Echoes of the Resurrection, 4th Sunday of Easter

Written by Joel on May 2nd, 2010

April 25, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:36-43

Notes:

In Jackson, Michigan a son entered the family business. He didn’t just follow in his father’s footsteps, but his grandfather’s and his great-grandfather’s. Joshua Munro is a fourth generation doctor. The Munro family name has been associated with wellness in their hometown since 1889. Each of the four doctors got into medicine for their own reasons, but they all simply wanted to serve others. Joshua works with his father David, and though he is already 60, he has no plans for retirement. He says “why stop doing what you love?” Joshua and David continue the family business of healing and are grooming the fifth generation for medical work.

We, the church, are in the family business of healing as well.

Our scripture lesson from Acts recalls how Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. The book of Acts tells us how she was a disciple and a very good woman – she was devoted to good works and acts of charity. She lived among widows probably serving them, and perhaps a leader among this group. And then, as suddenly as she is introduced we are told that she had died. Just like that. You can almost feel the unexpected suddenness as the widows express their grief. They know that Peter is in a nearby town and so they hurriedly send for him, and he rushes to Joppa in response. In at what appears to be a funeral. The widows were weeping and showing off the clothes which Tabitha had made – much like we would show photos, art, and other items that remind us of the deceased.

It seems odd to encounter death in the midst of the Easter season, in the midst the good news of the resurrection. But it is a story which has some parallels elsewhere in scripture.

Elijah a Hebrew prophet of the Old Testament, and who also appeared with Moses and Jesus at the Transfiguration, has a similar resurrection story. There was a widow who had a son who became ill and died. Elijah cried to the Lord and asked that life be brought back into the son. The Lord listened and the child was brought back to life. The relieved widow also saw and believed.

In the text we’ve looked at today, Peter was bold enough to issue a command: “Tabitha, get up.” And she does. This is a story which sounds strangely familiar. Jesus uttered similar words in a similar situation for the only daughter of Jairus who had also died. Jesus made it to the little girl’s house, found her dead and said the words “Talitha, cum” which means little girl get up. Did you hear the difference, “Tabitha, get up.” “Talitha, get up.” the resurrection command is different by only one letter. The author of Acts whats us to know that Peter is following closely in Christ’s footsteps – continuing the ministry of healing and resurrection.

Peter rose the dead just as Jesus rose the dead before him, and as Elijah rose the dead before Jesus. Just as we are called to bring resurrection and healing to those in need this day. Though we don’t often see resurrections in this day. And because of that, it may be easy to think that healing cannot or does not happen, much less happen through the church. When I say that the church is the place of healing it may conjure up images of tv preachers shouting, slapping foreheads, and people falling over with their physical aliments relieved. But healing and resurrection is not always about the body. It is about restoring relationships – healing of relationship with God and others. The church is called to a home of relational resurrection.

While I was in seminary I served in the Army National Guard as a chaplain candidate. During our two-week annual training I held evening prayer services every night. It was not in the chapel, but out among the soldiers – in the field where they were. One evening as the sun was setting, I approached a group of 3 young soldiers. I asked if they were there to join me for evening prayer. They said they were waiting for another training to begin but that they would like to stay for the evening prayer. We had our prayer service as the sun faded from the sky. After it was over one of the young soldiers approached me and said “Those prayers remind me of the ones I used to know as a kid.” She then tried to recite the Lord’s Prayer for me. She had trouble and said she hadn’t said that prayer for nearly 10 years. We sat there as she wrote out the prayer, remembered it and recited it again for the first time in 10 years. Spoke to God for the first time in 10 years, reclaiming the healing relationship with God to call him father. This is the kind of healing the church is called to – the resurrection of healing relationships.

We are called to be a place of healing. Are we bold enough to follow Peter in the ministry of healing? Bold enough to respond to the calls of the world, and the calls of those within the church who seek healing? Let us be bold enough to echo the resurrection.


 

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