Acts 3: 1-10
This Easter season we are exploring “What the Apostles Did Next” – Jesus has been and gone again; the Spirit has done her work, and suddenly they are out there. Being this New Thing.
The New Church…
In a few weeks we will join with the whole church remembering Pentecost – the day the Spirit came. But meantime, we take a gallop through the Acts of the Apostles and the letters to the new church at Corinth.
For those of you whole like to see the whole picture, or place events in context, you will find the Home Devotions are back – the focus is on filling in the gaps between the readings each week, and they will help you to see how the early church grew and developed through the ministry of Paul, following his astonishing conversion experience on the road to Damascus.
Each of the next few weeks will focus on the different ways the Holy Spirit works in the world and with us; reconciling, uniting, living, loving, bestowing gifts and this week, healing.
As I read the scripture and reflected; I visualised the story – which I find always helps me.
I was struck first by the number of visual phrases that lie in the text.
The beggar sees Peter and John
Peter and John look at the beggar
Then Peter and John tell the beggar to look at them
He looks at Peter and John …
And then later, the crowds, the people gathering for prayer and worship see the beggar; recognise him; notice him… and are amazed.
Anyone who travels up to Edinburgh will know that in many doorways there sit beggars; homeless / jobless ones who sit, wait, hope… for someone to notice them; to see them, to speak to them; to give them help.
I have to admit, that by and large I am one who keeps their head down and passes as quickly as possible; avoiding eye contact; avoiding noticing, or being noticed. I am uncomfortable, maybe afraid even of what will happen if I need to connect in any way… but I’m not sure why.
Why is it that I will happily make donations to charities, but cannot bring myself to help directly? I don’t have an answer – but it is something I shall continue to ponder.
Peter and John must also have been used to seeing beggars at the temple gates; we know that Jesus saw beggars and responded to them in many places; so Peter and John continuing to do the same is not a surprise. I wonder what prompted Peter to react the way he did? Did he plan it? Was it an instinct that kicked in? Was he as surprised as everyone else when it worked?
As they came away again, I wonder what Peter and John thought after all of this?
For years they had walked with Jesus, witnessing his words, his compassion, his miracles. Seeing it all happen around them.
Now, Jesus is no longer with them, yet because of him, they are now able to do what he did; in his name they discover they are able to perform their own miracles.
What a joy! What a Surprise! What a responsibility!!
What did they think? How did it make them feel?
When we begin a new job, a new project or a new course of action we begin all excited and enthused; it’s fun, it’s challenging – there is so much to learn, so many new things to try, new people to meet.
Then, as time passes, thing begin to be normal – routine – the task begins to feel heavier as the reality sinks in and the scope of what is required becomes known.
We settle down for the long haul; we need to find the rhythm, the pace needs to be set. Too fast and we will become exhausted; too slow and we will get bored or complacent.
Peter and John and all of the other apostles were beginning a new thing – even if they did not quite realise what this would mean. They all thought that Jesus would be returning soon; in their lifetimes. There was no sense of a long haul project – I wonder what they would have thought if they had known that 2000 years later the world was still waiting, still wondering when will be the time? What would be the signs and wonders?
It is hard for us, in this age of medical advancement and technology; in this age when miracles are explained away or denied, and seem to be so infrequent to be impossible.
We say – with God nothing is impossible; and yet, the thought of miracles – of praying for miraculous inexplicable healing seems almost absurd.
We pray instead for acceptance; for healing of the spirit or the strength to carry on through and with whatever it is that ails us. (and I’m not saying this is wrong – far from it!)
We no longer expect to be amazed and surprised by what God and Jesus will do when called on.
This can be a difficult issue for many people.
The sorrow when prayers feel unanswered; the disappointment when a miracle doesn’t come; the bitterness that can seep in to our hearts when the thing we wish for above all is continually denied.
So what can we do? How can we continue to pray; to love and serve God; to ask Jesus to intercede on our behalf, in this age of doubts and uncertainties?
I do not have an answer!
Sometimes asking the question is enough. We pray, we hope, we trust, we support each other and we share our burdens.
We may not always get the answer we were looking for – but we do get answers.
God’s Spirit is with us; of that I have no doubt; and when life is difficult and answers seem far away, it is enough to know that we are never alone.
That God’s Spirit is an ever constant presence.
The Spirit is there, whether we are aware or not; moving and prompting whether we are aware or not; pointing us in the right direction, sending others to cross our paths and move us on – whether we are aware or not.
Whether we are aware or not, God’s Spirit heals our deepest wounds; touches our inmost being; and guides and directs our actions. Whether we are aware, or not.
Holy Spirit – guide us, lead us, touch us, heal us.
Today and always