God’s gift of life.

It’s not just about life after death.

Our devotion to the power of God revealed in the resurrection of Jesus

is not just to provide us hope for the inevitable conclusion of our earthly life.

We are not “studying for our final exam’

as one gentleman observed while we talked over coffee this week.

Faith for some is a life or death matter,

but I have always understood that the teachings of Jesus

and the promise in his resurrection concerned real life; abundant life; THIS life!

So I am encouraged, rather than mystified, by this morning’s reading from Acts.

 

We are rather suddenly introduced to Dorcas/Tabitha – a disciple of Christ living in Joppa.

Joppa (now Jaffa, within Tel-Aviv) is a port city, some 70 kilometres from Jerusalem.

A fair distance to travel in the time of Jesus,

so it serves as a good indication of the level of influence

that Jesus’ life and teaching had on the population.

Dorcas has died, and her friends have gathered to mourn her.

There is weeping, and reminiscence, not unlike the rituals we have today.

Her work was celebrated, her goodness remembered –

but in the midst of this, someone puts out a call for Peter.

Peter has been in a neighbouring town, sharing the gospel of Jesus – both in word and deed –

and residents of the surrounding towns were “turning to the Lord” as a result of Peter’s witness.

 

What prompts the mourners to send for Peter, we will never know.

These were already believers.

They had Dorcas’ example of good works and charity – she is named a disciple –

The friends of Dorcas had everything necessary for real faith, and soon they would have a miracle.

It is possible that the miracle is not for them – it is for the rest of us.

Peter prays; Dorcas lives – and Peter goes on to the next town; just another day at the office.

 

As odd as this single story may seem,

it is no accident that God chooses resurrection as a reminder of the great promises of the covenant.

Not only Jesus, but also with Lazarus, the Widow’s son (from Nain in Luke 7)

and now Dorcas (aka Tabitha) –  To paraphrase Marshal McLuhen, the miracle is often the message.

And the message that is sent is always the same – live!

 

Now, and immediately – in the strength of this gracious Spirit that will not be dulled by death;

For the sake of every promise ever claimed by God’s people,

Live in love and grace to (and for) one another.

 

These miracles come as interruptions to our expectation of “the way things are” –

because our expectations are not high enough.

God would have us raise our expectations of this life (not just for some life-hereafter)

and so “our friend Lazarus is only sleeping” – and Jesus “is not here, he is risen”

and now Dorcas is presented as being very much alive,

all because God’s intention is that we too might live.

 

So how have we received this message?

 

For the most part, it has been relegated to the place of “future glory” –

Religion has become our armour against the ills of the world;

a passport to another country that is accessible only once this life is ended.

Many of our favourite hymns express this sentiment – though that’s not why they are our favourites.

Our hymns, our poetry, our popular theology,

All speak of troubles in this life that can only be endured because there’s glory in the next –

it is our cross to bear, we say, without conviction.

But the message of life persists.

Resurrection is the medium for God’s message of hope,

and we need to believe that through this miracle, God calls us to life.

 

What this new, abundant, resurrection life looks like depends on us.

 

For Peter, Dorcas, and the disciples of those early days, their new life was one of proclamation –

this was a story that must be shared, of God who urged us beyond the ordinary.

Death has lost its sting – the grave has no power – because God’s promises encourage life in us;

life that reaches out and rejoices; life that embraces the gift of the day, and reveals the glory of God.

That life begins today.  Once again we have been confronted by the message in a miracle.

The people of God, though bound for future glory, are offered the glorious hope of life.

 

It would be easier if we could simply accept the promise and wait.

Wait for Christ to return – wait for death to claim us so that we might “be with Jesus”

But Jesus is raised –among us, even now.   God has made a home among mortals.

The gift of God that we celebrate in the church is a gift of the present; offered for the here and now.

Our church buildings were not meant to be heaven’s waiting rooms;

this is the place where people hear the promises of God and celebrate those promises.

We are here to be encouraged in this new life that is defined by Resurrection

 

Our struggles continue – physical, emotional, financial –

that’s what makes God’s message so hard to accept.

Life renewed without problems resolved doesn’t seem like much of a gift.

But where once we struggled alone –

apart from the love of God,

ignorant of the peace that might be ours,

Now, in Christ, we have a companion –

one whose resurrection proves that the love of God has no limits.

The challenge for us, then, is not the church budget – nor the repairs needed to the steeple,

neither the insurance bill, nor the poor attendance, or apparent indifference of the general public –

these things need to be addressed, but they are not meant to consume us as they do.

the challenge and purpose of the gathered people of God – and for each one of us –

is to claim the gift that God has placed in our hands.

Life is ours; new life, abundant and full of promise.

Eternity is assured, but today is waiting to be lived.

Accept the gift.  Live in God’s grace.  Amen

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