“No Silver or Gold”
1Sam 9:15-21 and Acts 3:1-10
Jonesborough Presbyterian Church
15Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16“Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me.”
17When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.”
18Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, “Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?”
19Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, give no further thought to them, for they have been found. And on whom is all Israel’s desire fixed, if not on you and on all your ancestral house?”
21Saul answered, “I am only a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”(1Sam 9:15-21 NRSV)
3One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2And 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. 3When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms.
4Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
6But 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.”
7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
9All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10and 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.(Acts 3:1-10 NRSV)
On my first trip to Malawi back in 2005, we arrived in the capital city of Lilongwe on a Friday. Walking through downtown on our way to the grocery store to stock up for the coming ten days, we were moved, humbled, and unsettled. All around us, people on crude crutches and canes hobbled around. Our host, resident missionary Frank Dimmock, told us that there was a significant Muslim presence in Malawi, and on Fridays, by religious obligation, Muslims gave alms to the poor. So those with no other means, crept out of the Malawian woodwork on Fridays and crawled about town, begging for money. It was like going back in time 2000 years.
Like disabled Malawians in the 21stcentury, the Palestinian man Peter encounters in the 1stcentury begged for whatever folks would drop in his cup as they made their way to the temple. Begging was the only livelihood for such folks, and maybe they found people on their way to worship a trifle more willing to give than they when on the way to a meeting, or to the marketplace. Maybe to avoid the burden of guilt as they prayed, people would deposit a token of the concern they knew they were supposed to have for the poor.
Being nothing more than fearful obligation, guilt may not encourage real commitment, build true relationships, or bear grateful witness to the Gospel; but it can motivate. Guilt is the reason for the old joke about folks coming to church because of having a drug problem. Their mamas drug them to church when they were young, so they just keep dragging themselves in. They can’t risk making mama angry.
The Session genuinely hopes that no one experiences our yearly appeals as the guilt-inducing cries of beggars, or the fearful manipulations of folks with “drug” problems. We know that asking for commitments, financial and otherwise, can create uneasiness. It can even feel threatening. So, please know this: What the Session asks of the rest of the congregation, we ask of ourselves. And just as we have asked you to give prayerfully, we have tried to askprayerfully and gratefully.
Sensing Jonesborough Presbyterian’s underlying health and well-being as well as its challenges, we hope that this and every stewardship season declares our faith in God’s faith in us, God’s call to us, God’s vision for us as an intentional Christian community of welcome, gratitude, celebration, and generous service.
Having said all that, I also believe that God sees more in us than we often see in ourselves, individually and collectively. And when we realize that, we may feel God asking more of us than we think we can give, or maybe more than we wantto give.
A Hebrew mystic named Samuel speaks to a young man named Saul. Welcome!says Samuel.We’ve been expecting you. You are the desire and the hope of all Israel.
A bewildered Saul says, You talking to me? Look, I’m here only because I was hoping you could help me find my daddy’s donkey. It ran off. What’s all this business about being the desire of all Israel?
At the very inception of his kingship, Saul reveals his Achilles heel, and, perhaps, the Achilles heel of all human kings. He doesn’t, and perhaps even refuses to understand the empowering presence and work of the Spirit of God. At one point, a deeply disappointed Samuel confronts Saul saying, “Though you are little in your own eyes,” God has chosen you, Saul, to be king over Israel. “God has anointed you with a Spirit of leadership.” No, it won’t be easy, but God is with you. So get over yourself, and let’s go!
Saul’s problem is that when he looks at himself, he sees a man lame since birth. And he never grasps the blessedness and the possibility of having been chosen and anointed by God. So, never really accepting his own giftedness, much less God’s faithfulness, Saul never serves anyone but himself.
Compare that to Peter’s reaction when he sees a man who was indeed born lame. Penniless himself, the apostle might have turned his purse inside out to show the man that he has no money. But Peter knows better. He knows he has something to offer.
“I have no silver or gold,” says Peter, “but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus…, stand up and walk.”
To everyone’s amazement – maybe even Peter’s own amazement – the man gets up and walks. No longer a mere recipient, the man is empowered to participate in the fullness of life – in the fullness of his own life. He can now give as well as receive.
Sometimes, like Saul, we protest against the call to involvement. Who me teach Sunday School, or serve as an elder, or make a difference in the church budget? I don’t have enough time, or authority, or money – or desire – for all that.
Or like the man born lame, sometimes we arrive at the church every week only to receive. Only to have our “batteries recharged,” or to assuage some deep-seated guilt by showing up and doing what’s “right.”
And yet, sometimes, by God’s revitalizing grace, like the Apostle Peter, we bear witness to the empowering name of Jesus. That’s the most difficult and demanding place to be, because it requires us to trust and serve the risen Christ before everything else. And that is our call, to claim our giftedness and commit ourselves to God.
Let’s remember, too, that faithful discipleship doesn’t materialize in a single day, much less a single decision. Being about relationship, discipleship is organic. We start where we are, then grow and become.
Peter himself didn’t always have the faith he demonstrates that day at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem. He’s the same guy to whom Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan!” He’s the same guy who repeatedly denies Jesus in his hour of need. Nonetheless, a spiritually renewed Apostle Peter shows us what joyful discipleship looks like. He demonstrates that generosity is to gratitude what suffering is to love. They’re of a piece, inseparable.
A congregation’s leaders find themselves in Samuel’s and Peter’s shoes during stewardship season, and those shoes are unnervingly big. We’re responsible for proclaiming that in Jesus’ name, all of us are empowered to get up and walk, and to experience and share the infectious joy of living in God’s kingdom, even here and now.
On this Consecration Sunday, if we’re struggling with what to give, or even whether to make a commitment at all – Samuel and Peter ask us this:
What prevents you from trusting that you have, and will continue to have, something of great value to offer?
You may be little in your own eyes, but you – by yourselves and all together – have been anointed by the Holy Spirit of God. So, in the name of Jesus, get up, claim and offer your full selves to God!
*To read sermons, newsletters, and other posts from earlier years, please visit: https://pastorallentn.blogspot.com.