July 26, 2020, Trust The Spirit: 30th Anniversary of the ADA, Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Romans 8:26-39 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[a] with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We take a moment to reflect on the words we have heard and seen. we think about the limitations of our lives and know that nonetheless, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
July 26, 2020 Trust the Spirit: 30th Anniversary of the ADA St. Luke
We know some wonderful people, don’t we? How lovely to have our bishop and our dear friend Jim McIntire participate in our worship service today - not to mention to have the talents of Lisa Santomen Hellberg help to guide us on our way as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act today.
Pastor Joanne suggested that we pay attention to this anniversary today, partly because of the connections we have with these wonderful people, and I added in my best friend from growing up in Cincinnati, Phil Breen, who worked in the Justice Department of the US government and helped to write the regulations for the ADA and helped to enforce it around the country for many years.
That enforcement can be really expensive, as you can imagine. I wondered this summer as they redid the curb cuts out in front of the church how much that cost. I think they were doing it for the second time, just as they did down in my neighborhood. Phil is really proud that his department insists that people do the work right or they have to redo it. You might think there were more efficient ways, but in the end, when people realize that there are no shortcuts, we have a society that is compliant and much more accessible to everyone.
Jim McIntire published his book this year - Lindsay’s Gift: Faith Learnings from a Girl with No Words. Many of you have met Lindsay when she came to church with Pastor Joanne. Pastor Joanne and Lindsay have a lovely relationship. Lindsay’s diagnosis is semi-lobar holoprosencephaly (HPE). She has hydrocephalus (extra cerebrospinal fluid around the brain), a seizure disorder, cerebral palsy.
Jim describes her as standing about 4’3”, about 88 lbs, thick dark brown hair usually pulled back in a ponytail, and her eye color that varies from grey to blue to light green. In the book he tells about the first time she walked - at church of course, when she was 9 years old. He tells about the way people have treated her like an object, somebody in the way, and as a curiosity and a problem.
And he talks about the way she is a teacher, how she always seems to gravitate to the person who is most uncomfortable with her, to help them have to deal with who she is. One of my favorite chapters was when he challenges the notion that he is some kind of saint for taking care of a daughter like Lindsay. He says, “she’s just my daughter, the same as my other two children.” She is the award, not people’s approval or admiration.
Nonetheless, being a parent is a hard job, and having a child with profound disabilities makes the job harder. The ADA has forced our society to make accommodations to make it possible for people with disabilities to live and move within our society with much more ease. People who can’t hear now have many more ways that they can communicate, with phone service that allows individuals to make personal calls, without always having to go through a parent or loved one.
People who are blind get around much more easily these days because of cross walks signs that have sound instead of just lights, because of signage that includes brail, because of curb cuts that include those special pads that make it easier for a cane to tell a walker where she or he is in relation to the street.
People in wheel chairs of course benefit from the curb cuts as well, and regulations that put elevator buttons within reach. All of these things make our society a more human place, allowing us to be connected with a broader range of human experience, if we pay attention.
The best part of Jim’s book is how much he appreciates what he has learned from being Lindsay’s Dad. And they are profoundly spiritual lessons.
Let me get to them with reference to our scripture reading this morning. Romans 8 is a very important and a favorite passage for many people. Paul is addressing people who face oppression and struggles - because of their faith or because of their circumstance. He has a strong sense that in our human weakness we find ourselves most connected to the divine. He closes the passage, of course with the most famous line, listing all the things that we think could separate us from God, and insisting that none of those things “nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Pastor Jim expresses this sense of the Spirit working through Lindsay in his family and in the world in very particular ways - most profoundly in the sense that God loves her just as she is. He said that as worries about doing enough, he sees her just being, just being loved by God as her primary purpose in the world.
We have been learning a similar in lesson in our Bible study in Genesis each week as we hear how God works through flawed people to make the most important things in spiritual history happened. Madeleine L'Engle sums up some of these lessons, “In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own.”
This is the reassuring message of Lindsay’s Gift, of Genesis, of Romans, and of our season facing the virus - that we can trust the Spirit. The Spirit is with us no matter who we are, no matter how flawed we are, whether we are temporarily able-bodied or whether we have some disability. God loves us as we are.
It is indeed all a gift. And constant good news.