The very fact that you and I exist at all was not our own doing. Theologically, there is no such thing as an unconceived child that exists somewhere in the ether, waiting to be born. Each and every human being who ever lived (and all life, for that matter) came into existence as the result of causes that were beyond control.
I mean, I know I didn't make myself. If I did, I would have black hair and blue eyes right now, like my mother. I didn't get to pick out what I look like, or whether to be left-handed, or anything. Not one single thing--every ability that you and I have, including our talents, our intelligence and our looks, were given to us. We did not sit out somewhere in the Great Unknown with a checklist.
Once we realize that we were the random recipients of a grab-bag of traits, we can begin to understand how heavily weighted the process is towards good. There is a very small percentage of people with challenges, but that does not excuse us from anything--it merely tells us that we who are fortunate should take care of those less fortunate.
Not at all! I hear you cry, at least if you are under the influence of Republicans who have read Ayn Rand. But Rand's philosophy was written under some misconceptions. The first and most important is that she never seriously considered the role of disabled people in society. Did you know that profoundly-mentally-challenged people work in factories and assemble complicated electronic equipment? Every telephone in Denmark was once made this way; I don't know if that is still true but I can't see why not.
So there is one thing Rand didn't think about: challenged people can be very useful to society, but we have to devise and implement the system that will allow them to use what talents they have. It is a very individual thing and it requires time, thought and planning. But it can be done. There is no reason not to include disabled persons in the everyday rounds of work and play that the overwhelming majority of us enjoy.
Another thing that we need to consider is that we have no personal guarantee that all of our lives we will enjoy whatever state we are in right now. Those of us who are beginning to feel our years weighing more heavily upon us know that this is true. But it is more than that: you do not know for sure that, if you can walk today, you will be able to walk one year from now. Catastrophic life events do happen, and you can fall or be involved in a car crash tomorrow and your life will never be the same. So if you don't believe me, look in your wallet. I'll bet you won't find a card with your name on it that guarantees that you will be the same smart, competent person for as long as you live.
So looking out for the other guy is just looking out for yourself, really. And in the light of that, we can understand the Gospel lesson was read in church yesterday:
"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' The Lord replied, 'If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.
"'Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table?' Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink?' Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'" [Luke 17:5-10]
We must remember that we are not in church because we have to be. No one picked me up at my house yesterday and took me to church; I went there of my own volition. So the meaning of this reading, that we should seek ways to serve God and think of ourselves as God's slaves is a voluntary act. I place myself in obedience and service to God because I want to. It is a continuing act. There is no worldly power that can command this allegiance. Even patriotism demands that we seek to right our nation if it goes wrong.
Those who feel that America has gone wrong because an African-American was elected President did not get to their present state of hysteria all by themselves. They were fed propaganda by the Southern politicians and the Religious Right preachers that they are in bed with, and since President Barack Obama undertook to execute his office, there has been a rising drumbeat of irrational fear orchestrated by the Right. But it is fading away. The greatest fear about "Obamacare" is not that it is not a bad thing, but that the American people will soon come to know that it is a very good thing.
So we did not make ourselves; therefore we have no cause to be proud of anything about ourselves. We simply are as God and our parents made us. As Christians, we are unprofitable servants, as the saying goes; we do no more than return to God what he gave freely to us. And because we are so blessed, it ill behooves us to mistreat others, especially if we call ourselves Christians.
And because we are so blessed, we must not forget that these gifts can be lost or taken from us, and that we have no guarantees in this life, and nothing to be proud of. We are simply charged to do our best for ourselves and others. That is not an overwhelming task, but nevertheless it is laid upon us to do or to fail to do.