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Acts 3:12-19

Sometime in the last week I read someone comment about the way the lectionary moves through the book of Acts. It certainly does not follow the order that Luke wrote it in. This can be a bit frustrating to some of our churches. I share some of that annoyance, but more than that, this week’s pericope seems truncated. I have heard it said that the lectionary makes a great servant but a terrible master, this week may be a way that you need to extend the passage some.

I say this because the whole speech is said in response to God’s actions through Peter in healing the crippled beggar in verses 1-10. The context of Peter’s preaching matters. As Kavin Rowe says, “The early Christian mission in Acts is best seen, therefore, not in terms of daring initiative or social creativity but in terms of response.”[1] If you don’t read it this Sunday, then perhaps you at least allude to this incredible miracle. The miracle is what grants Peter authority to speak. Additionally, the pericope for this Sunday ends halfway through Peter’s speech. We would do well to contend with the entirety of his speech. He didn’t end it where we have, so perhaps we should trust Peter and Luke’s account of Peter. If we do not, we may miss out on parts of the gospel.

I fear that western Christianity has often misunderstood the gospel. If you were to ask many in my church what the gospel is, their response would probably have something to do with going to heaven. Or at least, they would have before I started preaching here. I do not think they are unique in their expression of Christianity. The folk evangelical theology is often summarized by what it takes to get to heaven. Stanley Hauerwas rejects such individual Christianity. He says, “Another hallmark of Christianity is that salvation is not individualistic-it’s not something one person receives for himself or herself. Salvation is the reign of God. It is a political alternative to the way the world is constituted. That’s a very important part of the story that has been lost to accounts of salvation that are centered in the individual.”[2]

The sermon that Peter gives in response to God acting through him can help us as preachers move our people beyond the individualistic sense of gospel, but only in so much as we are willing to transform out preaching of the gospel as well.