Selected verse: Acts 3:12-19 & Psalm 4
Our reading from Acts opens up with: “When Peter saw it”. It begins strangely enough. I had to wonder what IT was that Peter saw. He saw IT, and then “addressed the people”.
What did Peter see? People want to know. At least I do! I went back a chapter to see what it was Peter saw. What Peter saw, were the Israelites who were staring at Peter and John as they held up a man who had been healed from his infirmity. In fact, the Israelites were utterly astonished! You see, the man had been lame from birth and was laid down every day at the entrance of the temple called the “Beautiful Gate”. He was taken there to ask for alms, to beg for money, from those entering the temple. On this particular day, Peter and John were about to go into the temple, and the man asked them for alms. Peter said to the man: “Look at us”. And the man did, expecting as he always had, that he was going to receive something. 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.” The man did just that! And the Israelites were amazed! They were amazed because they couldn’t believe it was the same man, they were used to seeing asking for alms. He held on to Peter and John. Looked them in the eyes, and clung to them. And now, this man was walking, leaping and praising God.
I am reminded of my HIV diagnosis 26 years ago. I had no idea how or even if I was going to make it. I positioned myself in places where handouts were the norm. In my mind, I believed that is how I would live the rest of my life. For a while, I held out my hands relying upon others to ‘give me’. It wasn’t until I was taken to the temple, to the “Beautiful Gate” of my own. My “Beautiful Gate” was named “Transfiguration Lutheran Church”, in the Bronx. They didn’t have any silver or gold, but what they gave to me, was the power of the Resurrected Christ: “Get up and walk”. I clung to them for dear life. Every word, every action, every smile, and every hand that reached toward me, I reached back and held on, until my legs and my body and my mind were made strong.
I remember the pain of receiving my diagnosis. I remember the early days. I remember the stigma which had me lame and afraid to move for fear of being ridiculed and ostracized. I felt much like the psalmist, who cries in Psalm 3 vs 2: “how long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame”? Holding on to the community of faith I came from, and from my pastor, it wasn’t long at all. I began to get stronger once I picked myself up, and took those first feeble steps toward wholeness. I put my trust in the Lord, and am able to sleep in peace. By the Lord’s grace, I withstand any injury inflicted by those who are still ignorant and uneducated, about HIV.
I have my own Beautiful Gate now. It is called “St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, in Philadelphia, Pa”. I speak openly and unapologetically about living positively with HIV. I frequently hold out my hands to help someone stand, if that is their choice.
I speak words of grace, mercy, forgiveness and encouragement. I speak the words which were spoken to me in that beautiful passage: “Look at us: we have no silver or gold, but what we have, we give to you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Thanks be to God.
To think about: What does it take for you to get up and walk, after you have been lying down all your life?
Written by:Reverend Andrena Ingram, Pastor; St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA