Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God may be compared to a wedding banquet…when the invited guests gave excuses the master said, ‘Go out at once…and bring in the poor, crippled, the blind and the lame….Go out…and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
"Does she really have to drive to work every day? It’s only a quarter of a mile!” I complained to a friend about Karen*, another staff member. I was six months into my year as a volunteer at Gould Farm. I was young and idealistic, and Gould Farm was just the place for me to learn about the radical inclusivity of the kingdom of God.
As a therapeutic community for adults with mental illness, Gould Farm provides medical and psychological support in a beautiful and peaceful setting. But community is the primary healing force at Gould Farm, where staff, their families and guests (those who come for treatment), work, eat and play together. Life at Gould Farm is counter to the broader culture that tends to stigmatize and isolate those with mental illness; for example, someone hearing voices is encouraged to sit next to the farm manager’s toddler at lunch. Central to the Gould Farm ethos is the belief that every person has something to contribute and is an integral part of the community, no matter what their struggles. That was (is) a core value I hold too.
So why did I struggle to believe that about Karen? As the work leader for the team that guests first joined when they came to Gould Farm, Karen worked with people when they were most symptomatic and disoriented. And Karen was just the right person for them: direct but gentle, no-nonsense but compassionate. So what if she wasn’t an earthy-crunchy environmentalist but instead drove when she could walk? She contributed something essential; her presence made our community whole.
The Kingdom of God is like a great banquet where the feast only improves as more and more people come in—all sorts of people, even those (especially those) we don’t think belong. Those with stigmatizing illnesses, those who drive short distances to work, even those who become judgmental in their idealism.
Prayer: Master of the banquet, keep pushing me to go out and invite others in, until your house may be full. Amen.
*Not her real name.