"Reframing Ability"
Tim Carson
Broadway Christian Church · Columbia, Missouri
The Worship of God · March 8, 2015
The Third Sunday of Lent
 
Psalm Litany
Based on Psalm 19
 
The cosmos speaks of the glory of God.
Day to day, the word is spoken; and night to night, more knowledge appears.
No speech is adequate; no voice able to tell the mystery of it all.
But the sacred song rings through the earth
and into the farthest reaches of space.
Let us pray:
Your presence fills our hearts with joy,
and your stillness sets peace on the land like a dove. Amen.
 
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
 
Pastoral Prayer
Terry Overfelt
 
Creator of all, thank you for the beauty of the day and the reminder of spring that comes just as we longed for a lift from the blowing snows of winter. Your earth and its seasons are so varied.
 
Winter seems, sometimes, without much fruit and frozen in step, and still it has purpose and beauty. The coming spring winds will scatter seeds all around in flurried chaos, and we wonder how the plantings will land and root and shout. But they will, and so will we, in order and in disorder. The summer will call us out and drive us indoors, as we try to balance the joy of basking in the sun and the seeking of shade to avoid its intensity. The same light will be perceived differently. And come fall, the birds will sing their plans to fly, while other creatures will burrow into the earth for a time of transformation.
 
As the seasons rhythmically surrender to one another, we are reminded of the beauty of our varied rhythms, purposes and abilities. Be revealed God, in the slower step, the scattered chaos, the varied perceptions, and the transformation that comes to each of us, as we reach to you in the splendor of our contrast and the seasons of our being.
 
God please wind us down to notice our breath and thank you for life. Give us hope that springs eternal, as we pray for healing, wholeness, comfort and forgiveness. Let our prayers draw us close to your Son and cool the hostility of hot-headed choices. Send us out God to turn over a new leaf in our repenting from sin that separates us.
 
Unite us in common heart as we confess together the Act of Confession.
 
Act of Confession
 
As we turn around and reframe our lives before the presence of God, we offer the truth about ourselves, the ways in which we have broken relationship with God and our neighbor:
 
You have loved us with a passionate, steadfast love, but we have turned away. You have called us to relationships of love and justice with our neighbor, but we have harmed and left the good undone. Forgive us, graceful Presence, and liberate us from all those things that keep us separated from you and alienated from our neighbor. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
And we continue, together, in the words that Jesus has taught us…
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
 
The Scripture
Mark 3:31-38
 
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mothers and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
 
This is the Word of the Lord for us today.
Thanks be to God.
 
The Message
Reframing Ability
Tim Carson
 
Let us pray. Now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
 
Back when I was in elementary school, I attended church with my family. We were an active family and that included worship, Sunday School. I had to go to Vacation Bible School. There were youth trips, dramas, and other various activities. One of my lasting memories – and there are many – was how some of us insensitive little twits taunted a boy who was … different. I realize now, know what I know now, that he most likely had CP (Cerebral Palsy). His knees and elbows were always half-bent and he walked funny. This bright-eyed boy, who was so cheerful, regardless of the burden he carried, was smarter than the rest of us combined.
 
What I remember most was a scene in the third-floor hallway of the Sundah School wing, adjacent to where my parents’ classroom was. Several of us were teasing him (how cruel children can be!).  I looked up to see, of all things, his father watching the whole thing. Above all, what I remember was not an expression of anger, but rather his expression of pain and sadness that scorched itself into my young, little, twisted heart. That one moment, that father’s expression, has provided a clue to me about the nature of the suffering of God, and a clue about the cross – what pain it is for the Lover to behold the self-inflicted suffering of the beloved.
 
Aside from the way that suffering love had the power to transform the twisted humanity of me and my little band of bullies, there was something missing. Among all those good-hearted, well-meaning Christian adults, who drug us to church, there hadn’t been open, direct and regular conversation about the nature of differences and how we might relate to them. And it wasn’t only about physical/mental disabilities and mental illness. It was a lack of understanding in regard to all differences including race, social location, and sexual orientation. That insensitivity to those differences was reflected in sorted humor and presumptions of superiority and privilege. It was the dark underbelly no one wanted to look at or admit.
 
I wonder now how my childhood church might have been different if it had been routinely exposed to the mission and culture of a Woodhaven, where like at Broadway, the inclusion of people with differences was understood to be a normal part of the congregational life. I’m sure it would have changed those people’s hearts and the way they shaped their children.
 
I think these deep roots of the acceptance of differences at Broadway have made all of the other efforts to include people with differences a natural part of extending who we are. From addressing issues of race in the 60s, maintaining room for theological diversity, and in providing particular inclusion for those with developmental disabilities in the past five years, Broadway keeps extending its own nature, its own DNA, in an ever-changing cultural context.
 
In particular, we lift up Broadway’s All God’s Children program today, as we “Reframe Ability.” Every community of faith has to ask itself how far it will go to make sure everyone is included. As we have attempted to answer this question by reaching out to those with disabilities and their families, we have learned some things.
 
We have learned that with careful coordination we can surround those who are differently abled with love and an adapted program that connects with them and their needs. We have learned that parents and typical siblings need support and ministry, too. Respite. We have learned that inclusion in the whole congregation’s life – its worship, rites of passage, fellowship, and service – is as important as specialized pull-apart programs (as is true of our other ministry with children and youth). If you separate your children and youth into a kind of a ghetto away from the rest of the congregation, they don’t form faith in the congregation. We have learned that congregations don’t automatically know how to do this and need to be brought along with encouragement and coaching. We have learned that we do our ministry not for or to our children but with them, alongside them.
 
Perhaps, most surprisingly and most gratifyingly, we have also learned that all people have unique gifts to share in the community and that in the end, the community will be better and stronger because of them.
 
Take a moment to see and hear the story of Derek and his unique gifts.
 
[At the time, the pastor shared a portion of video that can be seen at the website address:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHRRUpDoyQw 
You are encouraged to watch the entire video, if possible, even though only a portion was shared in worship due to time constraints.]
 
Astounding gifts reside in unexpected places through unexpected people. Our call is to liberate those gifts so that they come to the whole body. When then do, they flourish. When they do, they will bless the whole community. You see, the community is ministered to and enriched by those who are differently abled.
 
Even more foundational for us is what our faith teaches us from the beginning.
 
The whole of the Christian proclamation states that our value does not derive from our own strength, our intelligence, our values, our own wisdom, or our own efforts. Our value is conferred upon us by our Maker. What’s more, the nature of our Creator is love. The way that divine love is mediated is not through force, but rather suffering love, the central meaning of the cross. It is the suffering, broken, crucified God who can help.
 
In the same way, we know that God’s presence is revealed among us in weakness, not only in strength. Because of that, no part of the body is esteemed as less important than any other, says Paul. They all must be recognized. This is the broad sweep of the Christian story. Knowing it helps us understand the peculiar story from the Gospel of Mark before us this morning.
 
One day Jesus was teaching as usual. He was inside a house, and a crowd of people were gathered around him. On the outside his mother, brothers and sisters had arrived and were seeking him out. Because they could not gain access, they sent word to him through the crowd. Once their message reached him he said the strangest thing.
 
This is not the kind of thing a committee promoting the new family-life center latches onto as its slogan. This is not the kind of statement people would quote to young couples as they consider marriage and family life. In fact, if you just take it at face value, it almost sounds like Jesus is anti-family:
 
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then looking around at those seated by him he said, “Here are my mother and brothers and sisters. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Everyone gathering around the Word of God, they are my family.
 
What is Jesus doing? He is reframing what family means in a spiritual sense. Our real family, he said, is not determined by blood or defined by sameness. 
The kingdom family, the beloved family of Jesus, is the one gathered around and trusting in God’s ever- bountiful presence. These are my mother, brothers and sisters, said Jesus. This is the new family of faith. In that body of Jesus’ family, no one can say to another, “I have no need of you.” (I Corinthians 12)
 
When we begin to see others that way, as members of Jesus’ beloved family, it will entirely change the way that we see and understand differences, abilities and gifts. They will no longer be measured by the world’s standards of beauty, power, productivity, and usefulness. Rather, they will be measured by the height and breadth and depth of God’s abundant love.
 
Thanks be to God, Amen.
                                                 
The Benediction
Tim Carson
 
And now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Last Published: March 10, 2015 12:21 AM