Acts 9: 36-43, May 12th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now these words from the Acts of the Apostles chapter nine, verses thirty-six thru forty-three.”
36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.
38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”
39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.
41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.
42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
“Having heard this miracle account as recorded in this scripture, let us now consider it, and its implications for us in the Twenty-First Century.”
On Saturday, the day before Easter I was invited to say farewell to our Pastor Emeritus, which I did. Then the next day came our Easter celebration, with the hope of the resurrection story. Subsequently, Monday morning came, with it the responsibility to prepare the memorial service for a long-time member of our fellowship, Margaret Barnwell, which I did. Pastor Jim died on that Wednesday, at 103 years of age. The service for Margaret was well attended and those that knew her felt her presence as the five-page letter written by her long-time friend, Betty, was read. The following Saturday, we did the service for our beloved Jim. The family helped us to fully know the man we knew as pastor. However, let me say, as it was said, he was way more than a pastor. He was a father, a beloved friend and a war hero of the highest level. Many cried as the service progressed. This past Sunday we moved onward to the accounting of Saul, whom became known as the Apostle Paul, and the astonishing story of his transformation from enemy to a beloved leader… which caught our attention.
These last weeks have been very emotional and have triggered very deep reflections for us to consider. Life, death and transformation all swirling around miraculous miracle accounts of resurrection, and life after death. One theologian named William Loader, from Murdoch University, of the Uniting Church in Australia speaks to us about the mission work of a disciple. “The good news is about bringing life where there is death, love where there is hate, healing where there is brokenness.” This needs to be one of our goals as we move forward with our efforts to be good disciples of Christ: we need to be about the ‘good news’ of what Christianity is meant to be!
Today, we are asked to look at yet another miracle account. This lesson from the accounts of the Apostles continues to lift-up the power of prayer and gives us yet another miracle to consider; this one at the hands of the Apostle Peter as he invokes the power of the Risen One! However we view and or understand this miracle, we can not minimize its implications. Peter was weak in faith at the time of Jesus’ trail and execution. He was the disciple whom was too fearful for his own safety to even acknowledge knowing Jesus during that frightful night of Jesus’ betrayal and desertion. Yet, since the Easter event, and after Jesus had breathed on him, and the other disciples ‘the Holy Spirit’, he obviously had become emboldened and willing to risk everything to continue the ministry of Christ! His faith had clearly given him new powers of healing. The “Geneva Notes” commentary say it this way. “Peter clearly declares, by raising up (Tabitha) through the name of Christ, that he preaches the glad tidings of life.”
The Old Testament of the Bible is filled with miracle accounts, stories that really stretch our willingness to fully believe these accounts as they are written. Turning to the New Testament, of our Bible, we have the story of the miraculous birth of the Christ child. Meant to be the beginning of the story of Jesus. Yet, the birth had been foretold during the times of old, Centuries before Jesus’ birth. Miracles upon miracles as the ministry of Jesus is told to us through the gospel accounts. Yet, the ultimate miracle was far more than the miracle we are told about at the hand of Peter today. Being brought back to mortal life is one thing; but to overcome death altogether with the new life of resurrection ‘like that of Jesus’, is a whole other thing! One writer lifts-up for us how important the hope of new life truly is. “A life lived in God is a life where death can have no final sway, though death is all too real for all of us. That is the living power of the resurrection, that reality which binds together all who believe in hope.” Thank you John C. Holbert for these words.
Today, we also celebrate our mothers. Today is Mother’s Day. Every mother has a mother and every mother’s mother was born of her own mother. We can follow this all the way back to the beginning of time. Likewise, every child, girl or boy, has a mother and she had a mother as well. And again, we can follow this all the way back to the beginning of time. The birth of a child is a miracle. If you dispute this fact, then you have never been present at the time of a child’s birth. Sure, sure, scientist tell us that they can explain away that miracle right down to the DNA of every living creature. OK, that explains the physical aspects of life, but it does not explain all the rest! And let me tell you, all the rest is the most crucial aspect of life!
As I have listened to the words of family members and close friends speak of their memories of a loved one, not once, never, have they described that person’s nose, or hand or feet or any other aspect of their physical being. No, the display of pictures and special events and artifacts, the relics of their lives, were and are meant to tell us of a beloved individual, whom was unique and special, based on what they said and what they did; and most importantly the impact they had on another’s life! What they shared and the difference they made to the lives of other’s around them, that was their essence! This is what makes every living person a miracle! It is not in their DNA! It is in their God given “spirit, the very soul of a person’s being!” I remember my mother’s love, and how she looked at me when she spoke to me. She had a way about her that taught me more about how to live life with purpose and with conviction. Her persona was far more than how she wore her hair or how she dressed! I remember my grandmother Woodard for her wisdom and her tenacity. She outlived her husband, my grandfather. A small figure of a person whom ‘filled’ the room when she spoke. The meals she prepared were always presented as a thanksgiving feast because she made others feel grateful – to be privileged to have her serve them. That’s character, that was the heart of her being; and it still lives in mine!
If you can lift-up, in your hearts or in your minds, someone whom is now gone but lives in you, that’s a miracle! Beth, one of our beloved members whom is in her 100th year of life, she now lives in the Jacksonville area, near one of her daughters. Physically, she is not with us. Yet, when I close my eyes, I can still see her smile and hear her laughter. Her humble yet generous spirit lives within the hearts of many whom have been touched by her loving heart! Miracles shall always live on in the hearts of others. A true miracle cannot die and be tossed aside. For miracles are all about life! Let the mothers whom have loved you and cared for you live forever in your hearts. It is not their DNA, it is their spirits, their love which resides within each of us that we must cherish!
Let us examine more closely our lesson for today. “Tabitha, she was devoted to good works and acts of charity.” /Acts 9: 36/ This is the first thing they tell us about her! We don’t know the color of her eyes nor the length and flow of her hair. Was she tall or short, thin or stout? We know none of this about her nor any of her other physical attributes. Yet, we know of her “good works and her acts of charity!” Matthew Henry’s Commentary clearly praises the character of Tabitha: “Many are full of good words, who are empty and barren in good works; but Tabitha was a great doer.” A scholar named Wesley White points out for us: “Here is a wonderful definition of a disciple of Jesus: devoted to good works and acts of charity.” After all these centuries her devotion is what still lives on! That legacy of her being has become immortal! How do we know all this? Because Peter, an Apostle of Jesus, was called to her side. Because of this her devotion to the needs of others lives in the accounting of what happened that day for us to use to renew and refresh in our hearts, every time we read this passage. What a blessed miracle!
The accounting of Peter’s encounter with Tabitha is much like that of Jesus’ encounter with Lazarus, his friend whom died before he arrives. Both accountings have Jesus and now Peter performing a miracle. Because of these miracle accounts we know several very important and immortal things about Lazarus and now Tabitha. Lazarus was a friend of the man Jesus. In the gospel of Luke chapter 11, we even hear how Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, many said it was because he loved him so much. Because of this account the love of Christ lives on in our hearts today. The memory of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb still makes my eyes water up. That in of itself is a miracle.
We are gathered here together today, as daughters and sons of those mothers whom gave us birth. The mothers, the fathers and the real-life parent’s whom have lifted us up and nourished us and tended to our needs live on in our hearts. They were our miracles whom gave us mortal life. Those whom have mothered us and smothered us with love, kindness and inspiration shall live on in our hearts and ‘God willing’, we shall pass that on to the next generations which follow us. With the visions of new life and unconditional love and humble service in our hearts, let us take just a moment to be grateful for the nurturing care we each have received at the hand of another. Consequentially and with love in our hearts, let us wish all mothers a very: “Happy Mother’s Day!” As we lift-up the Mother’s in our lives, past and present, let us remember how they have nurtured us and loved us along the way. Today we say: “Thank You” to all who ‘Mother” the needs of the children of the world.”