be known to our policy setters and to those living along the border.
In this full week, I hope your body has found time for rest.
Yours in Body and Spirit,
Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Last Sunday, our children’s ministries read and reflected on themes of forgiveness. At 10 AM, our older students read Matthew 18:21-35, then spoke about forgiveness and the grace of God. In our 10:30 group, we read “Forgiveness” in our Tiny Truths Wonder & Wisdom and spent time contemplating whether it’s easier to forgive after someone apologizes and changes. We decided that it is. We prayed, sang, and left with a prayer and blessing as always.
This Sunday, our older students will meet at 10 AM for fellowship and to read Matthew 20:1-16. We’ll talk about fairness, justice, and generosity. Then, at 10:30 AM, our younger children will read “The Prodigal Son” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We will discuss generosity and justice as well, then pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
May your week be filled with moments of rest and renewal.
(The illustration used here is from page179 of Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible)
Next month, trial begins against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups who organized the attack on Charlottesville. The Park is proud to partner with Integrity First for America -- the organization backing the brave Charlottesville community members in their lawsuit against the violent racists who invaded their city to spread violence and terror. The Rev. Kaji Douša will be speaking.
Join us on September 30 for a virtual rally in support of IFA's groundbreaking legal battle for justice and accountability.
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
– Leviticus 19:34
From the Bible’s instructions to present-day laws and walls, the status of the stranger—the immigrant—has been central to faith communities. What is the role of faith in caring for the strangers in our midst, and what have migrant communities taught us about how to have thriving ministries in today’s world? We’ll approach these questions from both academic and practical perspectives in this colloquium featuring short lectures from faculty and a panel discussion with those working with immigrants in our communities.
Presenters include: Dr. Joel Baden (Yale Divinity School), Rev. Dr. Joyce Mercer (Yale Divinity School), Dr. Grace Yukich (Quinnipiac University), Ashley Makar (IRIS), Rev. Kaji Douša (Park Avenue Christian Church), Rev. David Reed-Brown (First Baptist Church in New Haven), and Rev. Alan Gibbons (First Baptist Church in New Haven).
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.