Peter called Tabitha into new life with the simple words, “Get up.” What are the words that will call us to new life? Certainly, the words won’t come from SCOTUS. There is no new life there; only chasing after a life that never existed and should never come to be. Yet, there must be something that will call us all into new life.
Many of us are half asleep and may even feel half dead under the weight of recent years, and the fear of what is to come. Between grief and fear we could fall under the power of apathy or ambivalence. We might believe that what we say and do won’t make a difference and, thereby, keep doing nothing.
Many of our churches are caught in a routine that needs transformation. We have much to learn from the stories like that of Peter and Tabitha. It’s hard to take this story literally, though with God anything is possible. However, on a figurative level, this account has much to teach.
Tabitha was quite a worker in the early church from what we can gather. She engaged the work of caring for the community and other things such as needlework. She was beloved. Yet, she became tired out and ill to the point to of death. She was cleaned up and laid to rest while those who knew her mourned.
What if we take Tabitha as a representative of the church. She was good and helpful and caring. Then she got worn out and became sick to the point of death. Attempts have been made to clean her up and there are those who mourn what used to be. This could be dire. Or it could be hopeful.
In this season of Easter, we could discover a word of life – a word that will call us to live again. Maybe it is the news from SCOTUS that will give new life to some. Perhaps it is the ongoing need to dismantle White supremacy. Perhaps it is the continuing need to make reparations to First Nations peoples. Perhaps it is the call to combat the fear that reaches for us. There is a word of life out there if we are listening.
It took Peter to awaken Tabitha. What will it take for the church to come to new life? We will not find it doing all the things we have always done. This is an excellent season to ask ourselves what no longer serves or where we expend energy that no longer makes a difference. What does it mean to be church in 2022, in this weird world where COVID, fear, and the powers of Empire rule the day? What would bring new life to more than church? What word do we need to hear?
Personally, I hear “Be of service.” Be of service to those who have historically been condemned, overlooked, or purposely pushed out. Let’s become agents of agape and demand justice and equity for all of God’s people, beginning with the most vulnerable among us in this moment.
What word do you hear? Is there life in it? If there is no life in it, then it is echoes from the past or of our own fears. If there is life and love in it, then it is coming from God.
The key to the story is Tabitha. We may think it is Peter. Yet, what good would Peter’s words have done if Tabitha had not responded? Church has spent enough time looking back to what was and lamenting the loss of it. Isn’t it time we get up and enter into new life?
It won’t be easy. New life changes everything and we have learned to fear change. We have accepted the oppressive rules of Empire as normal and not broken free of them. New life holds the possibility of transforming the world and breaking the bonds of oppression. Isn’t it time we get up?
RCL – Easter 4C – May 8, 2022 – Acts 9:36-43 • Psalm 23 • Revelation 7:9-17 • John 10:22-30