Homily – Sunday, the 5th February
Reading: Isaiah 58:1-12
Today is a special day. We are farewelling R who was part of the fabric of ACF for many years and she will continue to be a part of us though she would be moving to Offenburg.
Special children are special indeed. They reflect the diversity and mystery of God’s creation.
It is often said- God gives special children only to very special parents and today we celebrate with M and C for being such wonderful parents to R. Letting go is not easy, but we are glad that she is not going far away.
Today being a children focused service, I would briefly touch upon Disability Inclusion in our mindsets. How do we help our children to be inclusive.
It is easy to sing
‘Come as you are: that’s how I want you.
Come as you are; feel quite at home,
Close to my heart, loved and forgiven.
Come as you are: why stand alone?
No need to fear, love sets no limits;
No need to fear, love never ends;
Don’t run away, shamed and disheartened;
Rest in my love, trust me again.
But are people able to come into our midst as they are
Do all feel quite at home
DO we still not have people standing alone, standing outside?
Do we see the ones in fear, grappling the limits that love has set
Running away, ashamed, disheartened?
Are we truly a truly a community of GRACE?
R was the wheel-chair presence in our midst who for me, made our services much more inclusive and meaningful. I enjoyed sharing the Eucharist with her and sharing peace with her. I enjoyed the joyful noise she sometimes made during the service albeit rarely. I do not want to talk about more details of the move which C and M has already informed us, but I am sure we will all miss R.
As for children growing up, what are the lessons, we learn from her
I remember a very specific person- Patricia- who was almost like R and her dad took her one day to a sports meet in the school nearby. Patricia was excited. She could walk a bit and therefore when the time came for the Sack Race someone went to her and asked if she wanted to participate. She was excited to.
Everyone in sacks had to hop to the finishing point. But lo and behold all abled bodied kids were as expected fast. But before they reached the finishing point the first one stopped, the second one and the third one. They all waited for Patricia to finish first. They were willing to lose, for Patricia to have the joy of winning.
Three things stood out for me
- The Heart of Inclusion- They saw this child, her aspirations, her dreams, her abilities and disabilities and wanted to include her in their scheme of life.
- The Spirit of Giving Up- They realised that life is not about always coming first, always winning. It is the joy of letting special people smile
- The Attitude of Love- They wanted to see the child celebrate life as each one of them were doing.
When I was in charge of the Centre for the Rehab of the Differently abled we always had the dances of people with disabilities. But the children in wheel chairs only watched. A friend of mine came up and said- these kids in the wheelchair would also want to dance and that he could do a choreography of a Wheel Chair dance. He had seen it happening in developed nations. One person’s vision made way to a fantastic wheel chair dance of persons with special abilities. They turned out to be the wheel chair band- the orchestra that danced.
We have heard different versions of the story of Clint. He had polio and was wheel chair bound. One day when visitors visited the home they gifted a beautiful picture of Christ with some kids. Clint said he did not like the picture. There was none in wheelchair.
A few days later when Tsunami struck the image of Christ in one of the churches crashed to the ground and broke into pieces. The remnant with broken limbs and dilapidated body was the cover of a magazine that narrated the loss during the Catastrophe. Clint saw the magazine and he said- Today I have found my Christ- the one who would understand what brokenness means.
Isaiah 58 is about what true worship is not and of what true worship is. The Prophet says true worship is not
- Oppressing others or Excluding Others
- Fasting while quarrelling and fighting- Strained Relationships
- Prayers that are not heard on high- Empty Words
- Bowing down your head, lying in sack clothes and ashes- heartless rituals
The Prophet goes on to say True worship is
- Losing the chains of injustice
- Untying and breaking Yokes
- Setting the oppressed go free
- Sharing your food, clothing, and shelter with the needy
More importantly it is
- Not turning away when your dear ones need you- Including everyone in the fold- especially those whom the society sometimes neglects
The crucial question of being the church has always been
When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?
Yes we did sing
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people
The first question we ask ourselves is- ARE WE AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY HERE
- Do we include those different from us into the inner fold
- Are our small group gatherings inclusive or have we ever said No to a suggestion of inviting a person-whoever that be- into our fellowship or the church.
- Are we gender sensitive in our inclusion discourses
- Are we disability sensitive in our discourses
- Are there traces of class, caste, or race in our inclusion narratives
- Are we sensitive of multi-generational presence and expectations
- Are we aware of multi-cultural nuances of community
The second question is WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO MAKE OURSELVES MORE WELCOMING, INVITING AND INCLUSIVE
In our discussion at the Men’s Breakfast the three questions we introspected most were
Why do we not have a Braille Version of the Bible? O we can think of it when a visually challenged person comes in
Why do we not have a sign language interpretation? O we can think of it when a person with hearing challenges come in
Why do we not have a wheelchair friendly altar? O we can think of it when we have a minister in the wheelchair
Well, let me return to the text
If you truly turn to God in genuine worship the Lord list forth the blessings
- Your light shall break forth like dawn
- The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs
- You shall be like a watered garden or spring of never failing water
I would draw your attention to four promises for children if you worship the Lord in the right spirit.
The school teacher would say- attendance at school is compulsory
The College Professor would say- attendance is mandatory
The Church Pastor would note absence but unfortunately cant say much
To a worshipping community the Prophet promises that your generations, your children will do four things
My reflection today would be on just four words that you can take home with you
Rebuild the Ruins
When we open our eyes do we see brokenness, ruins and devastation. Several factors would have contributed to the destruction and the ruins we see. The Institution of the Church faces lots of challenges as so does several other institutions that held our societies and communities together.
Ruins, is as strong an internal experience as is an external experience.
The Prophet promises, your children will not create further destructions but will mend the wounds, restore the ruins
To rebuild you need to first see the ruins
You should be able to have the inner eye to imagine how beautiful original would have been
You should have the aptitude, finesse and expertise to rebuild from the ruins.
How many of us parents can boldly say- that’s how I have parented my child
How many of us teachers can say- that’s how I schooled my kids
How many of us kids can say- that’s the life value we were given as we grew.
Raise up Old Foundations
At the outset it looks like the foundations of the city walls and the houses- therein are gutted, perhaps the balance sheet of invasion, war and violence and human arrogance and sinfulness.
It could also be symbolically pointing at the Foundations of Prayer, Faith, Values and Morals that defined our lives once upon a time
It could also be the Foundations of Love, Joy, peace, Care, Compassion and Justice
The Prophet promises- Your children will untie the yokes.
Friends, Several people live around us under the burden of yokes
We need to equip and prepare our children to untie these yokes and wherever possible destroy the burdens of the yokes.
Repair the breaches and broken walls
Are there breaches in our walls?
A small breach is enough to make the huge wall ineffective.
A small hole is enough to make the boat sink
The thief who comes to steal away love comes often through a breach in the wall or a broken gate
And if your love is stolen where was that breach?
We always remind both the bride and the groom before marriage- repair the breaches lest discord find its way in and destroy the bliss.
There are quite a few breaches around us
The evil of drugs are coming into our lives
The reality of selfishness is gripping firm on us
Mere love for profit is robbing us of all ethical values
The elderly are being abandoned
The disabled are being excluded
Racism, Casteism and Exclusion are finding newer ways of manifestations.
Our children should be equipped to repair the breaches a world that widens the breaches through war, violence, hatred and selfishness.
Restore the streets to dwell
Are our lives in liveable pathways today? Or are we struggling and tensed about life.
Restoration Pathways were initiatives we engaged children in conflict ridden areas to create trust and collegiality between warring communities.
When hatred is being taught restoration of life sustaining pathways are very important.
Restoration of Life in the Streets calls for inclusion- a passionate inclusion
Yes we need people in the team who engage in scientific epilepsy research who would perhaps restore her health one day
Yes we need statesperson who would ensure that people with disabilities are not a burden for the society insisting that companies should hire them and give them work according to their capacity.
You need care facilities for them, care takers who would see their engagement as a passion rather than a job.
Yes we need our children committing in their hearts we will take care of our challenged colleagues- with more love, more compassion and more heart
Yes we will make the pathways accessible and liveable for all
We will restore Love in our streets
We ask, Is this world a place where living is cherished by all.
Are our pathways places where peaceful dwelling is possible?
And we affirm
Our children will make the difference
Our children will be the change we are longing for.
February 5, 2023
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