Deserving Our Full Attention

Deserving Our Full Attention

Worship on April 26, 2020

The weekly worship offering of Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church in Orinda, CA.

Posted by Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church on Sunday, 26 April 2020

Easter 3 (NL2) John B. Valentine
Acts 3:1-10 April 26, 2020


I LOVE these Sundays after Easter.

Not just because they mean it’s Springtime ... though it is ... and these have been beautiful days we’ve been experiencing this last week!

Not just because they mean the days of Lent are behind us ... after all ... these ‘shelter-in-place’ days make it feel a bit like the longest Lent EVER!

No ...... at least in part ...... I LOVE these Sundays after Easter because they give us a chance to dive into what has become one of my favorite books of the Bible ...

The book known as the “Acts of the Apostles”.

You see ... for the past several years now ... the Sundays just after Easter have been a time for us to shift our weekly readings ...

FROM stories about the life and the teachings and the ministry of Jesus ...

TO stories about the life and the teachings and the ministry of the early church.

And ... by extension ... to getting us to think about how WE live out the Good News of Easter in our lives and our words and our own ministries here in this world.

So ... for instance ... this morning ... we read a story from Acts ... chapter three.

What began ... back in Acts chapter one ... with a calling INTO service ...

And continued ... in chapter two ... with an empowering FOR service ...

In chapter three ... becomes an opportunity to BE of service ... to be of service to a man who was desperately in need.

+ + + + +

How did that story go?

One day ... apparently not too many days after Easter ... Peter and John ... two of Jesus’ BFFs ... were going up to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship and pray.

In other words ... they were “going to church.”

And ... on their way into worship ... they encountered this beggar ...

• a man who’d never been able to walk ...

• a man whose friends would apparently deposit him out in front of the church every day so that he could beg for money.

But now pay close attention ... because there’s this one little detail that pops up in the next portion of the story ... and because oftentimes the Bible makes really BIG points by way of really small details.

When the beggar saw Peter and John about to go into the temple ... he asked them for a handout ... right? Maybe just a bit of spare change???

And how did Peter and John respond?

• They didn’t “glance in his direction” ...
• They didn’t “happen to look his way” ...

• What they DID do was “look at him intently.”

• They didn’t “distractedly turn his way” ...
• They didn’t “give him an annoyed glare” ...

• What they DID do was “offer him their full attention.”

• They didn’t “treat him as an irritation that needed to be dealt with” ...
• They didn’t “try to step around him so as to get to church on time” ...

• What they DID do ... first and foremost ... was “try to treat him as a human being.”

+ + + + +

Now there’s a whole number of things that strike me about that one little detail that are worthy of our attention.

For starters ... does any one of us want to lay those words about how Peter and John “looked intently” at this broken fellow and lay them up against the last time we were confronted by a beggar?

Like ... for instance ... even in this age of social-distancing ... on my way out to Costco in Concord in search of toilet paper earlier this week ...

There was a woman asking for assistance at the end of the freeway off-ramp ... as you’re about to turn right onto Monument.

• Did I “look at her intently”?

Yeah ... right ... I did everything I could NOT to make eye contact with her ... actually!

• Did I “offer her my full attention”?

No ... my attention was mostly fixed on praying that the light would turn green.

• Did I “treat her like a human being”?

Anything but .... honestly.

Now ... I didn’t know ... I don’t know ... anything .... ANYTHING ... about that woman’s life-situation.

• She might be an addict ...
Then again ... she might not.

• She might be homeless ...
Then again ... she might not.

• She might be mentally ill ...
Then again ... she might not.

• She might have recently lost her job ...
Then again ... she might not.

• She might be any one of a number of things ...
Then again ... she might not.

But I didn’t ... I wouldn’t ... give her the time to find out.

And maybe what this morning’s Bible story is calling me to account over begins with me giving that woman my full attention ... even if for just a few moments.

Now I’m NOT saying that we can solve the crisis of homelessness in our society all by ourselves ... or that we should even try ...

But this snippet of God’s Word invites us ... at the very least ... to be willing to give hurting people our full attention ... and at least treating them as human beings ... rather than just a problem to be solved or an irritant to be avoided.

+ + + + +

Then again ... speaking of “full attention” ...

There’s someone in our house who ... in her own kind but assertive way ... has reminded me recently that I don’t always do a very good job of even giving her my full attention!

• That I get too distracted ... or maybe that I’m too preoccupied ... to really even give her my undivided attention.

• And that the fact that I’m “not talking” doesn’t mean that I’m actually listening.

• And that ... instead of us having a conversation ... we’re really having a “nonversation” ... as it were.

I tell you that not because I’m proud of it ... but because it’s the truth.

I tell you that not because I’m eager to disclose it ... but because it’s a clear growth area for me!

I tell you that not because I hope you’ll emulate me ... but because maybe both you and me can learn from my mistakes.

You see ...

• “Looking intently” means putting down my cell phone and actively engaging ...

• “Looking intently” means saying ... for at least a few minutes ... that “what’s going on with you truly IS important to me” ...

• “Looking intently” means giving the other our full attention ...

• “Looking intently” means saying “I may not have all the answers, sweetheart, but I certainly want to understand your question.”

+ + + + +

But maybe ... most of all ... that little detail about how Peter “looked at him intently” ... it intrigues me because it seems like its related to the story of another encounter that’s contained within the Bible.

Anyone want to take a guess at which one it brings to mind for me???

Particularly ... I’m thinking ... that there’s a connection between this story and the story of “the Good Samaritan”.

Remember ...

How there was that man who was on his way down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho ... who was set upon by a band of robbers ... who stole all his possessions and left him there half dead?

And how there was that priest who ... coming down the same road ... took one look at the beaten-up man ... and passed by on the other side?

And then there was that uber-religious fellow who came down the road a little bit later on ... and did the same?

And then how this despised Samaritan comes down the road ... and takes one look at the beaten-up fellow ... and is “moved with pity” ...

And takes care of this half-dead victim ...

And then does whatever it takes to restore him to wholeness and wellness?

In a certain way ... the way Luke tells this story here in Acts ... chapter three ... that little detail about “looking intently” ... invites us to hear the echo of that “moved with pity” line he uses in his telling of the Gospel ...

For the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Books of Acts are one and the same man!

And it seems as though part of what Luke is trying to say is that people in the early church ... Peter and John in this instance ... took Jesus teaching to heart ... and let Jesus’ teaching guide their deeds.

And THAT’s worth paying attention to ...

For it seems to be inviting US to let Jesus’ teaching guide OUR deeds as well!

For us to “Go and do likewise”.

+ + + + +

So think on these things ... and stay safe and stay well ... and may you be numbered among those who “Go ... and do likewise.”

“Deserving Our Full Attention” was a sermon offered by Pastor John Valentine on the third Sunday of the Easter Season — April, 26, 2020.  The text referenced was that of Acts 3:1-10″

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.


1 comment

  1. Tracey B. - April 26, 2020 12:19 pm

    The Essential Message. Thank you. 🙏

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