31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 3, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
What a journey it had been for Simon Peter. 60 days ago, he had begun the day totally despondent. After following Jesus for 3 years, after being called the rock, the peter, on which Jesus would build his community, Simon Peter had done the unthinkable. He had denied knowing Jesus three times, three times! Three times, he had chosen to save his own skin over standing by his teacher, his master, his friend.
And so 60 days ago, when the day dawned on the first day of the week, Peter was physically, mentally, and emotionally locked up. He was ashamed of his behavior. He was devastated by Jesus’ death – and then the impossible happened, Jesus was alive. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and Peter got to see him again. Peter was healed from his brokenness; Peter reclaimed his identity as the rock on which Jesus would build his community.
For forty more days, Peter and the disciples got to see Jesus and have their eyes opened to God’s big plan – God’s plan to save the world, to save the world from fear, to save the world from death, to save the world from hopelessness and brokenness.
And then on the fiftieth day, another amazing thing happened. Like many others, the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost harvest festival. It was there that the Holy Spirit came upon them in dynamic waves of grace. They were blessed with abilities they never imagined. They spoke in different languages. They were able to heal, and perhaps most of all, they were made bold, bold in the Spirit, bold to share the good news of God’s love as made known in Jesus Christ.
As Peter walked with John to the temple for evening prayers, he was not the man he had been 60 days ago. He was transformed by the good news of Christ’s resurrection, transformed by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and when God presented him with this man laying by the gate, Peter did not see a man lame from birth. Peter saw a brother, a brother in need.
The man asked for money, for alms, for charity. The Peter of before might have felt bad that he had no silver or gold to give the man. The Peter of before might have averted his eyes and moved on. Not this Peter though. This Peter offered what he did have, a gift much greater than money, the ability to heal, the ability to restore this man to his intended place in community. So Peter boldly said, “ ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’” (Acts 3:6). Then Peter took the man by the hand and raised him up to standing.
Through Christ’s resurrection, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter had his eyes opened to the awareness that for God all things are possible.
For as long as he could remember, the man had been carried by others to the Beautiful Gate. For as long as he could remember, he took his place, laying on the ground, asking those who passed to have pity on him and give him a little something so he could survive one more day.
This day was no different. When the man saw Peter and John walking to the temple for evening prayers, the man asked them for alms the same way he had asked hundreds and thousands of people before them. He was accustomed to his life. He was resigned to the fact that this is the way it would be, day after day, asking for charity, depending on others to be generous.
Peter cannot have been the first person to respond by saying “ ‘I have no silver or gold’”. Peter was the first person though to say “ ‘but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’” (Acts 3:6).
It had never even crossed the man’s mind that he could be healed. Was it possible? He did not know. Then Peter reached out and took the man by his hand and pulled him up, and the man felt his feet and his ankles made strong. And he did not just take his first step ever, the man jumped to his feet. He walked; he leapt; he praised God!
Through Peter sharing what he had, the love and healing power of Jesus Christ, the man, lame from birth, had his eyes opened to the awareness that for God all things are possible.
Had they ever really looked at him, sitting there day after day beside the Beautiful Gate? Some of them in their busyness likely only acknowledged him as a fixture on their path to somewhere else. Others likely stopped to share with him gold and silver, honoring the commandment to care for the poor and outcast. He was just always there, a man lame from birth. They never questioned whether things could be different. They never questioned whether they could be God’s instrument of change – in this man’s life or in someone else’s. Even as they offered their prayers and their gifts to God, the people never expected anything to really change.
And then one day, the man was no longer sitting beside the gate. The man was walking, jumping, leaping, praising God for the miracle of healing his body, the miracle of restoring him to community. (We cannot underestimate the healing that comes with dignity.)
The people could barely believe it. They were filled with wonder. They were amazed. How had this happened? Was this even possible? And if it was, might other miracles, other changes also be possible?
Through witnessing this man’s healing, witnessing him praising God, everyone who saw and heard him had their eyes opened to the awareness that for God all things are possible.
Through Christ’s resurrection, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the disciples and saints who came before us, our eyes have been opened to the awareness that for God all things are possible.
Through our generosity, through our prayers of healing and comfort, through our service, through our speaking of God’s love and miracles, through sharing what we have, through our work for justice, we are the instruments through which others have their eyes opened to the awareness that change is possible, healing is possible, for God all things are possible.