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Horizons — The crippled beggar’s encounter

Rosalind Banbury's sixth reflection on the 2023-2024 Presbyterian Women/Horizons Bible Study.

Sacred Encounters: The Power and Presence of Jesus Christ in Luke and Acts 
Lesson 6: Acts 3:1-10 

 “Lady, got some change to help me out?” I evaluate the scruffy man in the almost empty parking lot. Is he an addict, a homeless veteran, a threat? I hurry to my car.  

There have been beggars for centuries. We may think that they are the cause of their own misery, having made bad choices, or see them as dangerous. However, some can only beg. In Acts 3:1-10, the man entreating Peter and John has been lame since birth. His feet and ankles are twisted so he cannot walk or work to eke out a living. Sitting on the ground, he repeats all day: “Please help. Have mercy.” It is a grubby, humiliating existence, staring at people’s feet and legs, craning his neck to glance at people’s faces. At least this man has friends who take him to the Temple gate, a strategic place where those going into worship will notice him.   

Peter and John stop and tell the 40-year-old man to look at them. “Oh good,” the man thinks, “they will give me something.” Instead, Peter says, “I don’t even have pocket change, but I will you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk.” Peter pulls the man up on his now-strong feet and the man erupts into praising God, leaping, dancing, clinging to Peter or John. Peter, in the rest of chapter 3, speaks to the gathering crowd about Jesus, by whose power the man is healed.

I know people wonder if miraculous healings still happen. Others relate how, against all odds, cancer has gone into remission or their loved one was healed through medicine and prayer. There are also painful questions of why God hasn’t provided healing. There are no answers to those questions. 

Many people live with diseases or conditions for which there is no cure, no miracle. A blind pastor shared in a Bible study his experience, saying people sometimes treated him as if he were stupid or deaf as well as blind. He cited Scripture where Israel and the Pharisees are condemned as spiritually blind, unwilling to follow God. He cautioned against equating physical disabilities with spiritual, emotional or intellectual limitations.  

In the 1940s, a vehicle struck Lillian A. Pennell, leaving her a quadriplegic. After rehabilitation, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees. And, when I met her in the late 1970s, she was able to drive her especially equipped van. She was open, warm, intelligent and committed to God. She was the first female elder at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church, directed a presbytery’s career counseling center for 38 years, and was determined to help people live out their God-given vocation, whatever their circumstances or conditions. We may view those with disabilities as “broken” or pitiable, but they have much to teach us about spiritual wholeness. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, one in four Americans lives with some form of disability ranging from corrective lenses, learning or cognitive problems to the inability to walk, see, hear or care for themselves. Each of these people is a child of God with something to contribute to others. 

When my grandsons were about 5 or 6, we went to a playground where there was a slide, monkey bars and climbing holds. Two red-haired brothers joined us. One of them – Bert – who was maybe 8 but non-verbal, simply sat at the top of the slide while one of my grandsons stood behind him, wanting to slide. I moved to the bottom of the slide, grinned, raised my arms and said, “Bert, one, two, three.” And bringing my arms down, said, “Go!” He came down as I clapped. I did the same for my grandson, and the three of us we continued this fun exercise. My other grandson wanted a lift to the monkey bars, which I could not do because of a bad back. Bert’s brother came and lifted my grandson. At one point, Bert pointed to my back brace and pointed to himself with a smile, as if saying we both had things that restricted us.  

It was a lovely moment of connection. Everyone has something to give. 

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