Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dead Raising Church, Part 1

estr 078
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Our sermon from last week, by our own amazing Pastor Cindy...

Mary Burgess and Mabel Mitchell, two of the saints that I met when I first came to Jeff Street, spent every Wednesday morning for I don’t how many years working in the Clothes Closet that we had when we were in the other building. They would sort and bag and fold and hang, and sort and bag and fold and hang.

And there’s no telling how many people benefited from their faithful ministry, how many kids were able to go to school wearing something new, or at least different, how many men were able to find jobs because now they had a clean shirt and tie, or a pair of pants that fit.

Cheryl Bone, one of the saints of Jeff Street that we are privileged to have in our midst now, spends five mornings a week down at the Golden Arrow, which sounds like a nightclub, but is instead a ministry that provides clothes and diapers and bottles and formula and all kinds of other stuff for expectant and new mothers.

Like Mary and Mabel before her, Cheryl sorts and bags and folds and hangs, and there’s no telling how many people benefit from Cheryl’s faithful ministry.

Tabitha, in Aramaic, or Dorcas, in Greek, lived in a time, I would venture to say, before Clothes Closets. Some of us, by the way, think that BC means “before Christ,” but those of us who are thrift store aficionados know that it really means, “before Clothes Closets.” Or maybe not.

At any rate, she was indispensable to her community. She made clothes for them, which is something that most of us just take for granted, being clothed. But when you don’t have clothes that keep you warm, or clothes that fit, then you know just how important a woman like Dorcas could be to a community.

And that’s evidenced by the description here in the story of how the women are showing Peter every piece of clothing that Dorcas ever made, each one with a story behind it, each one with Dorcas’ loving care and kindness stitched into it.

This story is one of the post-Easter lectionary passages not because it happens in the weeks directly following the resurrection, but because it’s about resurrection. Dorcas is raised from the dead. Now the more pragmatic ones among us will instantly move to questions like, how could that have happened? Maybe she was not dead at all. But if we want to be faithful to the story, we have to start out with her as dead. And I know that some of you are already thinking about the Monty Python parrot skit…

Dorcas, like the parrot, was as dead as a doornail. And that she was raised from that, well, that should surprise not a one of us, metaphorically speaking, anyway. We’ve all seen people who were dead and raised to life.

Once I was visiting our beloved brother Larry Burke at University Hospital. He was in intensive care, and I noticed in the room across the way, that someone had died, and that they had covered him or her with a sheet. I found it strange that they’d left the door open, but then they didn’t really have solid doors on this intensive care unit, and as I was thinking about all of this, suddenly the man sat up, and I almost had a heart attack.

When the nurse came in, I said, “I thought that man that was covered up with a sheet was dead.” She said, “Oh, he does that all the time.”

Robert and I were in Malaysia once for about three hours, and we spent about thirty minutes of it standing on a corner with a slew of other people who were watching a man do mumbo jumbo over another man who was presumbly dead and lying under a sheet. He was, according to the English speaking man who sidled up to us, going to raise the man back to life. “He is raised from the dead every night,” he said, with great humor.

We didn’t have time to see the actual event, but judging from the crowd, I’ll bet that it was pretty exciting.

In this story, though, it’s not through the act of one person that Dorcas is raised, it is through the power of the gathered community, who, out of their love for Dorcas, do the only thing they know to do on her behalf and call in Peter. Dorcas couldn’t raise herself. She could not call for Peter. But the gathered community could. And, says Stephen Jones, they were unafraid to wade into each others’ lives in transforming ways. And so they did.

They were unafraid to wade into each others’ lives in transforming ways. That phrase reminds me of something that happened just this week. The Coordinating Council approached Diane Moten recently with the offer, having seen her abundant gifts for ministry, to ordain her. We suggested that she pull together some folks from the church to help her discern whether or not she wants to pursue this, and she did, and we met on Thursday night.

This time of discernment, which sometimes ends with a decision to continue with the process of ordination and sometimes does not, is always a holy time. At the end of this particular time, Diane, being Diane, went around the little circle, and told each of us why she had chosen us to be a part of her discernment process.

I was a little surprised by what she said when she got to Andy. She said, “Andy, sometimes you just make me so mad.” She’d been saying all this nice stuff to the rest of us, and she said, “Andy, sometimes you just make me so mad. You remember that day at church, and I had to just walk away from you and go outside because I was so mad at you?” Andy nodded, yes, he did remember that. “But you and I were able to work it out, right? And the reason I wanted you here tonight is because you always push and challenge me, and because you always have a different perspective from mine, and because you make me a better person.” That’s not word for word, but it the gist of it.

Andy and Diane are unafraid to wade into each others’ lives in transforming ways.

And the widows are not afraid to wade into Dorcas’ life, either, and they call for Peter...


Post a Comment

<< Home