It’s a Miracle!

Acts 3:1-10

You can listen to Sunday’s’ sermon at the link below.

The recording was disrupted by an in-coming call during the sermon (it was at least silenced) right at the point that I take about (SPOILER ALERT) the miracle of the man being brought into the Temple, a place he was not allowed to be. Outsider brought in kinda stuff.

A band I love is called Cloud Cult and the opening lines of one of their songs goes like this:

today is a good day to flex the muscles of the weary

a miracle is a miracle even when it’s ordinary

And it may seem silly to quote a song about ordinary miracles when in today’s story we’ve obviously gotten to see the genuine article – a real miracle. A man who could not walk gets up and walks after being healed in the name of Jesus. It doesn’t get any more miracle-y than that!

Lets back up a minute before we get lost in this story together.  We are in the book of Acts which is also known as the Acts of the Apostles. It’s a direct continuation of the lives of the disciples after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus leaves and says the Holy Spirit will be with you to show you the way. So now we dive into life of these ordinary humans trying to bring life and light and wholeness to the world in the name of Jesus. He’s left us the store, gang. Given us the keys to the car. Terrifying, isn’t it? While Acts is often said to be the beginning of the church, I hesitate to use that language because we get real organized, steep-ly notions in our heads. It truly was the beginning of people living into the promises of Jesus in a place and time where this wasn’t just Good News – it was NEWS.  They had little to no idea what or who these people were talking about! Not unlike today, really.

So today’s story, we’re with Peter and John, 2 of the disciples, and they are on their way to pray in the temple. And they encounter the man that I suppose they had come to know as always being at this particular gate, called The Beautiful Gate. Had they passed him many times already, going in and out for prayer? We’re not told that, but we can guess. Maybe. Probably.

Now, there seems to be a system in place. There were people who would get this guy into position at the Beautiful Gate every day so that he was in a prime location to ask for help. What better place than at the entrance to worship in the temple? So here come Peter and John and the man asks them for alms. And instead of breezing past him to get a good seat for prayer, they stop and Peter has a conversation with the man. “Look at us,” says Peter. And as I’ve read and re-read this story all week I have wondered just how did he say it? Was it “Look at us – do you think we can possibly afford to give you anything?”  Or was it “Look at us” in a stern tone like when you’re trying to get your kids to actually hear the words coming out of your mouth. Or was it said with empathy, taking in the man’s situation, “look at us.” Like, “we’re here to help. Let’s see each other fully.”

And then Peter says: I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.

Then Peter reaches down and they grasp hands and he pulls him up and low and behold, the man can stand up. The man can walk. Actually, the man can leap! It says he was leaping and praising God. And the people remarked, “hey, isn’t that the guy who used to lay outside the gate? Isn’t that the guy who used to be lame?” “Isn’t that the guy we’d always try and avoid eye contact with so we could just go into prayer and not give him our money?” It’s as if they can’t believe their eyes. They cannot believe what they’re seeing!

Which reminds me of that same Cloud Cult song, a little later. The lyrics go like this:

he stood on his soap box and told us a parable

of a man with eyeglasses so small they’re unwearable

and the moral of the story is it all looks terrible

depending on what you look through

I have to admit that part of my interpretation of Peter and John stopping and Peter saying, “Look at us” and then following it up with “I have nothing but Jesus to give you” gave me visions of someone on a soap box, someone outside a stadium or on a street corner with a bullhorn “giving me Jesus.” Someone who wasn’t able to see me, but would yell Jesus at me. And I wouldn’t see Jesus in that person either – no way, no how.

But instead, in this story, Peter doesn’t yell at the man. Peter says, “I can’t give you what you expect me to give you. I’m gonna give you something better. In the name of Jesus, I’m gonna give you something that will change your life.” And then he reaches down and pulls him to his feet. Those feet that hadn’t walked in a long time or ever are now fully functioning – he can leap!

Sometimes what we expect of Christians, of the church, of God can be limited by our lack of vision of being able to see at all. Sometimes we just can’t see the impact faith in Jesus Christ has. Miracles? Bah! Ordinary miracles? No way. Sometimes we just can’t see it. Sometimes we just won’t see it.

Yet that’s exactly what this story reveals to us: ordinary miracles are all around us. Can you find yourself in today’s story? Can you spot the ordinary miracles? Are you Peter, the one who talks directly to the man, speaks the name of Jesus and then reaches for the man to pull him to his feet?

Or are you John, the silent partner in the transaction, standing by and watching? Being part of the miracle by simply seeing it, being willing to see it.

Or are you part of the group of people who would carry the man to the entrance of the beautiful gate every day so he could get money to live on? I’d bet money they didn’t feel like they were part of an ordinary miracle day in and day out. But they are.

Or are you one of the many who recognizes the man who used to sit at the gate and is now before you, leaping and praising God? Are you one of the many who are amazed at this transformation? Something’s different about that guy. Isn’t he the one who used to not be able to walk? Isn’t that the one we’d carry every day? Isn’t that the one who couldn’t move?  They recognize him by identifying what about his old life has changed, is different, is gone.

One of the other every day miracles in this story is that this man gets up, walks, and then by leaps and bounds busts through the barrier of the Beautiful Gate into the temple – a place he was unable to go. The man who was an outsider is no longer forever lingering on the threshold of the Beautiful Gate but is brought in. The man who was an outsider is brought inside.

It’s these every day miracles that change us – either dramatically or bit by bit.

Bit by bit, you brought groceries to worship with you during Lent so that the every day miracle of eating could happen for 180 kids on the weekend. Every weekend. It’s a miracle.

Bit by bit, you are showing up to hand out root beer floats for a benefit for Carter Renner. One silly scoop of ice cream at a time. Your physical presence at a community event. Your financial support. It’s a miracle.

Bit by bit, you’ve found your way into this community after taking a break from Christianity or never really going to worship before or never really feeling loved by God. It’s a miracle.

Bit by bit, one family or person at a time, you have committed to giving your financial support to River of Hope. You’ve given what God has given you back to give life to this community. It’s a miracle.

You see, the things we do are not just nice things. We are not just nice people. The things we do are how we live in response to this life of faith in the name of Jesus. The things we do? They are the very presence of God.

It can be easy for us to underestimate our part in sharing God’s love and grace through miracles with others. It is easy for us to underestimate what God can do with a loaf of bread, or a scoop of ice cream, or a compassionate ear. But through these ordinary acts, God brings healing.

Now, if you feel like you’re the one still stuck on the threshold, that you’re in a tough time right now, that your loved one didn’t get healed like the man in this story – please hear this: you are not forgotten. You are not outside of God’s love. You will not be stuck here for the rest of your days. God will not leave you where God finds you, especially when you feel like you cannot walk.

Our call is to simply pause as we go through life and turn toward someone in need and give what we can give in the name of Jesus to others. And bit by bit, that is exactly what we have been doing. It’s a miracle.