Happy October, Presbyterian Women. I hope your fall is going well. I'll be seeing some of you in Arizona later this year! Today is World Communion Sunday, October 2. What better day for us to think together about the third beatitude!
In the third beatitude, Jesus says that "the meek shall inherit the earth." (Mat 5:5). As you now know from the study, Jesus is quoting Psalm 37, a psalm that challenges those who oppress the "meek" or the "humbled" as I have translated it. According to the Psalmist, these oppressors are wicked and wrongdoers (37:1 ff.) What makes them wicked? They plot and scorn, draw the sword and bend the bow, borrow and do not pay back, kill and oppress. By contrast, the meek are connected with those who are poor, who are oppressed, who are the target of those the Psalmist calls "wicked." It is for this reason, I have called them "humbled" and not "humble." Their humility-- or rather their humiliation -- is not a function of their piety but of what others have done and continue to do to them.
Psalm 37, like many of the Psalms, invokes a day when injustice shall cease and when those who have been the victims of injustice shall be vindicated. It holds up the hope that oppression will not be the ultimate victor, but that justice and just relationships between people will be the reality in God's holy reign.
Questions of justice are particularly poignant to me right now. Between Saturday September 24th and Thursday September 29th, I was part of a PCUSA delegation to the Caribbean and North American Area Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. There we gathered with congregational and Reformed churches from all over the region including Canada, the US, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Cuba. We met in the Dominican Republic to pray and talk together about our ministry together as a region. The basis for our justice work was the Accra Confession that starts on page 79 of your Bible studies.
There are many issues of justice for the economy and the earth in the Caribbean and North American context, but we paid special attention to those in the Dominican Republic. One of the most poignant cases was that of the Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic. Many of these women and men cross the border in the island of Hispaniola to work in the sugar-cane fields that supply much of the sugar in North America. These Haitian workers, who come from the western side of the island of Hispaniola, are treated as undocumented farmworkers on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola; Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on one island. As a result, these farmworkers, who do the backbreaking work of harvesting sugar cane for our western sweet tooth, are not citizens of the Dominican Republic and are not protected by its laws. Even more poignant are their children who are born in the Dominincan Republic. Since 2010, the constitution of the Dominican Republic doesn't allow these native-born children the status of citizenship. As a result, they don't have access to education or other government benefits.
Churches like the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana and community organizations like MUDHA, El Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitienne (the movement of Dominican/Haitian Mothers), try to address these humilations by providing basic elementary education.
I did not take many pictures of the children, but here is a video of them singing . The chorus means "I was born here."
The questions that we faced as an area council were: what does it mean to be the church together in this region? How can we support one another? What does the call to do justice look like and how do we read it? What does economic justice look like, not only in the Dominican Republic but in the whole Caribbean and North American region? What does ecological justice look like? What does justice look like for the most vulnerable in the society, the women and the children? What is our call as the church in this world at this time?
There are no easy answers to these questions. However, if we are disciples of Christ Jesus, then he calls us to think, to pray and to act in ways that honor those who are humbled: those who face oppression, injustice or death from others who are more powerful than they. For, says Jesus, they will inherit the earth.
Enjoy the fall weather that is even cooling down hot Atlanta!
Grace and peace,