Acts 9:36-43
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy

There are 21,800 patients per year who receive chemotherapy treatments in Louisville, Kentucky, and most lose their hair. When Lynette LeGette discovered this, it brought her to tears. She also learned that patients complain about being cold during the night and wrap pajamas or towels around their heads to keep warm. This gave Lynette an idea, but a challenging one. She said, “I thought I couldn’t possibly meet that need. It seemed an overwhelming project.”

Lynette’s project was to create turbans for cancer patients who lost their hair. Some of her first creations were sent to a mother in Kansas. Lynette made the woman many caps for both winter and spring. Later, when Lynette met the woman’s 7-year-old daughter, the girl ran up to her, wrapped her arms around her legs, and said, “You made my mom so happy— she has a hat to go with every outfit.”

Lynette is known as the Hat Lady. In just 2 1/2 years, Lynette and her six volunteers made 1,000 turbans— providing them at no charge to those in need.

Lynette is a modern day Dorcas. Through her relationship with Jesus, she came to know how God wanted her to bring new life to struggling souls.

In our scripture this morning, we learn about Dorcas who lived in the time of the early church. (Just so you aren’t confused, Tabitha and Dorcas are the same person. Tabitha is an Aramaic name and Dorcas is a Greek name, both with the meaning, a gazelle.) Dorcas believed in Jesus and claimed him as her Lord and Savior. She was an ordinary person, living an ordinary life, doing good works and sharing acts of charity. Apparently those acts were life giving to others because of how deeply people grieved her death when they heard of it.

In fact they were so distraught in loosing Dorcas, that they called for the Apostle Peter to come. Upon his arrival, they wept as they showed him all the life-giving handcrafted articles of clothing she had made for them. Peter then had those in the room with Dorcas’ body leave that he might kneel and earnestly pray. After he prayed, he addressed her lifeless body saying, “Tabitha, get up,” and she sat up.

The person who had devoted her life to the purposes of love now received more life. Her gift of new life became a witness from which many came to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The power of the resurrection is the gift of life to you and me, and to all who come to believe. Not only is the gift of eternal life an outcome of the resurrection, so is the gift of a new life in this world. The gift of life in this world may mean a physical, unexplainable healing as experienced by Dorcas; it may mean the gift of turbans to help cancer patients be comfortable and warm, and not feel trapped in their broken body; it may mean reorienting your vision so that you might see the life you are being given from the risen Lord.

I want to challenge you today to sharpen your vision for new opportunities or chances God gives you to live a life of loving service like Dorcas and Lynette. You may have felt that you have lived selfishly and could never become a Dorcas or a Lynette, but our God is a God who gives new life and second chances.

In Lamentations 3:22-23, scripture says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.” Each day is a new day to encounter God and receive from God a gift of new life for the purposes of love. It’s not too late to choose to do loving service.

Try this little exercise: Figure out how old you are—not in years but in days. That’s the sum total of different kinds of mercy you’ve received life-to-date. By the time you’re twenty-one, you’ve experienced 7,665 days of unique mercies. When you hit midlife, it numbers 14,600. And for instance, today is Pastor Rob’s 63rd birthday and Rob has been given 22,995 days of God’s giving him opportunities for new life in the purposes of his love.

When you begin to look at new life opportunities in these terms, it is overwhelming and encouraging! Christ died for you and me; Christ rose for you and me; and Christ gives new life to you and me—a gift that keeps on giving!

Sometimes the gift of new life comes to us in the most unexpected of ways, when we aren’t looking for it, or even know we need it.

David Howard shared his story in Decision, a Billy Graham publication, “He arrived at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, during my junior year, 1947-48. A German who had spent time as a prisoner of war, he was now working as a janitor, sweeping the halls and cleaning the restrooms of Blanchard Hall.

“Many of my fellow students had served in World War II; some had even been prisoners of war themselves. We heard that this man had served in the German military forces, but we knew nothing else about him. Had he been a Nazi himself? Or was he one of those young men who were obligated to serve their country regardless of political opinions? We did not know. And since he spoke almost no English, we could not communicate well with him. It seemed like a mundane start to a new life, but he appeared grateful.

“The janitor had a pleasant smile, and we enjoyed greeting him in the hallways as he carried out his duties. As far as we knew, he was not a Christian, so Jim Elliot (who would later be martyred, along with four other missionaries in Ecuador) got the vision to start praying for him. Jim rounded up several more of us and challenged us to pray that this young man would give his heart to Christ. We would get together from time to time and pray especially for this German, who remained a mystery to us.

“After a time, the janitor left Wheaton and we lost track of him. We only hoped that somehow the Lord would be working in his heart to bring him to salvation. After a while he faded from our thoughts and memories.”

In 1978, David was invited by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization to help organize and direct a consultation on world evangelization, which eventually was held in Thailand, in 1980. In January 1978, he met for the first time with the full membership of the Lausanne Committee, composed of Christian leaders from all around the world under the leadership of Leighton Ford as chairman and Billy Graham as honorary chairman, in Hamilton, Bermuda.

David goes on to write, “One afternoon we had some free time, so a number of us strolled around the streets of downtown Hamilton. I was standing at the waterfront with another committee member as we looked at some of the ships tied up in port. One was a large British submarine. My companion, who was from Germany, looked at the submarine and commented, ‘I served in Hitler’s submarine corps.’ I was fascinated, so I asked for more details.

“He said, ‘Toward the end of the war, as the Allies were sweeping across Europe and crossing the Rhine River into Germany, Hitler pulled most of us off the submarines and naval vessels, which were no longer of much use to Germany, and put us in the front lines as infantry.’

“The janitor replied, ‘I was on the front lines in Holland, where I was wounded. This was the best thing that ever happened to me, as I was abandoned by our troops in retreat and was captured by the British. They sent me to a hospital in England. The rest of my contingent retreated eastward and was captured by the Russians. Most of them were never heard from again.’

“… He went on to explain that he had gone from England to the United States for a period of time. He said his name was Peter Schneider, and he was the chairman of the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Germany. He spoke perfect English, and so served as Billy Graham’s interpreter whenever Mr. Graham preached in Germany.

“Suddenly my mind began to spin, dredging up memories of 30 years earlier. Peter Schneider?

“That was the name of the janitor in Blanchard Hall for whom we had prayed! I asked, ‘Peter, were you ever at Wheaton College in Illinois?’

“‘Why yes,’ he replied. ‘I worked there as a janitor, sweeping the halls and cleaning the restrooms in the main administration building.’ My heart leapt with joy. I burst out, ‘Peter, were you a Christian at that time?’

“‘No,’ he said. ‘I became a Christian later, at a YMCA camp in Wisconsin. When I was at Wheaton I knew almost nothing of the Gospel.’

“My excitement continued: ‘Peter, you would have no way of knowing this, but I must tell you what happened during your time at Wheaton. Jim Elliot got a vision to pray for your salvation. He organized several other students, including me, to pray that you would come to know the Lord. We could not witness to you, because we spoke no German and you apparently had learned almost no English yet. But we prayed faithfully for you in those days. We used to greet you in the hallways, and you always responded with a pleasant smile and a nod.

David goes on to write, “My exhilaration knew no bounds. There I was, standing at the waterfront in Bermuda with a key evangelical leader from Germany who was committed to proclaiming the Gospel to the world—and for whose salvation I had prayed!

David concludes, “As my mind harked back to 30 years earlier and the prayer meetings we used to have asking God for the salvation of Peter Schneider, I could only bow in humble thankfulness for the way God had so abundantly answered those prayers. We never could have dreamed where this young janitor and former prisoner of war would end up.”

God is always wanting to give people another chance for a new and a better life. He brought into new life, for the first time, Peter Schneider and those who believed for the first time because of the miracle of resurrection they saw the Apostle Peter perform. But there are also those who experience new life by sharing more than ever the love of Christ: Lynette, Dorcas, and the young college men who prayed for Peter Schneider.

There are a million chances to enter the new life God wants us to experience. Keep an eye peeled for them and experience life as you never have before.

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