In Jesus’ Name

In his book Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson tells the story of a woman named Judith, an artist in textiles:

Judith had an alcoholic husband and a drug-addicted son. She kept her life and her family together for years by attending twelve-step meetings. One Sunday, when she was about forty years old at the time, she entered the church where I was the pastor. She came at the invitation of some friends she knew from her meetings—"You need to come to church. I'll meet you there." She had never been to church before. She knew nothing about church …. She was well read in poetry and politics and psychology, and knew a great deal of art and artists. But she had never read the Bible ….

Something, though, caught her attention when she entered this church, and she continued to come. In a few months she became a Christian and I became her pastor. I loved observing and listening to her. Everything was new: Scriptures, worship, prayer, baptism, [communion]—church! … [She was so excited]: "Where have I been all my life? These are incredible stories—why didn't anyone tell me these? How come this has been going on all around me and I never knew it!"

Judith goes on to describe the frosty reception she receives when some of her friends find out about her newfound faith:

My friends would accept me far more readily if they found that I was in some bizarre cult involving exotic and strange activities like black magic or experiments with levitation. But going to church branded me with a terrible ordinariness.

But that is what endears it to me, both the church and the twelve-step programs, this façade of ordinariness. When you pull back the veil of ordinariness, you find the most extraordinary life behind it.

This Sunday we’re going to read a story in the book of Acts that begins with ordinariness and ends with the sublime.  What appears to be an ordinary trip to the temple by Peter and John becomes extraordinary when Peter decides to “pull back the veil” on a typical scene.  He encounters “a man crippled from birth” who is begging on the temple steps.

If this were an ordinary story, Peter and John would absent mindedly toss him a few coins and be on their way.  But when they stop and look at him—when they notice him—an extraordinary chain of events is set into motion.

Because they are paying attention and are courageous in the face of opportunity, a lot of good is done “in the name of Jesus.”  I’ll be encouraging us to do great things in Jesus’ name—great things that start with paying attention.