In Favor of Emotional Preaching-Acts 3:1-10

   I loathe my writing.

   I curse myself each time I press the "Save" button.

   As I read my own copy, I despise my poor education, my lack of retention, my failures of energy, comprehension and expression. I long to finish the one poem I ever sat down to write but know I never will.

   My Muse is more Catastrophe than Caliope. Loss unlooses my pen as triumph never can do.

   All my life I spend trying to describe light to a sighted man who will not open his eyes.

   Peter and John go down to the Temple about three in the afternoon. Free from the fear of the Crucifixion-Resurrection Event, the two Apostles move about Jerusalem, overthrowing the Kingdom of Evil as they go about their daily lives. It is three in the afternoon at the hour of prayer in the House of Prayer, the Temple.

   Peter and John we usually find as Peter, James and John, the Inner Circle of the Apostles. They witness the revelation of the Christ on the Transfiguration Mount. Not for any small reason are these men always listed in order as paramount among the Twelve. Their mistakes loom as large as their faith. When these men are right they are very, very right and when they are wrong, well, oh, my golly gawsh, they are wrong.

   The point of this day, at this hour, is not about the Apostles Point System. There are two there because two are needed, not three. Two is enough. One could not speak in the plural for the Church of Christ as a whole. Christianity, in all its healing power, might get lost in a Petrine Personality Cult, so there must be two. The Church will soon be dispersed to the world, so it will be spread quite thin. Three would be one too many but two are the absolute need, for one will not do.

   What is special about this ninth hour at this Temple on this day with these two men? Beggars there are every day and beggars still in every religious setting for needy persons know the People of God feel a pang of guilt at every bon chance.

   Altruism is primarily religious. We may begin with convert making in religion but maturity in religion makes us question why we are so blessed, why others suffer so much, even more than we question why God withholds His wrathful hand or why the wicked prosper.

   Religious people give more money, volunteer more hours, than any other group, as individuals or as a group. The secular humanist finally sneers at the plight of man, while the impotenta religiosus, unable to cure the crippled heart, offers love, mercy and forgiveness to the sin damaged race.

   There is something in religion to make us better. If we accept that fact, as all evidence indicates, then we ought to pursue the highest expression of religion, if the best people we can be is what we seek to be. We ought to practice the Faith as strenuously, at least, as we practice our favorite past time. We ought to hold more tightly to our God than to our own families. We ought to insist on purity in our Faith presentation, as well as stringent observance of the Faith in our own daily living.

   Peter and John are not yet put out of the Temple. Religion excludes the disagreeable, while Faith seeks ways to include the disenfranchised. Soon enough, the Temple Party will shun Peter and John and all their kind. Silly men, the Temple Party pogrom of Christians will send the new faith out to the world of beggars, sinners and kings. Better it would be for the Temple Party to keep the new believers inside the tent.

   This day, at this hour, in this Temple, the New Believers are accosted on their way to prayer in the Sanctuary. A perpetually lame man wants something from them to help him get through the day.

   This is, pardon the digression, the way men mistake religion; as something to help us get by today, perhaps even for a night, to still the hunger in our belly, or slake the thirst just behind our tongue, to calm the raging beast in the frontal lobe, or calm the curse on the tip of our tongue. Religion is an extension of someone's social services, then, not an eternal blessing, just an opiate for an hour.

    So, the lame man, lame for all his life, makes an emotional appeal. Peter and John, Peter speaking, make a dramatic response. There is high drama here.

   In his need, the lame man, victim of a birth-loss, cries out for the same thing he has called for every day of his life. Forego for a moment the poverty lessons of the New Testament times, the fact that some parents incapacitate their children early in life in those days so they can be better beggars. The Biblical writer here goes to some pains to let us know this poor man is no intentional incapacitate but a man honestly born needy.

   So, are we not all born needy, conceived in poverty and dedicated to the proposition that life is a slender thread, easily cut? This is the high drama of 3:00 pm on a regular old day in the Temple, when prayer is the usual course of events, grown mundane by vacuous repetition. Confusion and frustration mix with boredom and failure. The presence of the lame beggar in the vanguard of all that place of prayer makes the religion practiced inside a laughable failure, does it not?

   That is, if we cannot heal all the sick, feed all the hungry, free all the prisoners, then our religion is a laughable lie, is it not? Well, one supposes this is true if the purpose of our religion is to accomplish all the things just listed and to accomplish them individually, without coercion, by religious means.

    Understand, the coming of the perfect world is the Coming of the Kingdom Jesus talked about every day of HIs ministry. The Kingdom will come, will come on earth, will cleanse all evil, promote all good, meet every need and last forever.

   It is compelling to note Peter and John will finally be put out of the Temple because they are successful in the Kingdom work, not because they fail. They are successful because they move religion effectively from the Temple sanctuary to the street in front of the Temple, where lame beggars mix with successful priests.

   Their presentation succeeds because it is powerful in spirituality and emotion. Something of what they say convinces the lame beggar to try to get up on his own. He knows somehow he will not fall on his face this time if he only makes the effort. His emotions get healed before he feels atrophied muscles grow powerful.

   In the Name of Jesus, we might say to people, get over it. Silver, gold and success? We have none. Such as we have, we give. Be healed in mind, soul, heart, spirit and, oh, yes, your body. Get up, walk, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Put frustration behind you. Despise not your gifts. Exult in what you do possess. Praise the "Save" button again.




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