One of the really fun and creative roles I have with Young Life Capernaum is getting to teach about the theology of disability. In my training role, I get to nudge the mission of Young Life along to become inclusive for our friends with disabilities and to figure out how to live out the kingdom of God together. It has been such a great journey to keep learning and growing my lens to understand God’s intention for true belonging and kingdom living. I have spent a lot of time in Luke 14 as I have considered belonging. What does it mean to belong – the kind of belonging where my friends with disabilities are seen as gifted and needed to be whole and flourish?!
What I am learning is true belonging starts with me – it starts with my heart, my attitude, and my posture towards others. I can’t really create belonging if I don’t believe someone really belongs. In Luke 14, Jesus tells one story after another – pushing the Pharisees to grow their imaginations for the kingdom and who belongs. As I have sat in this passage, I have noticed a progression – Hearts, Tables, Community and Heaven.
As I read Luke 14, I started to see Jesus lay out a path to belonging – not a “how to” for those who do not belong, but for the gatekeepers who decide who gets to belong. Jesus’ first example/story has the gatekeepers pointing inward. At their hearts. He wants them to look inward and take a hard look at their hearts first. Belonging for others starts with our hearts.
Then he tells the Pharisees a story to get them to look around the table at who they invite and do not invite to the table. What would happen if they made room at the table? Who is missing because they have never been invited?
The next story Jesus tells is about who else to invite – he pushes the Pharisees to consider the marginalized in their community. The people they had not considered as being invited or needed in their community – the poor and the disabled. Every example Jesus gives is far outside the boundaries of the community they live in. Jesus is pushing them to see who is not included based on their systems and structures and pushes the boundaries to offer a new vision for community.
The last story Jesus tells is the story about the great banquet feast in Heaven where those on the margins are not only invited, but there is also a seat at the table with their name on it. Through all of these stories, He gives them a bigger picture of who is invited into the Kingdom of God.
I wonder if this is the same pattern – our Hearts, the Table, our Community and a vision of Heaven – we could consider today as we think about those who live in the margins in our communities. The people who are often not seen or invited today are also the same people Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees – the poor and the disabled. What if we started to nudge ourselves to look at our hearts? What would happen if we intentionally looked at every “table” we sat at and wondered who is not included? How can we grow our imaginations to consider who in our community is living in the margins who do not get invited? And how can we live here on earth, as it is in heaven?
Young Life Capernaum is working hard to create communities of belonging all over the world for our friends with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Spaces of true belonging where our friends are invited to grow in their faith and in their God-given gifts. We are growing new ministry, growing our discipleship opportunities for our friends and we are growing our friends into spaces of leadership in the Church and in Young Life. We are striving to live here on earth as it is in Heaven. Join us!
We’re wondering if this is the same pattern we might consider today as we think about those who live in the margins and are not yet invited into true belonging. What if we started to nudge ourselves to look at our own hearts? What would happen if we intentionally look at every “table” where we sit and wonder who is still not included? How can we grow our imaginations to consider who in our community is living in the margins and is not included? Who can we welcome that is not yet known? How can we live here on earth as it is in heaven?