Sermon: The Beautiful Gate

beggar at the gateLuke 24: 36 – 43
Acts 3: 1 – 10

A man who has been crippled all his life, sits begging outside the Beautiful Gate. He sits outside God’s house, begging for alms, pennies, or the smallest mites. Are his withered legs tucked up under him so as not to put people off? Or, are they stretched out, useless sticks stuck out in front of him…to encourage people to send some coins his way?

We don’t know who brings him to the Temple every day. They leave him outside, as they continue on their way into God’s house to pray and make offerings, asking God for forgiveness, for God to notice them and their problems, asking God to free them from oppression, to bless their families and children…all the things we ask God to provide for us. Then they leave, walking briskly past the man who has been crippled all his life, and they go about their busy day…

Although scripture doesn’t tell us who, someone must return in the evening to move the man crippled from birth to wherever he might be able to find shelter for the night. Or, simply to move him somewhere away from the closing Temple gates…somewhere to huddle until morning, when he will get carried back to beg outside God’s house.

Peter and John are about to enter the Temple and the crippled man asks them for alms. And like Jesus before him…Peter looks…and Peter sees. Peter sees the person no one sees any more…the person people try hard not to see…

Peter looks and sees this invisible person…who has spent his entire life, on the outside looking in.

Peter looks at the man crippled from birth and says, “Look at us.”

Does Peter have to say this because the beggar has spent his life averting his gaze from the fear, or pity, or scorn, or disgust that he sees in the eyes of his neighbors streaming by him on their way to worship and pray?

Or is it worse than that…does he avert his eyes from the fact that no one even glances at him any more, erasing him little by little, each time they pass by, eyes straight ahead, pointedly refusing to look at him?

Has he become nothing more than part of the wall, not worthy of a second glance…not worthy of even a moment’s thought. Or, does he hold out his hand or a cup with eyes downcast trying to ease this most uncomfortable of human exchanges? One with nothing, begging subsistence, from one with plenty?

Peter sees the man crippled from birth and says, “Look at us.”

And I wonder if the crippled man spends his days, sitting with his eyes closed, imagining what it would be like to stride along with those endless streams of pilgrims and worshippers and enter with confidence into God’s house as if he belonged…as if he were welcome?

Does he sit and imagine what wonders and miracles must lie within…within arm’s reach…a few short… impossible steps away…?

Does the daily smell of the burning doves, pigeons, goats, sheep, and cows make his mouth water and his empty stomach twist and shout? Does the chink and clank from the moneylenders tables drown out the sound of the tiny pennies and mites that make their way into his cup?

Does he even own a cup? or do the few, small coins make a dull whisper in the dust as they are tossed onto the ground around him?

Peter and John look intently at the man crippled from birth, and Peter says, “Look at us.”

The man crippled from birth, fixes his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. What is it we expect to receive when we enter the gates of God’s house? What is it we hope for and pray for?

And who is it we leave behind, sitting at the door…sitting on the outside, looking in?

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. And Peter takes him by the hand and raises him up. And immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

The people gathered in the Temple, all those who passed him by, recognize him as the one who USED to sit and ask for alms at the beautiful gate of the Temple…and they are filled with wonder and amazement.”

Peter says, “What I have, I give you.”

What is it that Peter has to offer? What do we as Christians have to offer? Peter starts with seeing this man, eye to eye..person to person…He offers a smile and a kind word. He offers acknowledgment of this man’s existence.

He offers the man crippled from birth, a hand up…compassion, and healing…in the name of Jesus. He offers witness to Jesus presence and power. He offers him the touch and power of the Holy Spirit and he transforms a crippled man’s life. And they walk into God’s house, together!

“What I have, I give you.”

What do we have that we can give to those left to beg at the gates? What do we have to give to others? Not what do they have to help us? It’s time to stop asking who is going to come and save us and our church and to start asking, “Who can we reach out to and save, in Jesus name?”

This is a part of our discernment process right now, to evaluate not what we need, but what we have to offer. This is a time to examine our skills, our interests, our assets, our finances, our building, and even our contacts and relationships in the community, in order to discover what we have to give. And then we need to discern, who most needs what we have to offer.

Who is invisible in our community that we need to notice? Who is waiting for us to see them? Who can we best serve? Right here in our town…right here in our neighborhood. Who can we reach out and touch in Jesus name? Who can we take by the hand and raise up?

There is quite a list to choose from: The homeless population in Massachusetts has increased faster than in any other state in the nation…even as overall homelessness in the country declines.

The Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that 9,493 high school-aged students in public schools are experiencing homelessness on any given day in Massachusetts. What about grade-school and elementary children, they aren’t even included in that estimate? I’ll bet they’re feeling hungry and scared. Do we have something to offer them?

One of our members is deploying on May 1st and we have promised to keep an eye on his family and help support them while he is gone. What about other families who have loved ones serving over seas? Do we have something to offer them?

Our Veteran’s are returning home with physical, mental, and emotional problems and the suicide rate and divorce rates among returning Vets is increasing at an alarming rate. 22 Veteran’s take their lives every day.

We have two Veteran’s hospitals within five minutes of this church. Those Vetarans are our neighbors. I’ll bet many of them are feeling alone and abandoned. Do we have something to offer them?

There are single parents, struggling to make ends meet, juggling multiple jobs, trying to take good care of their children, do we have something to offer them?

There are children and adults waking up hungry…and going to bed hungry. Do we have something to offer them?

The list goes on and on and the problems that we can see in the world can become overwhelming. That’s why part of our discernment is to find the one ministry, the one vision, the one calling, that best fits with what we have to offer.

Jesus appears among the disciples and says, “look at my hands and feet…touch me and see.”

Peter sees, reaches out his hand, and touches someone else. Peter takes a beggar by the hand and raises him up … And together, they enter the house of the Lord.

One, a man who stopped and reached out his hand in Jesus’ name. One, a man who USED to be crippled from birth, who now enters God’s house walking, jumping, leaping, and praising God!

Two thousand years ago, Jesus appeared among his disciples and said, “look at my hands and feet…touch me and see.”

Today, this day, we are now Jesus’ hands and feet. Who will we reach out and touch? Who will we lift up in Jesus name?

Peter says, “What I have, I give you.”

What do we have?

And who will we give it to?

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