Chapel: September 16, 2020 – “I See You” (Acts 3:1-10)

Chapel: September 16, 2020 – “I See You” (Acts 3:1-10)

Note: this week’s video has few sound drops so feel free to follow along with the transcript below.

One of my favorite movies is the 2009 film “Avatar”. Now I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think I can tell you this much about it: it’s about a marine from here on earth, that travels to the distant planet of Pandora. While he’s there, he encounters the native alien population and learns all about their cultures and customs. One of the scientists on this planet tries to teach him about this alien culture and tells him that when these aliens greet one another, they say “I see you.” And as this is explained, we learn this doesn’t just mean “I’m looking at you with my two eyes”—what it means is I see all of who you are. I perceive your createdness, I see you’re like me. There’s a sense that this sense of seeing leads to togetherness. It leads to a sense of community.

Now, Avatar may seem like a weird pairing to get into this story from Acts chapter 3. In this story we hear of Peter and John walking through Jerusalem where they encounter a man sitting by a gate who has been lame since birth. But what happens when Peter sees the man? He belts the name of Jesus over the man and the man is ultimately healed.Now if we dive into this, we get to see in this text the idea of seeing and togetherness is also present. So, let’s take a look:

First, in verse four, when Peter and John first encounter the man it says that Peter looks intently at him, and so does John. The fact is that Peter and John truly perceive this man as a fellow human. They see him as another creature who has been created by God. Now, this is a man who has a visible disability. He’s out in public, he’s on display for all to see. And I have to imagine that it’s possible that at some point in his life he has had people stare at him—he’s had people staring so hard that when they’re caught staring they have to glance awkwardly away. And I imagine that he’s used to the pain and to the hurt of those stares, and the ways that seeing is not a seeing that is done out of love. But then Peter looks at Him and looks intently at him.

Now, Peter does more than that. Peter actually allows this man to reclaim his own voice. We found out earlier in this passage that the man is used to being carried around. He cannot walk and so he must be carried. We don’t know whether this man ever had his own agency or his own voice that he could say where he wanted to be carried and when. But Peter endows this man with his own sense of agency. After Peter looks intently at the man, Peter invites him— “look at us”. And in other words, what Peter is saying here is don’t just be looked at, don’t just have looks be given to you, but instead use your own eyes and look at us. There’s a sense of reciprocity here. There’s a sense of community that is building even between Peter and John and this man. But that’s not all!

In fact, after Peter pronounces the name of Jesus over the man, after the man is healed, all of them go together into the temple. And the text tells us that all the people in the temple see what has happened. And they are amazed at what they are witnessing. For the people in the temple, this isn’t just seeing. This is a witness! This is a testimony to what they have seen and experienced within their own midst.

Now, I mentioned that in the movie Avatar seeing leads to a sense of togetherness and community. The same is true in this story in Acts. Notice what happens: after this man is healed, he’s not left sitting outside. He’s not left on his own. But what happens? Instead, he goes together with Peter and with John into the temple. He’s invited to truly be with them, to be together with them. And then what happens in the temple? Well, the text tells us that all the people in the temple saw them and were sharing in this wonderment together. There’s a sense in which this miracle that happens for one person becomes the uniting factor that draws together a whole community around him.

Now in our own time, all that we really have at the moment is seeing. You’re experiencing me through a screen. I can’t give you a high five or pat on the back, or even a hug. I can’t smell the whiff of the perfume you’re wearing or the shampoo that you just used to wash your hair. I don’t have that physical experience of you, and you don’t have that of me either. But what we do have is this way of seeing one another, even through a screen. And as we’ve heard within this story in Acts 3 seeing, can in fact lead to a sense of togetherness. And so, my challenge for us in this time when we perhaps only see through a screen is to really look for the ways that God is moving in our midst. Where is God moving in your life? Where is God moving in the life of the FPU community, even if we’re not physically together? I think if we truly open our eyes and see and perceive the invisible work of the Spirit in our midst, we too will be like the people in the temple who are amazed and overcome by the power and the love of God. Amen

College Hour

Dr. Melanie Howard

Assistant Professor & Program Director, Biblical & Theological Studies