One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Imagine you too are going to the temple to pray. Perhaps you are tired, thinking of other things you need to do, or mentally replaying your day. Perhaps you bring a burden for yourself or someone you know, and you have been earnestly waiting for this moment to present it to God. Perhaps you are here without knowing why, or because you feel you must.
You notice Peter and John, and decide to follow behind them from a short distance. They had been with the mysterious man called Jesus, who performed miracles, spoke of great mysteries, ate with common people, and died horribly. There is a buzz around his former followers, they seem full of life, purposeful.
You see Peter and John stop, and notice they are outside a gate to the temple. Ironically called “Beautiful”, as it is a gathering point for people who are not. People broken in body and spirit. Waiting for something. Anything. You see a man being carried in on a stretcher. You recognise him, a man you have seen many times before. He is always at the gate looking for money. Today he is noteworthy because the followers of Jesus are looking at him. Talking to him.
“Look at us!” You hear. Look at who you wonder. The busy bustling line of the faithful going in to pray. The sea of infirmity clustered around the gate. Nothing out of the ordinary to be seen today. Same outstretched hands, longing hungry eyes. Weary faces lined with sadness. The lame man fixes his eyes on Peter and John. What is he waiting for?
“I don’t have any money” says Peter. Not surprising. Jesus’ followers were not known for their wealth. “But what I have I will give you.” What I have.
What does Peter have, you wonder, in the brief moments before he speaks again. What do I have? The question rises unbidden.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” In the name of a dead man, a lame man is told to do what has never been possible. The speaker reaches out a hand, not to give charity, but to grasp the hand of a man shunned. The crowd around the three hush, wondering if Peter is mad. They wait. You wonder if it is possible. As the man rises to his feet, the kingdom of God rushes in like blood to the head, ringing in the ears, minds and hearts of an estranged humanity. In this man, in this moment, weakness is replaced by strength. Sorrow gives way to leaping and dancing. Yearning by praising God. Beauty is given hands and feet outside the temple gate.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Christina who lead worship at Church the other week wrote a reflection which matched what I spoke on. Peter and John at the Beautiful gate in Acts. She put it up on her blog and I thought I would link to it!