Sunday, April 21, 2013

From Tears to Triumph

Acts 9: 36-43
We are continuing our reflection in the Book of Acts, the 9th chapter.  What begins with the conversion of Saul, later known as Paul, concludes with a story about Peter and a woman most commonly known as Dorcas.  Here now the word of the Lord as recorded to us by Luke in the book of Acts…

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. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.

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.’ 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.

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. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

It started out like a typical bereavement call.  Peter, one of the leaders of the Way near Joppa was called to the home of Dorcas, a poor widow who had just died.  When he arrived her friends, her “church” community, was already there preparing her body, weeping and mourning the loss of their friend.  They did what any close knit community does when they suffer the loss of someone; they come together in their sorrow, to share stories about their friend and to lift up all of the good things that Dorcas did in her lifetime. 

Then Peter, utilizing all of his pastoral skills asks the mourners to leave him alone with Dorcas and in that moment of prayer and invocation of the Spirit he took her hand and raised her back to life.  This is another remarkable story of resurrection and hope.  Of life overcoming death, of light outshining the darkness.  It is appropriate that we speak to this today, of all days, after the week we have all been through.

But Dorcas being raised from the dead is not exactly what I want to talk with you about today.  We know that Dorcas, nor Peter lived forever, that in their humanity they eventually succumbed to death as will all of us someday.  We know that they left a community of friends behind who grieved and mourned their loss and that life did go on and that Christianity spread.

What I want to talk with you about today is spiritual health during times of crisis and the role in which the community can play because we know that crisis and stress can play games with our minds and our souls and it can leave you bewildered, beleaguered, fraught with fear and maybe even a little less believing in a God of love.

The events of this week have weighed heavily in my heart and caused me great concern, and fear, and sadness.

o   I am beleaguered by the fact the Boston Marathon, an American institution, a dream for many was so violently interrupted by the intentionally heartless acts of violence of two men – runners and men who had only the future before them. 

o   I am baffled and angry that our elected officials did not pass some sort of gun legislation merely two days after the bombings in Boston. Granted a bomb is not a gun.  But killing is killing, the loss of life and limb is the loss of life and limb. 

o   I am saddened by the plant explosion in West, Texas where fourteen people have died and the devastation to the plant and homes is great.

o   And then yet, in the same week I was riveted to the television and radio with sadness and relief at the death and then apprehension of the two suspects of the Boston Marathon and the officers who lost their life.

o   All of this in just one week’s time and in the shadows of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the blizzard, Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.  It has been a rollar coaster ride mostly downhill.  I am tired and feeling beat up.  It is too much.

Finding and offering community to other people in times of crisis is what we can do to heal the wounds of affliction.  The friends of Dorcas came together to share in their sorrow, their fears, the apprehensions and then they moved from that place to one of healing and hope.  They had witnessed with their own eyes the miraculous love and grace of God in the middle of death.  They joined their spirits together and acknowledged that there was a larger force at work and in doing so began their own healing.

It is challenging at the least to live in resurrection light when the darkness of the tomb is all around us.  When the friends of Dorcas were in the deepest, darkest, most dank valley they didn’t recede into the depth of isolation.  They chose to honor life and walk through that valley together.  And we can too.

We can grab another person’s hand and say ‘let’s get out of here’, there is another way out.  Spiritual healing is not an impossible task.  It takes time with every step we take and it takes being in community, it takes each other like the Beatles say, ‘I get by with a little help with my friends’. 

We were created to be relational; that is, we live in relationship to one another and we use those relationships to know ourselves, and our greatest capacity.  Acknowledging this then it is possible to say that we can heal in relation to and with one another.  We can come together as a community bound by the vision of hope, perseverance and strength.  We can talk.  We can acknowledge fear and disappointment.  We can cry tears of sadness until there are no tears left.  It is in this relationship with one another that we can carry each other’s burdens and work toward resolution and healing.

We can rejoice in the good that humanity is doing when that gets overshadowed by the pervasive violence.  The youth and adults who arrived safely back last night from the Virginia mission trip worked together to combat the violence of homelessness by building hope and security for another family.  Let’s do more.  We can search for and work diligently toward the roots of systemic violence and apathy by coming together in conversation like the Interfaith Clergy group is doing on Tuesday night, come and be a part of this important conversation.  Creative endeavors like this is where our greatest potential lies for resolution and hope.

There is so much that we, as a faithful community can do.  We know the ways of Christ, now let’s embody them together and in doing so our spiritual healing will regenerate itself and begin anew. 

“Therefore, (brothers and sisters,) since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”


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