Easter Opportunity (04/10/16)

praise 2
Read Acts 3:1-20
Welcome to this 3rd Sunday of our Easter celebration!
The glory of Easter continues to shine in our lives and to fill us with hope and joy. Resting on Jesus’ promise to live with us, and in us, Easter gives us the assurance that our lives matter to God. Nothing will ever remove or void that promise. We are exploring the book of Acts on these Sundays of Easter. And we are hearing stories of how the risen Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, is at work in the lives of his disciples. The book of Acts chronicles their experience as the church expands to include all people.
People noticed the disciples’ new found sense of confidence. Whereas before, they were timid, now they were bold. People noticed their determination to live their lives for the Lord, and not just for themselves.
One day as Peter and John went to the temple to teach, they encountered a gentleman who was lame, unable to walk.
Everyday his friends carried this man to a place where he could ask passersby for money. So when Peter and John passed, he asked them for money. Peter told him, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) Grabbing his hands they helped the man to his feet. It was miraculous healing. The once lame person began “walking and leaping and praising God.”
Seeing this person walking and leaping for joy immediately drew a crowd. The people could hardly believe their eyes. They were used to seeing this man begging every day, but now they see him with Peter and John, and he was walking and obviously healed of his condition. Luke reports that people were so excited to see for themselves, they “ran toward them.”
From time to time there are events that draw people to take a closer look at God. Natural disasters or national tragedies seem to bring people to the church. Others come seeking comfort and assurance at a time of grief, or when struggling with a problem or health concerns. At other times it may be a positive experience that brings someone to church. Persons come wanting to learn more about the God who loves them and the Savior who died for them, or they want to hear about God’s purposes for their life.
In this case, a crowd gathered, seeking an explanation of what they saw. Peter seized the opportunity and spoke. The first thing he did was to correct their thinking. The people looked to Peter and John as the source of healing, while Peter said it was not by their power or anything that they did that brought about the healing. The credit was to go to Jesus, whom God raised from the dead.
It is a mark of spiritual maturity when we can say it is not about us, but rather about what God in Christ has done and is doing.
Peter refuses to let himself become the center of attention.
In our gospel reading this morning, the resurrected Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and, feed my sheep.” It happens three times, because Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Jesus is restoring Peter, forgiving Peter, commissioning Peter – and Jesus says that Peter’s mission is going to be to “feed and to tend.” These are words of nurture and love and healing, actions that support and participate in the much larger mission of our risen Lord to heal and redeem this broken world.
Peter is learning and growing and maturing as a follower of Jesus, and by the time we got to this story in Acts, Peter has learned that to serve our risen Jesus is not about being “large and in charge,” but about playing a supportive role in Jesus’ redemptive work in the world. The spotlight should be, not on us, but on Jesus.
I read about a wedding where the five year old nephew of the bride was chosen to be the ring bearer. It was his job to carry the rings down the aisle and deliver them to the minister. At the wedding rehearsal he was completely unruly. He kept leaping out at people, baring his teeth at them, and chasing the flower girls. He growled and snarled as he practiced going down the aisle. He waved the pillow around like a pistol.
Finally his mother pulled him aside and demanded to know why he was behaving so badly.
“But Mom,” he explained, “I have to act fierce — I’m the ‘Ring Bear.’” And he let out a big “roar!”
That little boy misunderstood just what his role was supposed to be. He thought he was called to be big, imposing, large and in charge. He thought he was to be the “star of the show.” He thought the spotlight was to be on him.
But he wasn’t supposed to be a bear; he was supposed be the ring bearer—the supportive role of carrying the rings down the aisle to the waiting couple.
Like the ring bearer, our mission as followers of our risen Lord, is the role of a servant, supporting Jesus’ mission of the healing and redemption of this broken world.
Peter would have made a terrible reality TV star. Unlike the show “Keeping up with the Kardashians, there would be no show called “keeping up with Peter.” Peter would shy away from our twenty-first century celebrity culture, marked by the fact that people have trained a big blazing spotlight on their own lives.
Many people today have fallen into the habit of measuring their self-worth by how many ‘friends’ or ‘likes’ they have on Twitter or Snapchat or other social media. Peter’s story would remind us that we already have value because God made us, he sent his Son to die for us and to rise from the dead, and he lives with us and in us.
The thing I notice about Peter – which gives me great comfort – is that he absolutely made his share of mistakes in his life. I find this to be helpful because I know I’ve made mistakes in my life, and maybe you have too, and it means that God can forgive us and use us, regardless of our past.
One of the greatest signs I see of the Risen Jesus alive today is people, like some of you in this church, who are empowered to answer Jesus’ call to participate in his mission of healing and redeeming this broken world, not because we are so powerful or so perfect, but because ….
Our Risen Lord is with us, and he has called us to be about his mission.
Remember the words of Jesus from last Sunday? Jesus said:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”
The Spirit of our risen Lord is active in our lives, for the sake of his mission.
The Apostle Paul, reflecting on our mission, sees the power of the Holy Spirit in the gifts we have been given. He writes in Romans, chapter 12:
“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)
Just before those verses, Paul writes:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”(Romans 12:3)
Paul is simply saying that every gift is a sign of God’s calling in our lives; every gift is equally valued, and needed. A gift of speaking or preaching is no greater than a gift of making quilts or a gift of caring for a person in need.
God’s word has a message for us this morning: It’s not about us. The spotlight is not on us, it’s on God, and on what he is doing in this world through his Son, Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we support our risen Lord’s mission to heal and redeem this broken world. We are simply to serve our Risen Lord with whatever gifts we have been given, so that his power may become known, and his name may be exalted.
And there, we will see our risen Lord among us.
Let us pray…

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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