A Mandate to Serve the Disabled – Steve Bundy

A Mandate to Serve the Disabled – Steve Bundy


>>But friends, there aren’t enough Joni
books to go around the world to reach 670 million people affected by disability. God
has a plan that is much larger. God has a plan that is clear and it is simple and his
plan is the church. For God has given the church a mandate and this mandate is spelled
out clear in Luke 14. In fact, we often refer to this as the Luke 14 mandate. Allow me just
to read that passage for a moment as we get into that text. In Luke 14:12-24 it reads like this. ‘Then
Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends,
brothers or relatives or rich neighbors. If you do, they may invite you back and so you
will be repaid. But when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the
blind and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the
resurrection of the righteous’ When one of those at the table with him heard this,
he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’
Jesus replied, ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At
the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited come, for
everything is now ready. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, I’ve
just bought a field and I must go see it. Please excuse me. Another said, I have just
bought five yoke of oxen and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me. Another
said, I just got married so I can’t come. The servant came back and reported this to
his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant go out quickly
to the streets and the alleys of the town and bring in the poor, crippled, blind and
lame. ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done but still there
is room.’ Then the master told his servant ‘go out to the roads and country lanes and
make them come in so my house will be full. I tell you not one of those men who were invited
will get a taste of my banquet.’ While most of the church accepts that ministry
to the poor, disabled, disadvantaged is a good thing, it is often placed on the back
burner, we say, of the church. Ministry that can take place after the important priorities
have been accomplished. Luke, however, takes ministry to the disabled and he elevates it
to kingdom importance. Central in the plan of God. That is ministry that’s to be a
priority for the church. In Luke 14:12-24 we have the story of Jesus
dining with a group of religious leaders. In this context Jesus states emphatically
that a kingdom lifestyle is a lifestyle of inclusion of those with disabilities. He says
in verse 13, ‘but when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and
the blind.’ It’s interesting in the language here Jesus
speaks directly to the host, the religious leader of the community. At your table, in
your home, you are to be an example of inclusion of those with disabilities. You, Jesus is
saying, are the representation of God in this world. When people ask the question, how does
God view people with disabilities, the answer is quite simple, look at the church. Look
at the spiritual representation of God in this earth. Look at the spiritual leaders
of our community and what does their lifestyle tell us about how God views and treats people
with disabilities? Are they welcomed friends at their table? The challenge was never so clear to me as
when I met Senyu (sp?). I would like to quickly tell you his story by reading thoughts that
I had journaled shortly after meeting him. I want to put his picture on the screen here
for you now. Senyu has forever touched my life. His name, Senyu, given by his parents,
means ‘the burden.’ He has carried the weight of that name for over 60 years. Born
with cerebral palsy, he had no access to medical care, physical therapy or adaptive equipment.
Unable to care for his physical needs, Senyu spent most of his life on the ground. I approached
Senyu sitting in his own filth. Religious beliefs by the villagers made Senyu an untouchable
in this community. When was the last time this man felt the touch
of another human, I asked myself. The burden. His name kept ringing in my mind. As a father
of a son with severe disabilities myself, I couldn’t help but ask, how could his parents
give him such an awful name? What were they thinking? Adding to the pain and social stigma
that he would already have to carry throughout his life. And then instantly conviction pierced my heart.
Am I not just as guilty? Isn’t the church I represent, the society I’m a part of,
just as guilty of adding to the pain? Maybe not by what we have said or done but what
we, what I, have not said, have not done. Are we not, in fact, calling Senyu, calling
those with disabilities, the burden when our attitudes reflect an unwelcome spirit in our
homes and churches? When we go out of our way not to interact with someone in distress,
when our evangelism, our church services, our fellowship is all planned without those
with disabilities in mind. Are we not saying in effect you are a burden? Who am I to condemn
Senyu’s parents who brought so much pain by their words when I, when we as a church,
are guilty of bringing so much pain by our omission of the inclusion of those with disabilities. Well, we found out that Senyu’s smile was
indeed a smile due to the hope that he had in Christ. He had given his heart to Jesus
years before through some missionaries, and although he longed to be part of a local church
in his village that was established, he was unwelcomed. He had never participated in one
church service nor had the church ever came to him. Before we left, I prayed with Senyu.
In my prayer I reminded Senyu that in Christ he has a new name. He is no longer Senyu,
the burden. He is Senyu, the blessing. For God loves him and delighted that he is his
child. Jesus’ words to those present in Luke 14
was a mandate that the Senyus of this world are to be at their table. But it was more
than just a mandate, it was a rebuke. In the days of Jesus, the culture that surrounded
him was much like cultures we see in the world today. That is, people with disabilities were
viewed as cursed, outside the mainstream, marginalized and segregated. Jesus took the
religious and cultural traditions and he turned them on their head. He challenged those barriers
and revealed the heart of God, the heart of the King himself. That people with disabilities
are central to the kingdom of God. You see, ministry comes out of conviction by the Holy
Spirit through his Word. These spiritual leaders knew the scriptures
yet refused to obey them. They knew the scriptures were filled with demands by God to the poor,
weak, the outcast, the vulnerable, but instead allowed culture to rule ministry rather than
ministry influencing culture. Here’s just a few scriptures that remind
ourselves that these leaders that we know as well as we look in all of scripture. I
think about the Pentateuch, the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 15:4, ‘However, there shall
be no more among you.’ I think of the Psalms, Psalm 82:3-4, ‘defend the cause of the weak
and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy.’ I think of Proverbs 31:8-9, ‘speak up for
those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the rights of the poor and the needy.’
And of course the prophets, Jeremiah 22:16 speaking about King Josiah, ‘he defended
the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know
me, declares the Lord?’ Ministries out of obedience to scripture and
the mandate for disability ministering is biblical and it is clear. Jesus’s challenge
to those in his days is a personal challenge to you and me. But this mandate is not just
for our personal lives but for the church universal. In the rest of Luke chapter 14,
Luke reiterates the telling of the parable of the great banquet in which the host, that
is the host of hosts, mandates that his servants go out quickly to the streets and alleys of
the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Make them come in
so that my house will be full, he says in verses 21 and 23. His house was to be full,
that is filled to capacity by those affected by disability. A clear indication to those
listening and for those of us here that the church today representing the kingdom of God
is made up of the poor and the disabled. Those who have been thrown to the streets and the
alleys by the world, but welcomed by the host. I love how this parable came about. It is
obvious from the text that Jesus was making those with him very uncomfortable. You can
just imagine the shifting in their seats as Jesus brought about the chastisement of a
lifestyle of exclusion and made them a priority instead, the poor, the blind, the lame, the
disabled. To the point that one comments about the great banquet to take place. What God’s people so longed for would see
that great consummation come about referred to in Isaiah 25:6-9. It is here that Jesus
expands their thinking and understanding of the kingdom of God. For a host threw a great
banquet, Jesus tells. And when the day arrived for the guests who had accepted the invitation
to participate, they in unison all refused to attend. The host in anger sends his servants
to the streets and alleys inside the city and the highways outside of the city to round
up those who would never expect to get such an invitation. He lavished upon them food and drink and treated
them as if they were part of his family. It was a story that revealed to those present
at the banquet that those that will be present are not necessarily those you might expect.
For certainly it would be inclusive of the Gentiles. As God’s people, they were to
be the light to the Gentiles, but central at this banquet, inclusive in this banquet
were those even at the far extreme. Those that were least likely to even get an invitation,
those you would find in the alleys, in the back streets, the side roads and the highways,
those outside the city walls. Those you will have to go and find, he says, and compel them
to come in. In fact, his command is that dinner will not
be served until all these honored guests have been seated. He is a host who wants none of
his blessings wasted, but wants to pour them out on those he’s invited to the feast.
The host says to the servant, compel them to come in. Go and find them. You see, God knows Leonore’s name, God knows
Senyu’s name, God knows Tofili’s name. He’s a God who takes the Senyus of this
world and gives them a new name. You are no longer a burden, you are called a blessing.
You are welcome at my table. You are the ones for whom I have provided hope and redemption. One commentator says, the reason they must
compel them to come in is because those being invited would have such a difficult time believing
that the invitation was really for them. I mean, can you imagine the reaction to such
an invitation when your entire life has been a life of rejection? Is this really for me?
Who has ever invited me before? All I’ve ever known is suffering and rejection and
hardship. But maybe there is hope. Maybe the host, the king, the creator of the universe
really knows my name. Is this a joke, or is it possible that I am on his invitation list?
I don’t want to get my hopes up, but maybe for the first time, maybe there is a hope.
There is a hope that’s beyond suffering. The host sees to it that his table, his house,
is filled with those who no one else knows their names. His house is filled with those
affected by disability. It is the nature of the kingdom, it’s the nature of the King,
and it is to be the nature of the church. And I tell you, friends, I believe God is
calling the church around the world to repentance. I believe it’s a repentance on how we’ve
treated those with disabilities as outcasts, as non-members of his body. Everywhere we
go as we conduct pastors’ conferences, we see pastors stand up and confess their sin
of exclusion of those with disabilities. Many pastors will say, I literally step over those
with disabilities to get to my church to preach to those that are already saved. But Jesus did not come to heal the healthy,
he said, but the sick. And who better responds to this message of hope than those who have
no hope? It’s Luke 14. ‘Look,’ Jesus says, ‘at those who will respond to the
invitation.’ We believe that the Holy Spirit is mobilizing the church globally, and we’re
beginning to see a movement of disability ministry around the world like we’ve never
seen before. God is calling the body to repent and obey his command to evangelize, disciple
and empower those with disabilities for service, that they may be part of his family. You cannot
find a people group in the world where the disabled do not exist. Every people group
in the world will have people affected by disability. The mandate is biblical, the mandate
is clear, and the mandate is also a blessing. In conclusion, Jesus says in verse 14 that
a life of inclusion with those with disabilities is a life of blessing. I’m reminded of Paul’s
words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 when he wrote to the church that those who appear to be
least important among you are indeed the greatest. That no member of the body seemingly important
or unimportant is to be excluded. That those, whether physical or intellectual disabilities,
are still created in his image and they reflect their creator and they have a place in his
family. In fact, Paul says that those parts that are weaker seem to be unimportant but
in fact they are indispensable to the body of Christ. You can’t fully function without
them, because God does not create junk, and every member of his body has a contribution
to make. God has given every member of his body natural and spiritual gifts, and friends,
when people affected by disability are absent from the body of Christ, the body is incomplete. If we are to reflect the kingdom of God, we
must reflect the King. We must work together to create strategies and partnerships for
ministry with those with disabilities in this world. At Joni and Friends, we’ve often found the
doorway into reaching a community for Christ is the doorway of ministry to those with disabilities.
You see, God is able to exalt through them his message of love, his message of hope,
peace and redemption. If God can reach down and give them a hope in the midst of their
suffering, then people know that he can reach down and give them a hope eternal, a hope
beyond their own suffering. So friends, it’s a pleasure to be with you
today and to share together with one another our thoughts about how do we as the church
reach out into this world and minister to and through and with those affected by disabilities?
Amen? How about a hearty amen. Amen, very good.

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