Raphael’s Healing of the Man born lame
At our Valley Worship service this morning, Nick Fuggle was interviewed in the Every Day Lives section, Alex Pease preached on boldness, Verity Greig read, Lucy Pease led our prayers and Tim Clapp and Cat Kennedy led our worship.
Please see the video below:
Acts 3 and 4 by Revd Alex Pease
Imagine….You go to the Cathedral in Winchester for the 10am Eucharist, every Sunday. You have done so all your adult life….and every Sunday, he is there in his wheelchair…the homeless guy selling the Big Issue, by the war memorial….Although you don’t actually like the magazine, you always buy it, and give him something on top and have a chat with him, as you are going into worship. You have been doing this for years and years and so you know him quite well, you know his story. You know that he was born with grossly deformed legs. He has never been able to walk. He is now 40. One thing has led to another, and he is now homeless….
But this Sunday is different. He isn’t there. Although, strangely, what looks just like his wheel chair has been cast on its side by the war memorial, and there is this huge crowd milling around in front of the Cathedral. All talking at once and gesticulating….people running into the melee from every direction saying “Have you heard, Have you heard?” ‘What?’ You reply….And at the centre of the crowd you can see him, the homeless guy, jumping and dancing and singing and shouting, with everyone shouting that he has been totally healed. ‘But how?’, you ask… ‘How?’ And the person next to you in the crowd points to two rather ordinary looking men…people just like….. you and me…
This year, as you know, we are looking at the Acts of the Apostles in our Valley Worship services, we are asking ourselves what does it mean to be a church?
Now is a good time to ask, as we struggle to work out what a church should look like after and during a pandemic…its a good time to look back at how the early church started and what they did…
We heard last month from Tim Clapp what happened at Pentecost; how the Holy Spirit came on the disciples. Tim pointed out that the early church grew from a tiny size – possibly no bigger than Itchen Valley Parish to a movement which completely changed the world and which continues to do so today. It was a growth which was fuelled by the Holy Spirit and Tim encouraged us to invite the Holy Spirit to baptise us so that our lives and the lives of those around us might be transformed.
Today I want to focus on another aspect of that early church….
Its easy for us to assume that Christianity is about how you worship God, but St Luke’s second book is called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’; not the ‘amazing liturgy of the Apostles’, but the Acts of the Apostles. Its not mainly about how the early church worshipped God but about what they did…
If the early church is to be a model for us, as we reimagine what a church should look like after the chaos caused by the pandemic, we need to see that the early church is a church which does things, a church which acts.
And what do we see the church doing in Acts chapters 3 and 4?
It’s a church doing what Jesus called his disciples to do as he sent them out, as we read in Matthew 9 and Luke 10: ‘Proclaim the good news, that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near, cure the sick, raise the dead…and cast out demons’
Here we come back to the story. Peter and John, two ordinary men not clergy, not super heroes, two people, just like each of us, who see the man lame from birth begging at the gate to the temple. And in front of everyone, everyone going into the temple, the priests, the pharisees, the scribes, perhaps businessmen and tax collectors, farmers and fishermen,possibly friends and relations; in front of everyone, Peter boldly says (verse 6) “In the name of Jesus Christ… walk!”
And (verse 7) ‘Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly, the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God’
The on-loookers were of course astonished, (as we would be if this had happened outside Winchester Cathedral). Peter picking this up says (verse 12) “Why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?…..”
In other words, its not because we are super human, not because we are apostles, or priests, or saints or something special….that this man is able to walk…‘No’, they continue, ‘but by faith in the name of Jesus this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him’.
Even though Peter points out that the crowd has had its hand (verse 13-15) in killing Jesus, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this”
Acts 4:4 tells us that the church grew to 5000 through this one event….
Peter and John are then arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, before the same people who had crucified Jesus, before Annas and Caiaphas and ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, Peter, (who had been so scared of the Jewish officials a few weeks before that he had denied Jesus three times…), Peter, is interrogated on how the man who was lame can now walk. Peter boldly lays the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion at the feet of the very people who have made him a prisoner. And, turning the whole of Judaism on its head, makes the exclusive claim of Christianity Verse 4:12: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’.
The High Priests cannot decide what to do with them. So they, eventually, tell Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, to which Peter replies (verse 19) ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: To listen to you, or to him?…As for us we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’.
Astonishing boldness! Astonishing boldness!
Is that what we see in our church today, in Itchen Valley? Or elsewhere in the Anglican Church, ’Astonishing boldness?’…..
Do we feel sometimes that the church of today is just a pale imitation of that church in the first century? Do we feel intimated rather than bold about speaking about Jesus to our friends neighbours and relations? Is he just one of those topics which are not spoken about in polite dinner party conversation?
‘Well’ you might be thinking, of course, if miracles were happening now we might be a bit bolder than we are….. If we actually saw something supernatural happen here, then we would believe…
Or perhaps we think, ‘those first century Jews were foolish ignorant people, everything in Acts all happened before the Enlightenment. Now we know about science…We know that miracles don’t happen…’
But they do…..
I won’t elaborate on what happens in Africa and South America, because stories from the global south are inclined to raise a supercilious eyebrow amongst those of us who live in the highly educated north…..Although it has to be said that the experience of, even Anglican, missionaries in Africa and South America is astonishing….all sorts of healings occurring.
But even in the United States…..if you look at the website of Bethel Church in Redding California, you will see 49 pages of testimonies of successful healings, a dozen or so of which have occurred even during 2020….https://bethelredding.com/ministries/healing-rooms/testimonies
But perhaps the case can be made, by looking at a place closer to home, and loved by so many in the Valley…..even in Wales miracles are happening. Chloe Swart (see below)
describes 100s of people being healed there, and the PhD which she is writing academically documenting 600 of these testimonies….includes healing of cancers and other terminal illnesses but also the little things, bad backs, painful knees and food intolerances, the day to day small things which affect our lives….and show how much God cares for us.
Now it is clear that God does not always heal when we ask him to do so….…but having faith that he will makes a big difference. In fact one writer Revd. Bruce Collins (in his book Jesus Gospel Jesus Way – I have copies of this book if you would like to read it) describes ‘The faith atmosphere’ where the healing is taking place is key to whether it occurs or not
This whole question of miraculous healing is a huge subject: the whens and whys and the why nots….and I can only scratch the surface of one aspect of it this morning. But it is NEVER (can I make this absolutely clear) NEVER because of the lack of faith of the person seeking to be healed, which is the problem.
And we must not see God as the genii in the lamp or as a slot machine, just doing the same thingevery time we ask him to do so. Here the Book of Job in the Old Testament is helpful. In Job we are warned that because God is the sovereign Lord of the universe, he has the right to do anything he chooses and he does not have to explain himself to us….
He is our Father, not our servant and he decides whether to heal in response to our prayer. He is God, not us. We must always leave room for God to be God, but, as John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Movement said, ‘When I pray to God for healing God heals some of the people some of the time, but when I don’t pray he doesn’t heal any of the people any of the time’.
We all know people who need healing, whether it is the major conditions, life threatening issues or whether it is more minor, but life affecting issues, like a painful back or shoulder.
Healing should be part of what we do as a church. It should be typical of what we do and, as the Father heals, we should expect this to draw people into the Kingdom of God.
Its clear that in Acts, it was the faith of Peter and John, in the name of Jesus Christ, which resulted in God healing the lame man ‘an act of kindness’ as Peter said before the Sanhedrin. And if we come to church…..surely we do have faith? But then why don’t we pray face to face publicly for healings, when we discover someone who is ill?
Why don’t we instruct the condition the back-pain, or the hurt shoulder to go in Jesus Christ’s name?
Perhaps because we are embarrassed, intimidated to do this in front of our friends, neighbours or relations. Even though, surely, the huge upside chance of someone being healed must be worth the embarrassment of thinking we are making a fool of ourselves…..If we really love our neighbours.
Perhaps we need to come back to Acts for the solution. After the amazing demonstration of the Holy Spirit both in healing the lame man and declaring the gospel before the Sanhedrin, Peter and John return to the disciples (Verse 4:23). Perhaps the other disciples were just as surprised as everyone else by this incredible manifestation of God’s power.
Perhaps the other disciples felt that they could ‘never have done that’, could never have done what Peter and John had just done…..could never have had the nerve to heal the lame man publicly and to confront the authorities with the gospel. So the disciples pray (verse 4:29) ‘Lord consider the [authorities’] threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus’
If we are to be a church which makes a difference in the world, we need boldness. We need to call upon the Lord to enable us to speak His word with boldness, and to heal and to perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus’
Prayers Valley Worship Sunday 21st February 2021 by Lucy Pease
Let us pray:
Dear Lord thank you that we can worship together for another Sunday on Zoom. Thank you that you are sovereign over our lives and over this parish. Thank you for sustaining us through this season of a valley, in this valley. Thank you that you are with us.
Father, you are Almighty and the Creator of this special place we call home and we praise you for every part of it. Thank you that we are seeing the beginning of spring emerge from the grey and brown palate of Winter. Thank you that you are bringing colour afresh to the canvas with snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses. This year, more than any other for a long time, we recognise this coming season of Spring as a sign of hope for healing, renewal, growth and flourishing. Thank you Lord for no better sign of hope than the wonderful arrival of baby Sebastian, a son for Dan and Rosie and a Grandson for Chris and Naomi Ellis. May he have a long and fruitful life and bring joy to all those who know and love him.
Lord, we especially thank you today that you are a God of love and of healing. We are trusting you for our future, for the future of our nation and of the whole world. We are in awe when we contemplate our planet earth in the light of the recent footage from Mars. It is a wonder beyond our full understanding. We put our trust in you to restore the earth and all its nations from the Coronavirus pandemic.
We lift our hearts to you Lord for healing from pain, sorrow, anxiety and depression. Help us to trust that you long to lift us out of these feelings and place us in to feelings of joy, peace and hope. We lift our minds to you that you may renew them each day with fresh blessings and transform our lives.
We thank you that you want to heal our physical bodies too, through medicine, but also through faith. We lift to you all those who are working on the front line in any capacity to bring healing. Thank you for our medical practitioners, our hospital workers, our care home workers, our social workers, our counsellors and our clergy and disciples throughout the land. We are truly grateful to them all for their tireless desire to see people healed. Lord we pray that as they minister their healing to us that you would be ministering your healing to their hearts and minds. We ask you to care for and sustain them with your supernatural strength and above all we pray that you would pour peace over them like refreshing spring dew each day. Protect all, we earnestly pray, from any legacy of the virus, be it in body, mind or spirit. Send too, those Christians amongst them, the power of your Holy Spirit to heal in Jesus name. Embolden them and us, who also call ourselves your disciples, to heal by calling upon the name of Jesus Christ, in humility and love.
We praise you Lord for the extraordinary work that has been done to provide tests and vaccines. We pray that the roll out programme would continue apace and that our knowledge and capability might be shared across the globe. We are amazed and proud of all the scientists who are working so hard, day and night, to bring an end to this pandemic and for all the politicians also. We particularly pray for our government as they announce the roadmap on Monday for the way forward out of lockdown. Send them your retrospective and last minute wisdom and help us Lord to do our bit to prevent the resurgence of infection. But thank you Lord that we need not be fearful because, whatever comes to pass, we can trust you because you are sovereign and you love us.
Lord, we ask for your care of our Royal Family at this time. We pray that you would be with His Royal Highness Prince Philip and we pray that you would heal him in Jesus Christ’s name. Send your peace and reassurance to Her Majesty, The Queen, to Prince Charles and to all the family. We pray also for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – only you know the true situation and the state of their hearts. We ask for understanding and healing to abound across all the relationships and for protection from judgement.
We pray for the Fuggle family, Nick, Georgie, Wilbur, Jasper and Rosabella as we welcome them to the parish in which we hope they will all flourish.
Heavenly Father we end our prayers with thoughts of all the families juggling homeschooling and working from home. Bring your harmony and peace in to each home and a sense of your presence that they may trust you for easier times ahead.
And lastly Lord heal our world in Jesus Name we pray.
Acts 3 and 4
Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. 12 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? 13 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. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 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.
17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21 who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. 23 And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.’ 24 And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. 25 You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Peter and John before the Council
4 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2 much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3 So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.
5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.’
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.
The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
and the rulers have gathered together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ac 3:1–4:31). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.