Wednesday, 3 August 2016
Meeting the "Other"
My sermon on July 31st yesterday focused on what it means to be fully human. For me it means that we are not perfect; we are going to make mistakes; we are going to fall into sin. I started out by calling everyone losers. I think that got their attention and it may not have made them as receptive to my message but I think I redeemed myself and made the point that as Christians we are followers of someone who the world viewed as a loser. Jesus was by the world standards a loser who died a horrible death on the cross with his closest followers betraying him, denying him and abandoning him.
I won’t repeat much of my sermon here—a copy is posted if you would like to read it. However, I want to repeat a quote from Jean Vanier the founder of the L’Arche communities:
I will tell you a true story, he said. “A young man with disabilities wanted to win the 100-metre race. And he got to the finals. And he was running like crazy to get that gold medal, and somebody in the next lane tripped and fell. And he stopped, picked this guy up, and they ran together, and both of them were last”.
“That’s a true story,” Mr. Vanier confirmed. It’s the deepest lesson the disabled have to teach. “It’s not that they can become like us—but how can we become like them and have fun together. And lift up the chap who has fallen on the other lane, and come in last. There’s in us all an ego we have to conquer. You kill the ego so that the real person may rise up. And the real person is the one who’s learning to love.”
I want to reflect further on the on the “other” in our society—those people who are inconvenient and embarrassing and who many if not most people believe society would be better off without. A Facts and Argument column in last Friday’s Globe and Mail written by Ann Auld, the mother of a Down’s syndrome child spoke eloquently about the joys and challenges she had experienced. She expressed the fear that in the future science will make her experience and people like her children extinct, “Of the numerous lessons I have learned the one I never figured out is that I would be raising an endangered species.” She ended the article eloquently with the poignant expression of the joys and challenges, “Within a few moments, she will break my heart and patch it back up again.”
Lorna and I also watched on our antiquated VHS player and 20” portable TV, I Am Sam starring Sean Penn. It is a poignant and moving story of a mentally challenged man who fights to raise his “normal” intelligent daughter. It is not idealistic or sentimental or fantasy like Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks. It does not sugar coat the realities of the disabled in this world. It does have a Hollywood happy ending but it is definitely worthwhile watching.
These experiences encouraged me to reflect on the reality of the “other” in God’s world. I do not know what I would have done if I had been faced with the choice of bringing a disabled child into the world. Ann Auld notes that she does not know what she would have done if amniocentesis had been available to her, “would I have continued the pregnancy knowing what was to come.” She believes that she also, “contributed to the notion that being different is somehow wrong, not okay, not acceptable.”
How then do I react and respond and relate to the “others” in this world—those who are different and do not fit the idea and ideal of being normal or above normal? How do I keep aware of my prejudices towards many “others” in this world? There are many more questions than answers about who the “others” are and what God’s plan is. However, the bottom line is “It’s not that they can become like us, but how can we become like them and have fun together” and live as God intends us to—in relationship. Blessings