We’re talking in worship about being outsiders. Each of us personally knows something about how hard that experience can be. Maybe you’ve been an outsider at some time in your family, or in political conversations, or in your career or even at church. You feel dismissed or ignored. This week we talk about persons with disabilities, who can often be treated as outsiders in our society. I know there are many kinds of disabilities that our own church members have experienced. Some are temporary and some are life-long. We’ve had to deal with this in our own family. When my wife occasionally needs to use a wheelchair, we quickly find out how accessible and welcoming a venue can be. When we visit the zoo, for instance, it’s often hard to get to the front of the crowd to see what the animals are doing. If there are no ramps, or we’re wheeling over a bumpy, uneven surface, it’s more painful and challenging to maneuver and get to where we’re going. I will say I’m always cautious to generalize here because persons with disabilities are just as different as the rest of us, with our own unique strengths and weaknesses, abilities and personal needs.
Jesus had many encounters with persons who had disabilities. We recall how Jesus was a healer and shared the power of God’s love so freely with others. However, from the gospel stories, we get these insights from Jesus’ words and action as to how we might compassionately respond today to persons with disabilities and their families. Some wonderful encounters happen when we seek to understand and learn to be helpful but not condescending. Grace is shared when we build caring relationships. The truth is, most of us have some things to learn here. Sunday, we worship God who loves us all, just as we are, and welcomes us into God’s kingdom. There are no outsiders when it comes to God’s love. I’m so glad we can taste and know that gift as we worship.
Rev. Dr. Dave Summers
Senior Pastor, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church