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The Wonder of It All
February 14, 1993

ACTS 3:1-10

“And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” The man, lame from birth had been healed by two ordinary, uneducated, unordained men, Peter and John. Amazing. He was healed not by priests, not by temple sacrifices, not by giving him what was expected, not by giving him what he wanted. “I have no silver or gold,” said Peter, “but what I have I give you.” And what did Peter have? “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” “What I have to give you,” said Peter, “is the name of Jesus. In that name, in the power of that name, and in faith through Jesus, stand up and walk!” The man jumped up and even though he had never walked before, he leaped and walked and praised God. Can’t you see him leaping, testing his newfound freedom, testing his wings, testing the power of God? And the people were filled with wonder and amazement.

Well, what fills you with wonder and amazement? Relax this morning. Relax. It's a three day weekend. It's Valentine's Day. Relax and contemplate the wonder of it all. You deserve it. So sit back in the pew and let the pew hold you. Relax in the pew, settle down. Relax your legs. Loosen your leg muscles, wiggle them a little bit. Just let them go. Let your arms relax. Relax that neck where the tension sits. Roll it around a little bit. Let me see you roll your head around. No, don’t go to sleep, just relax. Sit back and contemplate the wonder it all. Let yourself be filled with wonder and amazement.

John McDonald wrote, “I think I was a refreshing experience to him because he finally realized I was absolutely sincere and not giving a dang about money. We were standing in the yard a month ago. One of the last leaves came off the maple tree. So I picked it up and made him look very closely and carefully. I made him see it. Then I asked him what it was worth without cracking a smile. I could almost see the light bulb going on in the air over his head like the cartoons. Then I fed him that speech. If there was one sunset every twenty years, how would people react to them?  Or if there were only ten seashells in all the world, what would they be worth?” The wonder of it all! Think of wonder in a maple leaf. Reflect on the wonder of being alive. Look at the wonder all around you, all about you and inside you.

A banker often dropped money in the cup of a legless beggar who sat outside the bank on the sidewalk. Unlike most people, the banker was content not just to put money in the cup but he always asked to get one of the pencils that the legless beggar had reserved for him. “You're a merchant,” the banker would say. “You're a merchant and I expect good value from merchants I do work with, I do business with.” One day the squat-hunched figure was not on the sidewalk. Some time later the banker entered a public building and there to his surprise, behind the concession stand sat the legless beggar no longer a beggar, now a businessman. He said to the banker, “I always hoped you might come by someday. You are largely responsible for me being here. You kept telling me I was a merchant and I started thinking of myself that way, instead of a beggar receiving gifts. I started selling pencils, lots of pencils. You gave me self respect and caused me to look at myself differently.” The banker had given him respect. The banker saw wonder in the beggar. Looking beyond defects, looking beyond the beggar, he saw a man, a human being— without legs, yes, but with intelligence, abilities, skills and possibilities. And the beggar was now no longer a beggar. Now he was healed like the lame man in the scripture lesson. Now a respectable businessman, he responded to the respect shown and he was filled with wonder and amazement.

A business executive a, gifted executive, looking back on his career, realized how greatly his life had been influenced by a school teacher. So he traced her through the school, found that she was retired and wrote her of his appreciation. He received this reply, “I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf of fall, lingering behind. You'll be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came to me on a blue cold morning and cheered me as nothing had in years.”

Probably millions go to bed every night starving emotionally for a few words and gestures of appreciation. Robert Conklin has written, “Are you generous with your appreciation for others? Or do you hang on to the illusion that all you are is what you have built by yourself? You know deep within you that is not true. You are the child of all whom you have known. Each has woven in a bit of color that makes the pattern of who you are.”

Search beyond the shallowness of false pride. Like the executive who wrote the school teacher, recognize the contributions of others who have made and what they have made to your existence. Look beyond your aggravations, irritations, justifications and rationalizations. Put out of mind the many times others have pained you, upset you, trod over you. See instead those moments when because of them, you rose to something you had never been before. You grew. Cherish those who have touched your life and in so doing pressed you into being what you are today. They in their stumbling fumbling way may have caused you to cry or rebel or fraught with anger. Their love and concern might have been disguised with impatience, criticism, restriction and worry, but those are only indications that they cared.

So gaze about you. Who can you find to appreciate? It’s Valentine's Day. Don't let the sun go down today without expressing appreciation to someone. Watch them receive your blessing. Watch them fill with wonder and amazement that someone noticed and someone cared. This is the Year of Community in our church. Building Christian community in a congregation begins with appreciation for one another. I was glad we expressed appreciation today to all of our teachers. We don't do enough to say thank you. Tell them, “I appreciate what you do.” Don't let the sun go down. It's Valentine’s Day.

Reflect on the wonder of being appreciated. Reflect on how you are appreciated. Reflect on how you are loved. Are there any more precious words than “I love you”?  When our youngest son Craig was three or four years old, I put him to bed one night. We prayed and then I hugged him and said, “Do you know how loved you are? Your parents love you. Your brothers love you. Your grandparents love you.” He interrupted my scenario with a question, “Does anybody love you?” I said, “Well, I know you love me. And God loves me.” Raising two fingers he said, “That's two.”

It's Valentine's Day. Tell the important people in your life how you love them. Tell them in word and action. One evening a wife said to her husband, “I suppose if I should die, you would spend a large amount on flowers for me, wouldn't you? “ He said, “Well, of course I would. Why do you ask such a question?” She said, “I was just thinking that an expensive wreath will mean very little to me then. But just one little flower from time to time while I'm alive would mean so much to me.” Show your love.

Show your love and reflect on the wonder of how you are loved. Don't always expect love and the expression of love on your turns. Look for the signs and the myriad ways the important people in your life tell you they love you. Look for the ways— a squeeze on the hand or laughter from your grandma or a phone call with no ulterior motive than just to ask how you are, or your students coming by after school or hanging around your desk at lunch time, or friends teasing you because they don't know how, or they're embarrassed to verbally say, “I love you”, especially if they're of the same sex. How prudish we are. Or your mother forcing you to clean your room because she wants you to be responsible. After all she if didn't love you, she wouldn’t care. Or grandma making you a batch of cookies. Or an unsolicited smile where the eyes light up.

When I come home at night after a usual long meeting at church, my wife makes me a cup of coffee or tea and brings me a dish of ice cream and cookies, or crackers and cheese, or if she’s really feeling good— peanut butter. Sure, I get fatter, but I know she loves me. I know I’m loved. Children bring me drawings they do during the worship service. Oh, the wonder of it all!

Reflect on how you are loved and appreciated. Be filled with wonder and amazement. And the most wonderful of all—how God loves you! God meets your needs. God gives you strength to cope whatever life deals out. God empowers you to live each day. God empowers you to become the person you were created to be.

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!”  Previously lame, the lame man was now healed. Previously ostracized because of his condition, he could now enter the temple leaping and walking and praising God. Previously dependent on people's pity, now he leaped, walked and praised God.

How has God blessed you? Oh, the wonder of it all! The wonder of being alive in God's magnificent creation, the wonder of being respected, appreciated and loved!

© 1993 Douglas I. Norris