One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now 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. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:1-9, NIV).
I have been thinking—and writing—about my mom a lot lately. This morning, as I was getting ready for church, I imagined her getting ready for the service she would attend with my brother and his family. As I made breakfast and packed my husband’s cooler for work, I listened to Adventures in Odyssey’s episode titled “Life Expectancy.” In it, central character Connie loses her mother suddenly to a heart attack. The tears flowing down my cheeks left spots on my blouse, for I was, once again, like Connie, so thankful for the blessing my mother has been to me.
With such a beginning to my day, I shouldn’t be surprised that when my pastor got to the action points of his message, the Scripture he used also made me think of Mom. Pastor Max was on his third message in a series about Subversives and was midway through his subpoints for “a prescription for success” in sharing the Gospel when he lost me. He had been discussing our responsibility in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, now, using whatever we already have to do so, when he mentioned what Peter said in Acts 3:6; suddenly, I was back in the fifth grade.
Fruitville Elementary, my destination in fifth grade, was the fourth elementary school I would attend. My family had moved from New Jersey to Florida just prior to my start in second grade. Prior to that move, I had lived in one house for nearly seven years. It backed onto the elementary school grounds, and the path from my neighborhood to school was right beside my yard. It was an easy walk—accompanied by my mom or my older siblings—to the school building. The move away from family and friends in New Jersey seemed to prompt a wanderlust in my parents; it seemed we moved all the time. We changed homes ten times before I graduated high school, actually. Nine of those times were within the same city but not within the same school districts in that city, which meant I also changed schools often. But the year I started fifth grade was most traumatic, because that was the year my sister Trish, two years my senior, went to junior high, and I had to get to school all alone.
The summer before fifth grade I had twice left sleepovers at new friends’ houses because I had become physically homesick. By the start of school, I had lost confidence in my ability to handle all the move entailed. Our new home was in the boonies, and I had to walk a half mile to the bus stop. I was a bit shy—and apprehensive at heading to a new school all alone. Add standing at a bus stop and riding the bus with all strangers, and I was overwhelmed. The only upside to my experience was that our dirt driveway was bordered by a long canopy of trees, and my mother always walked a small portion of that with me, praying for me and trying to boost my confidence.
She was tone-deaf, but she sang anyway, and each day, as I said my final good-bye to her, she would sing with me the song based on the story in Acts 3:
“Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Then I would start walking exuberantly away from her, as we both sang:
“He went walking and leaping and praising God, walking and leaping and praising God. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
I would repeat those lyrics until I reached the paved road and could be seen, but the memory of my mom and a miracle in the name of Jesus propelled me to the bus stop day after day.
Until today’s sermon, I did not understand why my mother chose that song—other than the obvious thought that she wanted me to get walking to the bus. I always thought the song completely unrelated to my mom’s goal of getting me to school.
When my pastor used that verse today, it was part of his point, “Use what you have” in sharing the Gospel. Peter had no silver or gold to give the lame beggar; he had something better: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Healthy legs and the ability to walk was actually a side benefit—the real gift was Jesus Christ.
As soon as the lame man started walking and leaping and praising God (for he recognized the real gift), Peter addressed the crowd that had gathered and made the Gospel clear to all who listened (Acts 3:10-4:4).
When my mom sang that song with me every day, she found it completely relevant to my walk to the bus stop—not because of the “walking and leaping” lyrics but because all she had to offer me was Jesus Christ and the confidence that I could have in Him. She couldn’t go with me to school; she couldn’t even walk me to the bus stop (because how humiliating would that be?). But she gave me what she did have—Jesus Christ.
At the time—and, actually, for multiple decades later—I thought she chose the silly song to get me moving. It made me move, joyfully, but it also made me aware of Jesus’s power in me.