Reading for Day of Pentecost
Peace be with you!
According to Dictionary.com, disability is “a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job.” The word disability has a negative connotation, and its definition implies anyone with a disability—let alone someone with multiple diagnoses—cannot live a full, normal life.
As an individual who has had her disability since birth, I have had to wrestle with what it means to be someone with cerebral palsy. Back in the early 1980s, doctors did not know how cerebral palsy affected the person and their ability to live their life. In fact, the doctors told my parents I would never walk, talk, or sit up. The doctors assumed I would be under my parents’ care all my life and would never live in my own house and pay my own bills. In my poem entitled “Never Mind the Doctors,” I talk about feeling the world is against me and seeking to prove the doctors wrong. I feel triumphant that I so often managed to do just that.
Even as we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the disabled culture is still working educate society that a person with a disability has the ability to hold a sustaining career and have a family. Society still holds on tight to stigmas that people with disabilities cannot lead productive and fulfilling lives, because the prefix dis- implies an inability to do anything.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered and a wind filled the entire house (Acts 2:1-2). The Holy Spirit gave the men the ability to speak different languages and to understand one another (Acts 2:4, 6). The devoted Jews who were present began questioning if these men were drunk (Acts 2:13). How could Italians, Serbians, people from Croatia, Romania, and Greece, Asians, citizens of Egypt, Libya, and Arabia, and people in the Middle East all be speaking about God’s deeds (Acts 2:9-11)? How could they even be speaking to one another, let alone be sharing the news? These people did not go together. They did not socialize with one another. And yet here they are, discussing the good news of Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit together. How could this be?
Peter reminds the Jews of Joel 2:28-32: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17-21 NRSV).
Peter saw the day of Pentecost as a fulfillment of scripture as the Holy Spirit entered the world. Pentecost started as a Jewish holiday to commentate the fifth day after Passover when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Now fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection from the grave, the disciples and other followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit as their advocate. The Holy Spirit breaks down the language barrier, so people around the world are able to hear and understand the good news of Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. For the first time, the word of God becomes accessible to all people.
Jesus promised abundance of life by sending the disciples an Advocate who will continue to unfold God’s love for all to know (John 16:8-11). The Advocate will seek protection and prayer requests on our behalf as a mediator. The Advocate will lead the disciples and us by the truth of what is to come in the future. The Holy Spirit bears the good news, so the disciples could be empowered to share it with the world. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to embody and model the good news for us, so that we can know and come to understand what it means.
In the disabled culture, the day of Pentecost gives people hope that God recognizes many different abilities. People who have disabilities are able to do many things and should be recognized not by their disabilities but their abilities. The Holy Spirit gives people— disabled or able—of all abilities the power to live fulfilling lives to God’s glory. The Holy Spirit becomes an advocate for people with disabilities by empowering them with other gifts. People with physical disabilities are able to help the aging population with adaptation to homes and in public, because they understand what it means to feel isolated by barriers. People with cognitive disabilities see the world differently, and they are able to better relate to children since they think on their level.
If we as a society could think about people based on their abilities, not their disabilities, maybe we could make the world a better place for people of all abilities. The Holy Spirit equips people based on their abilities to spread the good news. The Holy Spirit breaks down physical barriers in order to welcome people with disabilities into the community where people share the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit advocates for all people to be welcomed to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for making your word accessible to everyone. Help us to understand each other’s needs in order to allow everyone to live fulfilling lives. Break down the barriers separating us from one another. Set our hearts on fire as we welcome people with different abilities into our community. Thank you for sending us an advocate. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- What are your abilities?
- How has the Holy Spirit advocated on your behalf?
- Where have you seen the Holy Spirit working in the world?