Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’
Tim Merrill Camden, NJ
I’m told there is no utility in my delusions but yet I choose to imagine, envisioning a world of fellowship and joy. In this, my alternate global reality, wooden ships are ushered through placid seaways as steady breezes push against their ample sails, all adorned with the sacred symbol of the cross. Upon spotting lush islands and enchanting coastlines, the wayfarers disembark, Bibles in hand, and begin to work through their Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and English tongues to somehow communicate warm expressions of greetings to new found friends, who attempt their own Taino, Arawak, Carib, Fulani, Akan, and Hausa greetings.
My world is filled with robust conversations, replete with beautiful answers and more beautiful questions. Neither the travelers nor those greeting them on the shores are color blind. They are art lovers who celebrate the highest aesthetic expression, found in the polychromatic face of God as it reflects in the diverse features of this newly constituted family. Filled with investments of wonder in each other, they trade stories of adventure, share tips on agriculture and engineering, and develop strategies to maximize the strength of their new relationships, forged in the depths of God’s great and abundant creation.
Here, there is no concept of land grabs, no possibility of 150 million murders of indigenous peoples, no thought of countless African bodies floating in the cruel waves of the Atlantic. There would be no Middle Passage, no Trail of Tears, no need for reservations or Emancipation Proclamations, and colonialism is too cursed a word to even be conceived or mentioned. In my fanciful world, there is no competition for resources, or need for rivalry, and there is no fear. There is no mocking of the cross by those who most ardently claim it.
Of course, history mocks my grand illusion. Contrary to my dreams, the legacies and sustained practices of genocide, slavery, and colonialism continue to reshape divine opportunities for fellowship into psychotic escapades of conquest and domination. Like our ancient tenant farming ancestors in today’s Gospel reading, we remain oblivious to the splendors of God’s creative doctrine, which compels him to always provide enough for everyone. Like the Conquistadors, slaveowners, and colonizers, the chief sin of the farmers in Jesus’ parable is found in their failure to steward, expand, and engage in the mutual sharing of God’s gift of imagination; instead, they give quarter to the murderous psychosis of fear. Imagine the varieties of wine and the marketing strategies that could have emerged from the fellowship of tenant and landlord if only the meetings between them were bathed in the language of glad tidings of great joy.
The failure to imagine the continually accruing benefits of fellowship and celebration in the midst of God’s abundance not only disappoints the imagination but also pushes the human mind toward terror or psychotic violence. Consider the irrationality of these tenants, who murder the landlord’s son and seem to anticipate no repercussions. In like manner, instead of considering the culinary splendors of meat joining vegetables in a joyous stew, Cain killed Able. And humanity continues with Columbus killing and enslaving the Tainos instead of working with them to build a vibrantly cooperative Trans-Atlantic golden age. Slaveholders, instead of kidnapping and terrorizing Angolan blacksmiths, could have partnered with them to redefine the use of iron. 20th century Germany could have partnered with European neighbors to create a shining beacon of Western culture and prosperity instead of elevating atrocity to new heights.
Yes, my illusion seems to underplay the messiness of moving beyond imagination and actually pursuing fellowship. But, looking at the alternatives and the repercussions expressed in the blood of millions, I still choose to dream. I am called in my dream to honor the manner in which Jesus creatively comes to our life’s shores with tidings of great joy and peace, offering a most special opportunity for fellowship. Be it through the Christmas angel or just by showing up in the moments of our hiding, he brings the good news of sufficiency and abundance. This assurance of resource and supply should serve to liberate us from the path of rivalry, competition and psychotic violence and move us to cooperation, partnership and fascinating collaborations where together we enjoy the new wine of God’s lush vineyards.
Tim Merrill Street Psalms Fellow
Founder and DirectorDirector | Watu Moja Camden, USA