Rev. Teri Peterson
Give My Love
10 April 2016, Easter 3, NL2-31
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 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. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 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.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, 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.
It’s a common scene, isn’t it? Someone on the sidewalk or in a doorway, asking for money. Thousands of years and miles don’t change the way people respond—to walk by, averting our eyes, maybe mumbling “sorry” as we pass. It’s easier if we don’t look, because then we don’t have to think about them as human beings, or as a picture of us if we two missed paychecks. It’s easier if we don’t look, because not looking also keeps us from full-on judging, so we don’t feel as bad afterward—we can forget much quicker as we walk on down the road or through the door.
In a religion where taking care of each other was supposed to be a central value, the very existence of the man at the gate of the Temple is an affront to all we say we believe…and yet there he is.
Peter and John, though: they stop. They look at the man with their full attention. They aren’t multitasking, or looking around for who might be noticing them, or wondering if there are about to be more people clamoring for their help. They look at the man, and they see him for who he is: a beloved child of God, part of the body of Christ.
He doesn’t see at first, though. Like many still today, he is not looking at them. He’s used to being stared at and looked down on, and he knows the best way to get a little help is to defer to his betters and not look up, but instead to look down with the shame appropriate to his station.
But Peter and John are having none of that. “Look at us” they say. Look at us. Look up. Let me see your eyes—let me see you, in all your wonder and hope and despair and shame and potential. They look the man in the eye, as equals. They elevate his status, long before they lift him up to walk—to truly look at someone, to truly see them and allow them to see us…that is the beginning of healing.
The man looked expectantly, though he could never have expected what they had to give. Peter and John didn’t have money, but they did have something else: they have been seen before. They have heard Jesus say to them “look at me”—they have looked him in the eye and experienced the wholeness they never thought possible, after all they had done and left undone. And they had heard his command: give my love to my people.
We say it all the time, don’t we? As we say goodbye to someone—give my love to your mother, give my love to the church, I miss them! Usually we just mean “say hello to”…but Jesus really means it: Give. My. Love.
That is what Peter and John have to give: the love of Christ, which always begins with him seeing us for who we really are and then reminding us what he sees, so we can learn to live according to his vision and his call.
Part of that call is to give his love to those we meet—to slow down and take our attention off our own self-important busy lives, to look people in the eye, to treat them with dignity and respect no matter who they are or what they have done or what we think of them, to offer them the same thing we have received: love beyond measure.
There was a story in the Tribune a few weeks ago, about a man named Nic who used to panhandle at an expressway entrance. He has two jobs and an apartment now, and he’s clean from his addictions. He recently unexpectedly met a guy named Mike, who he used to see back in his panhandling days. Mike had always given him a little something, but more than that had learned his name and taken the time and energy to have a conversation. In the midst of all the people who sneered, or ignored, or were openly hostile, there were the few who seemed to care about Nic as a person, and he says “for people to stop and get to know me—it really helped get me through.” Sure, some of the money people gave went to drugs and alcohol. But the human connections led him toward help and powered him through to his clean and sober place today. Because people took the time to see him, to know his name, and to give what they had—sometimes a few dollars, and more importantly, attention.
Mike, even now knowing how his money was spent, says he has no regrets, because “I would rather live in a world where people attempt to engage than put on their blinders.”
This is the call of Christ: to engage. To take off our blinders and truly see people for who God created them to be—because in that seeing, we might just be the first step in healing. Imagine how different everything would be if we truly went through the world with eyes and hearts wide open, seeing as God sees? When we give someone, especially someone so different from us, our full attention, we also fulfill Christ’s command: give my love.
May it be so. Amen.