Architecture is not enough. Ten years ago Bethlehem added an elevator to make our three floors accessible to the elderly and handicapped. Last year we remodeled the lower restrooms for wheelchair access. Gene Ohman rebuilt four pews to enable the handicapped to sit with the rest of us out of the aisle. Now our Saturday Tribune ad includes a little wheelchair symbol to say: Welcome to the handicapped. All this is very good. But it is not enough.
Some husbands wonder why their wives are disenchanted. After all, they provide well for their wives. Their house is large. The kitchen well-equipped. Air conditioning, perhaps. Two cars. Long vacations. What more could she want? Answer: She wants him to talk to her and listen to her. She is not an employee seeking lavish fringe benefits. She is a wife seeking companionship. All the architecture in the world can’t replace the steady gaze, the listening ear, the loving touch, and time for conversation.
So it is with dozens of regular attenders and visitors at BBC, both handicapped and non-handicapped. It is not enough to build them a place and ignore them. “Practice hospitality” is a solid biblical command (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). It does not mean set the table and let your guests sit alone. It means welcome them, talk to them, be interested in them, provide for them.
So here’s my summer exhortation—let’s all make special efforts to speak to strangers at BBC (don’t worry that they may have been members for forty years). Dozens of people visit our church from week to week. Your smile and your greeting may meet their need more deeply than my sermon. Help me minister.
And to the handicapped make a special effort of personal warmth. Too many people in the world steer clear of wheelchairs. Let it not be said of us. If Christ is in you let his love flow.
Opening my heart with you,