Year C, The Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022
Year C: Psalm 23; Acts 9:36-43; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
This weekend, I know the weather isn’t exactly pointing to summer, but I promise that swimming pool weather or ocean weather will soon be upon us.
Most of us probably remember playing “Marco Polo” as children growing up. Believe it or not, there are several apps you can get for your smartphone named Marco Polo, but I’m talking about the game we played in the swimming pool. It’s a bit like playing tag in the pool. The person who is “It” closes their eyes and is placed in the center of a group of people. They call out, “Marco!” while the other call out, “Polo!” So if I’m “it,” I try to reach one of the others with my eyes still closed and touch them. Now, I don’t know how you played it, but those of us who weren’t “it” used to go beneath the water’s surface, which made it more challenging to find us.
I’ve just described a fun childhood game. But how does it come into describing what happens in the Kingdom of God? First, there is a call and a response, just like in our relationship with God. When we hear a voice, we respond, we call out again and again the voice responds. Like me, I suspect most of you go back and forth with God, maybe for some of us, like the Marco Polo game. And hopefully, we draw closer to God.
In Lent, we wandered in the wilderness, following Jesus to Golgotha. In Eastertide, we seek the resurrected Jesus in a completely different landscape. In our own lives, practicing resurrection daily means that we pay attention to other things than the rest of the world.
Human beings want to see signs – something measurable – but John’s Gospel tells us even the signs that Jesus does aren’t enough. “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” I’m not sure how much more plainly Jesus could have shown the signs of being the Messiah.
And we’ve heard in the Book of Acts from today’s readings about other signs of Christ’s power. One of the joys of celebrating Easter as a season and not just a joy-filled day is that we hear in our reading cycle so many stories that show us the immediate effects of Christ’s resurrection on the community of Jesus’ followers. We hear of people, often men, who are filled with the Holy Spirit and how they evangelize, prophesy, and build a community of believers.
But on Mother’s Day in our secular tradition, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the disciples like Dorcas, who tend to those most in need, in this case, widows.
Dorcas, in Greek, or Tabitha in Latin, was a member of the Christian community in Joppa. She is referred to as a disciple, the only woman in the book of Acts identified as a “disciple,” which clues us into how vital she was to her faith community. Acts also reveals that she was devoted to “good works and acts of charity.”
Dorcas or Tabitha is called by name. Tabitha’s story comes to us because of her death and resurrection, and they’re important because of what they have to teach us about faith.
The widows stood beside Peter, weeping and showing him tunics and other clothing Dorcas had made while she was with them. I can only imagine it was a huge personal loss to her town and her community of believers, especially to her town’s widows, when Tabitha took sick and died.
But, remember, Tabitha was also the center of a community of faith. I’m sure those weeping remembered the stories Tabitha had told them about Jesus and his love. As a disciple, she was a woman of great faith, and she shared that faith with the other women and men of that fledging resurrection community at Joppa. Notice I don’t refer to it as a Christian community – it was too early to be a Christian community. But it is a community that has believers in Christ as Messiah and in Christ’s resurrection.
And in this community, when Peter arrived, they showed him all the beautiful garments Tabitha had made to show him how much she meant to them and their community.
And, what does Peter do? First, he could not help but feel sympathy for these poor widows. But, he also remembered the charge Jesus gave him and the other disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead. He had been a witness to many healings by Jesus.
And now, through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power to heal has been given to the disciples. We tend to forget the disciples themselves were empowered to heal. We are much more familiar with Jesus performing healings and raising people from the dead.
But here was Peter, the same Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times on the night before he was crucified, the same Peter whose faith faltered when he tried to walk across the water to meet Jesus. Peter has never attempted to raise anyone from the dead. Instead, he has only watched as Jesus healed a man who could not walk and also raised someone dead back to life.
But, Peter has been a witness to the resurrection. He has seen the risen Jesus and broken bread with him.
What does Peter do when he arrives at Tabitha’s residence? The same thing Jesus sometimes did before he healed someone: He tells the mourners to leave the room. Then he kneels, and he prays. And, what did he say to Tabitha? The exact words Jesus said to Jairus’ daughter when he brought her back to life, “Get up !” In Hebrew, as I recall, it’s literally “Talitha cum”.
And Tabitha sat up, and Peter helped her to her feet. Peter then presented her to the believers, the Christian community of Joppa…the men and women, especially the widows who had gathered at her home.
And others came to believe in the healing power of faith in Jesus.
That’s essentially where the story of Tabitha ends. But when she was shown to be alive, it became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord, and we can only assume that they lived as a community of faith, believing in Jesus Christ.
As disciples, we are called to be a community of faith. It’s not just about miracles we might see and experience, but about looking for and seeing God everywhere. It’s about allowing God to work in our lives, no matter where we are or what’s going on.
Being a disciple in today’s world means knowing that God is still active in our lives and communities. What better way to live out the love Jesus has given us in the resurrection? A love, a faith that refuses to give in to the world’s cruelties.
How are our parish and community called forth to show God’s power and care for others? In what ways have you personally been called to show forth God’s power and care for others?
When we act as a community of faith, when we show love for others – that brings God’s power and care to the world, when we make sure our neighbors have enough to eat, places to sleep, and clothes on their backs, we show the love of Christ. This kind of love is what gave Tabitha’s community hope. Faith in Christ provides us with the strength and heart to serve one another. This hope and faith in the new life that Christ has given us allows us to act with compassion and not hate. It helps us to have faith when we walk through dark times. And, ultimately, it leads us to everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is clear, and Peter’s example of healing Tabitha is clear: everything we do must point to God. Jesus’ signs, the neighbor we help, the communities to which we contribute, and the lives that we touch tell of God’s glory so that we come to know and believe. This is the Good news. This is practicing resurrection daily. Alleluia! Amen!
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.