1. *((illus))* One day a local pastor friend came into my office with a funny grin on his face.
I asked him what was new.
He told me he had just preached his first sermon for a dog.
I told him “*that was a lame excuse for a sermon*.”
He told me that:
i) A neighbor’s dog had died and the neighbor had requested this pastor’s services.
ii) He told the neighbor that as long as there were no restrictions on what he could say, he would be glad to hold the service.
iii) They met at a local pet cemetery and laid their friend to rest.
iv) I have since rethought my attitude and agree with my pastor-friend.
As long as I’m not restricted in what I can say, I’ll go just about anywhere if invited.
2. We met another preacher today who *literally* had *a lame excuse for a sermon.*
It was the occasion where the apostle Peter preached a sermon because a lame man had been healed.
b. Acts 4:22 tells us that he had been lame for 40 years – since he was born (3:2)
c. Literally, this was a *lame excuse for a sermon*.
But it was a great sermon because 4:4 tells us that the number of the men alone who were saved was 5,000!
3. *Read Acts 3:1-10*
*/1 Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service./*
- The *ninth hour, the hour of prayer* would be three in the afternoon according to the Jewish reckoning, which counted the hours from sunrise.
- The ninth hour was also the time of *the evening sacrifice*, when the daily temple crowds would be at their peak.
*/2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in.
Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple./*
- The *Beautiful gate* is supposed to have been the door which led from the court of the Gentiles to the court of the women.
- It was of massive structure, and covered with plates of Corinthian brass
*/3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money./*
*/4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”/*
*/5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting a gift./*
*/6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you.
But I’ll give you what I have.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”/*
*/7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up.
And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened./*
*/ - /*Since the *author is Dr. Luke*, a physician, it is not unusual for him to write such detail.
*/8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk!
Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them./*
*/9 All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God./*
*/10 When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded!/*
This 40 year old lame man appears to have had this “beggars corner” for some time.
a. Since the people coming for prayer were earnest worshippers and knew that in the best Jewish tradition it was considered honorable to give alms, this man had the best spot.
In the early days of the church, Jewish believers continued to meet in the temple area, now understanding the symbolism of the activities there.
Here Peter and John, along with other believers were going to meet for prayer and study and witness.
5. I think that we can take away from this occasion some very significant lessons for the church today.
*A LAME EXCUSE FOR A SERMON*
*1. **THE CHURCH’S MISSION - Cripples*
I think it’s important to note from the story that there is a sudden shift by the author from 5,000+ people *to a single individual.*
i) Here is the first miracle performed through the church and it is to an individual - I believe this is not by accident.
ii) We are being reminded that our mission starts with the individual.
iii) God may bless us with a crowd, but at the core are individual people.
iv) We reach the community one person at a time.
v) God is interested in you and me as individuals.
¨ He does not have an *assembly line process* in his kingdom.
b. Let’s also not forget that Jesus, though ascended, *is still at work *
i) And at work through His body – the church; that’s you and me.
ii) *((illus))* There is an organization in St. Pete called D&D Missionary homes which allows missionaries to spend one year, rent free in one of their homes, when available.
A missionary who stayed there told me that along the sidewalks in this complex are little signs with the same message - *“WATCH GOD WORK.”*
iii) That attitude of expecting God to work - an expression of faith, was in the early church and is ours to inherit.
As we said before, *Dr.
Luke records this to set up* the occasion for a sermon to be preach.
i) But also to give an explanation for the first persecution that follows.
ii) In addition, it graphically reminds us to our *MISSION* as a church.
This man was out begging for alms.
i) He thought that all he needed was money to solve his immediate problems.
¨ Isn’t that the attitude of many today?
¨ Throwing money seems to be the first and last approach to solving social and~/or spiritual problems.
ii) We throw money and then, feeling our duty is done, we hurry on about our own business.
iii) *Peter and John had a peculiar advantage*.
They had no money to throw!
But the Bible teaches us that while man looks on the *outward appearance of someone, God looks at the heart*.
i) God’s mission for the church today is like this first miracle of the church – to touch those who are *CRIPPLED,* who are spiritually lame.
ii) As we look at him, we are reminded of the fact that *everywhere we look there is human hurt*, human suffering, and human tragedy.
¨ Sometimes it manifests itself through a physical affliction such as this man had, but more often it goes unseen to human eyes.
¨ For every one who is crippled physically, there are literally tens of thousands who are crippled emotionally.
And there are hundreds of thousands who are crippled spiritually.
¨ The message of this man is that there are needs to be met in human lives everywhere.
¨ And sometimes those needs exist in lives that are outwardly wonderful.
f. Let’s be honest, the truth is, things are not always what they seem.
i) The down-and-out and the up-and-out have at least two things in common:
¨ They are both human and they both have deep needs.
ii) Inside every one of those nice houses sitting on their manicured lawns are people who hurt, people who have unmet personal needs.
iii) Many of those people have their own story of human tragedy which they could tell, and every one of them needs a touch from God.
g. Luke 4:18-19 (NLT) */18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”/*
And today we live in a society that is lame and broken.
i. How many of our co-workers or friends or neighbors appear outwardly to be doing OK, yet inwardly they are struggling?
i) They are over-extended financially.
ii) They don’t know what to do with their children.