Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

When did you have difficulties getting in, on, or around some thing or some place?

Barrier-Free Love

Two years after the original projected date of completion, the Minoru Centre for Active Living in Richmond, VA is open. It’s not every day that a community gets a new center for events with indoor swimming facilities. It’s also not every day that such community centers win international prizes for their accessibility. The Minoru Centre, however, is one such place. The award was presented in Cologne, Germany by the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities. Over 80 architectural projects from all around the world competed for prizes in various categories. The Minoru Centre is a wonderful example of how to make a facility accessible for everyone. 

Pam Andrews, herself someone who faces various mobility issues, sits on the city’s design advisory panel. She brings a needed voice for the principal of universal access – for people of “all ages and all stages” of life. Universal access embraces the design vision that all aspects of a building can be accessed and used by everybody. 

Some of the accessibility features at the Minoru Centre for Active Living:  barrier-free front doors, accessible reception centers, ramps and “gentle steps,” as well as mobile lifts into the pool. Andrews’ advice for designers is that they should be, “focusing on universal design, focusing on one fit for everybody, no matter what their age, no matter what their needs, no matter what their abilities.” 

Discussion Questions

  • When have you noticed someone struggling to get into a building? In and out of a vehicle?
  • Where have you noticed people getting help from service animals (seeing-eye dogs, etc.)?
  • What are other things you have noticed related to accessability–or the lack of it?

Second Sunday of Advent

Malachi 3:1-4

Philippians 1:3-11

Luke 3:1-6

(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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

Luke’s gospel is a story about the good news of Jesus. Luke wants us to know that Jesus is the Lord that the prophet Isaiah was talking about when he said, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And, John, son of Zechariah, is the one preparing Jesus’ way. 

John is out there preaching, baptizing,  and inviting people to turn their lives around to meet the Lord, who is on his way. The prophet Isaiah paints an amazing picture of how extreme this preparation should be. “Every valley should be filled. Every mountain and hill made low. The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.” Any barrier for the Lord should be removed. Jesus’ way is barrier free. 

This image is about making it easy for Jesus to get where you are now. This image is not just about little changes. It is about big things, too. Every valley, that means even the Grand Canyon. Every mountain and hill, that means the Rockies and the Alps and even Mount Everest. Crooked, straight. Rough, smooth. No twisty-turny roads to get lost on. No bumpy stony roads to stumble on. Easy access. And this access is a two-way street. If Jesus’ way to us should be made barrier free, then the same goes for our access to Jesus. Nothing should stand in the way of getting to Jesus. John the Baptist’s task, according to Luke, is to preach forgiveness for all who turn to Jesus, no matter where they find themselves in life.  

Many things in our lives get in the way of hearing God’s word of forgiveness in Jesus. Sometimes it is the voice whispering in our ears, words of unworthiness. Perhaps it is the memories of traumatic things which keep us from believing that the way to Jesus’ love is easy. Maybe it is teachings we’ve heard which suggest that God’s love is not meant for us because of how we look or who we love. So we think God’s forgiveness is not meant for us. 

Isaiah’s words are about extreme, barrier-free love. That seems too good to be true. God couldn’t possibly love me or him or her or them. Or could God, indeed, love any of us at any time, all the time? How many people do we know who find themselves living in a wilderness of their own making, desperately needing to hear a voice crying out into their wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”? God’s love constantly breaks into the world and Luke points to it. Isaiah points to it. Others around us point to it. We, too, can point to “barrier-free Jesus, for ourselves and for others in the world around us. 

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you sense barriers to God’s love in your own personal life?
  • When have you experienced easy access to God’s love? Who helped prepare the way of the Lord in those situations?
  • When have you sensed when the church has put up more barriers than been barrier free in its preaching and teaching?
  • Where do you think you can work to “fill valleys and flatten hills” to prepare the way of the Lord?

Activity Suggestions

With the group, check out your own church’s accessibility. Here a few questions to help you assess your own church: 

  • How easy is it for people with walkers or wheelchairs or stroller to get into church? How about getting into a pew or chair?
  • Can someone in a wheelchair easily participate in leading worship?
  • What about those with challenges in hearing and seeing in your worship context?
  • How barrier-free is your church’s online presence?
  • What steps does your church take to make sure that everyone can understand the sermon and participate fully in the worship experience?

Closing Prayer

Ever loving God, you made yourself more accessible to us in taking on our humanity in the person of Jesus. By reaching out to us, you have made it easier for us to reach out to you. Take away the barriers between us and you, and between us and those around us. When we turn away from you, call us back into your loving embrace. We ask this in the name of one who breaks down barriers with the most powerful love, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.