Easter 4-C, 4/29/07

“And the Dead Are Raised”
Acts 9: 36-43

36Now 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. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since 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.” 39So 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. 40Peter 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. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

o a person who had not been taught about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead the story of Easter would have been an unbelievable topic. However, most folks in today's world have heard the extraordinary claims of the Christian Churches. We had a visitor here on Easter who was somewhat put aback by our worship service that was full of hymns, prayers and a sermon proclaiming Jesus the Son of God who was crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead. Our worship motif/theme has continued to be focused on the resurrection during these weeks following Easter. Again on this fourth Sunday after Easter we read a story text that gets even deeper into the extraordinary story of how the Apostle Peter actually called a dead woman from death back to life. It was quite an extraordinary event. However, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the tomb toward the end of his earthly ministry. Indeed, his calling the dead from the tomb was some of the main evidence that Jesus' enemies used against him to have the religious courts to send him to the cross.

Initially even his closest followers had the difficulty believing this highly unusual claim. Remember Thomas, one of the inner circle who initially refused to believe, saying that he would have to personally see Jesus and touch him before he would believe. And when the Apostle saw him his barb name "Doubting Thomas," was changed back to "Thomas the Twin," or I can almost hear them calling him, "Believing Thomas."

By the time of Jesus' calling the fishing Apostles from their boat with the invitation, "Come and Dine," their belief and understanding was beginning to grasp why these horrific events of denial, arrest, torture, crucifixion, death and also resurrection were necessary, and the major piece of the puzzle designed by God to enable the possibility of a world wide offering of free grace and redemption of the whole world.

We can now see the death of Christ as the main part of His plan with all other main events of the plan of salvation for us. It is often said that Jesus was born to die.

The story that we repeat every year from The Birth of Christ and later his active ministry, followed by his crucifixion and then his resurrection and forty days of teaching to his Apostles and disciples, and then his Ascension, and ultimately his coming back as the second person of the Godhead, with the Holy Spirit, as a gift of continuing inner and spiritual presence in the hearts of every believer, and each of us. This sketchy chronology of events mean that the Divine Drama actually comes down to us some two-thousand years later as we sit in our pews.

I have recently read the biography of a preacher friend who died too young. He had risen out of a deep south Georgia farm to become the pastor of the largest local church in World Methodism where he followed the famous Dr. Charles Allen at First Church, Houston. Bill Hinson had become a leader of our denomination. He preached with great passion and calling at our North Georgia Conference just months prior to his death. The book carries the title that he had discovered on a tomb in the Catacombs of Rome which read in Latin, "Lord, he went." We can only imagine that some first century Christian Missionary had been laid to rest under the theme song of his life. Jesus had instructed his followers with the words from our text, "Follow Me," and this nameless marker proclaimed that this saint had carried out his calling, "Lord, He Went." Still, Jesus is calling each of us into a place of service.

I know we hear it a lot, but we need to be constantly reminded and challenged that in God's wisdom He has decided to use us as instruments of carrying His plan to fruition. In my small wisdom I would have done it some other way, which of course would failed long ago. But as it is with God, we can now see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel.

Along the way, Western, Christian, Civilization has marched on from the Apostles to bring about the potential of reaching all human beings into a position to receive the Good News. Think about how we can go into the most remote places and with a smile we can offer them: clean water, Coca-Colas, gas stoves, satellite television, and a vision of a better life style. And if we are true to our calling, a missionary can have the great honor of preaching the Good News of forgiveness, love, redemption and a sweet peace in their hearts.

The main reason that our missionaries have gone into the darkest areas of the globe is that they were called and led by the Spirit to go where sent. We sometimes disconnect at the relationship between those who have been called to extraordinary challenging situations such as foreign missions, or even into the ministry of teaching, community service type jobs are, the kind of helpful ways we can serve. There are remote medical clinics that need to be built. And church vocations such as lay ministers and those called into pastoral ministries to preach, teach and lead. Many forms of ministry are needed and are equally vital and rewarding in mission areas. We used to say that the one called to be a doorkeeper in the church is as important as the one who has been called to pastor the biggest church.

The point is that we are called to respond affirmably as the Lord leads. Also, we are called to "Go Where Sent!" and we discern that calling as the Spirit leads us and by His opening doors of opportunity. I can only speak for myself; or, I must say that our journey following His will has been a team effort in locked step with my dear wife Marilyn. When talk about potential pastoral changes in our North Georgia Conference and then we allow the Spirit to work things out. Sometimes we do not see the same things that the Bishop sees, but he is looking at a practical view of the total picture of matching up churches and pastors. And we go where we are sent.

Hopefully we could have chiseled onto our tombstones, "Lord He or She Went."

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Easter 4-C, 4/29/07