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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Dorcas' Death

                                                                 Dorcas’ Death
                                                                   Acts 9:36-43
What a week we have been through! As if the crippling and deaths of bystanders wasn’t enough at the Boston Marathon, we also witnessed the horrendous explosion at a fertilizer plant in west Texas. We rejoiced at the resolution of finding the suspects, but heard about the destruction and harm carried out in the days before the second suspect was captured. We heard rumors and stories that turned out to be false, yet we heard enough correct details to get a picture of the events that unfolded in the short reign of terror. And we wonder why. What could have led these two men to their destructive acts and what about those victims who were injured? And how could a man set a bomb down next to a little 8 year old, knowing that the blast could kill him? How will those injured and maimed piece their shattered lives back together? And how will the families in West Texas who survived cope with the loss of homes and friends and family members? And we are left with questions about our own security and will this happen again? How can we put all this into perspective that brings hope rather than despair, depression, and feelings of insecurity?
Perhaps this is a good time to read a little story in the book of Acts that speaks of hope, but I would like to put a little twist on it. The story of Dorcas is a story of healing in the early church. Some of the apostles have been given the power of healing. It is not their power, but the power of the Spirit at work in them. Listen to the story of Dorcas, who she was and what happened to her. (Read Acts 9:36-43)
A good woman died. She was beloved among the disciples, and a good disciple herself carrying out the mission of Jesus, especially when she made clothing for the widows of the community of believers. She was grieved for deeply. So Peter was called and, in the manner of Jesus, raised her from the dead. And those who witnessed her walking into their midst alive, came to believe. Was she healed because she was such a good woman, loved in the community? In one sense, yes, because they loved her enough to send for Peter. But more than that was at work. The early church needed to demonstrate the power of the Spirit among them to bring others to the point of believing in the risen Christ.  It needed to demonstrate that Jesus was alive and working among them in this Spirit he had promised. It needed to demonstrate that the risen savior was a savior of hope, not just for the time he walked on earth but for all times. The story of Dorcas works effectively to bring others to believing. 
But how can the story of Dorcas give us hope in the face of death and destruction in our time? How can the story of Dorcas help us in the light of events of this past week?  Did we see anyone resurrected from the dead in any of these events? I have not heard of anyone. But one thing we did see were lives saved, lives that could have been lost due to bleeding and shock. Some died, yet others were saved through the heroism of those who ran toward the tragic event to help those in need. Professionals and volunteers and bystanders came to the rescue of those injured. Some people have a resource within them that figures out quickly what to do, be it a needed tourniquet, a word of reassurance to a shocked victim, a helping hand to lift someone on a stretcher to get them to medical care, a prayer for God to do something. Some people act out of faith, calling upon the Spirit of Christ within them and find the courage, strength and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do what is needed. 
Peter found the strength of the Spirit within him to bring about healing and even resurrection. That is part of what he was called and empowered to do. It would not be surprising to me if we begin to hear stories of faith filled acts emerging from the tragedies of the past week. Someone has been given the power to help save a life, the power to encourage a shocked and pain filled injured person, the power of a prayer that offers calmness. Someone in those crowds has felt the power of the Spirit working in them to bring hope in the face of tragedy.
The same Spirit that empowered Peter to heal Dorcas is still with us today. Whether we know it or not that same Spirit is in the believer. Many of us don’t rely enough on the Spirit to lead us, guide us, fill us, teach us, and empower us. But the Spirit is part of our being a people of faith. The Spirit is strong and effective when we are empowered by it in the face of adversity. 
We have the ability to find hope in any tragic circumstance. Years ago some of you will remember a plane that crashed and only one person survived, a little girl. We were riveted to her story and found hope where there seemed to be none. Our disciple Bible study has been reading about and discussing the experience of a woman who literally died and was revived and able to tell her story about the experience of her approach to heaven. 
We can look at the events of the past week filled with despair and horror, and they were horrible events. But I believe that as Christians we are called to seek ways that God has been present in it all, in acts of heroism, courage and faith. The evil in the situation can win in our attitudes, fears and discouragement. But God calls us to be a people of hope and to offer that hope to others. We are empowered to see that evil did not win in these situations. The goodness of God and God’s love prevailed, as a whole country pulled together in acts of prayer and outpouring to those in need. The Spirit of God was not absent in these circumstances and will continue to be present in those who rely on its power to lead them in what needs to be done to overcome the evil present in the destruction we have been witness to. 
But there is a greater hope presence in the face of evil. It is that hope that allows me to imaginatively stand with the people killed in the bombings and blast at that fertilizer factory. I can stand with that little 8 year old boy as the bomb exploded. I wonder if it hurt, if he was still watching for his father as his body was torn apart. But what I see even stronger is the hand of Jesus and a voice saying, “It’s time to come with me.” And I watch as the boy is cradled away to a wonderful place free from pain, filled with understanding and love, and I am able to say to myself, evil did not win here. Families are left to pick up the pieces, to find hope where there seems to be none, but the greatest hope is the reality of heaven, a promise that God revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So when we ask ourselves is there hope in these circumstances? The answer is “Yes!” Traumatized people will be healed through the care and kindness of those who reach out to them in love. Perhaps a little girl who will have to learn to walk with a prosthesis and the loss of her brother will hear words of hope and promise, and bravely walk in faith and courage. 
That’s what Christ calls us to do as a people of faith. We may not be able to impact the lives of those closely affected by the bombings and explosion, but we can listen to the stories of courage and faith that come out of it, and find the hope that will help us to deal with tragedies in our own families and communities. And we can understand death as yet a new beginning, a transition to new life. We can overcome the destructive power of evil by not letting it send us into a defeatist attitude and calmly proclaiming the hope found in our faith. There is a Dorcas in all who will be resurrected into new or greater faith in this life. Some will have stared death in the face, and overcome evil with hope and some will not be able to. That’s why it is so important for us to tell the stories of faith, to share what we believe in ways that help others find our hope.
And as a people of God, believing in resurrection, knowing that God overcomes evil we can trust that lives that seem to come tragically to an end, do, in fact not end, but move on to greater possibilities. And evil will not be the rule of the day. 
Let us take a moment of silence and honor those who have faced evil and struggle to survive as well as those who have found new hope in resurrection.

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