Walk in the Light 4th Easter
Psalm 23 Acts 9:36-43 John 10:22-30
Years ago, I went to the hospital to visit a new mom and dad, and see their baby. On the way to their room, I passed the nursery where there was a baby in sunglasses lying underneath a sunlamp! Strange, but cool! When I had a chance to ask a nurse, she told me that the baby had a little jaundice, and spending time under the sunlamp was helping him to process the bilirubin (which was causing him to be jaundiced). I tucked that little scenario into a corner of my brain so that I could share it with you today! It is a vivid reminder that Light is a cure-all. Early in each worship service, we drag our sins into the light of God’s presence, and ask for God’s healing. Anything we keep hidden in the darkness continues to be a problem for usL.
I think John says it best in his first epistle: Walk in the light as God himself is in the light. Here’s the full quotation: “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; BUT, if we walk in the light as God himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Just as a baby’s bilirubin is cleansed by the light, so our sin is cleansed when we drag it into God’s light!
Keep this idea in mind as we look at today’s Scripture readings.
Just a few weeks ago, we looked at the amazing experience of Lazarus, whose return to life from the tomb is known worldwide. Anywhere the English language is spoken, the name “Lazarus” evokes images of death being overwhelmed with life. But our passage in Acts brings us another amazing death-to-life narrative. It takes place a few years into the life of the church. The Apostle Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, has been used in a mighty way, demonstrating God’s power through a variety of miracles. Word has spread. We pick up the story at the death of a woman of Joppa named Dorcas, described as “a disciple.” She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
This woman was known by two names: “Tabitha” (Aramaic) and “Dorcas” (Greek). Both names mean “gazelle.” (I think I like “Gazelle better than “Dorcas”—which reminds me of the nickname my sister used to call me, “Dorkus Magnus”!) Anyway, she got sick and died. They washed her body and laid her in an upstairs room. Meanwhile, the Christians in Joppa had heard that Peter was only 10 miles away in Lydda, and they sent two men to him with this request: “Please come to us without delay.”
Responding to their “come quick!” Peter went with them, and I’m assuming they filled him in on their trek to Joppa:
- Dorcas was a believer;
- She was devoted to good works and charity
- When they arrived, the widows surrounded him, showing him the clothing that Dorcas had made for them—giving their testimony to the impact this woman had made on their lives!
Well, what was Peter expected to do? Oh, sure, he had healed sick people, and a man who was lame from birth (through the power of God, of course). But this woman was dead! What did they want him to do?
Reminds me of a situation I faced some years ago. I got word that the Lutheran pastor in our community was gravely ill—that her situation was so serious, in fact, that she probably wouldn’t live. While I struggled to wrap my mind around this tragic news, I began to wonder, what should I do? I was scheduled to leave that very afternoon for a meeting in Pittsburgh. Should I cancel my trip and drive to Salt Lake to her hospital and pray with her? And what about my prayers—how should I best pray for her? Well, it didn’t take long to answer that question—I began praying for her HEALING!
Now, friends, keep this in mind: God heals in a variety of ways. Sometimes, God heals immediately and miraculously, just like in the Bible. Most times, God heals more slowly, often using medicines and surgeries and therapies. And then sometimes God heals completely, taking our loved-ones home. Those first kinds of healing are only temporary…these folks who have been healed will still eventually die. Only the COMPLETE healing is a “permanent fix,” one that lasts forever.
So I prayed for healing for my friend, and left it up to God to determine which kind of healing was best. I know that I wanted her to be restored to health and live among us for a number of years—but God healed her completely and took her home.)
I thought about all this while considering Peter, brought to a dead woman in Joppa. What to do? Well, without hesitation, he put everyone outside the room. Then he got on his knees (a position of humble submission and supplication) and he prayed. We don’t have record of his words, but we can be certain that he prayed the prayer that never fails: Thy will be done!
Then Peter turned to the dead woman, called her by name and said, “Tabitha, get up.” She got up, Peter restored her to her people, and many people believed because of this demonstration of God’s power.
It’s one thing to read about it in the Bible, and to believe that it really happened way back then. But what about our loved-ones, the people we pray for and they are not restored to us—how then do we experience God’s POWER when we don’t see a miraculous healing?!
- We focus on the promises of God;
- We remind ourselves that, just because a person is beyond our sight, it doesn’t mean that they are not alive;
- We hear Paul tell us that he wants us to be quite certain about those who have died, to make sure that we do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope;
- We reaffirm that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus—God will bring them with him;
- And we remember that Jesus proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Walk in the Light
Remember that walking in the light means that we will see the truth more clearly, we will welcome the truth when it confronts us. Sometimes, that’s not very pleasant because we see our own sinfulness. But that’s part of the work of the Holy Spirit—to convict us of sin. But the Holy Spirit also leads us into the light, and it’s in the light that we receive our healing. We are becoming people of the TRUTH!
Now, in case you haven’t noticed, this is Mothers’ Day! It’s a day when we celebrate all of those who have “mothered” us—folks who have shown us the way to the Light by their words and by their actions. My own mother happened to be one who walked in the Light, and I appreciate all she did to help me do so. But I also remember wonderful teachers (both at school and Sunday School) who did their part in opening up the doors and windows that let God’s light shine on me. Today we celebrate those of you who have given birth, along with those who have “mothered” the offspring of others—showing them God’s love as step-mothers, nurses, neighbors, and aunties. Anyone who has helped us to walk in the Light is qualified to claim the name “mother”! May we all be like “the Gazelle of Joppa”!