East of Eden, a long way from Ur…

Acts 3:1-10 

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 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. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 

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.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God,  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.


Almost a year ago, I sat in a living room of a house in my neighborhood with my friend and ecclesial dreamer, Joelle. She has been plotting goodness, planning, and preparing to steward a new community of faith called At the Gate. She has a beautiful vision of what this band of faithful traveling companions can look like and it is compelling. It is the first local gathering I could see myself participating in since I became displaced from my previous church. The people in that room were diverse, passionate, hopeful and hungry for something beautiful. A place where broken people could gather and find healing. A place where those at the gate could encounter the redemptive power of God at work.

I left that night with mixed emotions. I was happy that something like this was starting to take shape literally in my own back yard. And I was excited that the people in the room were generous and open and practiced intuitively the Will to Embrace.  But I had a lot of turmoil in my own life that prevented me from leaning in fully. I felt like I was so close to returning to a faith community that I could see it. It was right there within reach. But like Adam and Eve after being expelled from the Garden, close was not good enough. I could reach, but I could not touch.

That night we read the text from Acts that records the healing miracle and people commented about all the things that gave them hope as they read or heard the narrative. But there was one thing that stood out in my mind. The text tells us that this man who was lame from birth was carried to the temple gate every day. He was there often enough that after the miracle happened “all the people saw him… and recognized him…”  It occurred to me that as often as Jesus and his disciples went to the temple, they may had encountered this man before. And if not them, surely all the people who recognized him had passed him numerous times. But they were so busy that they never took time to meet him and bring him in. Or better yet, break open the box that contained their religious practice to meet him where he was, day after day, begging for something. Until the day of the miracle, he was invisible. East of Eden like so many of the rest of us.

One of the things I love about Joelle is that she wants to make At the Gate a place that breathes the life of God. On the inhale, all are welcome to enter, no matter the state of brokenness they may find themselves in. And on the exhale this community has serious plans to take the redemptive and healing work of God into the community in which they live. I would love to be a part of this in whatever ways possible. But choices I have made in my own life make full participation in this community difficult. I don’t see this as a bad thing. Sometimes we wait for a long time at the gate, waiting for a miracle that never comes. Sometimes we need to be pulled out of our comfort zones. Like Abram leaving his home environs of Ur, sometimes we need to be called out to find a better miracle, even if it means wandering around in a desert for a while.

I intend to support Joelle and the At the Gate community in what ever way I can. And I thank her and her pastoral vision for fanning the embers of my broken faith back to a healthy glow. And I am excited to see what wonderful and amazing things God has in store as I embark once again on the Way.

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