Forum 2.2 - The Bible and Disability Ministry
Empowerment and Advocacy
Peggy Johnson says that the church empowers disabled persons by treating them with the greatest honor and greatest respect of all. She links this Pauline mandate to direct advocacy by the church for the troubled and oppressed, which she supports with sayings of Jesus and gospel stories.
I'm put in mind of prophetic call stories, especially the moment when the prophet objects to God's calling. Moses objects that his speech is too poor. Amos protests, saying he is just a farmer. Jeremiah says calls himself too young. Most prophets name a limitation, whether physical, social, spiritual, which disqualifies them to carry out the work God gives them.
But God always advocates for them. God provides for them and sets them forth on the mission. The prophets, in turn, become advocates, both of themselves and of God's people.
The church maybe can replicate this spiritual overcoming of its own objections. We are always saying, if only we were qualified in such and such a way . . . and so we name our disabilities as a church. This description perhaps pertains to those with named disabilities, but probably includes each of us.
That said, I know it's foolish and cruel to ask a person to do more than they will ever be capable. I know a situation where a pastor enthusiastically prayed, with a permanently wheel-chair bound person, that he be given the strength to walk again. The irony is that the person in the wheelchair was much more gracefully at peace with the disability than the pastor.
I think, when the prophets object and God commissions, together they've expressed the terms of their service. The bible never reports that Moses became more suave or eloquent. It rather shows how (imperfectly) well he served in spite of limitations.
I like the image of the prophetic call stories as a model of how God equips the called, regardless what imperfections or objections they raise. How might this serve as a good model for how we can be in ministry with persons with disabilities?
Moses's impediment also provided greater opportunity for Aaron to experience his calling and gifts, which perhaps may not as effectively have happened had Moses been able to do everything himself.
Wow! I hear in this a call to self-awareness as well! If I know what is lacking, I can ask for support and team work too! This is a new way to look at these passages for me - THANKS!