March 5, 2023 – Disability Awareness Sunday

Florida United Methodist Annual Conference website
Florida United Methodist Annual Conference website

A Moment for Mission

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” — Psalm 139:14, NRSV

David’s individual hymn of thanksgiving is one most Christ followers know by heart. It speaks to the depth of relationship shared between humanity and God. The Hebrew roots for “fearfully” and “wonderfully” speak of humans in terms of great awe and remarkability. We were made to be different, unique and full of love.

God created us and saw that we were very good. God knows every hair on our heads. Just as we are one in Christ our Savior, we remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, NIV: “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. … But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

In our diversity, we bring special gifts to the table and show God’s grace to the church and to our communities. Each of us is called to bear witness of Jesus’ transformative love to all people. Yet, sometimes we fail to create an inclusive, supportive and accepting place where all belong.

Does your church have hearing loop systems and closed captioning to help hard-of-hearing and visually impaired guests’ worship? Are your church and worship spaces accessible to those who use wheelchairs, scooters and walkers? Do you have large-print hymnals and Bibles?

These are important questions we need to ask ourselves as members of our churches and communities. God has called us to build a church where all can belong and participate fully regardless of ability. The church cannot be complete until all are welcome at the table. We celebrate Disability Awareness Sunday as a reminder that individuals with disabilities bring wonderful gifts and graces. It helps us to “change attitudes, priorities, and practices.

As you participate in Disability Awareness Sunday this year, look around you for fresh ways to ensure that every beloved child of God feels welcomed, cherished and included on the journey with Jesus.

Children’s Message
Who knows someone who uses a wheelchair or a walker? Does anyone know someone who can’t see or hear well? (Let children answer.)

These disabilities make it hard to do some things that people without disabilities normally do. Still, they can do some things really well, probably even better than we can! They might be a talented painter or musician.

In the church, we believe that God made everyone to be exactly as they are and that each person brings special gifts that no one else can replace. That is true for you, me and everyone in the world, whether or not we have a disability. The Holy Spirit works in and through all of us to share love and hope with our friends, families and community!

Today, as we celebrate Disability Awareness Sunday, we remember that individuals with disabilities make our church better and more beautiful. It wouldn’t be complete without them. We want to create a space where all people feel welcome and accepted, and can participate fully in worship. We don’t always do a great job with that when we don’t have special audio systems, closed captioning or large-print materials.

Jesus reminds us to love our neighbor. Sometimes, that means going out of our way to make things more accessible. What are some ways our church could become more accessible and welcoming of people with disabilities? (Let children answer.) We can always be more loving and welcoming, and these ideas are just the start!

Prayer: God, you love each of us, no matter who we are or what we can do. Encourage us to share love with others this week and welcome those who don’t always feel included. We love you, God! Amen.

Offertory Prayer
Creator, you have given each of us unique gifts and qualities and made us one in Jesus Christ. Bless these gifts, that we might be empowered to see our neighbors in a new light, change our attitudes and practices, and strive to create a space where all of your beloved children find welcome, acceptance and belonging. Amen.

From Discipleship Ministries
God of unwavering love, you have held nothing back in your love for us, not even your Son. How we marvel at that kind of love, and how we long to reflect a portion of that devotion back to you. As we dedicate our offerings to you, lead us away from our tendency to hold back and worry that there will not be enough. Help us to live as the people of love and abundance you have called us to be. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Newsletter Nugget
This week, we will celebrate Disability Awareness Sunday. As United Methodists, “we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to [and with] all persons” (Book of Discipline, ¶140). We are committed to creating spaces that are fully inclusive, open, welcoming and accepting of people from every position in society, every racial background and every kind of ability.

According to the CDC, approximately 26% of adults in the United States have some kind of disability. These vary in type from mobility and cognitive issues, to difficulty with hearing, seeing and providing self-care. You likely know someone who struggles to walk, is hard of hearing or has been diagnosed with dementia.

Our church recognizes each individual’s sacred worth as a creation of God. Through our baptism in Christ Jesus, we are incorporated into one body. We are called to minister to and with all, no matter their ability. Everyone brings unique, Spirit-given gifts to the table, and it wouldn’t be full without them.

Our call on Disability Awareness Sunday – and every other day – is to continue building inclusive spaces and opportunities for all to participate fully in worship and in the life of the church. May it be so!