Worship Service, April 25, 2021 “Speaking Up for Healing”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik for worship on April 25, 2021 via YouTube
The message “Speaking Up for Healing” by Pastor Erik can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service.
“Speaking Up for Healing” ACTS 4:5-12
The next day [the] rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let 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. 11This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
We are often used to reading small chunks of the Bible. People quote certain verses to make a point or to comfort and inspire. Certain stories are read on their own without knowing where they fit in to the larger picture. There is nothing wrong with this and it is one way to get to know parts of the Bible. But we can’t forget that every verse and every story have a larger context around it. To get the whole picture, it is often important to go back and see what happens before or after a particular passage.
Such is the case with our first reading from Acts today. From what we heard, it sounds like Peter and John have been arrested and are on some kind of trial in front of the high-priestly family. But why were they arrested? Why were they on trial and just who are these authorities who are accusing them?
To answer these questions, we need to back up in the book of Acts to what comes earlier in chapter four, as well as all the way back to chapter three, which we heard from last week. The whole conflict started when Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from birth. The man would sit and beg in one of the gates where people would enter the temple. His friends would take him there hoping that the generosity of worshippers could sustain him for another day.
Peter and John come upon him, but they don’t have any money to give him. Instead, they have a bigger gift to give the lame man. Peter says, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” He then takes the man by the hand and he gets up and walks!
You can image the stir this might have caused. The Temple was a busy place. There were lots of on-lookers passing by. There were regulars who had probably seen the lame man begging by that gate for years. Now here he was walking around! It was truly amazing. People were crowding around Peter and John. They were gazing at them with awe and wonder. But Peter makes it very clear that the power to heal did not come from him. It came from Jesus Christ and the gathering of the crowd around the apostles is an opportunity for Peter to preach the good news. The Bible says that many who heard the word believed and the number who believed was about 5,000 people.
But not everyone was enamored with the name of Jesus being tossed around. Not everyone liked the news about the resurrection from the dead. The priests, the captain of the Temple and the religious leaders called the Sadducees were annoyed that Peter and John were preaching. So much so that they have the two arrested. That may seem a little extreme just because the two disciples had healed someone. But this was about more than a healing. It was about power. There were a lot of people who were listening to the disciples. They were stirring up a crowd and they were talking about Jesus, who had just been crucified just a few weeks earlier.
That’s right, this healing that Peter and John perform is not that long after the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Now here they are being arrested as well and put on trial. They are brought in front of the rulers, elders, and scribes along with Annas and Caiphas, and the high priestly family.
Keep in mind these are the same authorities who had just convicted Jesus not that long ago and worked with the Romans to have Jesus put to death. Imagine how Peter and John may have felt having to face the same authorities who had just persecuted their friend and teacher and manipulated the system to have him executed. The disciples had stayed hidden for days after the death of Jesus because they had been afraid of the authorities. Now here they were, on trial right in front of them, knowing what power they could wield over them, yet Peter and John are openly proclaiming the name of Jesus even though they do not know which way the trial will go.
Reading about the trial of Peter and John, I couldn’t help but think about the trial that concluded this week whose verdict reverberated throughout the nation and even the world. This was of course the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer who had killed George Floyd. The loved ones of Floyd were not on trial, but in thinking about how Peter and John must have felt facing those who had convicted their friend and teacher, it struck me how difficult it may have been for the family of George Floyd to face the one who had killed their son, brother, and father. I can imagine how hard it may have been to enter that space and speak up, knowing that they were facing a system that has often showed bias and has historically not always been fair to people who look like them. It must have taken courage for them to speak up as they tried to find some healing through the justice system.
When the verdict came out that Chauvin was found guilty, Floyd’s brother said that he had faith the verdict would come out as it did, but he felt relieved when it actually ended up that way. He expressed that it was a pivotal moment for him and his family.
Other leaders commented on the verdict as well. Many of them cautioning that while there had been accountability, there was still a long way to go. This included faith leaders.
Brenda Blackhawk, a congregational organizer with the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said that while the verdict was a “ray of hope” it was also “… just holding one person accountable — and that’s important, that’s a good piece of justice, but there is so much work left to be done to change the system as a whole.”
Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement that “the struggle continues.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA) quoted from Rev. Diane Moffett, the president of the Presbyterian Mission Agency as she posted in a prayer, “Holy One, There is still much work to be done. The struggle for justice stretches out before us today just as it did yesterday and in days gone by.”
What leaders like these were getting at is that there is more work to be done to get to the root of the problem. Accountability in this case is historically important, but there is still a lot to be done to dismantle fears and attitudes that lead to the tension that led to the tragedies where people of color are killed. There is still much to be done to prevent such violence from happening in the first place—to prevent having to hold such trials by avoiding these kinds of incidences before happening again.
Jesus was someone who got to the root of the problem. This is why he died and rose again, to show that there could be another way. To show that there could be forgiveness of sins. Through forgiveness and God’s mercy there could be freedom from the fears and violence that kept people spiritually and physically oppressed. There could be healing and wholeness.
Peter and John were trying to get to the root of the issue as well when they helped the lame man to walk that day in the temple. They could have given the man money, but that would have only helped him get some food just for that day. By healing the man, they were able to give him so much more. He gained the strength to be able to work and feed himself for many days. They gave him new-found freedom. They gave him re-connection with the community. They gave him a new sense of dignity and respect in a culture that looked down upon people with disabled bodies.
The two disciples lift up this point as they faced the authorities when they were on trial. They tell their accusers that Jesus is the name under heaven by which we must be saved. Oftentimes when we hear the word salvation or saved in Scripture in our modern era of Christianity our minds jumped to the idea of being saved from hell and going to heaven. But that is not the only sense of the word in the Bible. The Greek word for save is the word sodzo and it can also mean to be healed or made whole. Peter and John may be talking about people being saved from their sins for eternity, but they may be also talking about instituting a culture of healing on earth as demonstrated by their action in helping the lame man in the temple.
A few years ago a colleague of mine shared with a group how he had experienced a culture of healing during a time when his daughter had to go to the hospital for an extended stay. He talked about what a great atmosphere there was in the hospital. From the caring nature of the nurses and doctors to the friendliness of the receptionist and the cleaning crew. He said he had been in other faith-based hospitals where the people were nice enough, but in this hospital the caring spirit was almost palpable. My colleague had to find out what it was about this hospital, where all the employees seemed genuinely helpful. Finally, one day, he asked a custodian who had come to check on their room why the hospital seemed like such a friendly place. The custodian pointed to a frame on the wall that my colleague hadn’t noticed before. “It’s because of our mission statement,” the custodian said, “We treat each patient and their families like they are a child of God.” The workers at the hospital had become so much a part of the culture of healing there that even the custodian believed in the mission.
How could we build up such a culture in our church, in our community or in our country? As conflict and division continue to rock our nation, people rightfully cry out for justice, but before we can accomplish justice, perhaps we first need some healing—the kind that come through the name of Jesus.
-Pastor Erik Goehner