JESUS ASKED, … WHICH IS EASIER: TO SAY, “YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN”, OR TO SAY, “GET UP AND WALK?” BUT THAT YOU MAY KNOW THAT THE SON OF MAN HAS AUTHORITY ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS … I TELL YOU, GET UP … (AND WALK) (Luke 5: 22-24)
WECOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-467): – TAKE OUR GIFTS, O LOVING JESUS, use them in some lovely way, for the happiness and comfort of the whole wide world today.
Let us be allowed to help You, in some plan of loving care, in some venture for the kingdom, by our deeds and by our prayer.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, we come in awe and wonder, to bring our worship, ourselves, and our world before You. Open our eyes to Your presence; open our lives to Your grace and our hearts to your power. We come to seek Your forgiveness, to confess our many faults, and to receive Your measureless mercy. We come seeking Your strength, Your guidance and Your will. We come to read Your word and Your message, and to discern Your purpose. We come offering our discipleship, our gifts, our talents, and abilities, committing all once again to Your service. Come afresh to us now in this time of worship – renew our commitment and vision, renew our faith, our hope and our love. Open our eyes to Your presence: open our lives to Your grace and to Your power. For we ask it through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – JEREMIAH 17: 14 – 15.
HEAL ME, O LORD, AND I SHALL BE HEALED; SAVE ME AND I SHALL BE SAVED, FOR YOU ARE THE ONE I PRAISE. THEY KEEP SAYING TO ME, “WHERE IS THE WORD OF THE LORD? LET IT NOW BE FULFILLED!”
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – THE BOOK OF ACTS 3: 1 – 10.
ONE DAY PETER AND JOHN WERE GOING UP TO THE TEMPLE AT THE TIME OF PRAYER – AT THREE IN THE AFTERNOON. NOW A MAN CRIPPLED FROM BIRTH WAS BEING CARRIED TO THE TEMPLE GATE CALLED BEAUTIFUL, WHERE HE WAS PUT EVERY DAY TO BEG FROM THOSE GOING INTO THE TEMPLE COURTS. WHEN HE SAW PETER AND JOHN ABOUT TO ENTER, HE ASKED THEM FOR MONEY. PETER LOOKED STRAIGHT AT HIM, AS DID JOHN. THEN PETER SAID, “LOOK AT US!” SO THE MAN GAVE THEM HIS ATTENTION, EXPECTING TO GET SOMETHING FROM THEM. THEN PETER SAID, “SILVER OR GOLD I DO NOT HAVE, BUT WHAT I HAVE I GIVE YOU. IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, WALK.” TAKING HIM BY THE RIGHT HAND, HE HELPED HIM UP, AND INSTANTLY THE MAN’S FEET AND ANKLES BECAME STRONG. HE JUMPED TO HIS FEET AND BEGAN TO WALK. THEN HE WENT WITH THEM INTO THE TEMPLE COURTS, WALKING AND JUMPING, AND PRAISING GOD. WHEN ALL THE PEOPLE SAW HIM WALKING AND PRAISING GOD, THEY RECOGNISED HIM AS THE SAME MAN WHO USED TO SIT BEGGING AT THE TEMPLE GATE CALLED BEAUTIFUL, AND THEY WERE FILLED WITH WONDER AND AMAZEMENT AT WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO HIM.
This is the third week we have the Message through Jesus’ disciple and apostle Peter. His apostleship wouldn’t be complete without this unique healing miracle of the Crippled Beggar at the Temple’s gate.
Peter was originally named Simon. Jesus was the One who changed his name, Peter meaning “rock” or literally PETRA. He was among the first disciples called by Jesus, and frequently their spokesman – for good or bad. One thing Peter is credited with was the essential insight that he had concerning Jesus’ identity, calling Jesus – according to the Gospels, – The Son of the Living God – the Messiah. A disciple means a “follower of” and that is what most Christians actually are today. An apostle was “one sent forth” in the sense of “sent forth by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20). After Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, Peter was the first one to preach on the day of Pentecost, and he was the first to proclaim Christ to a gentile. He willingly suffered persecution, imprisonment, beatings, and finally execution by crucifixion in Rome. The early Christian tradition said that Peter asked to be crucified head-down because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the way that the Lord Jesus Christ had been. The lowly fisherman became a mighty fisher-of-men, and one that changed and shaped the world forever. One who still proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ to us today, through his humble words and deeds, being the tool in the hands of his Lord to perform the miraculous healing of the Crippled Beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Jerusalem Temple.
Peter and John were going to the Temple to pray at three in the afternoon. That was a peak time of prayer at the Temple and so there would have been crowds of people around. As they approached, they passed by a lame man who would be carried to the gate of the Temple by his family, and as worshippers would come and go, he would ask them if they could spare a coin for a lame man. He had become good at asking and begging for money. He was made to believe that money was the greatest need in his life. He thought he would be on that mat for the rest of his life. He thought things would always remain the same. He never gave other things much thought because lying on that mat was all he had ever known. Sometimes we make the mistake in thinking that – If I only had more money, my life would be much better. The truth is that money is not our greatest need. Our greatest need will always be to have a vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus, and with each other.
So Peter and John arrived at the Temple and the lame man sitting there asked them for money. But the disciples had no money to give him. Instead, they had something more valuable to give away: – In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, getting him up and to walk. And immediately, they helped the man to his feet, and he had been healed and was able to walk again. And then, there is this lovely scene in verse 8: – Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. What an incredible turnaround in his fortunes, and what a shocking experience for all those around him! He had not expected anything miraculous to occur that day; just to go begging as usual and receive some money from kind people. Instead, he was healed and was able not only to walk but also to believe and worship God, his Saviour. This apparently simple biblical story has some very important and relevant messages for nowadays Christians, both individually and as a Church, in this time of hurt, anxiety, despair, depression, and grief caused by the long lasting, terrible Coronavirus pandemic. Here we have three of them.
- – REACHING OUT PRAYERFULLY TO THE HURTING.
It is important that our story comes immediately after Pentecost, the story about how thousands were coming to the Christian faith through the ministry of the apostles, and then moves straight into this story of how one single man came to faith in Christ. One of the most important roles of the Church – according to Jesus’ Great Commission – is to reach out to the hurting parts of the community. That hurting can take many forms: – it may be physical illness, grief, broken relationship, loneliness, eldership, fear, and of course, all the medical and social aspects of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Hurt comes in many forms and Christians are called to speak into the hurt with the healing words of Christ so that we can be agents of healing and wholeness. In most cases we do not have anything else to offer, do we? But we can bring words of comfort, words of hope, we can offer our friendship, we can listen to people as they talk, and … more than just words of encouragement … PRAYER … in the name of Jesus Christ the Saviour, which is the greatest gift of all. We know and they should also know that He is just a prayer away.
- – REACHING OUT BY WORKING TOGETHER AS A CHURCH. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the metaphor to describe the church as a family: – some people are hands, some are feet, some are eyes, some are hands and acting together as one body. We need each other to work effectively together so that the healing power of the Lord can really make an impact on all those who are hurting in body and in soul. Peter and John were engaged in this miracle because they were such different personalities. Peter was a hands-on, pragmatic, hot-headed, impulsive “doer”. He was a working man, a fisherman with calloused hands and deep passion. John, as we know from the style of his Gospel, was much more of a philosopher, a deep thinker, more reserved. And yet, God brought them together, to enable them to work for the glory of His Name. As different as they were, they really complemented each other. We are all very different as people, and we all have different gifts and talents, yet, working and praying together we can fulfil our calling, to be salt and light for those around us, in a world that is crying out for healing and help.
- – OUTREACH DEPENDS ON GOD’S AUTHORITY AND POWER. Peter was not a healer. Peter was not a miracle worker or magician. Instead, Peter was just an ordinary human being like us, but he knew that God had the power to heal and so he called on the authority and power of God in the name of Jesus, to bring about the healing that the man really needed. Peter just prayerfully offered Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing, and along the way the Lord performs the miracles to accompany the ministry so that people may believe. The Crippled Beggar was the one everyone saw over and over again out at the front of the Temple. He was someone, people felt sorry for but rarely ever did anything to help. This was the man who, when the worshippers saw him, they crossed over on the other side. This was the one who would at best receive a small coin but never anything else. This was the man who had written off any hope of ever having a life different from that which he was currently living. And this man has been touched by God, given healing and faith to know and never forget that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD (Luke 1: 37). Peter had been just a tool in the hands of God, and the same is true for us. We are ordinary people, with ordinary gifts and talents; we are not healers, nor miracle workers, but we do have in Christ a relationship with God who has the authority and power to heal and transform lives for the better. We have little to offer people: we do not have the magic touch against Coronavirus, nor an endless pot of resources in terms of time, health or wealth. But we do know a God who is limitless in His authority and power to help, heal and transform.
You know by now that I love William Barclay’s Commentaries. Here there is another quotation from him: – It is a fact that any doctor or surgeon can now do things which in apostolic times would have been regarded as miracles. God has revealed new truth and new knowledge to us, and through that revelation they are still performing miracles. As a great doctor said, “I bandage the wounds; but God heals them”. For Christians, there are still miracles all around if they have eyes to see. (The Acts of the Apostles, page 37)
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY LORD GOD, You have made us in Your image, each one the work of Your hands, a unique and precious creation, and we praise You for it. We thank You that You are a God who hears and answers prayer, and we praise You for those times when You have responded to us and granted our requests. But we confess that there also times when You seem silent, when, listen though we might, we cannot hear Your voice. In these terrifying times of the Coronavirus pandemic, we keep on praying for the best but still fearing the worst. We do believe in You, Lord God; help us to overcome our unbelief. We pray for those who are facing very difficult times with this pandemic – battling with the illness, wrestling with depression, anxious about the future, loved ones or themselves. We pray for those who are burdened by doubt, crushed by failure and grief, overwhelmed by loneliness and lockdown, and who long to find hope but who find it hard to get close to You. We are conscious that so many in our world today cry out to You yet seem to receive no answer – some because they do not expect to receive any, some because they are not ready or willing to listen, some because they do not understand what You are saying, but many are genuinely and urgently longing to hear Your voice, Your message, Your guidance. Speak to them Lord God, we pray. Do not keep silent, use us as You have used Peter and John, and reach out into the pain, the hurt, the need and hopelessness of so many lives around us; may we bring Your Word of comfort, of peace, of healing, love and renewal. May we bring friendship to the lonely, encouragement to the sick, and comfort to the bereaved. In our homes, local communities, our country and our world, may Your love, authority and power be shared among us, bringing hope and healing to all. Bless Your Christian Church universal, and our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations, and be with us as Your Church in this place to fulfil our calling, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-462): – TAKE MY LIFE, AND LET IT BE consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King. Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart – it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure-store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
FINALLY, WHATEVER IS TRUE, WHATEVER IS NOBLE, WHATEVER IS RIGHT, WHATEVER IS PURE, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE – IF ANYTHING IS EXCELLENT OR PRAISEWORTHY – THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS. WHATEVER YOU HAVE LEARNED OR RECEIVED OR HEARD … PUT INTO PRACTICE. AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU. (Philippians 4: 8-9).