I was blessed to join members of the Stewardship Committee this week on a tour of Lutheran Home of Mercy in Williston. There will be a short presentation with pictures next week as a new outreach drive begins in June for this organization. So I won’t spend time talking about the wonderful ministry that is being done on the Lutheran Home of Mercy campus and at their satellite sites.
But I do want to share one of the experiences of our tour that has been on my mind as I prepared for this week’s sermon. Our last part of the tour went through a renovated doctor’s office that is now called Genesis. It is an adult day-care for men and women with developmental disabilities, varying in severity.
Our guide, Megan, commented before arriving that whenever she has a bad day, she could always count on her spirits being raised when coming to Genesis. And she said that we would feel the same.
The five of us walked into the building as they were preparing for lunch. You could see the joy on the faces of everyone siting at their tables when they saw Megan walk in. She introduced us as ‘our friends from Zion Lutheran Church in Luckey.’ People began waving and smiling and seemed anxious to introduce themselves as we shook hands and exchanged welcomes with many of them. In retrospect, I think that experience was my Nicodemus moment.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Nicodemus was a Pharisee, an educated teacher of the faith and a righteous man, but he didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. “How can someone be born when they are old?” It was a fair question. Jesus’ words didn’t always make sense to his disciples and those he taught, including us today.
I wonder if these people at Lutheran Home of Mercy’s adult day-care aren’t a beautiful example of being born again. To be born into God’s kingdom, which if you will notice, does not reference future heaven. “We must be born of the Spirit.” And one can’t help but be moved by the Spirit within the Genesis project in Williston.
To be born again into the Kingdom of God is a transformation. It recognizes a difference of priorities than the world we live in. Being born into something allows for wonder and mystery and a new perspective. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is teaching us about the Kingdom of which believers are a part.
Most men and women with developmental disabilities see life through a different lens from the rest of us. They find joy in the simple things. They appreciate one another without judgment. And most of them understand contentment.
I believe it was Ruth who said, ‘they don’t have the hang-ups that most of us have.’ Isn’t that the truth! Our friends at Genesis seek to make smiles without judgment and complications. While their lives are difficult, their outlook is a breath of fresh air.
Sometimes we need reminders of our priorities and purpose. In closing, I want to reference Isaiah. The prophet envisioned himself in the presence of God. He humbled himself and confessed that he was lost and had unclean lips. The Seraphim, using a live hot coal, touched his lips, purifying them, and said, “Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” When the Lord asked who shall I send, Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me!”
As we leave this place, let’s remember that everything that we say and do within the sanctuary, around friends and family, and in the public eye, is a testimony (either good or bad) to Jesus, to our faith, and our faith community. Like our friends at Lutheran Home of Mercy, may we be the invisible, loving, presence of the Spirit. Amen.