Contributed by Jocelyn Breeland
Fairfax, VA

Warm-up Question: Discuss a time when you were underestimated.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the landmark Olmstead decision, in which the Supreme Court said the Americans With Disabilities Act requires individuals with disabilities receive services in the least restrictive environment possible. As a result, thousands of Americans with disabilities have been able to move out of institutions to live in communities of their own choosing.

President Obama marked the anniversary by declaring a “Year of Community Living.” He has directed the Department of Health and Human Services to aggressively work to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having meaningful lives in their communities.

In the nearly two decades since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed, many changes have been made in schools, workplaces, and public spaces to ensure inclusion of people with physical and intellectual disabilities or challenges. Among the positive changes, technology, where it is available, has greatly facilitated access and inclusion. But much remains to be done. In most communities, there are long waiting lists for the services people with disabilities need to participate fully in the lives of their communities.

Perhaps the most difficult, and most important, barrier to overcome is attitude. Too often, people with disabilities are seen as disabled, broken, or incomplete. We need to value, celebrate, and use the contributions and gifts of people with disabilities in every community. With this state of mind, and commitment, all barriers can be overcome.

Discussion Questions

Statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
White House Statement

  • Are people with disabilities included in any of your regular activities? Are there barriers that make their participation difficult?
  • Is there anything you do regularly that could not be done by a person with a physical or intellectual disability, given a reasonable amount of accommodation?
  • Employment is important for people with disabilities, and the income from work makes it easier to obtain housing and other services they need. Why is it difficult for people with disabilities to get good jobs? Are any of these reasons insurmountable?
  • Within the disability community, it is preferable to say a person has a disability, rather than that the person is disabled, handicapped, mentally retarded. Why is this language important?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 5, 2009.

(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

It is easy for us to shake our heads sadly when contemplating the community’s reaction to Jesus. Don’t they know this is Jesus? Can’t they see his wisdom, his divinity? How could they be so foolish?

Imagine a friend, someone you’ve known for years, in church speaking knowledgeably about scripture. The next thing you know, someone is saying he’s a prophet. Where is the threshold of your skepticism? What would you need to see or hear in order to believe?

The sentiment in the synagogue seems to be that this Jesus is nothing special. How can he understand scripture better than everyone else? He’s no one important or specially gifted or skilled, just a lowly carpenter. And the same prejudice that keeps his neighbors from seeing Jesus for who and what he is can keep us from recognizing God’s presence among us today.

Here again, scripture reminds us that God does not shower his blessings only on the rich, the powerful, or the exceptional. Repeatedly, God shows his ability and preference for using the most humble, ordinary folks to spread the gospel message and demonstrate love, forgiveness, justice, and healing. We need to be on the lookout for times when God works in these ways — in ourselves and in other people. We wouldn’t want to reject God’s plan and intentions, like the Nazarenes in the synagogue rejected Jesus.

We might think it should have been easier for Jesus’ contemporaries to understand the miracle right in front of their eyes. But is it really any easier for us, knowing Jesus’ work, mission, death, and resurrection to see God’s work in our own lives? Today’s Gospel reminds us that God is indeed at work around us every day, and that we can see signs of God’s love everywhere — often in the most ordinary and unexpected places.

Discussion Questions

  • What would you say to convince Jesus’ contemporaries of the authenticity of his message?
  • How can you identify God’s action and presence in your world?
  • How is it that the disciples were able to see the truth about Jesus?
  • In verses 7-13, Jesus sends his disciples out into the world. What advice does he give for times when others refuse to hear his word?
  • What message does today’s Gospel have for us in our own ministry, and in responding to the ministry of others?
  • Jesus’ instructions suggest a level of poverty for his disciples. Why was this important? Is it still important today?
  • What does today’s Gospel say to us about the role of people with disabilities in our society?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, as we gather to learn your will, we marvel at the many magnificent works you have done, and the many unearned blessings we have received. Remind us to seek the beauty of your creation in every place we go, on every face we see. And help us to show that same beauty, and love, to those we meet. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.