Hello everyone! Thank you for this opportunity to share with you. We’re going to begin with some meditation. So maybe put down anything you have in your hands. If you want to you can stand up and shake out arms and legs or stretch your back. Allow your body to find a comfortable position and take a couple of sighing breaths. If it’s comfortable for you, you can close your eyes.
Now, imagine the body of God.
Imagine it with all the genders and races and physical descriptions of the world. God is male and female and both and neither and all. God is black and red and olive and tan. God has hair in long braids, slanted eyes, flat nose, big lips, long beard, curvy body, long arms, short legs. God wears flowing dresses, and blue jeans, and saris, and turbans, and tuxedos, and lots and lots of jewelry. God has tattoos of every animal of the world, and a single heart-shaped stud in their right ear.
And God has every ability, and every disability in the world.
God walks, God limps, God rolls, God crawls. God gets where God needs to be, gets to us, however God can.
God’s mind works with the speed—and sometimes the randomness—of ADHD. God feels pain with the depths of depression, and joy like an episode of mania. God hears the voices of all people and all living things. God has no one way of solving problems. Sometimes God moves from step to step with the most analytic of minds. Sometimes God makes great intuitive leaps that cannot be explained. Sometimes God gets stuck in a loop because the present, whether good or bad, is the time where God lives.
God paints with their feet and reads with their hands. God can dance by swaying and shuffling, and sing by making noises that are not words, but express emotions that words cannot.
God is too busy reaching out to us to be concerned that they cannot see. God is too busy feeling the rhythms of music in their bones to worry about what it sounds like. God is loving, loving with all God’s arrhythmic heart to be anything but grateful for the body they have.
Is it any wonder that we have trouble grasping God, when God’s body does not move the way we expect a body to move? Is it any wonder we have trouble understanding God when God speaks with the slurred words of Cerebral Palsy? Is it any wonder that we cannot comprehend God, who bares the chronic pain of the suffering of the world?
How can we come closer to this being beyond our comprehension, this bodymind that meets none of our expectations?
By freeing ourselves of expectations.
By searching for God in the unique bodyminds of our fellow human beings.
By seeking to understand that which challenges us, and confuses us, and frightens us.
By accepting ourselves, and the bodyminds that make us who we are.
When we pray that all of this may be so; when we pray to love all bodies and minds; when we pray to be both broken and whole at once: we are praying to be more like God. Amen.
Hello again, how was that for you? Have you ever tried to picture God’s race or gender? How about imagining God with a disability?
Take a look at the colorful image above. This is La Crucifixion by Picasso (1932). Does it look different from other paintings you’ve seen of Jesus on the cross? His body looks a little different doesn’t it? Picasso is famous for painting human bodies in non-traditional ways. And even though Picasso was not a follower of Jesus, it is his way of depicting Jesus on the cross that illustrates what a young professor of theology already knew, that God is disabled. The professor’s name was Dr. Nancy Eisland and her well-known book, The Disabled God, has Picasso’s painting on the cover.
You see, Dr. Eisland was born with a defect in her hip which caused her backbone to become curved. Her body didn’t look the way people expect human bodies to look and it didn’t move the way people expect human bodies to move. No wonder it meant so much to her to find a painting of Jesus with a body that was as unexpected as hers.
Dr. Eisland went to Bible college and graduated at the top of her class. After seminary, she worked as a minister but she soon grew frustrated with how the Church left people like her out. You see, even though Jesus helped anyone in need and formed communities where everyone felt welcome, the Church has never done a great job welcoming people with disabilities. Dr. Eisland grew up hearing sermons that used physical disabilities to describe spiritual failure. You know the famous words from John 9 and Amazing Grace, “I once was blind, but now I see.” People with disabilities can find story after story in which Jesus’ ministry and salvation itself is expressed by erasing physical or mental impairment—as though people with disabilities couldn’t possibly be acceptable to God as they are. Dr. Eisland’s own parents brought her to be healed by religious leaders who claimed they could cure physical disabilities like Jesus did. Her body remained the same, and that became an important part of her faith. So Dr. Eisland began to teach future church leaders how to serve people of all abilities.
Today, Dr. Eisland’s theology of Jesus as the Disabled God remains one of the most well-known in the field of disability studies. But the work is far from complete. Bekah Anderson is the author of the Body of God meditation I started with today. She came to Sunday Fellowship a few weeks ago and shared her meditation with us. Bekah is legally blind and starting her degree at Union Theological Seminary in the fall. At the very same conference where I met Bekah, the keynote preacher asked people to name what they imagined the kingdom of heaven to be like and someone yelled out, “No disabilities!” Imagine how that must have felt to Bekah and to everyone else in the congregation who identifies as someone with a disability. No wonder people with disabilities still get the sense that they are not welcome in the Church!
I know most people in the pews today would say that God loves everyone regardless of ability. But we have all been raised in a culture that celebrates certain kinds of bodies and minds, and ignores or tries to fix others. This is sometimes called “ableism.” It takes work for us to start doing things in a new way. Even if we begin, we will make a lot of mistakes. But I still believe the Church can learn to recognize all bodies as part of the Body of Christ. After all, the Jesus we follow is the one who was resurrected with unhealed wounds on his hands and side.
Most of you know I have ADHD. Over the years, I’ve had to work hard to learn how to keep every thought inside my active brain from coming out of my mouth. For this reason, I don’t tend to get emotional at church gatherings. But I guess Bekah’s Body of God meditation caught me off guard. When I heard her say “God’s mind works with the speed—and sometimes the randomness—of ADHD,” tears just rolled down my cheeks. Clearly, I had a deep need to see my ADHD as something acceptable and even a part of God’s image. That day Bekah’s words soothed a wound in me I’ve carried for a very long time. But I still have ADHD. I’m not cured but I think I may finally understand why Dr. Eisland and Bekah say that they wouldn’t want their disabilities to be cured in heaven because they are an important part of their identity. I can’t thank Bekah enough for that. Such is the power of a preacher who knows the Disabled God well!
My friends, what if sharing our vulnerabilities and learning to see the Disabled God in every body and mind would enable everyone to more fully trust the good news? What if churches started seeking out the wisdom of people with disabilities who are gifted in this area? I wonder if the Church is finally ready to listen.
How about we end with a fun song that will help us remember that no matter what a body looks like, all of us are created in the image of God. It’s called “Amazing” and it’s by Linnea Good. It’s also a repeat after me song so repeat after me, and do what I do.
I am Amazing.
I am filled with power!
And God loves me!
You are Amazing!
You are filled with power!
And God loves you!
We are Amazing…
We are filled with power!
And God loves us!
God is Amazing!
God is filled with power!
And we love God!
That is Amazing!!!!!!