Good morning and happy spring! I left church on Sunday, went straight home to put on my running clothes and ran 3 miles in the glorious sunshine. It felt incredible!
Here is Sunday’s sermon. It was a little bit shorter because the kids were in worship (school vacation = no Church School) so I did a longer children’s sermon.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 17, 2016
The Book of Acts is one of my favorite books of the bible; it has always seemed relevant to me in a way that is profound and powerful. This is not to say that the rest of the bible is irrelevant, but the Book of Acts (or Acts of the Apostles, as it is often referred to as) tells a compelling story of what it means to gather together the church and empower individuals to discover their faith amidst a crazy and changing world.
Acts of the Apostles is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke; it tells stories about the early church, anecdotes about what happened immediately following the resurrection. It shows people – real and normal people just like us – coming together; breaking bread with one another, worshiping God, asking questions and deepening their faith. It is a great guide for us, as people of faith, on how to gather and live into the mission of a church community.
But then we have this story in the midst of it – the story of Tabitha, who is also referred to as Dorcas. Tabitha was sick and had died when Peter arrived at the house where she was. Peter prayed and then said, “Tabitha, get up!” and she opened her eyes and sat up.
I have talked about my issues with bodily resurrection before. A few months ago, I preached on the raising up of Lazarus and started my sermon with a full disclosure on how I struggle with the story of Lazarus because I have a hard time believing in a literal bodily resurrection after four days. I think, though, that even with the story of Lazarus, I somehow reconcile the resurrection in my head, because it was Jesus who performed the miracle (and who am I to argue with Jesus?).
But this time it was not Jesus who doing the resurrecting; it was Peter, an ordinary mind, kind of like the rest of us. And here, again, is my stumbling block: How is this story – the story of a woman who was sick and died and a man who prayed her back to life – relevant in our world – a world where bad things happen to good people, where oftentimes things are unexplainable and where sometimes prayers are seemingly not answered?
Let’s talk through this story and try to figure that out.
First of all, who is Tabitha? Tabitha was one of the pillars of the church and a beloved saint in her community; she was one of the first female disciples in the early church. She ministered to people with her gifts; she was a talented seamstress and made clothing for widows and children. She created beautiful things. She lived her life by showing charity and good works to others. She is referred to in this story both by her Greek name (Dorcas) and her Aramaic name (Tabitha), which implies that she was widely known for the work that she did.
Peter, the man who prayed over Tabitha, was one of the first disciples called by Jesus and now an apostle of the Resurrected Christ. He not only was a witness to the miraculous signs of Jesus in this world, but he also encouraged people to repent, be baptized and believe in the Resurrected Christ.
There were other disciples in this story, as well. There were men who ran to fetch Peter when Tabitha died. There were widows that had been the beneficiaries of Tabitha’s charity in her life; they stood weeping by Peter’s side, showing him the clothing that she had made for them.
Put aside the mystery of Tabitha’s resurrection for a moment and think about what this story shows us: Different and tangible ways to live out the Gospel. Each of the characters in this story responded to the call of discipleship in their own unique powerful way. Tabitha was a witness to charity and outreach in her life. Peter prayed over Tabitha and inspired healing. Men showed selfless compassion when they ran to find Peter. Widows gathered around Tabitha’s bedside and became a living embodiment of the Body of Christ in their vigil.
Each of these people had a different, but equally important role to play in God’s work in the world.
And so do we.
Discipleship does not look like just one thing. In fact, stories like this shine light on the truth that we are all individually and uniquely called to be Disciples of Christ, to live out the Gospel and to gather the church in our generation.
We all have gifts; gifts that are inspired by God, gifts that can help us become the people we were created to be. We are musicians, writers and artists. We are builders, caregivers, teachers and athletes. We are community leaders, first responders, advocates and volunteers. We cook, clean and raise money when someone is in need. We fix things when they are broken. We show love, compassion, kindness and patience. We shine light in dark places. We make people laugh when they are crying and comfort them when they feel alone. We serve our churches, get involved in our communities and care for our families.
This barely scratches the surface of the different gifts that lie within us. As individuals, we may not do all of these things; we may only do one or two of these things. But as one body, the Body of Christ, together we have all of these gifts.
And God wants us to use these gifts.
God wants us to use these gifts not only to deepen our faith, but also to minister to a world that so desperately needs to see grace. God wants us to use these gifts so that we can complement and strengthen the gifts of others. God wants us to use these gifts so that our generation can continue to boldly and prophetically write the Christian story.
We need to use these gifts and allow God to transform them into deep and formidable ministries. We each have a story tell and we can use our gifts to write these stories. We can use our gifts to hear God speaking to us and calling us into the Body of Christ. We can use our gifts to impact the lives to others, to make this world a better place. We can use our gifts to create something beautiful; to foster healing, hope and compassion within our communities and in the world. We can use our gifts to make the Gospel real and come alive.
All too often we assume that in order to make a real difference we need to be the best or do it all or have the most. But that is not true. We all have the propensity within ourselves to live God-sized lives, to have a powerful impact on the world. We can live out the Gospel in our lives, enact pieces of Jesus’ life and ministry and make grace real. Nothing is insignificant; everything can be made holy. We can be disciples in a way that is unique and inspired by God. Like they did in the early church, we, too, can use our gifts to gather together the church and empower individuals to discover their faith amidst a crazy and changing world.
So think about this: What are your gifts? What do you enjoy doing? In what ways are you fulfilled and happy? What is something that you can do for others?
These are not just hobbies; these are gifts, these are ministries and these are the ways that God is using you to do miraculous things in the world.
Like Tabitha, we all can create something beautiful with our gifts.
So let us share those gifts with the world.
Thanks be to God!
 Acts 9:40, NRSV