Chris Litman-Koon, Mount Pleasant, SC
Warming up questions
Have you ever thought about an invention to be created? If so, share your idea with others. As you think about this invention, does it seem to have serious potential or as a fun idea – or perhaps a combination of both?
Inventing with purpose
The MacArthur Foundation provides grants to individuals and nonprofits around the world to build a “fairer, greener, and more peaceful world.” The foundation annually awards approximately 20 to 30 individuals with the MacArthur Scholarship, better known as the “Genius Grant”. These individuals were selected for their “exceptional originality and dedication in their creative endeavors”. The award comes with a $ 625,000 grant with no ties. This scholarship gives these individuals flexibility in creative endeavors.
In late September, the Foundation announced that Joshua Miele was an ingenious recipient of the scholarship. Miele designs adaptive technologies that enable blind and partially sighted people (BVI) to use technologies that permeate society. For example, Miele has developed YouDescribe, which allows well-meaning volunteers to create audio descriptions of any video on YouTube. BVI individuals can access these descriptions to better experience the content of videos on YouTube.
Miele has other inventions: a glove called WearaBraille that allows the user to type Braille into any smart device without the need for a keyboard, and a web tool called TMAP that creates street maps so that BVI individuals can travel anywhere in the country. The list of his inventions continues. (You can find a more detailed story here.)
Joshua Miele went blind at the age of 4, at which point his mother, Isabella, became his advocate. About her, Miele says: “People generally assume that a blind child is in danger, and my mother was not interested in protecting me. She was interested in being as active and engaged with the world as possible. ”
After announcing that he would become a MacArthur Fellow, Joshua Miele said, “What I do: it’s research, inventions and activism. I am proud to be blind. I am proud of the community of which I am a part and I love building and imagining super technologies for the blind. ”
Questions for discussion
- Of the technologies mentioned here, which of Joshua Miele’s inventions are you most interested in?
- Joshua Miele believes there is no reason that blindness is holding him back. He enjoys life, has a family and community and is rewarded for his contribution to society. Thinking about your own characteristics and interests, how do you imagine that your life is fulfilled and satisfied?
Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 31: 7-9
Hebrews 7: 23-28
Mark 10: 46-52
(Text links are for the Oremus Bible Browser. The Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A reading year calendar for Year B can be found in Lektionary Readings.)
For lecture humor and insight, check out the weekly Agnus Day comic.
Thinking of the gospel
In the four gospels, there are about two dozen stories depicting Jesus interacting with people who have some form of disability, and all of these stories represent Jesus healing those people. Throughout Church history, the unfortunate result of these stories has been some Christians who have a destructive attitude toward disability, as if disability means that someone is not a whole person or must always be sad in their daily lives.
A frustrating experience that sometimes occurs for people with visible disabilities approaches a casual Christian who wants to pray for them with the intention of healing them. Just … don’t. Decide never to do that and try to stop anyone who is prone to it. Such an act to “fix” or “fix” another human being will at best irritate the other person, and at worst will alienate and disenfranchise him in the social environment.
Today’s gospel lesson is about Jesus seeing Bartimaeus. An uncritical reading of this lesson would reinforce the idea that a blind individual can be seen if he or she only has enough faith. We achieve better engagement by considering a larger narrative of the Gospel of Mark.
In Mark 8: 22-26, Jesus gives sight to a blind man. Yet the first attempt to give this man sight was not entirely successful; he says, “I can see people, but they look like walking trees.” So Jesus lays his hands on the man again and after this second attempt the man sees clearly. A few chapters go by and now we have today’s story of a blind man who sees, only this time Jesus needs one try. What is the connection between these two stories in Mark and why is the process of giving sight different?
Think of these two stories as books for books. What happens between them is several interactions between Jesus and his disciples, and through all these stories there is a common thread: the disciples do not understand. They do not understand Jesus’ teaching that all people should be welcome in his mission of the “kingdom of God” in this world, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society (Mark 9: 14-32, 9: 38-50, 10: 1-16). . Simultaneously with this thread, students misunderstand size; believe that size is the result of climbing to the top. Jesus teaches that true greatness in the kingdom of God lies in humility and welcome to others (Mark 8: 27-37, 9: 2-10, 9: 33-37, 10: 17-31, 10: 32-45).
When we consider this larger narrative, the two books and their details make more sense; they symbolize students ’difficulties in understanding the value of God’s kingdom on earth. In Mark 8: 22-26, the miracle has difficulty landing, similar to how Jesus ’teaching did not initially land with his disciples. As we accomplish a miracle with Bartimaeus in 10: 46-52, the disciples begin to understand Jesus ’teaching about welcoming all people and that true greatness lies in humility.
So this second miracle story symbolizes that the disciples are beginning to understand what Jesus is all about. Another detail in these books reinforces this reading of Mark’s narrative. The man in the first gorge goes home and does not follow Jesus (Mark 8:26). Bartimaeus, however, joins the disciples and Jesus in his journey (Mark 10:52). Where does this “path” go? Mark 11: 1 tells us that this is Jerusalem, where Jesus will take up the cross.
With this symbolic narrative of the two healings, Mark says that we Jesus followers have difficulty understanding what Jesus means by the “kingdom of God” in this world. Yet Jesus invites us to greet all people, including the most vulnerable and marginalized, and to understand that true greatness comes in humility and recognizing the image of God in all people. These are not the values of the world. We need time to understand these values of the “kingdom of God,” humility, and radical welcome. But like Bartimaeus, we can understand these new values and join Jesus on his way of the cross. Uncritical reading of two stories about the book opens the door beyond harmful attitudes about disability. However, the larger story in Mark begs us to understand a deeper lesson: we live in the kingdom of God when everyone is welcome and we value all people as they are.
Questions for discussion
- Is the “kingdom of God” only about heaven and the afterlife, or is Jesus calling us to begin to experience this life as well?
- The values of the kingdom of God, as revealed in this section of the Gospel of Mark, include welcoming all people and recognizing humility as a sign of true greatness. When and in whom did you witness the embodiment of these values?
There are various impairments that people can have: visual, auditory, motor and cognitive are among the most common. If time and possibilities allow, visit the facilities of your ministry and discuss the ways in which the space itself welcomes people with disabilities and the ways in which it does not welcome them. The ELCA website for people with disabilities is in the process of being updated to better provide resources to you and your community. You can contact the ministry coordinator, Pastor Lisa Heffernan, at [email protected] with any special questions.
Loving God, open us to the values of your kingdom. Shape our lives to be welcome for all people and give us grateful hearts for the community you create through all of us. Amen.