Call him here!
The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany / Disability Awareness Sunday
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
First Sunday of February has been designated as Disability Awareness Sunday, a day in the United Methodist Church that affirms the responsibility of the Church to be in ministry with all persons, regardless of their physical and/or mental conditions.
We are a part of the Body of Christ! And we declare that everyone is welcome here at Zion United Methodist Church.
But we notice that we live in a culture that celebrates perfect and strong bodies, a world that far too often bases social acceptance on appearance. We are made in the image of God, but it is not our physical appearance or ability that is like unto God. That God-like image is in here. Yet this world of ours pushes us to look good, be strong, be perfect.
II. Are we really welcoming them?
As United Methodists, we are called to inclusiveness by opening our worship services to all. Inclusion calls for an attitude of welcome and full acceptance, enabling the full participation of all people in the life of the church and beyond.
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2012, spells out:
a. The United Methodist Church recognizes the rights and full humanity of all people as equally created in the image of God, regardless of the presence or absence of disabilities.
b. United Methodists are to be in ministry with people who have all types of disabilities and are to recognize and receive their gifts as full participants in our communities.
c. United Methodists should advocate for appropriate community services for people with disabilities and should make the sacraments of baptism and Communion accessible to all, with no restrictions based on level of understanding or physical ability.
When I visited Zion UMC for the first-time last February—a year ago—I was so impressive that this building was well equipped with easy accessible side door, rail and ramp, elevator, and wide and clean first floor bathroom. I am so glad that our church building has been well prepared for those who need these facilities to access the worship place, and I strongly think that we need to advertise extensively about this so our brothers and sisters having a limitation can find worship place in Zion UMC.
We should let others know that we are practically welcoming all, and actively believing in Jesus Christ whose one of main themes in ministry was to heal the sick. HE HEALS the SICK! He really cares them. Therefore, we care each other.
This short video clip is telling us about disability and our Christian view for our neighbors who live with a disability. I don’t have anyone in my family and relatives who has a disability. So, for me, it took a long time to become aware of what physical or mental disability. It, for me, was “literally” THEIR story. I used to think that they are different people from me and they are living in a totally different world that I don’t know and I thought I didn’t need to know about their different life. I was so ignorant and insensitive about disability.
III. Call him here!
Notice that when Bartimaeus was crying out for Jesus to have mercy upon him, many charged him that he should close his mouth. They recognized his disability – they saw that he was blind – yet they told him to be quiet and not to interrupt Jesus’ ministry for the “normal people.”
Most of the times when we hear this story, we are so quick to criticize these actions of the crowd, and, yet, “are we in our society not guilty of the same and, perhaps, even worse?” What we say to someone; what others call us; the labels we use for people – all of these shape and mold our lives.
As we watched the video, you and I could realize that very often we would think that they must be quiet and we should be their voice, and it would make us nice, better and/or normal people. No, that’s not truth. We all need help and we all need each other to be better and stronger. We should pay attention to Jesus, and know that He said, “Call him here” while crowds rebuked him and ordered him to be quiet.
This part of the Scripture shows us how people with disabilities were treated in biblical times. They were, for the most part, outcasts. They depended upon the charity of others for their day to day existence. No one understood that a person who was blind could do other things. No one cared that those with disabilities were people who deserved respect. In the Scripture, we read today, for example, Bartimaeus was born blind. He was so not even respected or valued enough to be given a name. The name we find in this scene for him, “Bartimaeus,” isn’t really a name. It actually means, “Son of Timaeus.” You see, Bartimaeus’ father was Timaeus. Most often people with disabilities weren’t even named, they were just referred to as the son of or daughter of their father.
“Call him here” was a powerful command that awakened the crowd who forced and bullied Bartimaeus. Jesus commanded to bring him before Him.
When he heard Jesus—“Call him here” he had immediately thrown his cloak aside.
The man was seated and the cloak would have covered his lap so that it would catch the coins thrown to him by the passers-by. After all, a blind man would not have been able to find the coins if they were simply dropped on the ground. By throwing aside that cloak, Bartimaeus threw aside the tool for his daily existence, like the fishermen casting aside their net when Jesus their Lord called them in Galilee.
When he jumped up without his cloak, and his life was already and entirely transformed.
When he threw his cloak, the few coins were also thrown away that would feed him.
And then this man who lived with a disability became one of the most powerful witnesses of Jesus’ love, grace and power.
VI. Nick Vujicic
Nick was born without limbs. He doesn’t have arms and legs. I think his story is the one of 21st century Bartimaeus testimony that witnesses how God works in a person with disability, and what Jesus Christ our Lord demands us for inclusiveness ministry. Let’s see his short testimony.
His physical limitation could stop him to deliver the Good News! His testimony has transformed people’s views of what the disability is.
In a book called, "A Place Called Acceptance", the author surveyed a group of parents of children with disabilities. One question asked to these parents was: “If you could create your “dream church,” how would that church meet your specific needs as a parent or family member of a child with disabilities?” 76.7% surveyed said a church could do this by having a WELCOMING ATTITUDE! Only 16.7% said by making the church accessible! You see, the biggest barrier is NOT physical accessibility; NO, the biggest barrier is attitudinal accessibility!
Friends, listen to Jesus in today’s passage commanding, “Call him here.”
Our Lord commands us today, “Call them here. Invite them here."
"Welcome them here."
"Help them to worship God here."
"This is my house, and I care them."
"They matter to me."
"Call them here."
"Call them here.”
UMC Book of Discipline 2012