SEPTEMBER 16, FILLED WITH WONDER AND AWE

FILLED WITH WONDER AND AWE

September 16, 2018 

Acts 3:1-10

“The thick, meaty hand of the fisherman reached out for the frail, thin one of the beggar. The cripple swayed like a newborn calf finding its balance. And as he stood, he began to shout, and passersby began to stop. The crowd thickened around the trio. Other beggars pressed toward the scene in their ragged coverings and tattered robes and cried out for their portion of a miracle. So, Peter complied. He escorted them to the clinic of the Great Physician and invited them to take a seat. “Faith in His name has made this man strong…. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:16-19)

That’s the way Max Lucado describes the story of the crippled beggar who received his healing in a devotional I am reading. This devotional, like many of Max’s books, are stories and situations that give those who read them courage, hope, a new outlook, a new awakening. He makes these stories of ordinary situations come alive so that it fills many, at least me, with wonder, awe and excitement. That’s why I like his books, his writing. They inspire, they get one to think. They fill those who read them with the thought that God is still around, still cares, still does wonders. In fact, the devotional this came from in called “God Is with you every day.” Isn’t that a great reminder for all of us? God is with us every day no matter where we are or what we are doing? 

This story of the crippled beggar happened shortly after Pentecost while Peter and John were heading to the temple. It’s found in Acts 3. As they approached the gate to the temple, there was a crippled man doing what he did every day of his life, begging at the temple gate. Friends made sure he was carried to this place hoping that many who entered the temple would see his need and give him a dime or two. It was late afternoon this day, and many were gathering for afternoon prayer in the temple. This would be the time that many might throw a few coins in his direction. Just about then, Peter and John came up to the entrance talking about how things were going since the Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost. It was an exciting time as many who heard God’s message had repented and received Christ as Savior.  There was joy and hope in people’s lives as they gathered together for prayer, fellowship, teaching, and the breaking of bread in communion. These disciples began to see the hand of God working among them with lives changing.  Miracles were taking place. Healings were happening. They saw how interested the people were to hear the stories the disciples had to share about their 3 years with Jesus. They were like sponges soaking up every word. They were filled with excitement realizing how much God cared for them. With every step, with every word, Peter and John got more excited wondering what God might do next. They were about to find out. 

As they were talking about these events, suddenly they heard a voice speaking to them breaking the moment, and a basket pushed their way. “Can you spare a dime or two, sirs?” The beggar said. Peter looked at John, John looked at Peter and without saying a word to each other, Peter bent down to speak to the beggar directly. “Sir, I’m afraid we don’t have any coins to give you. But I’ve got something a whole lot more that you are going to enjoy.” Peter stands and smiles at John, John smiles back at Peter as Peter bends over again and reaches to take the beggar’s hand holding the basket. “My friend put down that basket and take my hand, for today is your day for a miracle. For though we have no silver or gold to give, what I’m about to give to you is so much better than what you could ask for.” Pulling the crippled beggar who had been crippled since birth, over 38 years or so, to his feet, Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Peter lets go of the man’s hand and the next thing the crippled beggar knew, instantly his feet, and ankles became strong and he was standing on his own. Peter and John watched with joy and began to laugh as that crippled man began to walk, jump, skip, laugh because he once was a cripple, but now he could walk. He couldn’t believe it! It was a miracle. Hugging Peter and John, thanking them for the healing, he threw his basket aside and held on to Peter with thanksgiving for his miracle. 

Meanwhile, in the temple area, others who had passed by this beggar and who had given him coins, looked with wonder and awe at what they saw. “Hey, aren’t you the crippled beggar that’s been here just about every day looking for help?” “Yes, I am,” shouted the beggar. “But now I am healed. Jesus gave me back my life. Look I can run, jump, walk, all because Jesus gave me what I needed. He gave me life.” And, as Luke records in his writing, “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

I love that story. I guess I would say I love all the stories that we have in Scripture, especially the ones that touches someone’s life. Blind men who receive their sight. Lepers who are healed and heading back home to be with family. Multitudes fed. Seas opened. Building an ark with simple tools. Oil containers that don’t run out when used repeatedly. Water coming from a rock. Food from heaven. An Empty tomb. People seeing the resurrected Jesus. Stories that touch our lives, that remind us how gracious and loving our God is. 

We don’t have the crippled man’s name, nor names of others who Jesus healed, but that doesn’t matter. What we have are the accounts of what happened and how God touched this life through Peter and John. Though they didn’t have any silver and gold to contribute to his fund, they had something better. They gave him Jesus. They gave him a healing. They gave him new life. They gave him respect. They gave him dignity. They gave him hope. They gave him more than he could ever had expected. He was made whole!

You see, that’s something better than all the silver and gold in the world. Sometimes people joke they are going to take all they have with them when this life ends, but you and I know you can’t do that. And if you could, it wouldn’t be of any worth no matter which place you end up. It’s like the woman who promised her husband that she would put lots of wealth with him as he departed this world. When the man died, and they had the visitation one curious friend who knew about this man’s request, looked and didn’t see anything, so she asked his widow if she changed her mind about following his wishes. “Oh no,” she said. “I wrote out a check for the whole amount and placed it in his shirt pocket.”

You know what this miracle at the temple gate did?  It gave them a chance to hold a healing and teaching clinic as people gathered. They were able to tell the stories of Jesus the people wanted to hear. The stories of the one who had lived, died and now was alive again who is available for all people. 

At the end of this story it says, “Many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to five thousand.”

We ought to be filled with awe at the stories we read in Scripture. Oh, we may not see healings take place like they did back then, but they can, and sometimes they do. Healings takes place and we don’t even realize it. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it is spiritual, sometimes it’s emotional. Sometimes it might not happen on our time frame, but in Gods, even that perfect healing when one passes from this life to the other.

 The stories bring us hope. The stories remind us that God is at work today as he was back then. Miracles don’t happen just in the church. They happen in the everyday things of life. The Bible is the “Living Word of God,” not a history book, not a theological book. This book that has many different characters in it, is there for God’s people to believe, to be transformed, to have life changing experiences, to have hope, to feel the joy of God’s blessings. In all honestly, it’s there to help us believe, so that in the believing we will embrace the one who has touched a life, a soul, a person who has a need. It’s God doing his best to get the attention of those who hear the stories to invite them to trust in his son who he sent into this world to bring so many wonderful things. 

And get this; as I was finalizing this message I read the devotion for this day and it was about a healing of the blind folks. Max said, “What in your life needs healing? Jesus’ heart went out to the blind men. He had compassion and he touched their eyes. He healed them. He will heal you, my friend. I pray he heals you instantly. He may choose to heal you gradually. But this much is sure. Jesus will heal us all ultimately. Wheelchairs, ointments, treatment, and bandages are confiscated at the gateway to heaven. God’s children will once again be whole. Because ultimately Jesus heals us all.” Praise the Lord! Can we give Jesus and “Amen?”

What God has to offer the world, is not silver or gold. What he does offer is forgiveness, healing, salvation, hope, peace, joy and eternal life. In reality he offers us more than those things. He offers us himself by believing in his Son. He offers his son and the Holy Spirit to live in us. Things more powerful, more wonderful than the wealth of this world. 

I am sure this former crippled beggar’s story was told repeatedly. He, like the lame man that Jesus healed after he was let down through a roof by his friends, had proof that God hears the prayers of his people, and that he touches life after life of ordinary people. And perhaps like the demonic man that Jesus chased the demons from who was sent back to his town to tell the good news of is deliverance, this crippled man walked and skipped, and even ran back to his home to show others, “see what Jesus did.”

Though the religious leaders wanted to put an end to the story, the reality of the miracle was in the fact that the former crippled man was missing from the gate to the temple from that day forward. And the more the story was told the more people were in awe not only of the healing, but what God had done. They could feel and sense God’s presence at that very moment. They could see his presence in the healed cripple beggar, and in the story of salvation that Peter and John shared. 

I can imagine, like Max Lucado said, that perhaps others who were looking for their miracles came to hear what Peter and John were saying. I like that part where Max writes that “Peter and John escorted them to the clinic of the Great Physician and invited them to take a seat. Then he spoke and said, “Faith in his Name, has made this man strong. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

The church steeple, the church bell, the church people certainly can be the avenues to invite people to the Great Physicians clinic where something wonderful can happen as Jesus touches a life or two or three, where faith in the Name of Jesus can make you strong.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place today. He comes before we and prepares each pew and knows who sits where, and waits for those who will come to worship him each Sunday. He sits somewhere in the sanctuary, this place that is set aside to worship him, to hear and see the needs of his people. He listens to our hearts, knows the hurts, he knows those who have been troubled. And if we invite him, if we open the door for him, he will do a miracle in our lives as well. And then we will be filled with wonder and awe at what he did. He just asks us to believe…. believe.

Who knows where the next miracle will happen?

I got a secret to share with you. God does! And he has one for you and me. We just got to believe!  

Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor
About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.