2021 04 25: No Other Name

Posted on 26 Apr 2021

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I don’t know who coined the phrase “state of mind,” but in 1905, and American poet William D. Wintle captured this phrase in his poem, “Thinking.”

If you think you are beaten, you are; If you think you dare not, you don’t.

If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t, It is almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost; For out in this world we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will.  It’s all in the state of mind.

The apostles Peter and John in this morning’s lesson from the Book of Acts weren’t of a state of mind, to be beaten or lose.  Even though Jesus wasn’t walking beside them any longer, they still radiated his power and confidence.  They were bold in their words and in their actions.  The disciples themselves weren’t always like that, but they learned to be of the same state of mind as Christ, and so can you.  That is my conviction that in knowing and proclaiming the name of Jesus that you can make a difference in the world for others.

We don’t know exactly how much time had passed since Jesus’ resurrection and the story of Peter and John in the Temple described in the Book of Acts, but we do know that the Jesus’ disciples were still regularly worshiping in the Temple in Jerusalem, and so we read that, “A man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.”  For this man, there was never an easy day to look back on.   From the earliest days of his childhood, all he could do was watch the world pass by.

Our life’s circumstances often define our state of mind.  We may be optimistic, positive, skeptical, mistrusting, and countless other perspectives.  This man felt his destiny was simply to beg from a dusty mat, from whence he would throw himself at the mercy of the crowds.  He was dependent on his friends or family to carry him everywhere day and night and place him outside the temple waiting for someone that was generous. His life consisted of hoping, trusting, and praying that someone would have mercy on him.  And if that wasn’t harsh enough, countless people simply ignored him and passed him by, looking down on him as some kind of poor sinner who had received the just rewards of punishment.

All his life, the lame man had thought that money was his greatest need.  He thought things would always be like they were then and never get better.  Begging was all he’d ever known.  Sometimes we make the mistake in thinking that as well.  We believe that everything will be and stay just as they are.  The answers we seek aren’t necessarily the solutions we need. Perhaps, “It is all in a state of mind.”

“When he saw Peter and John about to enter, (the Temple) he asked them for alms. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he fixed his attention on them, expecting to get something from them.  But then to his surprise Peter did something that he never expected. The apostle said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up walk.”

Now you may be wondering, so why didn’t Peter give the lame man money?   After all, it’s what the poor man wanted.  It was the man’s state of mind.  So why not?   It was because Peter was of the mind of Christ, and he wanted to help the man in a way that he needed it most. Money wouldn’t solve the lame man’s problems.  The lame man needed to walk.  He needed to be healed.  The apostle wanted to get to the root of this man’s problem, and Peter knew that only Jesus could do this.  Peter had faith that “in the name of Jesus” great and miraculous things could happen.  And so on that day, Peter healed the lame man.  And suddenly he could walk.

The crowds who were astonished at the miracle, now listened intently to Peter speaking of Jesus and salvation.  The apostle spoke boldly of Jesus, whose very name means healing and salvation, how Jesus had lived and died, and “how he had been raised from the dead” to save us from our sickness and our sin. The crowd of listeners were enthralled by their stories of Jesus’ healing, and the church grew by thousands that day. But the captain of the Temple guard and the Sadducees were annoyed. Peter was teaching Jesus’ promise of the resurrection of the dead which they vehemently opposed as heresy.  So they arrested the apostles and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.

The following day, which is where our reading begins Peter and John were escorted to stand trial before the very same court that had condemned Jesus.  These were the same rulers, elders and scribes, who together with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, had who sent Jesus to the cross.  Anyone else in the city who have been intimidated by the power, and wealth represented by the council. They questioned Peter and John by what power or by what name they had healed this lame man.  For no one questioned that this man, whom they had passed by thousands of times begging at the Beautiful Gate, had been healed.  But they questioned by what name had he been healed?

Peter answered boldly and resolutely. “Let it be known to you that this man standing before you is in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, and whom God raised from the dead.  This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’”  As for the response of the council, “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed.”

But why were they so amazed?  Certainly, it had something to do with their courage under fire.  Even as they faced the wisest and most powerful men in their nation, they had an unparalleled confidence.  But whatever the cost- arrest or persecution, and in spite of the Council’ decision,   they wanted every ear to hear that a new day had dawned all because of this Jesus  had been raised from the dead.  For they had grown to know and trust that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” That is boldness in Christ. You see, it is not just a personal choice or opinion, for followers of Christ, it is a “state of mind.”

Unfortunately, many people today, including those who describe themselves as religious and spiritual, do not understand this Christian mind set.  They are far more willing to treat the symptoms of the disease, or offer services and comfort for those who are struggling than to prescribe the healing that is truly needed.  They limit Jesus’ salvation to the forgiveness of sins, or some future promise of eternal life, rather than to embrace the wholeness of healing that Christ offers here now. Yes, like the assembly in Jerusalem we reject the very stone that has become the chief cornerstone as trivial, cultural,  a matter of personal taste.

My friends, we are living in a time and place where Jesus healing is needed all around us.  It is needed in our politically polarized and divided nation.  It is needed in the broken, frightened and hurt neighborhoods in our city. And it is needed in our struggling homes that have experienced first hand the stress and sorrow of the corona virus.  Like the lame man, we may think that all we need is a little more money to get us through the next day. We may think that we need just the right opportunity to come our way, or the right house, or the right spouse, but what we really need is God’s healing grace to make us whole again.  But we need God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, for there is salvation in no other name, by which we may be saved.   We need a boldness of faith like Peter and John in our lives. But where do we begin?  I know that you can’t do it alone.

I am reminded of the young preacher who thought he could learn boldness in a class, so he attended a conference to help encourage and equip pastors for their ministry. Among the speakers was a well-known preacher who boldly approached the pulpit, gathered the entire crowd’s attention, and said, “the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman that wasn’t my wife!” The crowd was shocked! He followed up by saying, “And that woman was my mother!” The crowd burst into laughter as he delivered the rest of his speech. The next week, the young pastor who had attended the conference decided he’d give this humor thing a try, and used that joke in his sermon. As he approached the pulpit that sunny Sunday morning, he tried to rehearse this joke in his head. It suddenly seemed a bit foggy to him. Getting to the microphone, he tried it anyway and said loudly, “The greatest years of my life were spent in the arms of another woman that was not my wife!” The congregation inhaled half the air in the room! After standing there for almost 10 seconds in stunned silence, trying to recall the second half of the joke, the pastor finally blurred out, “…and I can’t remember who she was!”

So where do you begin? Simply said, you begin by opening yourself to the ways of the Holy Spirit, by dedicating yourself to prayer and scripture and gathering with fellow believers.  It is why the shuttering of churches has been so difficult during the pandemic on God’s faithful and why it is so important for us to gather again when the opportunity is available.  No one grows in faith on their own- not even the apostles.  It was an amazing transformation.  Peter and John, were once frozen with fear, but when they allowed themselves to be open to the Holy Spirit, they could be seen out preaching the gospel for everyone to hear.  Yes, they soon got them arrested, the very thing that once had terrified them, but it was now their boldness that terrified the Temple authorities.

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost; For out in this world we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will.  It’s all in the state of mind.

My friends, avoid the petty, the simple, the foolish and fool-hearty, instead pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be of the mind of Christ. . For when boldness is needed in fearful situations, and we act in spite of sweaty palms and pounding hearts, Jesus promises to fill our mouths by the Spirit and to supply all our needs.  And what a difference that make in this world.  Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.