Im going to Graceland
Poorboys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to graceland
My traveling companion is nine years old
He is the child of my first marriage
But I've reason to believe
We both will be received
Paul Simon says that this is the best song he has ever written which is saying a lot. My son, Josh, got me a DVD about the Graceland CD that I recommend. It talks about South Africa at the time, how some felt that Paul Simon was exploiting the racial discrimination there and so on and so on. Simon hopes that the music may have contributed in some way to the positive changes that have occurred there over the past 25 years.
But as I was listening to Simon talk about Graceland, and the lyrics were swirling in my head, a connection was made for me. Graceland was apparently named after a woman named Grace, but Simon saw a different connection in the name perhaps related to a future for South Africa. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the leadership of Nelson Mandella and Bishop Desmond Tutu in so many ways made the name Graceland a truly fitting name for a country fighting to shed itself of racism, using the incredibly powerful weapon of grace. I shake my head in amazement and disbelief every time I read or think about the grace shown largely by the black leadership of that country. The awesome power of God's forgiveness was and is on display in South Africa. It is a lesson for the generations.
The church should be known as Graceland. That song title and some of the lyrics could be or should be how the church is known. "Poor boys, and pilgrims with families" are the people the church should be reaching out to. People who have been broken "my traveling companion is 9 years old, he's the child of my first marriage"
independent of who they are. I think about people with disabilities. When we think of the Christian church, we should be thinking, "But I've a reason to believe we both will be received in Graceland." Wow, can you imagine people on a pilgrimage, people who are disability imigrants, traveling to a Christian church thinking 'I have a reason to believe that I will be received.' I can imagine people who feel like imigrants feeling like they are coming home when they come to the church.
But we have much to do to be a place where people will have a reason to believe that they will be received. It begins, I think, with a decision that we want people with all types of disabilities in our churches. If I decide that I want you, the rest becomes pretty much just logistics in terms of how do we make adjustments, make changes, do whatever is necessary in order for you to be welcomed. If I as a beginning point do not want you, I will communicate that in my practices. I will communicate that you are "putting me out" with your presence which I think is how many churches make people with disabilities and their families feel. Yes there are those who literally say, "Go somewhere else." But perhaps more often, we blurt out in exasperation, "All right, I'll try to figure out how to make a place for you" said with the expectation of great appreciation being the response on the part of the people with disabilities and their families.
But that is not Graceland.
When people come to our group, I try really hard to communicate that any changes that we may need to make to include them are, will be, or were easy, were effortless, independent of how difficult they may have been. We do that because that is what grace is.
Think about your salvation, Christian. All you had to do was to say, I am guilty of sin, and I look to Jesus for my salvation...I believe. What a comparatively easy thing for you to do. Why is it such? God may make it appear effortless on your part, however, think of the work Jesus needed to do for it to be "effortless" for you. I wonder about Christians who are unwilling to dispense grace to others. Are they not aware of the extreme grace that they have received? Jesus talked about this in Luke 7:36-44. If we understand that we have been shown so much grace, why can't we show a little more grace to others, others desperately in need of grace? I want the church to follow that example in the enfolding of all types of people. Follow the example of God, in that I am willing to do what it takes to make you a part of the Body of Christ. Come to this place known for grace in its fellowship, because it reflects the grace of God that all in the fellowship enjoy.