sermons for mentally challenged community


bulliesFighting Fair

The Philistine also said, “Today I stand and make fun of the army of Israel! Let me have one of your men to fight!”  I Sam 17:10

Introduction–A few years ago, two young men tried to steal my purse from me by grabbing it and driving off in their car.  They weren’t able to get my purse or really hurt me.  You see, even through they were driving a Honda and there were two of them and only one of me, it was not a fair fight because God was on my side.  As we look at the story of David and Goliath, I want us to think about what makes a fair fight.  Have a member read I Samuel 17:10.

  1.  The story of David and Goliath.  Goliath was taunting the Army of Israel and making fun of them.  He said to send one man to fight.  (I Samuel 17)
    1. What Goliath didn’t know was that this was not a fair fight.
    2. He thought he had the advantage but God had the advantage
    3. God sent David to the camp to be able to fight Goliath and to win.
    4. What we need to understand is that God wants us to win every battle and to have the victory everytime and in every way.
  1. God gives victory to his children because he loves us.
  2. Last week we had a funeral for my brother-in-law and it was sad but wonderful because we were able to spend time together and be with the family that does not know Jesus as their Savior and we saw the young people ministering to each other.
  3. Have you ever been in a problem and seen God turn that problem around for your good?
  1. I have a person in my life that has tried to hurt me and my family.  This person has only made us stronger people.
  2. I had a person one time who wanted to really hurt me; and for a while it seemed to work. Then in my hurt, I found SpG and God gave me all you folks to love me and for me to love.

Conclusion:   God doesn’t fight fair when it comes to his children.  There will be people who will try to hurt you; but they cannot because God is on your side and he always gives us victory.

cabinets in garageToday I finished the final payment for a set of storage cabinets that I asked All Around Handyman and Lawn Service to do for me.  They are beautiful enough to have in my home; but they are in the garage.  When Matt began the work, I wasn’t familiar with his work; and I wrote out the first partial-payment check with a bit of concern.

Sure he had given me a great price and I really needed some cabinets or “something” to hide all the things I work with in Special Gathering, which a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  My husband and I had put together scraps and parts from old lumber to make his garage serviceable.  But as the years, as his health failed, my Special Gathering ministry items slowly took over parts of the shelving.

Our gardening necessities were hanging here and yonder.  He had more saws and sanders and gizmos than I dare to list.  There was a need for some kind of order.

When my husband died almost two years ago, I quickly cleared out all his clothes, medical equipment.  The children and grandchildren sorted through his professional items and took the aerospace and NASA momentos that they wanted.  I cleaned out his office.  But the garage…

That was the place where his heart lay.  For more than thirty years, he worked on an invention that he believed would change the world.  He died before his dream was realized.  I never wanted to romanticize his work but I also found that I could not clear it away.  I could not throw out the scraps and books that contained his life’s dream.  Until January.

With the new year, I knew it was time to set out on a one-year project to get the garage organized and cleaned out.  After working about a month, I realized that I must have a better system. I called Matt of All Around Handyman and Lawn.  He came and gave me a reasonable estimate for servicable and workable garage cabinets.

He took three days to complete the first phase of the project.  I watched with amazement at the skill, care and joy with which he worked.  He is a craftsman.  On Wednesday, just as he had promised, he completed the job.  I had no concerns when I wrote him the final payment.

Matt is a Christian man who started a risky adventure this year with his new business.  I believe that his abilities and painstaking focus will make his successful. I feel that even though I’ve paid him for doing the work, I am the one who has received the greatest blessing.

Whether we realize it or not, each day we can make a partial payment for godly blessing in the lives of the people that we encounter.   That grumpy cashier may need prayer.  My friend, Maria, always leans over the counter of a rude cashier or salesperson and whispers, “I know you are having a bad day.  I’m going to pray for you.”  She has even been known to slip an extra $10 into his hand if she believes that God is telling her to do it.  This wouldn’t be extraordinary except Maria is as poor as a stray cat.  There are times that she must stretch her meager pay check to buy groceries for a day, wondering what she will eat the rest of the week.

The other day I received a card from Betty, a member of Special Gathering.  It was a lovely Hallmark thank you card.  She carefully printed in large irregular letters, “I want you to know I love you very much.”  From another woman, this would be a welcomed ditty.  From Betty, it was a heart-felt and unusual expression of love.  I’ve known her for 25 years, but I’ve never known Betty to speak of any sentimentality.  I felt God was saying to me, “This is partial payment for the hours you’ve spent with her teaching, guiding and loving.”  I wept because of the love that she had given to me in that note.

As I looked at the finished cabinets today, I felt mixed emotions.  The Lord and Matt had given me a partial payment of godly blessing.  I loved the cabinet and I enjoyed filling them with all my Special Gathering stuff.  But there was a tinge of regret that my husband was never able to have this when it was his garage.  Then, I quickly realized that in a strange way, Matt’s wonderful cabinets were as much for Frank as for me.

As I closed the door to the garage tonight, I asked the Lord to thank Frank for this gift–partial payment from him to me given with love.


starsGlory to God in the Highest

Luke 2:6-16

Central Theme:  Christmas is a time for big changes.

Introduction–I have to admit that at Christmas I go a little crazy.  I save all year and spend all December.  I blame my parents.  They worked all year preparing for Christmas for us.  Sewing cooking and repairing, painting old bikes.  The majesty of God’s gift cannot be matched but I try every year.  READ Luke 2:6-16.

       I.     Pretend that you are a shepherd.

A. They were minding their business but God had planned a little surprise for them…before the foundations of the earth. (vs 8)

1.  What we can’t imagine is that God has exquisitely exciting surprises for our lives.

Christmas costumes 2.  Last year as I was fretting about the number of hours I spend working on costumes.  I said to the Lord, “No one’s life has ever been changed by a costume I’ve made.”  Within a few minutes,  a young woman who was a  neighbor stopped to say, “I never told you but you made a costume for me and it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I’ve always loved you for that.” 

B.  We fear the glory of the Lord getting too close (vs. 9).

1.  Songwriter Michael Card’s speaks of the “friend that we most fear.”

a.  we hide our faces from him–he can see us.

b.  we hide our hearts from him–he can change us.

II.     God comes again and again to assure us of his goodwill for us (vs. 10-12)

A. He never comes in the expected ways/expected times.

1.  Remember the times God spoke to you–unexpected, unprepared.

2.  You prepare your heart in a quiet place–He speaks in the shower or sitting at a red light.natures wonder

              B. Angels filled the heavens the night he was born; but only a few shepherds saw it (vs. 13-14).

                  1.  Would Disney put on an expensive, extravagant light show for a few middle-class herdsmen?

                  2.  Would you pour out your life in a place where no one will see–on one will know?

III.     Whatever he does, His purpose is to entice us come to Jesus (vs 15).

A. However, Jesus is not what you expect.

                  1.  Wherever our executive director preaches, people say, “That sermon was one of the best I ever heard.  You know, you could what you do for real people.”    We often chuckle and ask, “Then why aren’t you rich and famous?”

2.  However, there is not a mentally challenged person in Duval, Indian River or Brevard or Volusia County who doesn’t know him and all of them love him.

Conclusion–Going crazy at Christmas should be expected.  After all, God went a bit crazy with joy at the birth of Jesus.  Several angelic appearances.  An old couple unexpectedly has a baby they name John.  A host of angels.  A new star.  Yet, not embracing the Living Lord any time is a horror.

live pageantHow do you tell the Christmas story to a group of people who are intellectually disabled?  Of course, this is a dilemma no matter where your ministry lies.  If you are a parent, can you make the story fresh to your growing brood?  If you preach to a congregation of 10,000, what is the method you will use to keep the message relevant while remain true to the gospel message? Each year I try to find a different way to share the story of God’s love incarnated into a man to the programs I shepherd at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.

This year, I told the story using members who are least  physically able to respond as the characters.  I joked and laughed with them, sharing as humorously as possible the in’s and out’s of the Biblical account.  Because I work with three different programs at Special Gathering, each reenactment had different characters and each one was vastly different because of the diverse personalities that made up the “casts.”

angelIn each program, there was one person whose personality shined through when selected.  I chose the people at random asking them to participate as their character was introduced.  Mary was a young woman who is extremely low functioning in one of our enactments.  Everyone attending applauded when I selected her. Her smile told the story of her delight and her smile carried the action through until the end.

The first time we had our presentation, there was a small group of 17 people.  Therefore, we had one angel who came to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  This person was animated and funny.  His flair for the dramatic was obvious.  After he had spoken to Mary, I said, “Then the angel disappeared.”  He looked at me quizzically and shrugged his shoulders, acting as though I expected him to disappear.  “Can’t you even disappear?”  I asked.   He pretended to try to disappear.  “What kind of angel are you?”  I asked.  Again, he mischievously responded with a great deal of humor and delight.

Each time he “appeared” the audience laughed with pleasure at his antics and showmanship.  We played off each other and I took my cues from his facial expressions and movements.  We all laughed all through the actions because of his good humor.

At our largest program, there were more than 50 people from which to draw.  Mary was a higher functioning young woman She does not walk or speak.  We call her the “queen” because everyone loves her so much that we fight over who will serve her and push her wheelchair.

Charlie BrownThe surprise, however, was the man I chose to be Joseph.  This Joseph is an amazing actor.  He, too, is physically disabled.  He navigates with a walker.  Extreme palsy plagues the movements of his body, making them exaggerated with spasms and violent jerks.  Yet, in front of an audience, this Joseph came alive with expression and animation.  He was the attentive lover.  His visage stormed with disappointment and anger, when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy.  His face showed shock at the angel visitation; then his movements turned to extreme tenderness toward Mary.

I keep the story simple but embellishing it with the emotions that each character must have felt.  Laughter and silliness are the mark of the day.  Of course, I don’t make fun of the details of the story but, like this year, there is always someone who wants to play the clown and I play off of their ability to laugh at an awkward situation or a unique situation.

After we laugh and play, I turn the story to the seriousness of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The good news of God’s love for us is amplified by the birth and life of this humble god-man who was born in order that he might die for us.

Christmas presentsThere are few times of the year that present the Church with a greater degree of purchasing power than the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  I’m actually not thinking about purchasing gifts or other stuff but purchasing a more valuable commodity–time.

Christmas clockDuring these weeks, as we abandon our vocations in order to celebrate the birth of Christ, time can seem to slow to a creep as we share these hours and days with family or friends.  We are often moving in a whirlwind of activity. It is because we are thrown with our closest associates and family that we can purchase time and make memories that will last all during our lives.

family at ChristmasTime may be the most valuable thing we can give the people who live with us and around us.  I’m not suggesting that the purchasing of gifts isn’t important; but it is the time we spend playing and laughing that will be cherished as precious memories.

During these precious days, we can speak about our Savior, sharing the love of God in many abstract and concrete ways.  As I sit in the dining room of my daughter, I hear a whispered, “I love you” shared from mother to child as she hands her daughter a towel and clean school clothes.  It’s an important day in school and the preteen woman/child needs the added assurance of love and acceptance.

Time has been purchased in a minute snatch for a little one.  A granddaughter for whom Jesus came in order to purchase her with his own blood.

Ethel was a Bible teacher at Special Gathering.  Additionally, she wrote many books for the mentally challenged community and they were published in our monthly newsletter.  Ethel and I shared a passion for writing and Special Gathering.  Therefore, we became good friends through our shared ministry concerns.  In addition, we both excelled at “going to lunch” and we practiced that part of our friendship often.

Ethel wrote for our monthly newsletter “Connecting Point,” and she was incredibly faithful in her efforts.  Even after she moved to Volusia County, Ethel always met our deadlines; and she wrote with great skill and feeling for the special needs population.
As a Bible teacher, Ethel could not be matched.  She taught the Scriptures with a keen eye for truth and clarity.  Her class was a verse-by-verse discussion study for our readers.  It has become the model for our leadership and readers classes.
My first view of Ethel came 22 years ago through Sarah, her daughter who was mentally challenged.  It was my first year at Camp Agape, our annual ministry retreat.  Sarah was my bunk mate.  I had the top bunk and she had the bottom.
On Sunday afternoon, after two days of camp, I thought I was too tired to climb to the top bunk.  Therefore, I decided to lay on Sarah’s bottom bed, thinking that she would never notice or understand.  I was wrong!
Sarah came into the cabin and jumped me.  “Get off my bed,” she insisted. “You can’t get on my bed!”  Ethel had taught Sarah well.  It is vital for our population to understand their rights and Sarah knew that I was an intruder and she wasn’t intimidated by me.  Ethel treated Sarah as an adult, and she allowed Sarah the dignity of being valued for being a child of the Lord.
One year, in touring our campgrounds, Ethel asked Sarah what she liked best about camp.  Immediately, Sarah said, “Pool.”
Shocked, Ethel said, “You don’t know how to play pool.”  Sarah walked over to the pool table and demonstrated to her mother that she certainly did know how to play the game.  Ethel laughed, “Guess she showed me.”
Ethel was never willing to compromise her faith.  Yet, she shared the message of Jesus with compassion and great love.  Her greatest legacy is her faith in Christ and love for all people but especially for the men and women who knew and loved her through her ministry within the mentally challenged community.

Tell the good news that makes people happy

Luke 2:10

Central Theme:   Telling the good news of Jesus makes people very happy.

Introduction–Have a string of lights wrapped around your neck and drop a box of tinsel all over the floor.  Say, Christmas does not always make me happy. During Christmas time, there is too much work and you can never please everyone. But the good news of Jesus always makes people happy.  Have a member read Luke 2:10.

I.     Tell the story of the birth and the angels and the shepherds from Luke 2.

1.  The angels told the shepherds that this good news will make the whole world happy.

2.  The encyclopedia notes that Jesus is the one man who has changed the world for good more than any other person.

3.  The influence of Jesus has made the world a better place to live.

II.     The angels promised the world happiness.

A. Happiness and joy are not the same.

1.  Joy is a peace and contentment deep inside.

2.  Happiness is feeling or sense of pleasure.

B.  The angel said because Jesus was born the world would have a greater feeling of pleasure.

III.     We talk a lot about what we can do to be better Christians but I want to talk about what God has done to make our lives better.

A. God gave us Jesus to make everyone‘s lives more pleasant and happy.

B.  Our country is the result of this happiness–part of our constitution is that we have the right to try to find happiness.

C. The Howard family is going on a cruise this week.  It will make us all happy and that is part of what God wants for all of us.

Conclusion:  God wants us to be happy and he sent Jesus to make that happen.

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