Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).
In my last hour at Wild Goose Festival 2017, I surveyed the crowd before the main stage from the Pub Tent where about ten other authors and I signed books. Young couples ate veggie tacos and shrimp po’ boys as children scampered about. A young woman with a nose ring and multiple tattoos wore a black sleeveless shirt with “queer” on her chest. A slightly bent, gray-haired, retired pastor walked the muddy path. A folk singer in a purple dress played her guitar, lilting a song with overtones of loneliness and hungering and thirsting.
Then I realized that in his parable of the wedding banquet (Luke 14:15-24), Jesus was not kidding. Someone invited all the right folks to a wedding banquet, but they begged off. One was busy developing newly purchased upscale real estate. Another just bought a fleet of Mercedes and BMW’s he was busy souping up and showing off. Another just got married and could not pull away from nesting. And so on.
So jilted by the haves, the father of the bride invited the have-nots, the unemployed, uninsured, arthritic, bipolar, transgendered, and every other have-not and outsider he could find. They gladly came of course. And there they were right before my eyes at the foot of the misty mountains and rushing waters of Hot Springs, NC.
Not all of us were poor or disadvantaged in the narrow sense. I had my professional job, house, and lovely wife awaiting me at the end of the trip home. Some stayed in nice campers and cabins, and others enjoyed more success as writers and artists than most of us. But all of us shared a hunger and thirst for right relationships, for beloved community, for a peace for which we are willing to risk conflict.
In the reign of God — Jesus’ favorite promise and theme — the people in the crowd at Wild Goose Festival 2017 were not last, but first. Sometimes I think that I travel those winding mountain roads every summer to hug and talk and listen and walk in the rain with them because I yearn for the company of people who really read the prophets and take them to heart. The prophets were not about predicting Armageddon or condemning people with minority sexual orientations. They were about loving God so radically that we eschew all idols and join God in loving everyone as children of God, especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the marginalized.
Rev. William Barber, founder of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina, spent a little time in jail on Thursday for trying to reach Mitch McConnell to discuss the needs of the poor left out in his health care plan. But on Friday morning at 8:30, Barber spoke to us, teaching the parallels between the injustices that Amos confronted in Israel and the ones we face in the U.S. And the judgment remains the same, the wrath of a loving God toward beloved people who neglect or abuse the beloved poor.
Amos offer his only real word of hope in his dream that a repentant nation would “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24). And again, I could see intimations of that hope there at the Goose where those muted in their churches find a voice, where those threatened by the current regime find embrace, where the broken-hearted privileged ones like me find the leadership we need from those who suffer oppression and rise up in faith, hope, and love.
Let me thank those who attended the interactive sessions I led on “Renew Your Contemplative Heart of Compassion” and on “Lost Dreams and New Storylines: An Exercise in Hope.” You affirmed my gift by receiving it, and you blessed me with your example. Let me thank those who taught me and moved me in the sessions I attended and the music I heard. But especially let me thank the folks at Wild Goose Festival 2017 who welcomed me and who treated me like a brother. You filled me with God’s righteousness for which I hunger and thirst.