Weekly Sermon (8)

Sermon – April 14, 2024

‘…in for a dime, in for a dollar’

April 14, 2014

Scriptures: Acts 3:12-19

Today’s passage from Acts tells of the early ministry of the disciples after the resurrection of Jesus. It was the very beginning of the work that was to become the Christian Church and in our passage we find Peter sharing that the ministry they had been involved in over the past three years did not end or cease with the death of Jesus. Rather, it was born anew with the resurrection, and given life and vitality through the presence of the Holy Spirit now resident within all who believed. This third chapter of the book of Acts reveals clearly that the work, the power, and the grace of God had been fully handed off to those who had been followers of Jesus, and…and that, not only did it not cease, but now was very much the responsibility of the disciples to carry it forth…even, I might add, until today.

But to better understand the words of Peter, and the power with which he spoke and then acted that day, I think it would be helpful to hear, to witness what had transpired just prior to today’s passage…starting from the beginning of chapter three. And, as I often like to do, to hear it as though we all were there, at least in our imagination, and watching from the sidelines…


This man, crippled and unable to walk from the day he was born, still somehow managed to get by on the pity or perhaps occasional genuine generosity of passers-by. We hear that he was carried every day to the Beautiful Gate, and left there for the day while he begged for handouts from those going into the Temple. This was his life, it was all he had ever known, it is not hard to imagine that he saw it as his lot.

However, that feeling was not an easy pill to swallow, as back then, those with physical or mental infirmities were looked down upon as being out of favor with God. Therefore they were prohibited from going into the Temple, and not treated as respected members of the community at all.

And that was this poor man’s routine day in, and day out. I am pretty sure there were good days and days that were not…days when the generosity of those who took pity on him was satisfactory, and days when passersby just scoffed at this one who never went away and always seemed to be right in their face as they went into the Temple to offer a sacrifice or to worship.

And so, it is not hard to imagine that this beggar was given hope that this might be one of those good days when Peter not only looked straight at him, but spoke to him as well, saying, ‘look at us!’. Surely for a brief moment the beggar’s heart was lifted. But then, just as suddenly his hopes had to have been dashed as Peter continued, ‘Silver and gold have I none…’.

And you have to wonder just how the beggar felt right then…‘No gold? No silver? Nothing? What could this man give me that I can possibly use? Is he just taking advantage of me, is he just going to give me a scrap of bread to make himself feel better? I sure hope not…and here I thought that this day was suddenly going to brighten up…but now?’

It has always amazed me how quickly thoughts race through our minds, at how quickly we can assess a situation and draw conclusions that may in fact not be correct. So, I honestly believe this beggar was able to experience the highest of highs and hopes, and the deepest of lows and letdowns in just the few moments between ‘Look at us’, and ‘Silver and gold have I none’.

Nonetheless, Peter continued, ‘But, I will give you what I have’, and again a flash of hope…‘just maybe he does have something of value to give me?’ Peter continued, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I order you to get up and walk!’ Whereupon Peter reached out his hand towards the one who had never walked, this one who had sat there in the same place every day of his life, the one who always and forever had to depend on others just to eke out some small measure of a sorry existence…right there at the foot of the ‘Beautiful Gate’.

First the hopeful moment when Peter saw him, then the letdown of the claim of no money, then words about someone named Jesus the man may have heard of, but doubtfully had ever met or knew anything about, to now being told to ‘get up and walk’…‘Get up and walk?’  Seriously? By what power, by what stretch of the imagination might this actually have been possible? After a lifetime of immobility and begging just for a morsel to eat at the end of the day, after a lifetime of being thought ‘less of’, having been scorned due to circumstances beyond his control, how could this stranger be telling him to get up and walk?

I have often wondered what the disciples thought when Jesus told them, ‘If you believe in me, you will do even greater things than these!’ Who among them could possibly imagine that they would ever rise to the level of power, or perhaps level of ‘holiness’ to be able to imitate their Lord and master in anything other than being able to share the amazing story of their life over the past three years, if even that? Who possibly thought they might heal a lame one, or restore one’s sight, or perhaps turn water into wine?  I seriously doubt any of them actually took those words to heart when they first heard them.

And yet, here we find Peter, shortly after the resurrection, shortly after Jesus appeared to them and told them to ‘go forth in his name’, somehow finding the faith and the openness, to listen to the Spirit within, and to make an absolutely astounding offer to the crippled beggar there by the Temple gate. ‘Silver or gold, have I none, but I give you what I do have, in the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk’.

At that moment, and by faith alone, Peter had responded fully to the voice of the Holy Spirit within. He stepped out in faith, risking ridicule or worse if his offer failed simply because he believed that this was the moment to do so. He could not however force the beggar to accept his offer, he could not force this man who had only survived in the past through pittances of small coins, to actually believe Peter was capable of making the offer he seemed to be making.

And so I suppose, that it required a measure of faith on the part of the beggar as well…he needed to at least try to obey the command of Peter and try to stand and walk even though he never had, even though he had never learned how, and surely did not have any of the required muscle to do so, so deeply atrophied had to have been most of his crippled body.

He too had to let his imagination run in the hope that this was not just a scam or a sick joke being played on him in search of the same ridicule and scorn of others so tired of his annoying interruption of their daily routine. He had to risk hoping that Peter had something he needed, something he never ever imagined might be available to him. And you may remember what happened next, as faith met a measure of faith in those clasped hands, and the lives of both Peter and the beggar were forever changed.

And this is where today’s passage picks up, just after this amazing moment…a moment so stunning that all those who had witnessed this strange and wonderful transformation ran up to Peter, wondering how this could ever have taken place. Whereupon Peter carefully and distinctly begins to tell them that it is not he, or those with him who have done this, but rather, it was by the grace of God through the power of the Risen Lord Jesus that this man was now dancing joyfully about.

So…how should we hear this story today? How might it impact our own thoughts on our calling, or our expected behavior as Christians?

I suppose the first default response to that question would be to say that after three years of walking alongside of Jesus, of hearing and seeing him do all that he had done in their presence, perhaps the ‘power’ of Jesus had rubbed off on the disciples. Or, maybe we feel that our understanding of science, physics, and reality in general has now ‘progressed’ to a point that we know supposed ‘miracles’ which appear to defy those same principles simply can’t really happen.

And yet…to deny that possibility, to question if what Jesus, or Peter for that matter did didn’t really happen, is to question much of the basis of our faith in general. And so somewhere we are stuck in limbo. We want to believe it was true back then, we want to even hope that it could still happen now…we may even believe that we have heard of or seen things that could only be explained by calling them miracles. But again, that was not by our own hand…not something we could do…even if we felt that we had sufficient faith or belief. Could we really be a part of something so counter to most of what we feel is possible, given our understanding of reality?

I believe we can. Which is not easy even for me to say. But I think that when it comes to faith we need to decide if we are truly all in, or if we need to hedge our bets? Is faith in the gospel account and in the early stories of our faith something we need to affirm fully…do we need to decide if we are in for a dime, then are we in for a dollar as well? Yes I believe we do.

But how in the world…sounds funny now doesn’t it? How in the world are we supposed to even begin to participate in faith on this level? I am not sure either…but I still believe that this is part of our sacred calling. And I also feel there are at least a few markers along the path if we seek to travel along this way.

And the first of these has to be at least a tiny bit of belief that it is possible …that it is possible to be in the flow so to speak of the work of the Holy Spirit…to be the vessel, at least for a moment, through which the power of the love of God can flow to create goodness and change.

A second critical element has to be the capacity to listen…to listen both for the still small whisper of the Holy Spirit, and…and to listen for, and to the cries of need swirling around us every day. For it is in pairing up those needs with the powerful and prayerful grace of the Spirit that change for good can begin to happen.

Thirdly, it is critical for our ‘modern’ understanding to note that this whole exchange between Peter and the crippled man begins with the total lack of ‘silver or gold’. And that is not always an easy concept for us to grasp, as we are so ingrained with the notion that money is critical to everything we need or are capable of doing. Giving to others is generally interpreted as taking something of our own and giving it up…be it to a beggar on the street, or to a cause in which we strongly believe…all of it seems to revolve around silver or gold of some sort.

And while this seems ‘baked in’ to a degree, I think we need to look more broadly at the idea of the sufficiency of God’s grace both within and over our lives. Peter said he had no silver or gold, but he did have something else…and that ‘something else’ is available to us as well. By faith, and through the grace of God Peter stepped out in faith, and the grace of God proved sufficient to enable that man to stand up and walk…even dance.

And again, I am right at the edge of my own belief here in asserting that this is still possible, but I firmly believe that whatever we need to do God’s work will be provided. Just look around at all the things we cannot deny have been blessings upon us here…just consider all that this small church, which has no business from a worldly point of view having the impact it has, has been able to do!

Now of course it is easy to say that ‘building a soup kitchen’, or ‘taking in donations and then making clothing and such available to others’ is far far different than making a blind person see or a lame one walk. But is it really? Are we really in a position to judge the value of the work of God in our midst? Or, is any measure of grace given to us and to our efforts, of a value greater than we could ever know or possibly measure?

We are simply ones blessed to be in the flow of the Spirit as it works incredible wonders in our midst…a few of which we see, but many others I am sure we never even hear of!

I sincerely believe, and our life together is a testament to the fact, that if we seek to center ourselves within the words of our Lord, of we seek to center ourselves in the commandment to love one another as we have been loved, and if we reach out as much as we reach in, holding on to and embracing one another, then all we need, will be provided, in order to be and to do the will of our loving Lord.

        And in that act, in reaching out our hand…in seeking to grasp the outstretched hand of one in need before us…

…we will be doing exactly what Peter did that day.

And I can also assure you that no action, be it large or small, that is taken in the name of our Lord Jesus will ever be denied…

Help me continue to prove that this is true, won’t you?


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