The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church in North America each year releases a set of Advent Devotionals intended to spur us on towards justice, compassion, and peace in this time of waiting in eager expectation.
“This year’s devotional series will focus on stories about the things that make for peace.”
Mark Stephenson, Director of Disability Concerns for CRC and RCA churches, wrote the advent reflection for December 9th. Mark offers a powerful reminder that to believe in peace, to believe in shalom, is also to work towards the wholeness of our communities. Drawing on James 2:14-17, Mark offers this paraphrase:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister uses a wheelchair. If one of you says, “They are welcome at our church,” but your church provides no ramps, no pew cutouts, no accessible bathrooms, what good is your faith? Suppose a fellow church member has hearing loss but your congregation provides no way for her to hear what is happening in the worship services or other gatherings, how can she participate? Maybe a stroke survivor at your church can no longer speak. If the rest of the congregation writes him off instead of taking initiative to find new ways for him to contribute to the life of the body, are you really living out your faith? Does a member with mental illness know she is loved, even though her depression often keeps her from worship and other church events? Do others offer to read the church bulletin and newsletter to members who have vision loss? Does the boy with autism know he truly belongs with the rest of your congregation? Does your church offer respite for tired families who care for their kids with disabilities day in and day out? Does your church work to show your community that people with disabilities are truly welcomed and embraced? If not, what good is your faith? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, but faith that is accompanied by action is a beautiful offering of love toward God and other people.”
Faith and action are a beautiful combination that together leads to loving communities of belonging and faithful communities of peace.
To learn more about Mark, visit the Disability Concerns website. You will also find excellent resources, links, and videos there for equipping churches to be places where “Everbody belongs, everybody serves.”
All of the advent devotions through the Office of Social Justice are excellent, so I encourage you to sign up here.