May 8, 2022
Scripture: Acts 9: 36 – 42
How do you explain the miracles that happen in the Bible?
… and those that don’t?
It is truly a miraculous moment when Tabitha rises up from her death bed and Peter presents her to the those who, moments before, mourned her dying.
She is described as a woman who was devoted to good works and acts of charity. And, to prove the point, a group of widows surrounds her, holding garments she made for them.
She certainly is deserving of a miracle. We know she will use her second chance at life to do good things. But what does that have to do with us?
I hope you caught Bob’s word in our last Bible Study where he reminds us that part of our job as Christians is to do what Peter did…to raise up people whose lives are lifeless into lives of abundance, joy, and fruitfulness. Bible Study is available in short clips on our website nlbcc.net which takes you to the church FB page…and remember to share what you like.
Indeed we raise people up into life at NLBCC. In our praise of God on Sunday mornings, you can feel the life-giving Spirit bringing you out of the doldrums into the space where you are alive in God and God is alive in you. Because the Spirit is so powerful in our worship, we’ve been bringing that into our online space as best we can. (Unlike many churches, on Sundays, we don’t do church business…we don’t have meetings, we don’t problem-solve property issues)
Then Monday comes.
And the miracle of life we felt on Sunday morning gives way to the everyday struggle to keep our heads above water.
In our small gatherings as we sit with those we so easily love on Sunday mornings when we are singing and praying and eating together…and the reality of our differences makes itself known. Differences are fun, they are what keep life interesting. What is hard is seeing the ones you love blocked from living, confined, stuck. What is hard is seeing the ones you love hurt others you love, not intentionally, but because someone’s will and vision have eclipsed the light of the Son of God. What is hard is living a life where the emotional blocks of our past plus our human limited vision do not get in the way of God’s movement in the community.
I can talk about the political and societal blocks and indeed there is always work to be done on those planes. But I am a pastor, my area is the spiritual and emotional blocks, those that keep you from trusting in God’s power to give you life, to lead our lives, to empower our church to give life. Trust me, that is more than enough.
Let’s use this scripture to talk about how the Eternal One breaks through the blockades. Tabitha’s rising up from her bed required a whole lot of miracles.
First, let’s remind ourselves of the place of widows in her day. They were to be cared for because they had no family to care for them. Because inheritance was through the men, they often had no financial means. They were on the bottom rung of society.
And, yet, Tabitha is well known for her acts of charity.
She breaks the mold!
Beautiful, but not tied to a man.
Able, making things other widows held onto.
In her living, she broke past the barriers that often defined a widow’s life. She wasn’t known as one who received charity, she was known as one who gave it.
Central to the Christian Women’s Fellowship Group is their giving—these women who don’t have a whole lot—they collect their dollars, their quarters, and even their pennies so that they might give to those in need.
Central to the men’s fellowship is their giving of their time—these men who don’t have a lot of physical stamina—come together to care for one another.
Blockade one down…the idea that we don’t have enough to give. We always have something to give…we may need help from time to time but that doesn’t change who we are…you give so someone else can live. The miracle is akin to that of the loaves and fishes, you have enough, you are enough, and what you give matters.
Dorcas is surrounded by the women whose lives she had touched. In their hands are garments she had given to them. Her influence is visible.
But then there is another blockade…she is surrounded by women who hold what she has given but who are unable to help her rise.
Into that circle walk two disciples.
We aren’t told specifically who they are because all that matters is that they are Disciples of Christ.
Whenever Luke decides to not include a name, Luke being the author of both the gospel of Luke and Acts, it is an invitation for those of us who shape our faith according to scripture, to enter into that position.
You are invited to be the disciple who enters into the circle of friends who have lost one dear to them.
To break the boundary between them and us. To stand with others in their struggle; to enter into their struggle. And, when possible, when fruitful, to invite church in.
Peter symbolizes Christ’s church. Upon Peter, the rock, I will build my church, says Jesus in Matthew 16:18. When Peter enters in, imagine church entering in.
It is like when Elnora invited me into her circle where someone she knew well had died. By her invitation, we held a funeral here. It was well attended and there was another pastor who spoke that day. His name was Fr. Ramon.
Let me explain, Fr. Ramon later brought onto our campus a ministry that reaches out to people whose Christian faith is rooted in their Mexican Catholic heritage. We have been so blessed by him, his faith, and his community sharing in meals, worship, and even a children’s ministry.
When we enter in and then invite our church to enter in, often that just means inviting the pastor to enter in and be a pastor. When you do this, God has room to move and create something new.
Miracle one…you have enough, you are enough, to give.
Miracle two…you can enter into new circles by simply caring enough to stand with people in their grieving, when you do, when you invite church in, God can come in. You are God’s conduit of care.
Finally, miracle three, prayer powers life.
The two disciples run to get Peter, to bring church into the room where death has taken a beloved woman. Peter comes with haste. He, invited there by the disciples, enters the circle of women and sees Tabitha laying on her bed dead.
And, here’s the miracle. He dared believe he could give Tabitha life.
He empties the room of all the people because, and here I surmise, the faith to raise people from death to life requires an unhindered faith. There is no room for doubt or skepticism. A society with its mores and rules has no place here. The assumptions and observations of how the world operates must be taken out of this equation.
There is enough time for Monday morning.
When Peter is alone with Tabitha, he has brought with him Sunday church.
He doesn’t wave a wand. He doesn’t invoke a spell. What does he do church?
He falls to his knees and prays.
He does what?
He falls to his knees and prays.
Peter, the church, falls to his knees and prays.
Sunday mornings…we are on our feet, we bow our heads because too many of us have troubled knees, we are praising, we are praying we are lifting one another and those we know…
From death into life.
Through prayer and praise together we raise someone from the many deaths dealt to them throughout the week back into the life God gives.
You are doing that for one another. You are doing that for those you meet during the week. You are doing this for those who come to our campus during the week.
I met a Tabitha this week.
She came here because a loved one of hers had died. She called. I happened to be in the office so invited her over to come and see the sanctuary, to consider if this is a place she’d like for the celebration of the life of a 25-year-old…shot down.
She was met at the office door by Monica and myself…and soon she and her companion were shedding tears because we held them in our eyes.
As soon as she entered the sanctuary, I mean, even before she saw the full sanctuary, she could feel the Eternal One moving in this space. It is a beautiful space but it is more than that…she could feel the Spirit left by your prayers and your praise. It is tangible.
I could see the sorrow but also the joy as she and her companion imagined the service that would honor the young man, would testify to his strength, tell the world that life, even a short life, is worth living, makes an impact, changes lives.
How do you explain miracles that happen and those that don’t?
Why wasn’t he spared? Why was he randomly shot? Why?
For the same reason, I believe, Peter had to clear the room.
The world feeds fear and difference breeds distrust. The feeling of not being or having enough engenders hate. Anger and violence arise when circles close and trap souls that seek to fly.
So today…we say, get out fear. We have no place for you, oh hate and distrust, enemies of our Lord. We will not be kept down.
We choose today to believe.
We believe that we are enough, our words, our giving, we matter.
We choose to believe God has a circle in which we are to enter…to stand with our faith…and when it is time…to invite in the power of Sunday church…sometimes to invite pastor in…sometimes to invite a person into the life-changing worship that happens here every Sunday.
We believe that our Sunday experience that lifts us out of the pain and trouble of this world powers our prayers for the people of this world…by the power of Spirit made known to us, made known through us Sunday morning people…God lifts people out of death into life.
We believe that Sunday mornings overflow into Monday mornings, and Tuesday mornings….until we learn to live Sunday every day, praising God for the miracle we now can see.