Summary: How do you do "church"? Is it about going to a building and singing songs, praying prayers and listening to a sermon... or is there something more to it than that?
OPEN: Years ago at summer camp I learned this little song.
If you know it sing along with me:
Peter and John went to pray. They met a lame man on the way.
He held out his palm and asked for an alm, and this is what Peter did say:
"Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"
He went walking and leaping and praising God,
Walking and leaping and praising God.
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
(PAUSE) In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
We’re not quite sure WHY Peter and John were going to the Temple that day. The song I just sang says they went there to pray, but the text simply says they “were going up to the temple at the TIME of prayer” (verse 1).
The book of Acts doesn’t give us an exact timeline, but it seems to me that the Day of Pentecost (where 1000s became Christians because of the outpouring of power from God’s Spirit and because of a powerful sermon by Peter) may have only happened a day or so before. And if that’s true, there’s every possibility Peter was so excited about what happened on THAT day that he going back to the Temple to find more people to preach to.
Now that may have been Peter’s plan.
He may very well have been on his way to the Temple to do "church stuff."
But then he gets interrupted by a cripple who’s looking for a handout.
It might seem like the cripple is an interference in Peter’s plans, because Peter wasn’t looking for a cripple to heal that day. He was on his way to “church.”
ILLUS: I’ve read about a congregation in Florida where the worshippers who arrived at church one Sunday found themselves confronted by a bum sprawled against a palm tree on church property. This guy was lying there surrounded by beer cans, wearing a battered hat that shielding his eyes, and wearing shoes with holes that exposed the flesh of his feet.
NOBODY stopped to see if they could help.
Most hurried their families around him to avoid touching him.
About half an hour later, the congregation was aghast as they watched the bum enter the church building, make his way up the aisle, climb up on the stage and stand behind the pulpit. The bum, wasn’t a bum at all… it was their preacher.
He was preaching that Sunday on the story of the Good Samaritan, where a beaten and bleeding man lay along the road while the religious people of the day passed by on the other side. Those men in the parable were just like the people of the church… they were too busy “doing church” to stop and help a person in need.
I believe Peter was on his way to do “church stuff”… and the cripple was a distraction.
But the difference was this – unlike the worshippers in Florida was that (PAUSE) Peter stopped. He didn’t hurry past this man. He wasn’t bothered others by his pleas for alms. He wasn’t repelled by this cripple.
In fact, I think Peter was not only not repelled by this man… he was attracted by him. He was intrigued by this man. Here was a man he could help. All he had to do was reach out and touch the man, and he could heal him.
ILLUS: As I was preparing this sermon it occurred to me… how cool is this?
How cool would it be to heal people with just a touch?
To be able to heal a man who’s been a cripple since he was a baby.
If I could do that… I’d go right down to the hospital and I’d empty that place out.
I’d have a healing service EVERY DAY of the week and twice on Sundays.
We wouldn’t have to pray service for people to get healed.
We could just into pile into the car… and go do some home visitation.
(Pause) But - I can’t do that.
And I’m pretty sure you can’t do that either. But if you can, you come see me after service, because I’ve got a ministry for you.
Now, by contrast… in the early church… the Apostles could do things like that.
When Paul was explaining the proofs that he was an Apostle, he wrote:
“The things that mark an apostle— SIGNS, WONDERS AND MIRACLES— were done among you with great perseverance.” II Corinthians 12:12
The Apostles were empowered by God to do all kinds of wonders and miracles and wonders. These were the marks (or proofs) that they were who they said they were. Being Apostles, they could do all kinds of things… including reach out and touch the sick and bring immediate healing.