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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 3:12–19   

When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out. (NRSV)

Here we see Peter in the role of the street preacher, standing on a street corner, microphone in hand. The people stop to see the walking beggar, and there’s our man, Peter:

“Oooh, the beggar is walking! You know who did this? God! And you know who God sent? Jesus! And Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, but noooo, you had to have Barabbas instead! And now Jesus has made this beggar walk! Oooh! In your face!”

And then, maybe because he thought he’d gone too far, he walks it back a little. A very little.

“My friends,” he says (like they’re all buddies), “we know you didn’t know what you were doing and your leaders didn’t know what they were doing. But it’s going to be OK.”

And in the next chapter we read that this savvy discourse is so well received that it gets Peter and John arrested. Of course, many in the crowd believed them, and that’s a good thing, but I wonder how many people were convinced by Peter’s rhetoric and how many were convinced because, hey, walking beggar.

A lame beggar walks. It’s the indisputable thing. It’s evidence. Theology, ideas, rhetoric—those can all be disputed. And are, ad infinitum. Talk produces talk, but action? Action creates change. In the words of those religious authorities: “We cannot deny it.” And it gets Peter and John released.

It’s really easy to get caught up in our words and forget that our actions are ultimately what matter. Nothing Peter says in this reading makes any difference to anyone if he hadn’t previously reached out his hand to a beggar and said “In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.”

Without that, he’s just the street preacher with a microphone, haranguing the passers-by, who ignore him on their way to Macy’s or to Target.

Lord, remind us that even if we have wonderful arguments to make, and make them with eloquence, if we do not manifest the action of love, then all our words are only noise. Give us the compassion to act, and then the words to speak. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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