A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 27 September 2009, Wai Ji Sunday, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 139:13-18 and John 9:1-3.
One day, when I was talking to my eleven year old son about something, he said to me, “mum, you don’t understand a child, his feeling and thinking.” I asked him why? He said, “simply because you are an adult and not a child. You think from an adult’s point of view instead of a child’s.”
This conversation made me think of a question. Does our Lord who is regarded as powerful and almighty understand disabled people?
What do my friends here think? Can our God understand the disabled, their needs and thoughts? This is an interesting question. If we think the disabled best understand themselves, and if we believe God understand the disabled, we will then have to ask a question. Is God also disabled somewhere, somehow?
If the disabled are suffering from a kind of brokenness, physically, psychologically and/or mentally, we can see Jesus Christ had experienced this kind of brokenness in his life too. God had incarnated into the world through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who was God coming into the world, suffered, and was nailed on the cross till death. Jesus, being innocent, suffered great pain on the cross. He was broken physically and psychologically. He had experienced a strong sense of helplessness, fear, rejection and isolation. What Jesus experienced on the cross was very similar to many disabled people. Because of Jesus’ first hand experience in his brokenness, he can fully understand the struggles and sufferings of the disabled people.
Jesus’ suffering on the cross not only reflects God’s identification with the disabled, and all people who have suffered from different kinds of brokenness. The scars of Jesus revealed that Jesus himself was sailing on the same boat with the disabled. He was a God of the disabled who had deep experience of brokenness in his life. It is through the full presence of Jesus Christ that God heals those who are disabled and fragile in their lives in different ways. Jesus Christ is the representative of God to comfort people in need and bring them the good news of love and hope.
In today’s reading, John 9:1-3, Jesus had clearly answered the question of his disciples of why a blind man was born blind. Jesus said, “neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” How do we understand the words of Jesus in here?
In the social and religious context of Jesus in his time, there was a kind of thinking that people suffered from diseases and disability, it must be related to sins. Sins of the person concerned or their parents or ancestors. Jesus obviously rejected this social norms and tradition.
Jesus’ message to his disciples and the community he lived was clear. To the blind and his family: no one should bear the shame and guilt of the physical impairment. They were perfectly fine and were fully accepted by God. To the public in the community: no one should punish the blind because of his disability. In addition, no one can claim the right to discriminate against the blind. The blind and his family should be accepted and respected.
What Jesus declared was clear. In God’s eyes, the fullness of life is not about physical health and body condition, fullness of life all depends on God. The story of the blind has revealed God’s unconditional love to everybody disregarding their level of ability. (It is very different from the world value in our time, where we measure a person’s worth with their ability to earn money, social status and contribution to others) Equally important is that God embraces the lives of all people. Life is precious to God for God is the source of life. God makes everybody unique and holy.
In our society, disabled people suffer from different kinds of discriminations and exclusion. I wish you all to remember, Jesus has sent a strong message to say no to discrimination against the disabled. Jesus Christ our redeemer has come to free us from oppression. Jesus Christ has come to bring the good news of liberation and freedom to us all.
Jesus experienced great pains on the cross. Jesus Christ is a suffering God and God of disability. Yet, Jesus’ resurrection has given his disciples and all human beings a new hope of life. Suffering and death is not the end and answer to our life, but a life of rebirth. Jesus’ resurrection after his death has given hope and courage to people to continue a life, no matter how hard it is. Today we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wai Ji Christian Service. Thirty years ago, a member of KUC, Dr. Bernard Ng put forward the idea of setting up Wai Ji in KUC. It is the resurrection power of God that encourage and empower people in different era to engage in the mission and continue to serve the clients with disabilities. In the past thirty years, the organization has grown from a small training centre serving a small number of mentally challenged clients to an organization of providing a variety of services across the broad to address the diverse needs of clients with different levels of ability. We have witness God’s love and grace to the disable people. We are thankful to God for preparing faithful servants to serve in this important ministry that serve the people with desperate needs.
While we humbly give thanks to our loving God, I would like to take this opportunity to offer our deep appreciation to the staff and volunteers for their dedicated services.
May God bless you and keep you in the years ahead.
Let’s us pray. Dear living and loving God,
We give you thanks for your gift of life to each one of us. In you, we are made unique and holy. You have free us from sins of guilt and pride. We thank you for Jesus’ death and resurrection that give us courage and hope. We give you thanks for the dedicated staff and volunteers of Wai Ji who have committed themselves to provide the quality services to the clients in the past thirty years. We ask for your continue blessings to the clients and the workers, empower the workers to engage in your service through the holy spirit. May your gracious love, hope and peace be with them always. Keep them and guide them in the years ahead. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.