Living & Growing: ‘The last shall be first and the first shall be last’

The Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Courtesy Photo)

The Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Courtesy Photo)

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

Jesus says something like this close to a dozen times, so that’s a signal to me as a preacher to pay attention.

I think he means it.

I invite the church to clearly state:

Black lives matter,

LGBTQ lives matter,

Native lives matter,

Women’s lives matter,

Disabled lives matter,

Refugee lives matter,

Poor lives matter.

The church needs to clearly state these lives matter not because they are noble or worth more, but because the state and church have historically and repeatedly deemed them as worth less.

It’s exhausting to reread the history of the Three-Fifths Compromise or the Dred Scott decision where a Supreme Court justice stated that Black people were of “an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race …(Black people) had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Church documents are equally as belittling and demeaning in their support of white, landowning men as the ones with authority and worth. I was going to pull out some historical documents, but reading what churches are saying right now became depressing so I stopped.

I know that some of you will be irritated and offended. I’m kind of sorry. I try to be nice. But …

The proclamation that the last shall be first isn’t any more popular now than it was during Jesus’ time.

It’s uncomfortable when you are the ones in first right now. We don’t need to make any proclamation that “White male lives matter” because the state and church have said that clearly for hundreds of years. You are loved; you do matter. There’s really never been any doubt about that so please breathe through the bubbling defensiveness and listen to some other voices for a bit.

Here’s the fun and wonderful news of God’s kingdom — it’s not a hierarchy.

The vision of God’s kingdom is communion, so first and last are absorbed in the circle of saints. We get to follow Jesus to the fringes, to those places where people feel discarded, and break bread together, listen, feel uncomfortable and learn to love. All of us do matter, but some need to hear it a little louder over all the voices saying they don’t.

• The Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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