Reading for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Ephesians 3:14-21
Peace be with you!
As we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities come together to share stories of trials and triumphs. In the 1980s, people with disabilities did not have the rights as we have today. Children with disabilities were not mainstreamed in regular education classes. Buildings were not accessible to people in wheelchairs, because they had stairs and not ramps and elevators. People in wheelchairs were not able to ride buses because buses were not equipped with lifts and ramps.
People with disabilities and supporters spent years lobbying Congress and writing letters to representatives in the 1980s. Several protests were organized in which people in wheelchairs would chain themselves to buses. People with disabilities went to hearings to tell about physical obstacles and discrimination in their daily lives. For the first time, people with disabilities were seen as a minority who had been discriminated against. On March 12, 1990, people abandoned their wheelchairs and mobility devices to crawl up the eighty-three steps to the US Capitol Building while chanting:
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
People with disabilities were willing to fight for what they believed in—rights for all people. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990; it gives people with disabilities four categories of fundamental rights: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.[i] Advocates continue to work toward making the ADA a reality for all people with disabilities.
In the third chapter of Ephesians, Paul prays for the church. He prays the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts to strengthen their relationship with God the Father and will give them the strength to do his work in the world (Ephesians 3:16-17). The author prays the church will recognize the Holy Spirit working in their daily lives to strengthen them.
Likewise, the ADA strengthens the voices of people with disabilities, because it recognizes their past struggles and gives them the right to live independently. Before the ADA, people with disabilities could not go shopping for shoes alone, as fourteen-year-old Danette Crawford told Senator Tom Harkin in 1990.[ii] For people with disabilities, the ADA meant access and the ability to do ordinary things, just like everyone else—a game changer.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a game charger because it evened the playing field between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus allows the Gentiles to be in a relationship with God the Father; before they were considered to be unclean. No longer was circumcision a requirement in order to know God (Ephesians 2:11). Jesus abolished the dividing wall—the law—between the Jews and the Gentiles and allowed them to live together in harmony (Ephesians 2:14-15).
Now, Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts to ground us in his love (Ephesians 3:17). With Christ we know God’s unconditional love for us, which he shows us through Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. The more we allow Jesus to dwell in our hearts, the more we are able to live out our faith and be led by the Holy Spirit. We are able to change the world with Jesus by our side.
When we allow Jesus to lead us, he leads us to be in community with others who believe (Ephesians 3:18-19). We can share our stories with one another and work together to do God’s work. We become a part of the community of saints working together in the world. As we share our individual stories, we become a part of God’s bigger story.
In order to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, people with disabilities and other advocates came together in Washington DC to give endless hours of taped testimony in Congressional hearings. Their testimonies told stories of how obstacles kept them from entering public places and how they were discriminated against at school and in the workforce. Their individual stories put the bigger picture together. Their stories made it possible for future generations to be able live ordinary lives in community with one another. Just like Jesus’s death and resurrection, that was a game changer.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for allowing us the live in community with one another. Help us to come together to do your work in the world. Dwell in our hearts as we go into the world. Be with us as we gather together to share stories of your awesome power. Thank you for sharing your bigger story with us. Amen.
[i] Senator Tom Harkin, “Americans with Disabilities Act at 20: A Nation Transformed,” Huffington Post, 30 July 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-tom-harkin/ada-at-20-a-nation-transf_b_659001.html.