Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
God bless the men laying the concrete
I am glad to see the work crews installing curb cuts around town so that wheelchairs and scooters can access the sidewalks. I am glad that, even in a recession, money can be found for this, because whenever people can be more active, everybody prospers.
My consciousness on this subject was raised when I was working as a pastoral intern in Chicago. One icy January day about 1979 I was taking the Elevated Train and rode past my stop. Rather than get back on a train going the other way, I foolishly decided to walk the few blocks back to my destination. I had on slick-soled leather shoes and almost immediately took a tumble on the sidewalk.
My ankle was so badly sprained, it had to be put in a heavy plaster cast that extended from my thigh all the way down my toes. The doctor said it would probably have been less painful if I had simply broken the bone. Anyway, so many people came to my assistance right there on the sidewalk that it has always made me say that Chicago is one big city where the people are truly kind and neighborly. I do not remember how I finally got where I was going, but somebody must surely have hailed a cab or given me a ride.
I had to wear that cast for six weeks and go around on crutches. It was then I realized how many obstacles to mobility there are in daily life. Those of us who are mobile simply do not realize how many little steps up and down there are in our daily course of getting about. I think everybody ought to ride in a wheelchair or walk on crutches for a week, just to learn about mobility issues.
For churches, it is a theological issue. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” and we ought to make our churches as accessible to people as possible — so that they can, literally, “Come!” Our Lord took quite an interest in blind and deaf persons, and those who were lame or suffering from paralysis.
Some people then said such conditions were caused by sin — as if they had “brought this on themselves.” Jesus would have none of that. Instead, he healed and showed compassion, and lauded others, like the Good Samaritan, who did the same.
People attending the Pilgrimage often ask me how disabled persons entered our old church (now we have an elevator), where the worship space is on the second floor, reached by flights of circular stairs. I have to answer that I do not think old-time architects worried very much about providing for the infirm in the structures they designed. Either disabled people did not live very long, or they were just sidelined and stayed out of sight. It was a terrible situation. But I also point out that in 1860, those who built our old church, and the others like it also felt no compunction about owning other human beings, and pocketing the profits of their unrequited labor! Not everything about the “good old days” was good. One very good reason for preserving old things is to make us appreciate the new!
On the church’s calendar the 40 days after Easter form the holy season of Eastertide. At the very least, the message of resurrection should have to do with physical renewal and mobility! The women came to the tomb on that first Easter morning wondering who would roll the stone away. God’s power took care of that, and now it belongs to Christ’s disciples to, as it were, roll as many stones away as possible, so that all might enjoy that fullness of life that the resurrection is meant to symbolize — spiritually and physically.
So God bless the men out there laying the concrete. They are doing God’s work here in our midst.
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