Acts 14. 8
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
A Word of Hope
I have to be honest and say that when I first read this passage, I found it to be troubling. I was immediately drawn to the fact that Paul healed a man who had been lame from birth simply because Paul looked at him and “saw that he had faith.” Paul called to him to “stand up on your feet” and the man jumped up and began to walk. If the miracle here is simply about the lame man’s faith, I am left wondering why so many people of faith are left struggling with disease and adversity. For those of us with a strong faith, we are confident that God is with us through our difficulties, but we are also confident that miraculous healing does not happen as often as we’d like. So, what is the point of this passage?
The main character in this story is Paul. Paul’s ability to heal the man is intended as proof to the non-believers in the power of the good news of the living God. As is often the case, especially to those of little or no faith, the act of God, performed through Paul, was misinterpreted by the people of Lystra. They attributed the healing of the lame man to the gods Mercury and Zeus being sent in human form in Paul and Barnabas. In response, the Lystra people wanted to offer sacrifices to these gods. Paul and Barnabas tried with all their might to hold back the sacrifices offered by the crowd and show them that they were humans. The event led to Paul being stoned and thought dead. The next day, he got up and walked, continuing his mission in another city.
As Paul was fighting of the crowds, he drew on the language of the creation story to further explain the power of God. “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”. Paul is trying to show the people of Lystra the goodness that is available to them through faith. This passage is meant for non-believers. Paul is trying to persuade them to turn away from the things that separate them from God.
That is the same message that comes to us as we begin this first full week of Lent…turn away from those things that create a barrier between us and our God. As we embark on this Lenten journey, let us pray about what creates that barrier. Is it really chocolate? Is it busy-ness that keeps us from quiet time with God? Is it hardness of heart?
We may not be experiencing a physical lameness as was the man in Lystra, but we may indeed have symptoms of a spiritual lameness, things that keep us from walking strongly and confidently with our God. Lent provides us with a season to look our faith in the eye, to nurture it so that with the sounding of the Easter Alleluias we can jump up and walk in faith like we never have before.
True and living God, nurture in me a faith that strengthens my body, mind, and spirit so that through darkness and light I can walk confidently as a witness to your power and love. Amen.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare