Revelation 7:9-17 and Acts 9:32-43

I want to begin today by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the Moms here today as well as to those who have loved a child who was not their own. You deserve to be celebrated on this special day because of the impact you may have had on the lives of the children or youth you have loved. We may not all be mothers, but we all had one. Let’s take a moment to remember the mothers who have passed and to celebrate the mothers who are still with us.

A good mother is such a powerful example of God’s love. Many mothers are willing to do almost anything to communicate their love to their children. Some even try desperately to keep up with the changing styles popular with young people nowadays. Good luck with that!

Reader’s Digest magazine recently published some amusing texts from mothers who weren’t aware of the most current acronyms young people use for texting. You know what an acronym is. We use them all the time. An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or first few letters of each word in a phrase or title. For example, R.S.V.P. is an acronym for a French phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plait,” “Respond if you please.”  Or F.B.I. is an acronym, of course, for Federal Bureau of Investigation. Young people use acronyms all the time when texting.

One mother wanted to know the meaning of some acronyms she had seen. So she texted her son. “What do IDK, LY & TTYL mean?” she asked in her text message.

Without explanation, the son texted back: “I don’t know, love you, talk to you later.” Those, of course, were the meanings of IDK, LY & TTYL.

Mom didn’t get it. She thought he was ignoring her with his message: “I don’t know, love you, talk to you later.” She replied: “OK, I’ll ask your sister.”

Another mother texted her son: “Your great-aunt just passed away. LOL.”
The son replied: “Why is that funny?”
Mom texted back: “It’s not funny, David! What do you mean?”
The son texted: “Mom, LOL means Laughing Out Loud.”
Mom replied: “Oh, no! I thought it meant Lots of Love.” Then she added: “I have to call everyone back.” * That’s all right, Mom. It’s hard to keep up nowadays.

Today we read in Acts 9:36-39 about a woman whose name in Arabic was Tabitha and her name in Greek was Dorcas. She is a kind, compassionate seamstress. We’re not told if she had any children or even a husband. We’re just told that she made clothing for other widows and the poor.

She became sick and died. In verse 39 we read, ‘Peter went with them, and when he arrived, he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.’

I can picture the scene; “She gave this to me for my last birthday,” one woman tearfully reports, as she holds up a lovely shawl. “She was so thoughtful! She never forgot a birthday, you know.”

“She was always thinking of other people,” another chimes in. “This robe,” says another woman, drawing attention to the one she’s wearing, I’m sure she was making this robe for herself. But when I visited one day and commented about how pretty it was, she held it up against me and said, “A perfect fit! It’s yours!”

Women have always been uniquely important in the life of the church. It started with Mary, who humbled herself and gave birth to Jesus. Women were accorded special status during Jesus’ ministry; in fact, it was probably the women who were major financial supporters of the itinerant rabbi and his friends. Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. This is not a feminist statement but a factual statement: from the first day to this day, if it were not for the women, there would be no church. It is that simple.

Dorcas’ sewing makes her famous in Joppa, but her acts of kindness make her beloved. She is, like all of us, even if we don’t humbly care to admit it, unique. She is, to an extent, irreplaceable, indispensable. She does what others can’t, or won’t do.

One day Dorcas gets sick and dies, leaving her community weeping and wondering, how are we going to replace Dorcas? Who is willing to do what Dorcas did? Who can fill her spot among us?

Dorcas was such a contributor to the community that they wondered how they could possibly get along without her, and they had to try something.

These facts about Dorcas are probably why, when she died, the community sent two men to Peter to ask him to come. He had already healed a man whose name was Aeneas, who had been a paralytic and bedridden for eight years. We read in verse 34-35, ‘“Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Peter spoke healing words to him and Aeneas was healed.

Peter also spoke healing words to Dorcas. We read in verses 40-41, ‘“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.’”

Did Dorcas’ neighbors actually think Peter could restore her to life? We do know that Peter had a reputation as a miracle worker. They had heard of Peter’s healing Aeneas, so maybe they clung to some glimmer of hope. As it turns out, Peter does, through the power of God, bring Dorcas back to life, to the community that cherished her.

Yet the point for us is not in the raising of Dorcas; it’s in her good works and the connection to her sewing skill. Whenever it was that Dorcas became a follower of Jesus, she didn’t have to start wondering what the Lord might call her to do as a disciple. She already knew how to sew, and she probably even enjoyed it. What she must have realized is that whether or not Jesus might eventually call her to undertake something new and unexpected, there was no shortage of ministry opportunities right there in her community right then, opportunities in the form of widows and poor people in need.

This is where the story of Dorcas connects for each of us. Jesus may call few of us to a field of mission for which we have to learn new skills, but more often, I suspect, his call is to put the skills and interests we’re already aware of, perhaps are even passionate about, at his disposal so that we can be channels of his love right where we are right now.

Susan Sanford, a psychologist and well-known speaker and workshop leader, tells about a very difficult time in her life when she was suffering deep depression and physical back pain and was contemplating suicide.

Though not a Christian herself, she had taken a short vacation with a Christian friend, who was sensitive to Susan’ s hesitancy to share her problems. In seeking to minister to Susan, her friend offered to pray, and her prayer style is a model of simplicity and sincerity.

Susan writes: “Upstairs, I sprawled on top of my sleeping bag. Jeanie came in, knelt down beside me on the floor, and started to knead the painful knots around my lower and middle back.

“Susan,” she said, a little timidly, “would you mind if I said a prayer for you?”

I was surprised. Accusations ricocheted inside me. Don’ t you know, Jeanie, I’m lower than dirt. What God would listen to a prayer for a sinner like me? But I replied,
“Sure, if you want.”

Clearing her throat as her hands continued to knead, Jeanie started to speak in a soft voice. “Dear Jesus, I’m not sure of what to say. But I come to you in prayer for my friend Susan.”

As I lay there listening, I was amazed at the simplicity of her words. Even more amazing was her childlike confidence that God was actually listening to her prayer.
Jeanie’s prayer went on for five or 10 minutes, interspersed with times of silence while she continually rubbed my back. There was such a gentleness, depth of spirit.

As I grew drowsy, I heard her conclude: “Susan is hurting badly, Lord. Reach down and touch her. Let her know that you are the solution. Let her not despair. She is my good friend, and I care about her so much. I know that you are the Almighty. You can do all things. And you can help her.”

Then she leaned forward, gave me a hug, and said goodnight. Switching off the light, she quietly slipped from the room. Susan’s friend Jeanie, spoke healing words to her that may not have healed her body or they may have, but Jeanie’s words may have healed Susan’s soul.

Words have meaning. Encouraging words bring hope, words that put people down, bring despair, depression and may even cause someone to commit suicide. Prayerful encouraging words heal. We all know this, yet do we practice it? I have found that when I pray for someone in the moment they tell me what they’re going through instead of saying, I’ll pray for you. It is much more effective. I encourage you to try it. Just take the person’s hands and say ‘Let’s pray right now.’

Let’s take a look at the passage from Revelation 7. In Revelation 7:13-14 we read, ‘Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”’

The metaphor is an oxymoron. It is an incongruent statement that sounds nice, but makes no sense, like jumbo shrimp, heavy lightness and terribly good. If you want to wash something, use water, soap, detergent. Blood stained things are red not white, so much for logic.

In a few minutes we are going to sing; Are you washed in the blood, in the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are you garments spotless, are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Peter’s healing of Aeneas and the resurrection of Dorcas is an exhibition of the healing power of words. But Peter’s act in Christ is also a promise to us, that such is the kingdom toward which we journey, when death shall be no more. God, in our Lord Jesus Christ defeated the powers of death on Easter morning, and to all who trust him, he will give the gift of everlasting life with God.

None of these spectacular events however, hold a candle to the Apostle John’s vision of the multitudes who gather for worship at the throne of heaven. Every background and breed, every country and culture, every district and dialect, every region and race, every locale and language represented on earth are present in this multitude that not even John can count. They are standing before the throne, wearing white robes, waving palm branches, and shouting, “Salvation belongs to God.” What a sight! You who want to make heaven a narrow, restricted place, sparsely populated with a pious few, may need to reconsider. Heaven is for the multitudes of believers from every nation, tribe, and people of every language.

The only way to heaven is to believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We heard a couple of weeks ago, ‘Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and My God!’” (John 20:27-28)

Stop doubting and believe, and remember words can hurt or they can heal. Choose your words carefully!

Pastor Rosemary DeHut

References: * Source: Re-published in say-what/.
** Gire, Ken, 1997. Between Heaven and Earth: Prayer and Reflections That
Celebrate an Intimate God. (pp,101-102) Harper San Francisco.

© 2017 White Pine Community United Methodist Church

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