The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 8, 2022
Jesus’ resurrection was just the start of a still bigger project. God meant to raise up an army of folks raised up in Christ to enter more and more deeply into the reality of His resurrection and to go further and further abroad to bring His resurrection life to everyone else.
So, if your faith isn’t regularly changing you, you should change your faith in the awareness your needed change isn’t fulfilled in a moment but over a lifetime.
The risen Christ has no intention of letting His own settle into some religious rut. He expects them to get holier as they get older, to grow beyond where they were the year before in one new resurrection after another.
Daniel Meyer in his book Witness Essentials tells of an elderly widowed disciple of Jesus who had spent her life serving others in His name but who was, given her advanced age, wondering whether her possibilities of doing that anymore were dead and gone. Then she realized that she hadn’t lost her gift for hospitality and that her apartment, occupied by her alone, provided ample space for welcoming lots of folks. So she started thinking about whom she might bless in that way, and it occurred to her that there were at the nearby university many out-of-state students feeling lonely and homesick.
So she bought a stack of index cards, and wrote on each: “Do you miss being home? Come to my home for tea any Sunday at four.” Then, throwing caution to the wind, she added her phone number and address, and posted the cards on bulletin boards all over the campus.
After a slow start, a trickle of students built into a steady stream. So, when she died a decade later, eighty honorary pallbearers attended her funeral. Each had been a student who, once upon a time, found a hot cup of tea, a sense of home, and the good news of Jesus in the warm hospitality of a disciple of the risen Savior who was herself enjoying regular resurrections.
The only disciple in the Bible identified with the feminine form of the Greek word for “disciple” had the same experience. Her given name meant “gazelle”. So Hebrew speakers called her “Tabitha”; and Greek speakers, “Dorcas”. But everyone called her a saint. For she “devoted” herself to “good works and acts of charity”, particularly on behalf of widows, who back in those days often ended up desperately poor. Among other things, Gazelle made clothes for them.
In the resurrection community of the early church, few stayed in her or his place. Gazelle defied the conventions of her day about male and female roles. She embodied a new configuration of power that refused to confine women to home and to leave it to the men to take the lead on a project. Of her own initiative, in the resurrection power of Christ, Gazelle leapt into action to offer a needed welfare program.
Gazelle lived in Joppa, about ten miles northwest of Lydda where the Apostle Peter had just resurrected a man from a paralysis of eight years into a new life of full mobility. Peter himself had been resurrected from the deathlike paralysis of a shameful failure, when he denied Jesus, into a new life of courageous boldness.
When Gazelle fell ill and died, the grieving church in Joppa sent a delegation to Lydda to fetch Peter to come and console them in their bereavement.
Upon arrival in Joppa, Peter walked into the upstairs room where Gazelle’s corpse lay in state, surrounded by beneficiaries of her compassion adorned in the clothes she’d made for them. Peter eventually told the mourners to leave the room, as he had seen Jesus do before He raised Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed. Then, after kneeling and praying, Peter spoke a short sentence which differed only in one letter from the sentence Jesus spoke over Jairus’ daughter. Whereas Jesus had said, “Talitha qumi”, Peter said, “Tabitha qumi”. But the results were the same. Resurrection!
Should not resurrections be a regular part of the Christian life? After all, Christ is still alive, around and eager to raise up those at dead ends.
For the One who rose from His own death, nothing is too hard. He may revive a corpse or heal a paralytic; but, even if He doesn’t do such a miracle, He’ll do other miracles. He’ll give hope and huge dreams to those dead in their despair, power and vision to those paralyzed in their impotence to effect change, freedom and liberating innovation to those suppressed by systems of oppression. For, by His resurrection, Jesus injected into this world a power from outside it. That power creates new possibilities. It changes the character and conduct of individuals; it transforms structures of death into structures of life. It sends forth a force that bursts through the fixed order of things to make resurrections a regular part of life!