About this time of year, many churches think about celebrating Disability Awareness Sunday. I am grateful for this, because there are many more that still do not. But I sat in church last Sunday thinking about the Scriptures they will choose. Invariably many will choose Mark 2:3-11, which is a lovely story about some devoted friends taking their paralyzed friend to see and hear Jesus.
It’s not that I have anything against this passage. The man is blessed to have such friends, who actually take their friend up on the flat roof, tear through the thatch, and lower him down to Jesus’ feet because they can’t get him in through the packed doorway. It’s a wonderful story of friendship and devotion.
But after a time I began to rebel and choose other stories, where people weren’t bringing those needing healing to Jesus, but Jesus was finding them, like the blind man in Luke 18:35. I thought it was important for Jesus to be looking for those in need of healing; don’t ask me why.
Last Sunday I had an epiphany. Why must we choose only scriptures talking about healing for Disability Awareness Sunday? Are we only acceptable in God’s eyes if we are healed, or seeking healing? What if we can’t be healed? Are we somehow less worthy, less important? I don’t think so.
What if we use Psalm 139 as a starting point:
“For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14
Fearfully and wonderfully made, indeed. The psalmist doesn’t say “unless my spine is crooked,” or “unless I can’t walk,” or “unless my mind is weak,” or “unless I can’t see or hear.” The psalmist says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are all wonders of God’s handiwork, just the way we are. Instead of focusing on how Jesus cured some blind and paralyzed and deaf and mentally ill people, perhaps we should focus on how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and we can all be incorporated into the kingdom of God.
Perhaps we can focus on tearing down the attitudinal as well as the physical barriers that exist in our churches. Maybe we can eliminate or rewrite some of the hymns with hurtful phrases and images. Perchance we can celebrate the Spirit in each other, lift each other up, love each other as Jesus commanded. And when we can do that, watch out! The Spirit will come pouring out those doors and into the world in a flood that cannot be contained. Oh, that it may be so!
Dear Creator God, You indeed have made us fearfully and wonderfully in your image. With your grace and your power, we can be instruments of your love in this world. Help us to be your ambassadors, and to bring people to you. In the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.