The Apostles James and Paul agree: Every valley shall be exalted

St. James, St. Paul, & St. Peter, too!

St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 addresses the harmonious functioning of local Parishes, in which, all the gifts of each member- bestowed through the Holy Spirit of God- work together so that mutual love may be complete and fully operable among all. According to apostolic teaching, not one person is to be neglected; nor are his gifts to be overlooked.

But there is an acknowledgement of the reality that some are stronger and some weaker, some more presentable and others less presentable.  Here is how St. Paul addresses this:

20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. First letter of St. Paul to  the Corinthians 12:20-26

St. Paul declares that the weaker or unpresentable members are to receive greater honor, in order to prevent division, in order that the weaker members are cared for equally and not neglected because they are less useful and perhaps less interesting to converse with in the opinion of some.  

It is not unusual for Church members, after Divine Liturgy, to gravitate to those with common interests during coffee hour, the time for social interaction after the service. St. Paul is encouraging us to also relate to those whose interests are different, and to those who through human weakness or some other reason are less accomplished and interesting than those to whom we gravitate.

St. James, in chapter one of his letter, also writes of this:

9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

St. James, in agreement with St. Paul”s call for greater honor for the weaker, calls for the more “lowly” among us to exult in their high calling, and those with abundant material blessings (the rich) to focus on the development of humility, excusing others while strictly scrutinizing themselves. St. James, more pointedly, writes to those who are well off in chapter two:

 1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

In this passage we discover the reason the lowly brother is to exult: he is more likely than one who is rich to be granted an abundance of faith. He cannot rely on deceitful riches. But the rich person can;  is it not still true, two thousand years later, that the rich are more likely to pursue lawsuits to advance their interests? They have the resources to hire the best lawyers and press a case to a length beyond the resources of those with less. They may claim gains from such uses of human justice systems, but the poor person who relies on divine justice will inherit a far greater gain.

Yet it is not always so with the rich; to assume this, a poor man would also become a judge with evil thoughts. Are we not all to assume the best of others?

All of this speaks to persons with disability in our Parish Churches. In their specific disabilities, they are less able, or gifted, than those members who are not disabled in that way, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. And so we honor such with “greater honor,” greater care and affirmation,

Was it not the same for the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna, and with material wealth in Church, as Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15?

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. {from Exodus 16:18}

As the prophet Isaiah writes,

Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth

Here is a resource toward the implementation of these things:

Some Practical Suggestions for Parish Ministry to People with Special Needs, by Fr. Stephen Plumlee:

http://oca.org/resource-handbook/parishdevelopment/some-practical-suggestions-for-parish-ministry-to-people-with-special-needs 

The Holy Scriptures from http://www.biblegateway.com/ 
Icon from: The Hilltop Shepherd’s Watch 

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