“Word for Today” – Acts 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 23, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Depression 1One of my favorite photos of all time was taken by a pioneer in photojournalism, Margaret Bourke-White.  Bourke-White began her work as a photojournalist at the dawn of the Great Depression in 1929.  She began her career with Fortune magazine, but later moved to Life magazine when one of her photos landed on the cover of Life’s inaugural edition in 1936.  My favorite photo from her is the one shown here, published in Bourke-White’s book, You Have Seen Their Faces.  The book chronicles the difficult and even severe conditions so many faced during the turmoil of the Depression.  This particular picture shows people waiting in a soup line following a devastating flood.  What makes this picture so striking, obviously, is its sad irony.  For those who have been left with nothing are standing in front of a billboard declaring that Americans should have everything.

In our reading for today from Acts 3, we encounter another strange sight, similar to that of Margaret Bourke-White’s Depression-era photo.  The chapter opens:

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.  (verses 1-2)

Now isn’t this an ironic sight?  A man, crippled from birth, his body hideously deformed by a dreaded and incurable disease, begging for money, and lying next to a gate in Jerusalem named “Beautiful.”  What an odd combination.  But this odd combination is about to be transformed.  For on this day, Peter and John have come to the temple for their afternoon prayers.

According to Jewish tradition, a person was to pray three times a day – he was to pray a morning prayer called the shacarit, an afternoon prayer called the mincha, and an evening prayer called the ma’ariv.  In Acts 3, Peter and John are on their way to pray the mincha, where according to its traditional liturgical form, they would recite these words from the Psalmist:  “The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).  And on this day, the LORD does exactly this.  For on this day, Peter and John behold the maligned man at the gorgeous gate.  And Peter, repelled by this sad site, says to the man, “Look at us” (verse 4)!  As they lock eyes, Peter continues, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (verse 6).  And the man does.  In fact, he does more than simply walk, he jumps:  “He went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (verse 8).

The Greek word for “jumping” here is hallomai, an extremely rare word that also happens to be found in Isaiah 35:4, 6 to describe the coming of God:

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”  Then will the lame jump like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

When God comes, Isaiah prophesies, the lame will jump.  And in Acts 3, we find that God had come.  He had come in Jesus.

The promise of Christ is that one day – on the Last Day when Christ comes again – the sadly ironic pictures of our broken world will fade from our film rolls.  Poverty will no longer beg at the feet of riches.  Sickness will no longer strewn about next to health.  And death will no longer stare down those who are alive.  For God’s creation will be perfectly renewed and restored.  And it will be perfectly renewed and restored in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  And so we pray not only the prayers of the mincha as Peter and John did on that day in Acts 3, we pray much more.   We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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