I remembered to hit record! Here is our continuation of our sermon series on Acts. Enjoy! Feel free to take a listen via iTunes and leave a comment with your thoughts.
Open in Prayer: Dear Jesus, as you opened the eyes of a man born blind, may you open our eyes to your word that we may once again see your face.
We are continuing in Acts and moving through, if last week was about the church’s calling and necessary actions, then this week and the next few weeks looks at some of the nuts and bolts and specifics of what exactly it is we do. What does it look like for us to live out this calling as a church. What do we do? So for the next couple weeks as we move through Acts we see what it is that we do.
But let’s not misunderstand, we can say “the church does this.” but I don’t have to. That isn’t the point. The church is not an institution or a building. We are the church. We are the body of Christ in this world today. And therefore these are things that each of us are called to do and if we do not do them then we are not the church.
So the question we are looking at today is “What do we do?”
We’ve spent the last few weeks about the need to do something, but what do we do? Like what are the specifics? What one thing can I do today that would be what Jesus would do and would bring the Kingdom of God closer.
Here, check out our scripture.
Acts 3:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB) pew bible page 146
Healing of a crippled man
3 Peter and John were going up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the established prayer time. 2 Meanwhile, a man crippled since birth was being carried in. Every day, people would place him at the temple gate known as the Beautiful Gate so he could ask for money from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he began to ask them for a gift.4 Peter and John stared at him. Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gazed at them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!” 7 Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up. At once his feet and ankles became strong. 8 Jumping up, he began to walk around. He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him as the same one who used to sit at the temple’s Beautiful Gate asking for money. They were filled with amazement and surprise at what had happened to him.
The word of God for the people of God.
There is an interplay at work here. There is so much going on that it can be hard, but let’s dive in and see what we can do.
Notice what Peter and John are doing.
They are going to church. They are going in to the ritual prayer time.
They would have walked in the main entrance where the Gentiles were, they were not allowed to go any further, then through the beautiful gate to the women’s area. Then into the men’s area which is the closest they could get without being a priest. It would have
Peter and John are walking in through those doors. They were going to worship God but right outside of those doors is a man who can’t walk. He sat there begging for money.
For the ancient Israelites it was believed that God literally dwelt in that temple. That by going in they were standing in the presence of God.
So right here we have this interplay between beautiful and ugly.
This beautiful gate that houses the temple and is where they go to worship God.
The gate reminds them of where they are and whose house this is and why they are going.
Behind this gate is a God who desires them to worship and make sacrifices.
However, just in front of this gate is a guy who can’t walk. He is completely dependent on his friends who would drop him off at the door to beg, he probably gave them a cut of his money. He probably isn’t the cleanest, nicest looking, or smartest guy around. This guy has needs. He might even smell bad and use foul language.
Everyone who walks by is left with a choice. To go in and go along with the plan they had, to worship God like they were supposed to or to stop and acknowledge this beggar. Everyone walked by, it says he was out there every day begging so Peter and John probably walked by on multiple occasions. But this time they stopped.
They stopped what they were doing, they gave up their mission of getting closer to God to make sure this beggar had what he needed.
Imagine with me the logic here, God is right there through the temple gate, we are going to see him, that is our plan. Everything is in place. But instead we see this beggar that we have probably ignored every day for years. But this time we stop. Change our plans and move on.
Peter and John are literally forsaking God so that they can help this guy.
Peter and John gave up on God’s rules so that they could embrace God’s beloved.
See, going to the temple at 3pm was a rule that they must follow in order for them to properly live out their religion. By not praying at 3pm they were disobeying God’s rules. They were sinning.
Peter and John were willing to sin to help this guy.
These guys were literally giving up the ability to be in the presence of God so that they could share Jesus with this beggar.
This has all sorts of ramifications for us today.
I think the biggest ramification for us that we must be willing for forsake the presence of God if that is what it takes to share Jesus with another person.
That is what we do as a church. We help other people meet Jesus. We do whatever it takes to help others meet Jesus.
Every single person matters to God. Every single person is God’s beloved and every single person had their days numbered by God before even one of them came to be.
Jesus died for every single person that has ever existed. As United Methodists we phrase this as “Every person has sacred worth and sacred value”
So, it means we do whatever needs to be done in order to make sure new people meet Jesus.
For some it is healing.
For others it is finances,
For some it is a bed net in Africa or a new suit from Care and Share.
For others still it means we give up on religion so that we can care for others.
Whatever it is, we make a conscious decision to make sure that the other person has what they need to meet jesus, even at the expense of our own encounters with Jesus.
How much is it worth for you so that others will know who Jesus is? For Peter and John it was worth eternity.
It must be worth the same to us. If we can’t give up eternity so that others know Jesus then we will miss eternity.
What are you willing to give up to make sure others know about Jesus?
would you give of your time? that’s a start.
Would you give of your stuff? That’s a nice gesture.
would you give of your money? maybe, maybe not
Would you give up your own eternity so that others know who Jesus is? Now we are getting somewhere.
Being a church is a conscious decision to make sure others have everything else they need to meet Jesus even if that means we go without. And sometimes that means we go next-door or oversees, it might mean we build a house or run a VBS, and give out a bed net. It can look like anything but it still requires that we make a conscious decision to make sure others get everything else to succeed even if that means we go without.
I think Philip Harrison says it best when he wrote this story called: “In or out”
‘The other day I had a dream. I dreamed I arrived at the gates of heaven, heavy-shut, pure oak, beveled and crafted, glinting sharp in the sunlight. St. Peter stood to greet me; the big man wore brown, smile set deep against his ruddy cheeks.
‘You’re here,’ he said.
‘I am,’ I said.
‘Great to see you – been expecting you,’ he smiled.
‘Come on in.’
He pushed gently against the huge door; it swung silently, creaks. I took a couple of steps forward until, at the threshold, one more step up and in, I realized I wasn’t alone. My friends had joined me, but they hovered behind, silently, looking on. None spoke. I realized only I could speak. I looked at them; some were Christians, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some Muslims, some Jews, some atheists. Some God knows what. I stopped, paused. A hesitant St. Peter looked at me, patiently, expectantly.
‘What about these guys?’ I asked him. ‘My friends. Can they come?’
‘Well, Phil,’ he replied, soft still in the air, ‘you know the rules. I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are. Only the right ones.’
I looked at him. He seemed genuinely pained by his answer. I stood, considering. What should I do? I thought about my reference points, and thought about Jesus, the outsider, the unacceptable, the fool, the heretic, the criminal, and I knew exactly where I belonged.
‘I’ll just stay here then too,’ I said, taking my one foot out of heaven. And I’ll tell you, I’d swear I saw something like a grin break across St. Peter’s face, and a voice from inside whispered, ‘At last.’”
What it means to help others can look like any number of things but no matter what they look like they still require a conscious decision to stay outside the gates of heaven until everyone gets in.
We are called to that kind of church. To be the church that stands outside the gates and ushers people in. That does whatever is necessary so that others can come in.
In our scripture today, verse 8 says that this guy was jumping up, standing, walking, and leaping and praising God.
We have to be the kind of church that makes people leap and praise God!
Let us pray: