This is the sixth entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series. This devotional reflection comes from Kevin Pettit. His bio can be found on the Board of Directors page. This devotional reflects the views of the author and not the views of UCCDM.
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:16 – 21)
The first few verses of this lectionary reading, taken from Second Corinthians 5, is an oblique reference to how everyone is more than just a body. It states that even though Christ is no longer present in the human body of Jesus, the Spirit of Christ is still alive and is available to everyone. For this reason, Paul states, if anyone is in Christ (or, embraces and follows the spirit of Christ), this person has taken on a new character and has become a new person in Christ.
In my youth, I was taught that this meant that by believing in the truths contained in our Bible, and by “accepting the Lord Jesus”, people become Christians and, as a consequence, can expect everlasting life (unlike others who do not “accept our Lord”). While it is possible to read the Holy Scriptures and come to this conclusion, starting in my later teens I began to see this way of understanding our Holy Bible as insufficient. Over the course of many years, I began to see the process of becoming one of Paul’s “new creations” differently: I now understand that one embraces the Spirit of Christ, not so much by simply adopting a system of beliefs (orthodox or otherwise), but by living a life modeled on what one understands of the life of the human named Jesus. This is considerably more difficult and demands much more action than merely a change of one’s beliefs. Everyone is called to embrace the Spirit of Christ and become ambassadors for Christ, even those who don’t call themselves “Christian”!
This belief was challenged by my survival of a automobile accident through which I acquired a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This injury put me into a coma and semiconscious state for about 2 months. I couldn’t speak for a few months, or walk for half a year; however, my 17-year recovery has gone well enough that I have relearned how to care for and express myself. I can sing again and, though I was told the quality of my teaching was “insufficient” for my continued employment as a professor at an elite liberal arts college, I have been able to attend and graduate from the Iliff School of Theology and begin my mission of helping faith communities of any nature to learn to invite, embrace, include, and empower people who might live with disabilities. I have started a faith-based organization called Faith4All.
However, despite my successes, in all honesty I must admit that I continue to live with a disability that is manifested primarily through memory impairments, as well as by executive function and organizational challenges. Because of these disabilities, attempting to attain recognition as an ambassador for Christ has been difficult for me. According to the Christian Bible (Leviticus 21:16 – 24), which many believers consider to be the word of God, a person who is challenged by disability as much as I am is not eligible to become a minister or representative of God. Even in my own progressive denomination, I am unable to become attain commissioning because I have been unable to attain paid employment as a minister. I believe the only path for my commissioning will be by my receiving a call from Faith4All, the organization that I founded. This requires the advancement of the efforts of Faith4All which I’ve found to be slowed because of my disabilities.
However, I continue to hear the loud call of Christ’s Spirit and am undeterred! I hope that all readers of this reflection can consider this message and reflect the call to make all churches strive for the inclusion of all people.
Prayer: Oh Divine One, who welcomes the efforts of all the ambassadors of Christ who follow the guidance of your Spirit, please help me learn to also accept the efforts of all those who follow the guidance of your Spirit, in order to assist in your construction of a new world!