Learning from Aaron

We had a confirmation service at our church a few weeks back,
and the class included a young boy named Aaron Barg who has Trisomy 13, a severe disability. Aaron is in a wheelchair and can't talk, and has severe developmental limitations.

But he was baptized as a baby, and when he turned thirteen, our pastor, Dwight Nelson, insisted Aaron be included in confirmation. Not to confirm what Aaron was learning about God, but to confirm that God was working in Aaron's life. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in church.

And I don't think I'll forget that Sunday's sermon for a long as I live.

Here's a segment of it, where Dwight addressed what Aaron had taught the confirmands, and the rest of our church, about knowing God:

....if you want to greet Aaron or spend some time with him, you begin by simply touching his shoulder. That lets him know that there is a person nearby who wants to interact with him. It does not work to wave to Aaron from across the room, or to say "Good morning" as you rush past him. To greet Aaron and get his attention, it helps to begin by touching his shoulder.

Next, you must draw close to him, for his ability to see and hear is very limited. You need to get closer to him than is normally a comfortable distance. When you make yourself know in that way, he may well smile, he may well want to touch you, take hold of your hair, and give you a hug, shake hands. And as you enter his life in that way, you feel blessed by him.

This is what Aaron teaches us about knowing God and letting God be our teacher. First, it does not work to shout a greeting to God as we rush by him, in a hurry to be busy. If you want to know God, to be taught by him, to follow Christ, you must touch him. Some of you said that you like camp because you get rid of all the distractions and you feel you can really listen to God, you can understand the messages. That is true anywhere. To follow God you have to come into his presence, you have to quiet your mind and heart. You touch God by singing a song of praise or by reading a Psalm or praying with praise and thanks.

Next, we must draw close to God. You can't have a relationship with God when you are always distant from him. There must be a way to draw close, to listen to what God is saying. Sometimes he uses a quiet voice--you may have to come closer than is comfortable for you. We draw close to God by listening to his Word, by receiving the sacraments, by engaging in worship. That is when we receive his blessing.

Finally, if Jesus is to be our teacher, then we must be willing to be guided by him. Aaron likes to wander around, to wheel all over, kind of randomly. Much of the time that is OK, he is pretty good at it really. But he also needs someone to push him where he needs to be, and he needs some protection. Often that is Steve or Susan, sometimes it is people in the church who take him for walks, sometimes it is the fact that his companion dog Sandy is right by him, giving some protection.

You are much like Aaron. We all are. We like to wheel around on our own, exploring whatever seems interesting. We often need guidance and protection. When we actually do God's will, we are being guided by him. When we give our lives in service to Christ, when we bear witness to Christ, when we are involved in Mission, when we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in ministry, that is when we are in fact following Jesus. That is the direction that leads to life.


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