May 29, 2016 – In the name…

Pentecost 2    May 29, 2016   (Ps 113) Acts 3:1-21, 4:1-12   In the name…. *********************************************************** Life has probably not been all that beautiful for this man, lame from birth, who begs every day at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Someone has to carry him to the place where he begs, daily. Asking for handouts every day probably gets very old… And… He’s probably seen these guys, Peter and John, going to the temple for prayers many times… (They do this every day, we’re told in Act’s previous chapter.) Now the man asks for alms as usual, but this time Peter says, “I’ve got no money, but what I’ve got I give – In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – Stand up and walk!” And Peter reaches out and gives a hand – and suddenly the man born lame is walking, leaping, and praising God. Leaping in the air for joy, as he heads into the temple, where everyone recognizes him as the one who used to be outside the church every day, begging. Now he’s inside, praising God for all to hear. On fire with faith – people coming to watch him burn… Everyone’s amazed and astonished…. And… Alleluia! Such a beautiful scene… As now the disciples of Jesus are healing the lame, as Jesus did. (In Luke’s gospel, remember, friends of a lame man lower him down through a hole they make in the roof of the house where Jesus is preaching – wrecking the roof – but getting their friend in front of Jesus for his healing word. And Jesus says nothing about the roof – but he does commend their faith… And then, and now again in Acts, the faith commended by Jesus is not the faith of the one healed, but the faith of the community that prays and carries the wounded person into the presence of Jesus…) And just as the faith that saves and heals is not always the faith of the person themself – so now the apostle Peter insists this healing’s not about us doing anything miraculous. It’s only by the power of the name of Jesus this man is walking, leaping, and praising God. (So give all glory to God.) And what a beautiful story’s happening here at the Beautiful Gate today… **** Yet this spectacular healing is only scene one in a larger drama… As next, scene two, here’s Peter, making this healing a lead-in for his main mission – preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus resurrected and the coming of Christ’s kingdom… Which also means repenting and turning to Jesus, the one in whom healing and salvation happens… And here’s the apostle, re-working the same repent, come-to-Jesus theme he preached on Pentecost…. Again indicting everyone in hearing range of complicity in the death of Jesus…Again inviting one and all to come to Jesus, whom you killed – now alive, risen from the dead… Inviting all into the blessing of repentance… And not to belittle the physical healing of the man born lame. (Which is for sure to be celebrated.) But the same New Testament Greek word means both healing and saving. And this story is about both salvation and healing, with no clear border between the two… And this story is about ordinary walking, and...

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June 7, 2015 – Treasure in clay jars

Pentecost 2 June 7, 2015 (Psalm 138, 1 Samuel 8:4-20, Acts 2:42-47) 2 Corinthians 4:5-15          Treasure in clay jars ****************************************************** “We have this treasure in jars of clay.” This image describes our human condition…probably as well as any single phrase can do… The same God who said “let there be light” in the beginning– “has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory… in the face of Christ.” Good News! The same light that lit up the cosmic darkness in the beginning lives in us… God’s awesome presence is alive, embodied in us… Treasure beyond all price… “But – we have this treasure in jars of clay.” We have the light and life of God within us – in the fragile shell of earthly bodies. I expect I don’t have to unpack this part in much detail… We all know by now what it is to be human… Living in human bodies… Exposed to time and aging, vulnerable, subject to chipping, bruising, even shattering… We have this treasure in jars of clay. Our bodies resemble the clay jars and jugs manufactured in great quantities in Corinth of old. (Corinth, bible commentaries say, was home to one of the first century’s biggest Pottery Barn Outlets.) Pottery is notoriously breakable… (Maybe this sermon should be titled “Crack pot theology?”) Human bodies are fragile and breakable. Together we are the body of Christ. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are filled with references to life in the body, with all of life’s bodily pains and afflictions. We should expect much the same kinds of difficulties and sufferings as others. (Paul tells us elsewhere in this same letter that he’s experienced far more beatings, floggings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, and disasters by far than anyone he knows.) To be Christian is not to escape sufferings, but to be fully human, and suffer the common sufferings of humankind, as well as to know deep joy… So we shouldn’t be surprised, Paul reminds us, when troubles happen. We who follow Jesus should expect problems and difficulties much like those Christ himself and the apostles experienced. We too will often be (in the words of scripture) “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed – perplexed, but not in despair – persecuted, but not abandoned – struck down, but not destroyed.” Suffering and struggle comes with the turf of being human and being Christian. As believers we’re blessed beyond measure… and subject to all the mix of human perplexities and troubles also common to life on earth…(for example –) This week someone defaced our (Cataumet) church’s message board sign on County Road. The sign that’s always there, sharing words of encouragement, humor, and hope… But this past Friday someone changed the letters of the sign around to say ‘worship Satan…’ Words to that effect. Joyce, who carefully chooses our messages, and spends considerable time and effort putting up these messages, was of course disturbed by the vandalism. (As I was of course also.) Joyce called me up when she noticed the damage as she happened to be driving by. After we talked she called the police. The officer who came to talk turned out to be a classmate of her daughter, someone she knew. A very nice guy. He...

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