I have not been able to post or even read anyone’s posts for the past week. It has been crazy busy at our house, so for now, I will just post the message from this morning and try to do some read and gather my thoughts to do some real posts tomorrow if at all possible. Below is our message for today.
The scriptures were taken from: Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30 and Acts 9:36-43.
If you remember to last week, I told you that there wouldn’t really be a message just a group of stories about the theme which was: God’s plans and at the end there were some comments that you were supposed to ponder when you left here. Today we also have stories though fewer than last week. And, this time instead of pondering, I think the assignment will be more on the line of brainstorming, or at least thinking up some actions to go along with our theme of: life-giving acts.
But life-giving acts aren’t our only focus today. There is also this idea of Jesus as the good Shepherd, and so we have used it in our music and in our liturgy. It comes from both the gospel lesson and the passage in Revelation. And, the Psalm of the day is the 23rd Psalm, and so we used it in our call to worship.
The gospel lesson tells us that Jesus said “my sheep know my voice.” He says this in the temple in Jerusalem in the Portico of Solomon as he is answering the Jewish leaders, who are trying to trick him into blasphemy by saying he is the Messiah. And, when he lets them know that they are not one of his sheep, they are so angry that they want to stone him. What they missed in his answer about who he is, was the answer about how those who become his followers, his sheep, to them he gives eternal life. They weren’t willing to follow. They wanted to be in charge, they wanted to be the leaders, to show everyone how to follow the laws and do what they said. They weren’t willing to be the followers, to humble themselves to obey the call of the Shepherd. They weren’t willing to be a part of those life-giving acts.
So, before we look at the other scripture lessons, let’s start with a little story about the board meeting we had this past Wednesday. Normally those things can be a bit dry. We start with a reading of the past minuets, and this time there were two of them, then we go through the budget and we hear reports of what we have been doing and finally we talk a bit about what is coming up.
Let me tell you there was nothing dry about Wednesday night, and the not dry part started with the cake that Susan brought. We were laughing from before the meeting started almost straight through to the end, and it wasn’t just a smile here or a polite little laugh there. These were full on holding ourselves laughing. It was the sort of laughing that is actually good for you. I am not kidding. That sort of laughing is healthy because it pushes old carbon dioxide out of the lungs and allows you to breathe better. Come to think of it that might be the sort of church activity we should be sponsoring, or at least holding more often, a laughing session, a life-giving activity.
Anyway, this brings me to the next day, my next day, Thursday. By the end of that night
I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had been struck for sins committed on Wednesday night at that board meeting. Was all that laughing a “fa-sind-mich” thing? Was I being struck or punished for laughing about those things.
Here was my Thursday. Our track team hosted a four part track and field meet in Linton. For those of you who have helped at a meet either on the field or in the press box, you have an idea how stressful they can get. Well to shorten this story up let me just say the computer scoring program broke down before we started, and so we had to hand score the varsity meets as well as the junior high meets. This was enough to send me over the edge because I mostly want to double check all the sheets that come in before they get announced and ribbon-ed and scored. Now I didn’t really have the time.
Next the sheets from the running events began coming to the press box without the overall places being noted, which is something our clerk normally does. This wouldn’t have been such a problem, except the girls handing out the awards were inexperienced and when they saw the numbers on each heat sheet, they started giving awards that way (six heats of the 100 meant 6 blue ribbons, 6 red ribbons, and on and on for the 100,) etc…As I think about it now, it is about the same as only giving one ribbon to a team when they placed in a relay, which has happened in the past.
Anyway, it didn’t take long for me to be just a little stressed out. I finally realized that I needed to leave the area to clear out my mind to figure out a solution to our problem. Besides that, I needed to go to James’ classroom to get two more paper charts so we could do the varsity hand scoring. Fortunately I had made extra copies.
Well during that long walk up the hill into the school, I finally realized that I couldn’t fix this alone. I needed help and from a couple of different areas. Yes I could do my part, and yes I needed to step up and be the leader and the one who explained the rules and such to the others about how to determine who was first and second and so on, but I couldn’t do every sheet myself, nor could I do all of the scoring alone. This became a group effort and after I told the others how we needed to do it and asked them for help, we got through everything very well, and even laughed a few times. Fortunately those working in the press box were able to adjust to the need to pitch in and help a little faster than those sending the sheets from the finish line. I think it took until the 800 meter run before we started to see the stickers coming in the order of fastest to slowest per heat.
By the end of the night, the thing that gave me a real lift was the way our mile relay teams performed. Mostly though, I felt sort of upset about the way, I initially handled the stress. I wanted so badly to be able to fix the computer problem on my own, but there was no way I could, there was nothing I could do, no configuration I could come up with to make that path reconnect to open that program, and the worst of it was that I knew all the work I had done entering events and rosters that day in preparation for the meet would have to be redone before I could type in the final results on Friday.
So, on Friday morning when I sat down to reread the scripture lessons for this week the final verse of the passage in Revelation hit me. It is the verse about “wipe away every tear from their eye.” I realized that God is there with us in all things through all things, and that we don’t have to go it alone. When we are hurting or frustrated or even at our whit’s end, God is there to comfort us, to calm us, but it doesn’t happen when we try to go out on our own. Just like those Jewish elders who were too important, too pious and lawful to follow Jesus, we won’t get to be part of the sheep if we refuse to listen to the voice of the shepherd.
This passage in Revelation is not about how great the ones robed in white are because they have made it through the great ordeal, although that is a pretty amazing feat. It is about how God took care of them. It is about how Jesus the good Shepherd guided them through, and they followed, and they made it. It is about how God drew them in and sheltered them and in the end even wipes the tears from their eyes. This passage is about how we have that same good shepherd to guide us through the tough times. The way God guides us is not just to go to God, but to be willing to accept help in times of trouble. As independent and bossy as we might want to be, we can’t always do it all on our own. We need to remember God is there for us.
This brings me to the passage from the book of Acts. This is another of the stories about the early church that I wish was longer. I want lots more information about Tabitha, or Dorcas as she is also known. It would be interesting to know more about this woman from Joppa. She sounds like an absolutely wonderful woman who any community, any church, any family would love to claim as their own. From what little we are told, we can believe that she was caring and compassionate. She must have had some financial means as she was able to do much for others in the form of charity. And the women who mourn her show some of the sewing work that she did. But that is all we really get in the way of knowing much about her. By the time this story begins, Tabitha is dead. The women, described as widows, who are with her have already washed her body and prepared it for burial. They are all in mourning, but not quite ready to give up on their friend and so they call for Peter to help them.
They are crying about Tabitha’s death, but still not ready to call it over. And Peter comes and goes to Tabitha and prays to God and she is returned to life. God gives her back to her friends, back to the young church, back to her family, back to this world. And as he does it, the tears are wiped away. Peter becomes the instrument; the women who called for him become the instruments through which life is given back to Tabitha.
This story lets us know how God works through his believers to help those in need. Peter and the disciples were the beginning of the early church. The women around Tabitha were part of the church. They worked not just to spread the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but to help each other, to do for each other. I have a pin on my Pintrest site that I am hoping to paint on an old board this summer and hang it in my room. It says: “God is not calling us to go to church; God is calling us to be the church, the hope of the world.”
In other words, the questions for the week, the brainstorming thoughts are: What are the life-giving acts that I can do this week where I happen to be. I need to ask myself, how can I show the love and compassion and life-giving acts of Christ this week? I need to ask that even when the computer breaks down, and maybe especially when the computer breaks down. I was hit with the reality that I am pretty much a work in progress, and there is lots of room for improvement. What life-giving acts are we willing to do for each other and for those around us this week? I bet if we take the time to look to our Shepherd, we will hear some directions. Amen