An Acceptable Call?

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!

 

UCCDM Lenten Devotional- What Are Ashes For?

This is the first entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series. This devotional reflection comes from Dr. Kevin Pettit for Ash Wednesday. His bio cam be found on the Board of Directors page.

Joel 2:1-2, 12:17
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations.Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Even though we live in a very different context than the author of the book of Joel, his call for repentance still sounds loudly in today’s world. For, indeed, is not our world today at least partly filled with gloom, clouds, and thick darkness? The similarity of the present times of difficulty to those described in the book of Joel account for the resonance of these Biblical texts. So, too, do we sense the need to withdraw somehow, reflect on our lives, and struggle with our call in this world just as Jesus did during his extended time of isolation that we commemorate during Lent. A time of penitential preparation – a time of self-examination, prayer, fasting, and works of love – in preparation for our remembrance of the betrayal and cross of Jesus, as well as the resurrection of the living Christ, will profit our spirits. We hope that your Lenten journey might be aided by these Reflections and the consideration of their meaning and import in our lives today.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent which, in many churches, is commemorated by anointing one’s forehead with ashes as a reminder of one’s mortality. The crude and dark mess of these ashes – a form of matter similar to the eventual form that our bodies take after we die – is a fitting remembrance of disorder in our lives. But are not such scars of imperfection the very marks of our humanity?

While everyone’s particular set of challenges is unique – sometimes being as apparent as a missing limb and at other times being as hidden as diabetes – we each share more or less common challenges of body, mind, and spirit much like the ashes marking our foreheads at the beginning of Lent. However, even after washing ourselves clean of these ashes, we all need to learn to live productively with the imperfections that mark us as children of God.

To do this, we can set aside some time daily during this time of Lent to study and reflect upon the Bible or other sacred texts, reflect on our needs and struggles, our intentions and our actions, and our effect on family, friends, and all others. As we are called to embody Christ, we must take the time to consider how we might best promote the construction of the city of God. Such meditative times can serve to prepare our spirits for the work ahead.

Let us begin on this Lenten effort boldly and with strength!

UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Ash Wednesday

The A2A Subcommittee of the UCCDM Board has invited persons associated with UCCDM to write devotional entries for the major days and Sundays of Lent 2014. We hope you enjoy this journey of looking at Lent through the lens of disability.~Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas

Our first Lenten Devotional for this Ash Wednesday comes from Dr. Kevin Pettit, UCCDM Board Member.

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What is this period in the church calendar called Lent and what is its significance?

I know that Lent is a traditional time of fasting meant to promote a person’s reflections of the time of Jesus in the wilderness; but I have a strong feeling that the time of Lent can have a much greater significance than simply a commemoration of the forty days which Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptations by the Devil.  Is not the time of Lent also a commemoration of a time of atonement for our God and humanity?  Are we all not, like Jesus in the wilderness, tempted to fall short of what God has intended for us?

I believe that it was only through his hunger and temptation in the wilderness that Jesus came to learn of the struggles that we each feel.  Of course, none of us struggle against the specific temptation to exert divine powers to turn stones into bread, the temptation to idly test our God’s concern and power, or the temptation of world domination; but, during the 40 days in the wilderness that we commemorate during Lent, Jesus was being tempted to drop the heavy mantle of his own humanity and separate himself from us in fundamental ways.  He was, however, not dissuaded from his mission by these temptations.  Indeed, it is in his decision not to give into these temptations that we first see Jesus choosing to live as the human who would become our Messiah.

Though we might be tempted to commemorate this decision of Jesus by feasting Mardi Gras weekly, we are called by Christian tradition to follow Jesus and his travels in the wilderness by actively rejecting copious consumption.  Mirroring in a veiled way Jesus’ rejection of the temptation to be more than human, in this time of Lent we are asked to reflect on the ways in which we each fall short of reaching the human potential given to us by our creator.  We are also called at all times to struggle to reach this potential by giving of ourselves and attempting to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.  After all, this was also the response of Jesus to this time as well!