December 22

By: Rachael Ward, Team Lead & Minister for Gender & Sexuality Justice Ministries, UCC National and Executive Director for UCC HIV & AIDS Network (UCAN)

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. (excerpt from Isaiah 35:1-10)


In this passage from Isaiah, we read, hear, or feel the text tell us that hope is still for God’s people even though God’s people are hurting one another. Exile does come, but so does the promise of restoration which we will learn requires partnership and just action with God. Our text for today, when liberated for all bodies, shows us what can come from this partnership – liberation and joy.

Disability justice teaches us that disabled people are whole people.  Too often passages like this from our scriptures are used unthinkingly and end up reinforcing an ableist vision of what restoration and wholeness look like.  A part of abolitionist work, I believe, is restoring what belongs to God’s people by writing or renewing narratives. So, how can we bring God’s expansiveness into this text for all bodies? How can this hope for God’s people come alive for everyone?

The response rests within the Biblical Hebrew.

The bible is translated in so many ways depending on context and grammar being privileged – BUT, when we translate Isaiah 35:5-6 back to the root biblical Hebrew without English grammar or gender markers applied, the text can be translated to something much more expansive for all bodies:

“Then those who once passed over (God’s people ignoring God’s judgement, the prophet’s message, turning away from oppressive acts) will spring like a deer (to act justly), and the tongue of those once silenced (put to silence via oppression of external calamity) will be overcome (to be overcome; exultation) with joy.”



In this advent season,
may we not pass over God’s message
and turn away from oppressive acts.
May we spring into action for justice.
And may we be overcome with joy
as we witness liberation in real time. Amen.


Artwork: “Don’t Despair” by Shyama Kuver.
Used with permission CC BY-NC-ND
Find more at Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative



Take Action

Abolition is restoring liberating narratives.

  1. Spend some time with the 10 principles of Disability Justice and notice how they call you to reinterpret/retranslate your sacred stories.
  2. Try reimagining a passage from scripture that has been life-denying for you. How could you find a liberating and expansive message in, around, and beneath the text?
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