Disability Awareness Sunday:
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Verse 7 is intriguing: "The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Why does God look in places other than those we most often choose to look? Are there common themes that need to be reassessed as the church chooses its leadership, those who teach Sunday school or greet visitors? Where do we look and what do we value?
Be careful not to overemphasize any body/soul separation or dualism with respect to this passage. God loves all persons in the body, and God loves the bodies of all persons.
Persons who are disempowered know the depth of the valley physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and they hunger for the shepherd's staff of comfort. How will you bring that comfort into the presence of God's people as they journey with the psalmist? The Shepherd knows his sheep. How well acquainted are you with the needs and challenges faced by your more vulnerable sheep? God is clearly a homemaker calling us in to dwell with him in abundance, in communion, in perpetuity. How will you extend that welcome--as pastor and shepherd--as a community where fears can be quieted, souls restored, and thirsty hearts quenched?
Is there evidence of "darkness" in your midst? Might disabled persons struggle to get in and out of your building or your restrooms? When they deal with the frustrations of inaccessibility, where do you think Jesus is? How does Jesus feel? Some are truly shut in; how many are shut out? Do gaps in your church's physical and spiritual hospitality need to be brought to light so that you may more effectively witness to the life and light of Christ? When we embrace the fact that we are the light of the world in the Lord, we shine for Christ and are awakened to truly live in community.
Empathically engage and enter this narrative in all of its drama. Are there points of connection with parents of disabled children as they feel their way into the story? For various reasons, in the presence of "healthy" friends or family members, disabled persons are sometimes not even addressed directly, though the conversation can often be about them.
What sensitivities and insensitivities are brought to light through these encounters?
These sermon ideas were compiled by Randy Smit, an RCA pastor living in Holland, Michigan.