Forming Faith Blog

Opening the Gates (April 26, 2020)

A padlock on a metal gate. Gates were closed for the man who could not walk, but they were opened in the name of Jesus Christ.

As we are continuing through the season of Easter, we are continuing through the story of the early church in Acts. The Holy Spirit has come in power upon Jesus’ followers. The gates are open, and the Spirit is flowing forth.

Closed Gates

The unnamed man who was healed in this week’s story from Acts 3 has had a disability from birth. This disability came with barriers keeping this man separate from society at large. He was not able to gain meaningful employment and be self-sufficient. Instead, he had to rely on the charity of others, both those who moved him from place to place, and those who offered him alms. I have seen some debate as to whether he would have been allowed into the temple, but at the very least there were barriers to worship as well. He would also just find barriers because he was unable to walk, run, or even stand up.

Dignity Denied

I don’t know enough about first-century Palestinian culture, but if our modern culture has any similarities, the man was denied his dignity. We gain some dignity through our work and our ability to be financially independent. This was denied him. We also gain dignity by being treated as equals by others. How many people treated this man as an equal? How many even looked him in the eye when they passed by, whether they gave him a few coins or not?

The Story

I like to tell stories, so here is my take on this Bible passage:

Today started like any other, with his neighbor carrying him to the Beautiful Gate of the temple for another day of begging. It was uncomfortable, lying there. But he had long ago given up his dream of doing things that everyone else took for granted.

Two shadows passed over him, and he looked up to see two men walk by. He gave his standard plea for alms, trying not to care if they did or didn’t. He focused on their feet; he couldn’t bring himself to look them in the eyes as equals. They would probably be offended. The men stopped. One, Peter, said, “Look at us.” The man blinked with surprise and, with difficulty, looked up and held his gaze.

Something Better

This was unusual. Perhaps this means they will give him more money. Peter said, “We don’t have any money.” The man sighed, his spirit drooping. “But,” Peter added, “we have something better. We are representatives of Jesus, the Messiah, and by his power, we tell you to stand up and walk!”

The man blinked again. What did he say? Stand up and walk? That’s ridiculous. That’s impossible. But something inside him bloomed and prompted him to try it. Hope, something he hadn’t felt in a while. He rolled over and pushed himself up. It was surprisingly easy. Without thinking, he jumped up to his feet. He expected to fall over. But he didn’t. He was stable. His feet and legs supported him. They felt strong. He jumped again. A laugh burst from his lips.

Opening the Gates

He did something he hadn’t dreamed about since he was young. He followed these two miracle-workers and entered the temple. He walked! He even added leaping and dancing into the mix. Praises to God erupted from deep inside him and gratitude for the two men and this Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone around them stared. Their eyes went wide and mouths dropped open. Yep. They recognized him. The silence lasted only a few moments before the whispering started. “Isn’t that—?” “How…” “What just happened?” “It must be a miracle!”

The gates that had been blocking his way were now open. He can walk. He can work. He can worship. No longer will he be “the cripple” nor “that beggar.” Now he will always be “the man whom God has blessed, whom Jesus has healed.”

Free Resource

This week the free activity we are offering is “Beautiful Prayer Lists,” in which you create a “beautiful gate” as a prayer help. This was written for our Living the Word: Youth curriculum, but it can be done by people of any age (the youngest with help). I have included suggestions on how this can be used at home and online.

If you happen to enjoy my creative rendition of this Bible passage above, you have my permission to use it in your teaching or preaching. However, please credit me (either my personal name or company name) and let me know if you did and how it went!

A note about language. Words matter. We know this as preachers, teachers, and writers. This means we need to be conscious, and conscientious, about the language we use when we talk about others. This is why we at Spirit & Truth Publishing strive to use person-first language. This is a practice in which a person is defined by their personhood, not their disability. So, not only is it our responsibility to avoid the use of derogatory terms (like cripple), but we must put the person first. “The cripple” becomes “the man who could not walk.” He is defined as a human, who happens to have a condition.

While this language movement is centered around people with disabilities, I have also started to use it related to poverty and vulnerability. This avoids “the poor” and “the beggar,” and instead speaks of “people in poverty” and “a man forced to rely on charity” (or however you wish to describe the situation). So, I ask you to avoid referring to the man in today’s story as “the crippled beggar” as some do. Instead, use a more dignified description.


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

New Blog Series

I have started another brief blog series directed specifically for laypeople, The Church at Home. Through this blog series, we are providing our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional bulletin inserts for free, along with a brief blog reflection each week. Please share the weekly link with your congregations.

Our Living the Word (Narrative Lectionary) resources for 2020-2021 are now available to order. On our website, you can find more information for our Year 3 (2020-2021) products and see our current release schedule.

We are also excited to announce that we are introducing our first product for the Revised Common Lectionary, a Cross+Gen Education curriculum inspired by our Narrative Lectionary Cross+Gen Education product. More information coming soon!

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