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Enlarge the Site of Your Tent

Making a Place in the Church for People with Disabilities

[Note: This article is reprinted from And Show Steadfast Love, ed. Lewis H. Merrick (Louisville, Kentucky: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1994), 29-45.]

Enlarge the site of your tent,
And let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out.
(Isaiah 54:2)

Since physical disability is an inescapable part of the human condition, the church has always found people with disabilities among its members. This does not necessarily mean that people with disabilities have always found a place in the church. A spot means much more than mere existence. Having a standing means having a sense of acceptance, of belonging, of rightness in one’s surroundings. Having a location of one’s own means having a home, particularly a share in the church as the universal home. Thus status cannot be separated from people, and if people cannot offer that sense of acceptance and belonging, then there will be no point.

Many in the church are becoming more conscious of the need to offer people with disabilities a sense of identity within the church. Often, however, their well-meaning efforts center around external issues, such as providing an accessible building. While this is clearly important, it is not sufficient to provide a true standing in the church for the disabled. No building can be barrier-free if there are still barriers within the hearts of the people who are present there. Thus this article will not address the need to eliminate the physical barriers that shut the disabled out - about which much has already been written - but will focus on the psychological and spiritual barriers, the unseen obstacles that can separate the disabled from the rest of the church.

Hospitality and Hesed

In providing a place for the disabled within the church, as in any spiritual endeavor, there must be a balance between external and internal concerns. This is expressed by the prophet Micah: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). “Justice” is an external matter; it is something one can “do.” But “kindness,” hesed, is internal; it is a matter of the heart. One cannot do it; one must “love.” A completely accessible church must be a church of hesed.

Hesed is an interesting word, and difficult to translate, but it encompasses love, acceptance, kindness, and compassion. The Bible does not clearly define words, but one often can get the meaning through example. Hesed is a quality often associated with Abraham: “You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old” (Micah 7:20) “Unswerving loyalty” (rendered “steadfast love” in the Revised Standard Version and “mercy” in the King James Version) is hesed. It is offered to Abraham because Abraham was a man of hesed.

How was this shown in him? The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day (Genesis 18:1). The question was asked: What was Abraham doing, sitting in front of his tent in the heat of the day? He was looking for strangers to whom he could show his hospitality, replies the midrash (the Jewish interpretation of these verses in legend and commentary). According to the midrash, Abraham’s tent had entrances facing north, south, east, and west so that travelers approaching from any direction might see it and feel welcome to enter.

He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on - since you have come to your servant.” (Genesis 18:2-5)

Running to greet his visitors, Abraham offered his hospitality freely, without reservation and without hesitation. It was his way of showing love, particularly love toward the traveler, the stranger, the one who looks for a place to rest. Hospitality is hesed taking form in action. Hospitality means finding a place for the pilgrim; it means allowing the sojourner to enter into the house.

People with disabilities have so often been denied hospitality - particularly in the form of people making a place for them in their lives -that this denial has become legendary. A proverbial saying is quoted in 2 Samuel 5:8: “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” Perhaps this reflects a general reluctance to offer hospitality to people with disabilities. It is not easy to give the disabled a place in the house, even in God’s house. And now we must ask ourselves a difficult question: To what extent does our theology contribute to this sense of uneasiness and perhaps even support it?

Barriers of the Heart

In the Bible, people with disabilities are most visible among those whom Jesus healed. When we think of the Bible and physical disability, we think of Jesus’ miraculous healings and the faith they were intended to demonstrate. This at once poses a problem: If one who is healed is told “Great is your faith,” does this mean that a person who still has a disability is weak in faith? Do we tend to look at the disabled with a hidden sense of judgment? In religious communities that emphasize faith healing, the judgment may be somewhat obvious: one will be healed if one has faith; thus if one has not yet been healed, one’s faith must be lacking something.

In other communities the judgment may still be present, if not so obvious. Jesus tended to the poor, the unfortunate, the sick: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Do we unconsciously classify people with disabilities in a category of unfortunates requiring the physician’s special attention? Are those who are sick placed with those who are sinners? If we observe someone with a disability are we tempted to think, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and to separate ourselves from that person, making a claim to some special divine grace that person lacks?

Before immediately answering no to any of these questions, it is worth reflecting that such attitudes can be subtle and can even serve a protective function for the nondisabled person. By erecting such a barrier between oneself and a disabled person, one protects oneself from the fear that one might suffer the same fate: “It won’t happen to me because that person is different.” One thus places the disabled person within a separate category of human beings, either worse or perhaps even better than oneself. One may find a “reason” for the disability (“Such a person lacks faith”; “Perhaps that person was careless”; “Perhaps that person has sinned”) or one may even romanticize the disability (“What courage you have! I could never carry such a burden”; “You are God’s special child”). Some of these attitudes are malicious, some are well-meaning, but all of them place barriers between disabled and nondisabled as exclusive as the barriers in any inaccessible building.

Not only are we often unaware of how we may categorize people, sometimes we may even think of it as a virtue. In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol there is a very moving scene when Bob Cratchit comes back from church on Christmas Day carrying Tiny Tim, and Mrs. Cratchit asks: “And how did little Tim behave?” “As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

Tiny Tim can never be seen or thought of apart from his disability. Even he is aware of this and has tried to come to terms with it. Is it possible to think of him as just a boy, with the interests and feelings that boys have or only as part of a separate group of people who will comfort the faithful on Christmas instead of making them feel uneasy?

The roots of the problem are psychological. Nondisabled people erect mental barriers between themselves and the disabled in order to protect themselves from their fears. As a result, people with disabilities may feel that they are not seen as individuals, that they are not accepted and valued for who they are, and that they do not have a real home in the church.

What role does our theology play in relation to this problem? No good theology can ever remain merely an intellectual exercise; the test of a theology’s validity is whether it contributes to our spiritual healing. A bad theology will support the exclusionary attitudes we may harbor toward people with disabilities; a good theology will help to heal these attitudes.

The Meaning of Jesus’ Healings

Let us examine the theological problem particularly in regard to Jesus’ healings as recorded in the New Testament. What was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry? Was it to accomplish these healings? Our answer to this question will not only affect our attitudes toward the disabled but our whole sense of ourselves as members of a spiritual community in relationship with the world.

Many churches have placed great emphasis on these healings, and some have even maintained that the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to demonstrate the power of healing and to show us that we too can accomplish such healings in God’s name. If this is our assumption, the inescapable conclusion is that physical disability is a sign of a weak faith. But what about Jesus’ own attitude toward such an assumption? Did Jesus himself see his healings as constituting the purpose of his ministry - or even as being important for their own sake?

We find the clearest answer to this question in the Gospel of John. Here we see explicitly how the faith of many was based upon the signs that Jesus performed:

A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. (John 6:2)

Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?” (John 7:31)

It is clear, however, that Jesus did not wish to encourage this type of faith, and he often criticized it:

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them. (John 2:23-24)

Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48)

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)

The healings, the demonstrations, and the signs were not an end in themselves; they were a means toward an end. Alone they were of comparatively small value, or Jesus would have gone out of his way to find every sick and disabled person he could in order to heal them, instead of healing only those who approached him. But nowhere do we observe Jesus actively searching for people to heal. Something was more important to Jesus even than the healing of the sick. If we can discern what this was, it will be possible for us to acquire the faith that Jesus wanted us to have, rather than the faith that is perhaps most natural to us.

The function of Jesus’ healings is similar to the function of the parables. The parables carry the message of the kingdom of God, God’s presence on earth, but they do so indirectly, through symbol and metaphor, since in its pure form the message is difficult to grasp.

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... The reason I speak to them in parables is that ’seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’“ (Matthew 13:10-11,13)

It is not much different with the healings. Like the parables, they are symbolic statements of God’s presence on earth, and like the parables, they have a teaching function. Jesus himself practically stated this as the meaning of the healings:

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Ad blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt. 11:2-6)

In other words, Jesus tells John that the healings are signs that the kingdom is now; God is here and is with all of us. But the healings are signs. As we have seen in the Gospel of John, they are symbolic statements of faith, but that does not mean they should be taken as a basis for faith.

Jesus never meant simply to heal; through healing he also meant to teach. His main lesson was that the power of God is active in our daily experience. But he taught many other things through his healings as well as through his parables and direct sayings. In the following incident, Jesus uses the healing of the body as a way of understanding the healing of the soul:

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-3)

Here Jesus unequivocally states that one cannot judge the character of a person’s faith by the condition of his or her body. We must question the stereotypes we have about disabled people, rather than fit people into convenient categories that make us feel comfortable.

Yet Jesus does appear to say that this man’s blindness exists “so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” But let us not take this too literally, as if Jesus meant that God made the man blind for the purpose of using him to show what mighty works God can perform. Such a purpose would be cruel indeed. Certainly Jesus was referring to the healing itself as a demonstration of the power of God, but he meant something more than this: the man’s blindness is an occasion for uncovering the worst blindness of all, blindness of the soul. Those who overcome their spiritual blindness, which is dogmatism, arrogant self-certainty, prejudice, and hypocrisy, may behold God working even in their earthly existence. There is a mighty work to be revealed in Jesus’ healing:

“I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ’We see,’ your sin remains.” (John 9:39-41)

Jesus uses the healing of the blind man to teach a lesson on two levels. First, that people with disabilities are to be seen differently from the way society usually sees them. Second, that the most devastating blindness of all is not physical but spiritual. If one says about a blind person, “Who sinned, that he [or she] was born blind?” one is not only exercising a tyrannical judgmentalism, one is also maintaining a separating distance between oneself and the blind person. One says, in effect, “These people are different; they are not like me.” Jesus repeatedly questioned the validity of such separations. He wanted people to question their own perceptions of those whom they see and call “different.” This is the thread that runs throughout his entire life and ministry.

Beyond Separation

Perhaps the most consistent theme we can discern throughout Jesus’ life and teaching is his emphasis on the need to transcend the boundaries that separate people. In teaching about the need to overcome these boundaries Jesus uses the language of the “kingdom,” thus continuing in the tradition of the Hebrew scriptures. In this tradition the kingdom is a symbol of God’s “rule” or guiding presence among human beings. Let us work a little with this idea of the kingdom as Jesus uses it to express his message, and let us try to understand it in terms that speak more directly to us today.

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to become a reality on earth: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This prayer is a statement to us that human society must come to reflect the Creator’s will, through which we are all children of the Spirit. Translating this into concrete terms, it means we must recognize the divisions that separate us and work to heal them; thus we prepare ourselves for the kingdom.

Jesus contributed to this work by helping us to see these divisions better, and the need to heal the destructive consequences of using them to categorize people to the extent that we lose sight of their individuality. In Jesus’ direct teachings we observe an emphasis on overcoming our rigid perceptions based upon the specific divisions of class, ethnicity, and sex.

Jesus saw the antagonism that existed between rich and poor, and saw how that must be overcome if God’s kingdom is to be established on earth. He reached out to the poor and called them blessed (Luke 6:20). He taught that we ignore the poor at our peril, that they must be recognized and seen differently:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.” (Luke 16:19-25)

Perhaps we tend to recall more readily Jesus’ compassion toward the poor, but his compassion toward the rich was just as deep. Just as Jesus tried to overcome the tendency of the rich to ignore the poor, he tried to overcome the tendency of the poor to resent the rich. He did this in the same way: by teaching the poor to see the rich differently, not as a class but as individuals. We have already seen that Jesus had no patience for rich people’s callous treatment of others, but they are still children of God:

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and very rich. Though he tried to see Jesus, he was disappointed because of the dense crowd and because he was quite short. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree because Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Jesus sees something more in Zacchaeus than just his outward appearance as a rich man and an oppressive tax collector. He sees an individual who wonders - as do the others - where he might find salvation. Jesus wants all those around him to see this man as an individual, and so he publicly arranges a meeting with him. To Jesus, rich and poor are not two innately distinct types of people destined forever to mistrust and oppose each other. Beneath the outward circumstances of their lives, the Spirit resides in both.

Jesus sees the tragedy of the separation between people that ethnic differences often create, and he knows that God’s kingdom can never be present on earth without the healing of the hostility that so often results from these differences. To illustrate, Jesus focuses a parable on the longstanding hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans, who had been at odds since the Jews returned from their captivity to rebuild the Temple. The Samaritans, a multitude of nationalities originally resettled by the Assyrians, had taken their place as residents of the land. The two groups never found a way to cooperate, and their mutual antagonism persisted into the time of Jesus.

The hostility came from both sides:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

In another story:

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:7-9)

The expected reaction of a Jew towards a Samaritan, or of a Samaritan towards a Jew, would be mistrust and hostility. Once again, Jesus sought to overcome this tendency by teaching people to see each other as individuals, not as categories:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? (Luke 10:30-36)

The purpose of this parable is not simply to show that not all Samaritans are unfeeling haters of Jews. It is also to demonstrate that by seeing the Samaritan as an individual rather than as a symbol of a broader category, it is possible to view him with sympathy and even with love. Love ultimately rests on the ability to perceive the individuality of others, underneath surface appearances and group characteristics.

In addition to the attention he paid to conflicts among people arising from differences based upon class and ethnicity, Jesus sought to heal a third set of antagonisms: those resulting from sexual difference. Women were rarely seen as individuals in antiquity; they had predetermined roles they were expected to fulfill and were judged harshly when they failed to conform to these expectations. There are many places in the Gospels where Jesus reaches out to women with compassion; particularly when they have been hypocritically judged and rejected by men. Here is only one example:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:3-11 )

Jesus does not express approval of anything this woman may have done; he does indeed tell her not to sin again. But by forcing her accusers to examine themselves before they condemn her, he makes them see her in a different light. Now she is no longer the evil sinner who has alienated herself from the rest of society; she is seen as not much different from those who accuse her. Thus she becomes an individual, less a symbol of fallen womanhood and a “threat” to the rights of men. Again Jesus gives concrete form to his message: that in seeing others as individuals rather than symbols of our fears, love becomes possible.

Looking at Jesus’ ministry as a whole with the aid of these representative examples, we can place the healings within a specific context and are better prepared to understand their deeper meaning. To focus on physical healing as the purpose, or even as one of the purposes, of Jesus’ ministry is to take a narrow view and to miss the wider message. The scope of Jesus’ ministry was far broader than the healing of physical imperfections. Its scope was the kingdom of God, and its message was that this kingdom is not far off or inaccessible, but present even at this very moment:

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with. things that can be observed; nor will they say, ’Look, here it is!’ or ’There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus taught that the kingdom of God, the evidence of God’s guidance in human experience, is real and with us now. He was certainly not so naive as to think that we can see this kingdom through the present limitations of human society. The kingdom’s realization requires removing the barriers that separate us and turn us against one another. In other words, the kingdom of God stands for the reversal of the process begun at Babel, where the boundaries between groups became solidified and mistrust and misunderstanding prevailed. To prevent the kingdom from remaining an unattainable utopian vision, one must work toward it by examining one’s own heart. Jesus sought to help us in this work, by making us confront our perceptions about those whom we judge to be different from ourselves so that we come to see them as individuals, transcending the characteristics of the groups to which they belong. Without this change the kingdom of God is not attainable. Even though we may pray that we are all children of the one God, if we do not ourselves perceive this oneness, we will not witness God’s response to it.

Thus the wider purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to establish the awareness of the kingdom of God on earth. The purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to bridge the categories that separate people, to enable human society more accurately to reflect the kingdom of God (“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”). It is within this context that Jesus’ encounters with the disabled must be seen. The healings were not ends in themselves; they indicated the presence of the kingdom. Jesus calls them “signs” (the Greek semeion often means both “sign” and “miracle.”) A sign has no significance in itself. Its only importance is to point to what is truly important - that God is real. We know this through bearing enough love within our own hearts, which become places where God’s love can respond. Jesus sought to bring us to this place of love by overcoming the walls of separation that prevent our understanding each other and thus make love impossible.

Jesus’ message is hard for us. We all tend to identify strongly with our family, with our racial or ethnic group, with the members of our own sex. These identifications color our perceptions of ourselves and others, often distorting them. Frequently these perceptions are motivated by fear: fear of the stranger, of the outsider, of the one who is not a member of our own group. In the case of the disabled, there is a special fear: the fear that someday we will become one of them, if we are not disabled already. To protect ourselves from our fears, we have a vested interest in rigidly maintaining the identifications that separate us from each other.

Jesus wanted to break down our rigidity, even if it means exposing us to our fears, increasing our insecurity rather than our sense of peace: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). If we choose to accept Jesus’ challenge, we will uncompromisingly examine our own hearts, to see where and how we still maintain the separations that divide us even while believing we are doing something to overcome them.

In his ministry Jesus addressed the specific boundaries between rich and poor, between Jew and gentile, between male and female, and also between able-bodied and disabled. His treatment of the last of these dichotomies may seem superficially different in that he gave the disabled a special role, using examples of their healing as signs pointing to the reality of the kingdom. This certainly should not provide any justification for continuing to see the disabled as different, or for judging those who have not yet received their healing. For who among us is totally healed? Judging people by their visible disabilities only perpetuates the distinctions that Jesus sought to overcome. If therefore we see the ministry of Jesus as a whole, with an emphasis on love through the overcoming of separation rather than on the healing of the body as an end in itself, we may discover a completely different place in our theology for people with disabilities.

Doing the Work

As stated before, the test of any theology is whether it contributes to our spiritual healing, specifically the healing of the wounds that result from the ways we are separated from each other, and the wounds we inflict upon ourselves when we are divided against ourselves. If our theology challenges us to examine ourselves, to become aware of how we maintain these lines of separation and to question them, then it may well contribute to our healing.

Thus it is not sufficient only to do things to help the disabled. Spending a day in a wheelchair or wearing a blindfold will not in itself enable us to understand what disabled people experience; it may in fact only encourage an attitude of condescension: “Look what I am doing to help them.” To avoid falling into such attitudes, actions must be balanced with the inner work of the heart.

We can begin this work by asking ourselves questions: What assumptions do I make about people with disabilities? Can I imagine relating to them socially? Do I see a disabled person’s individuality, or is it overshadowed by his or her physical condition? Do I see people with disabilities as worse than me, deserving of my pity - or do I see them somehow as superior, requiring my admiration? Does being around them stimulate my fears? The inner work that begins with such questions, addressing the barriers in our hearts, is a necessary preparation for the removal of the outer barriers that similarly prevent churches from being accessible.

We began with a discussion of hesed and hospitality. The Hebrew term for hospitality is hakhnasat orehim, which literally means “allowing the guests to enter.” After entering, the guests must have a place. Isaiah tells us to “enlarge the site of our tent,” the borders of our place. Our concept of place must be enlarged to encompass an area within the heart as well as an architectural structure. Preparing both places requires much work, which cannot be avoided if our ultimate interest is to allow the Spirit to enter and dwell among us.