It was strange to look at a sermon I had written myself over 6 months ago (for the vocations Sunday material) & feel very dissatisfied with it! But I have 'worked it over' and feel OK with it now.
Here it is:
, Revelation 7:9-17
, John 10:22-30)
Today is vocations Sunday – a time to think about the calling we all have to follow Jesus Christ and the ministry, the service of others, to which Jesus calls us.
So how do we feel about the story we heard from Acts of the raising of Dorcas by Peter? Maybe it leaves us feeling that Peter’s ministry is way out of our league.
We might be able to try to love God and love others – but raising the dead…? Rather than encouraging us to hear and explore a sense of call it might just make us feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
We might be facing other questions about this story, too:
• Do we wonder why this sort of escape from death doesn’t happen today?
• Do we question why should God make an exception from the normal rules of the universe in Dorcas’s case?
• How do we square Jesus’ talk of eternal life - and the words of Revelation about the God who waits to wipe every tear from our eye in heaven - with this story of Peter seemingly clawing Dorcas back from death?
Perhaps it helps us to tackle these questions if we remember that this happened within a year or so of Jesus’ death. The infant church of Jesus Christ is attracting new believers, but together the church is still trying to work out quite what it is that they believe. In all the uncertainty and persecution, they needed to see and know the resurrection power of Jesus.
The Jesus whom his disciples are following raised from death Lazarus & Jairus’s daughter - Luke tells us both stories: he has this habit of telling mirror stories giving a male and female example of the same thing. Jesus raised Laxarus – a man, and Jairus’s daughter – a young woman. Luke wants his listeners to know that the powerof Jesus to defeat detha is for both men and women, it is for everyone.
Then as Luke tells us the stories of the followers of Jesus raising people from death, he again mirriors the story of Peter raising Dorcas & the story of Paul raising Eutychus (the young man who fell out of a window having fallen asleep during one of Paul’s sermons). It seems that Luke is anxious to show us the power of Jesus is raising men & women - and then that the same power is transferred to Jesus’ disciples - Peter & Paul.
Jesus has the power to raise anyone, man or woman, to life; he is risen to life himself by the power of the Father; and that power lives in his disciples. Having shown the real existence of that power, and given the early church the confidence to preach life beyond death, in Jesus, it seems that the world can return to a more predictable pattern, where the dead remain dead, and where life is to be enjoyed, but not clung to desperately as if it is all we have.
Our concept of life and of death is changed forever by what Jesus shows us - that it is not the end - that eternal life is not about getting more of what life we already have, but is about a different order of life altogether, which is greater than death.
This is why Easter, which we continue to celebrate, makes a difference to us.
It is not that Jesus shows that we need not fear death because with the right prayer we can claw back our lives - we cannot hope that this life as we know it will go on for ever. But because of resurrection we can live with the hope that death is not the end - that love is stronger than death and that eternal life is promised to us. How we live today is affected by the knowledge that life will go on - not just through future generations, but for each of us, in spheres of time beyond what we know. When we have a future, we live today differently.
We have a promise of such a future:
“…the lamb, who is at the centre of the throne, will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.
Peter’s ministry is about raising Dorcas for the encouragement of the whole church and to declare the gospel of hope and eternal life.
So what might be the ministry of each person here today? How can we serve people in the name of God? Our ministry today is not about raising the dead, but is still about the life Jesus offers. It is about the service of Christ’s church, the encouragement of others, and the declaration of that same gospel of hope and eternal life.
May we live with the promise of eternal life and the hope of resurrection and may we hear Christ’s call to us, to share that life with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.