“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, April 27, 2007

Disability Sunday 4/29/07

Here basically are the notes for comments I plan to make this Sunday at my church. We are celebrating our second Disability Awareness Sunday. I am sharing the pulpit with Pastor Mark Borwn, our great college pastor, an all around good guy. He will be talking about the story of Mephibosheth (check it our if you haven't read it before...use your concordance or look online). I will give a couple of brief parts of the larger sermon. Anyway, this is the gist of what I plan to say.

Viewing the disabled with dignity/Seeing people as like me
I have an impairment, I wear glasses. Without my glasses, I would not be permitted to drive a car, and many of you would look much better to me.

How many of you have some mental or physical impairment? We have got a lot of impaired people in here.

Impairments vary, and their seriousness to your life is a matter of degree. A matter of
-what it is
-when it occurred

But the impact on your life is much more related to how society perceives the impairment than it is to the actual impairment

For many of us, glasses have made our vision problems pretty much irrelevant to our lives. Yet we probably grew up with taunts of 4 eyes, or egghead, or were made to feel we were either not entirely a man, or an unattractive woman. These experiences are a simple example of how society dictates the experience of impairment. Now, if this is the experience with wearing glasses, imagine the experience of using a wheelchair, or being blind, or having cerebral palsy, or autism or mental retardation. People can do fine with these impairments if society will allow them to. People can do fine if the church will support them.

These types perceptions taught by society are the kind that make Mephibisheth, grandson of the King, refer to himself as a “dead dog” (1 Samuel 24:14)

We compare ourselves with others like children, “Who do you love the best?” “Who is your priority?” We judge people on the basis of their social skills. But God cuts us to the quick
-I love you all (Revelation 1:6)
-You are all created in my image (Genesis 1:26) We look in the mirror, that is obvious…but we look at the person with a disability and wonder
-Who made your mouth? (Exodus 4:11)
-My grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9)

One of my friends in the Light and Power class is a man named Eddie. When we are together, Eddie has complete access to me any time. As a result, just about every week, in the midst of our lesson, Eddie will come up to me, put his face forehead to forehead with mine and together we talk about hot dogs, or pizza or toys or Christmas. I stand there as a university professor with a Ph.D. from a prestigious university. Eddie stands there as a man who has experienced severe mental retardation all of his life. As we stand there together...
-We are both loved exactly the same by God
-We are both equally created in the image of God
-We were both made by God
-God’s grace is sufficient for us both.

In my mind, if I am uncomfortable with him, it is MY problem. I need to change to see him as God sees him.

The more time you spend with people with disabilities, the more you see them as the same as you.

Treating the disabled with dignity
In thinking through how we treat people with dignity, a good verse to reflect on is Micah 6:8. The verse says, "He has shown you, O man what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Micah 6:8
1. Do justice
Here is a quote from Paul Longmore's essay, "Why I burned my book." He states,

I-and most disabled Americans-have been exhorted that if we work hard and
"overcome" our disabilities, we can achieve our dreams. We have heard that
pledge repeatedly from counselors and educators and "experts," and from our
government too. We have seen it incarnated by disabled heroes on television,
those plucky "overcomers" who supposedly inspire us with their refusal to let
their disabilities limit them. We are instructed that if we too adopt that
indomitable spirit and a cheerful attitude, we can transcend our disabilities
and fulfill our dreams.
It is a lie. The truth is that the major obstacles
we must overcome are pervasive social prejudice, systematic segregation, and
institutionalized discrimination. Government social-service policies, in
particular, have forced millions of us to the margins of society.
The church has tremendous opportunities which have been laid before it to do justice and facilitate justice for persons with various disabilities. We need to work to part of the justice doers, not a contributor to the injustice.

2. Love mercy If mercy has been done to you, you will love mercy. If you love mercy, you should also do mercy. Matthew 25, tells you the kind of things that mercy does.

It gives a drink, or something to eat.
It provides clothing.
It visits those who are alone or invites strangers in.

These are not difficult things to do.

My son Josh has developed a friendship with a man named Mark. Although Josh lives in a different city, Mark always talks about Josh as his Chipotle buddy because they go to Chipotle together. Josh is able to take Mark out probably once a month or so. Yet Josh must be the topic of a third of Mark's conversation. Do you see how important such a small thing as taking somebody out for a burrito can be? The burritos are great, but it is the friendship, it is the nickname, it is knowing that you are thought about and remembered, it is the caring that comes with one meal a month that brightens the live of another human being.

People with disabilities often as a result of society's treatment of their impairments, live in poverty. They may be the poorest people in your church. Does the Bible encourage us to help the poor?

It is also a Biblical principle to do mercy particularly to those who cannot do mercy back to you.

Joni and Friends estimates that 95% of persons with disabilities are unchurched.

3. Walk humbly with God

Once again, God tells us that people with and without disabilities...
-are both loved the same by God
-are both equally created in the image of God
-were both made by God
-grace is sufficient for us both.

John 9:3-5 says,"

Neither this man or his parents sinned" said Jesus, "but this happened so that
the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do
the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work (NIV).

Jesus said this in response to his disciples asking about a blind man they encountered, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" The disciples were wondering who's sin caused the blindness. Merril C. Tenney, the Bible scholar wrote that this passage might be translated in a different way. Here is Tenney's translation.

Neither did this man sin, nor his parents" said Jesus. "But that the works of
God should be made manifest in him, we must work the works of him that sent me,
while it is still day; the night cometh when no man can work.

We show grace to people when we give them our time. We honor people when we give them our time. We say, "You are important to me."

Jean Vanier says valued people hardly have any time while devalued people have lots of time. We are God's hands in giving grace to people who need it through what we do with our time, although small.

We have generated a list of small things you might do to help a devalued person that is available outside at the table.

SMALL THINGS…But look again at Matthew 25, as apparently it is these small things that God appears particularly interested in.


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