This is the Sunday when the UCC adds a sub-title with the word: “Access,” meant to challenge churches to make their building and their ministries accessible to all, a challenge we struggle to find the money to fulfill.
A second word in the sub-title is: “Disability” – “Disabled” as opposed to “Able bodied” (AB) which has promoted a webpage posting by someone who uses the name “Crippled scholar” to put a “T” for “Temporarily” in front of AB for “Able-bodied” – TAB. (www.crippledscholar posted April 27, 2015)
A professor who teaches first-year medical students sometimes invites “Disabled” patients to lead the discussion.
One was Peter, who when a teenager fractured his spine in a diving accident and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Peter welcomed and answered their questions, except for one that stopped him when a student said, “I was wondering about the terms we see applied to patients with spinal-cord damage,”
“Do you prefer ‘handicapped,’ ‘crippled’ or ‘disabled’? Does it really matter?”
Peter answered, “Yes, it does matter. Some of my colleagues prefer the term ‘disabled’ to ‘handicapped.’ … I would, however…strongly emphasize that I and most of the people I know would like the word ‘crippled’ removed from the language.”
“To many, calling someone ‘crippled’ is the same as putting the person in a box, sealing it and tossing it away. The other terms imply a process, not an ending. And you TABs just don’t quite get the difference.” (Sandra L. Shea is an associate professor, department of family and community medicine, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. This piece was originally published in Pulse — voices from the heart of medicine, and is reprinted with permission.)
“Access,” “Disability/Disabled,” “Able-bodied/AB,” “Temporarily Able-bodied/TAB” may seem to have no connection with the Scripture appointed to be read on this Sunday in the Church Year,
but think about the labeling that is going on in Jesus’ Gospel story.
The chief priests and the Pharisees saw themselves as the permanently
“Able-bodied” because they knew the Ten Commandments and worked at observing the additional ones that raised the count from 10 to 116
No “T” applied to them!
While those others, those “handicapped” with physical disabilities and those “crippled” by names like “Tax collector” and “prostitute,” all who had not memorized the Law, and certainly those who never learned the Law, and those Gentiles who knew nothing about the Law,
were permanently “Disabled,” so cripplingly disabled, they were no better than trash.
For those self-labeled “AB” chief priest and Pharisees Jesus told a story into which they were to read themselves.
They who were to tend God’s Law like a vineyard that would produce the fruits of compassion and community and be a sampling of life in God’s future kingdom,
were those tenant-workers.
They were “so invested in keeping the vineyard for themselves that they had forgotten …it was never really theirs. It was lent to them so they could do good works in it.” (Stacy Swain, Christian Century, Sept. 13, 2017, P. 19) . They, the “Able-bodied,” were to share the harvest with the “Disabled” and, together, savor the grapes of compassion and community.
In refusing to do that, they were morally and spiritually “Disabled;” like trash, totally unfit for life with God.
Then Jesus turned from a story about tending a vineyard to the story about building the temple, the shrine claimed by those “AB” chief priests and Pharisees, and said:
“Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
The legend known to first-century Jews and Christians said most of the stones used to build the temple at the time of King Solomon were of the same size and shape.
But one stone was different from the others, and the builders
sent it rolling down into the valley of Kedron.
Years later when the temple was near completion, the stonecutters said
they needed the special stone that set the corner and kept the building in line, and were told it had sent years before.
Then someone remembered hey had rolled that stone down
into the valley, and realized they discarded the cornerstone. They worked to retrieve it from the vines and debris and laboriously rolled it up the hill and put it in place.
The stone that had been rejected became the chief cornerstone.
King Duncan, From Rejection to Rejoicing, www.Sermons.com
Jesus, rejected by those who considered themselves the “Able-bodied” keepers of the Law, but were so morally and spiritually “Disabled,” they had no capacity to be compassionate and no desire
to be God’s community on earth.
A former Pharisee, Saul who became Paul, learned from his unnamed disability he could never hope to be physically and spiritually “Able-bodied.” It would only come through
faith in Christ, the righteousness(the “able-bodied-ness”)
from God based on faith.
Jesus, the chief cornerstone, Who enables those with broken minds and bodies to become “living, breathing, serving, beautiful” (Quoted from Stacy Swain, IBID) people through confessing as Paul did: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,”
that heals us from the inside and makes into a compassionate community built on the rock foundation of Jesus Christ.
Christ, the cornerstone.
California’s amazing redwood trees, the largest and tallest on earth, some towering to 300 feet and over 2,500 years old, do not send roots down into hundreds of feet of soil. Right there on the surface under the soil, the roots can be seen intertwined with other redwood trees, locked to each other. When storms come, when violent winds blow, when lightning flashes, and other trees smash together and fall to the ground, the redwoods sway and bend, but they do not fall.
They are not like an AB person, standing because of individual power, but because they are a community, dependent on one
another. (Adapted from the very Rev. Dr. Michael Battles, God’s Kind of Apocalypse, 18th Sunday after Pentecost - Year A, October 08, 2017, www.Day1)
So we look beneath the labels: “Disability/Disabled,” “Able-bodied/AB,” “Temporarily Able-bodied/TAB” and see who we really are when we let Christ be the cornerstone Who holds us all together.