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What Do You Have?

August 26, 2012

“The Great Transformation”12th Sunday after Holy Trinity

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame 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 do 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 recognized 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”.

Acts 3:1-10

The message contained in the reading for this Sunday, is nothing more and nothing less than a message of faith. It is a message for Christians who truly walk in faith. We can never come to understand the fullness of this reading if we are not walking in faith. We cannot truly understand the magnitude of the event that came from Peter and John, if we begin to explain what happened that day by means of logic and human reason. This is a message that wants to awaken our own faith and nurture that seed of faith that surely wants to germinate in our own lives.

Let’s start by immersing ourselves in the story of the disabled person. Today we would say disabled, or impaired. When I walk down the street, I am amazed to see the number of disabled people, or at least partially impaired people, who live in this city. They make use of these electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters to move around the malls and even travel on the innumerable good footpaths that we have in our city. It is truly is a blessing that each of these people may well have a vehicle to move independently, run errands, etc. There are countries where these resources and infrastructure are not available yet. But here we have them and we have to be thankful, for it is a blessing from God. However, it was different in Jesus’ time. The disabled person, at the time of Jesus, was regarded as a sinner in the theology of the Jews of Jesus’ time. People’s disabilities or illnesses were believed to be the result of some sin that they or any of their ancestors had committed. They were not considered pure in the theological sense. For this reason, they were discriminated against. They were also indirectly hampered and unable to live normally in society due to the lack of medical, technological and urban progress. At the time, the disabled were considered outsiders. If they didn’t have a loved one who helped unselfishly, they were at the mercy of the goodwill of the people and had to go out and beg to avoid starvation. There were no special homes for them, no social workers or hospitals, or even people who felt driven to help others as Christians do today. Today, we must be grateful to the Christian church for the advances that have been made over the centuries by aid organizations and charity inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is in this setting that our story takes place. When Peter and John came over, perhaps the only thing the disabled person was able to do was to stretch his hands, again craving for more charity for subsistence. We imagine that the disabled looked differently to these two men, for they could not manage to take money out of their pockets. That simply was not something that they had to give. They had something better than money to give because God’s miraculous healing could work through them. And most important, what these disciples were ultimately able to offer was the possibility of conversion to Jesus Christ and to change his life and final destination.

But let us look at another previous event. The words of these men have inspired me to title my message for today: “What do they have, what do you have to offer?” “I have no silver or gold”, Peter said, “but what I have I give you.” This is the first part of the message for this Sunday. I have no silver or gold, I have no money, and if I had it, it would not be very important. It may only be enough to buy bread for several days, or even if it is a lot of money, it could not cure that crippled of his disability; it could only ease his life a little bit.

Today, there are many Christians who have founded charities that provide assistance to alleviate the pain and suffering of many. This is truly noble neighborly love. But we must also be careful not to forget the spiritual dimension of what command us to help others materially: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10) Jesus tells us. And when He’s thinking of fullness, he is not only thinking of material things during our life on this earth, but is also promising spiritual fullness that assures us eternal life. When we help, we do so in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who promises eternal life for those who choose to change their life by believing in Him. Christians must not forget this aspect of charitable help. If we do so, our efforts become mere humanitarian aid, which is good, but is not necessarily Christian.

What was it that the disciples had, that was more important than gold and silver? Was it the possibility to call upon the miraculous power of Jesus? Yes, but even more so: the ability to offer a message of salvation in the name of Jesus, who heals and saves. The healing action (either through miracles or not) must also be accompanied by the saving action, ie the ability to offer the other, on par with our concrete action, access to knowledge of salvation through Christ’s message . That, above healing, was the most important thing the disciples could offer the disabled. That’s why Peter announces to the crowd: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (v. 19).

The question this morning, which applies to each of us today, is What do you have to offer? Do you have something that you can give to others or a way to bring a blessing to your church? Do you believe that only the disciples, perhaps because of their proximity to Jesus Christ, have the power to change our reality? No, it is not so. Today, we, as Christians, also have the power to change our reality. But we must not limit God and believe that it can only happen through human paths such as social and humanitarian aid. We can also invoke God’s miraculous power to relieve ailments and diseases. Finally, there is something that is very important that the disciples offered that we should not forget to offer. The reason why we want others to live a better life of abundance is so that they may reap the salvation offered by Jesus.

What do you have to offer? You may not have gold or silver, but there is something you have and that is your faith in Jesus Christ. Do you accept that, as a Christian, Jesus asks of you to change your life, your behavior and style?  Could we also be examples and say to others, as the disciples did: “Look at us.” Would it be possible to tell people to look at our witness?

What do you have? A lot, I think. Many Christians do not use the tools that God gave us to change reality through His power. And one of these tools is prayer. Do you pray, really? How much, how many minutes do you spend per day, praying for your church, for your family, for your community, for the sick? There are many who ignore the power of prayer, they just do not know. There are up even church pastors who do not pray, not even for themselves.

What do you have to offer? That’s the question that God is asking you today. I am convinced that we have much to give, and one of the most important things is prayer. As Christians, it is our possibility to develop our faith through the daily action of prayer, so that it will work miracles in our lives and in our families and our communities. It is true, as it is written in the Epistle of James, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). God gives us something more valuable than gold and silver, which creates the possibility for supernatural things to take place in the life of our church and we are not using it. His power can transform inactive churches that are in need of a revival. It can miraculously heal people and more: it can bring many people to Christ, if indeed we begin to give what we have. God gave us this gift to use. We want changes in our churches, we have all the tools. Ask God to give us the courage to live a Christianity filled with fruit. We can change our community, in every way, according to the will of God, but we must first change ourselves. We must offer what God gave us when we chose to be Christians, through our witness, our prayer and our work in the church to which we belong. Is not far from us, that which happened that day by the gate called Beautiful. It is something that can happen every day in our lives and in our congregation. What do you have to offer? Amen.

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