Easter 4 – 8th May 2022
The Easter story continues through our reading of Acts. It is also coincides with Mother’s Day with a testimony of a great Christian woman. Starting from Easter Sunday, there are 7 weeks and then the 8th Sunday that form the 50 days of Eastertide. The 50-day period of expectancy between Easter and Pentecost allows God’s people to continue experiencing the resurrection power of the God’s Spirit.
When we combine the story of Dorcas in Acts with the Gospel reading, we see a development of spirituality among the Jews in the first century. Jesus entered the scene and when he left, the religious leaders became less important. God’s movement was manifesting itself through the common people.
“Most religious people, then as now, manage to tame their God to the point where he doesn’t make too much difference to their lives and their choices.”Jane Williams
Fresh Elements in Christ’s Service
My years of ministry have proven over and over that it is the common working Christian and tradespersons that carry forth the Gospel work. The educated and big business persons lean toward a professional Christianity. The working people and trades persons lean toward an experiential Christianity. I always end up siding with the working people and trades persons when it comes to style of Christianity. And today’s story from Acts is an example as to why.
What do we know about Dorcas? From our text we learn she lived in Joppa known today as Jaffa. It is a coastal city made famous to Bible readers as the city to which Jonah ran towards. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah; Jonah headed to Joppa instead.
We know that Dorcas was devoted to charity and good works. She is called a disciple in the text. It is very important to note that what made her a disciple was not her charity and good works. What made her a disciple was her faith in Jesus Christ. The charity and good works were how she manifested her faith in Christ.
Today, many assume charity and good works are required to gain entrance into heaven. People have their own ideas of God, heaven, and righteousness. They assume that since God is Love, he is obligated to forgive everyone for everything eventually. So if you do good works, that will appease God. It is a funny idea of God with no sound theological foundation.
God is love – yes – but as today’s Psalm reminds us, that love includes a rod and staff. Discipline and correction are acts of love and have featured in Reformed theology as responsibilities for members and ministers to submit to Church discipline.
Souls are restored when guided along right pathways even if it takes a rod and staff to get us there. That’s because we can get lost in the shadow valleys of this world where the lines between right and wrong are obscured by selfish desire and sinful pride. Truth is our sight can adjust to low light and we grow accustomed to being less than we were meant to be and before you know it we can’t tell the difference between a green pasture and a desert. But the Lord like a shepherd does not abandon us to our wandering ways but prods us with the rod of the Law even as the staff of the Gospel frees us to live into peaceful places of soul refreshing rest. https://www.nextsunday.com/connections-05-12-2019-theres-someplace-like-home/
Fresh Elements for Christ’s Service
Serving God through Christ is possible because of fresh elements. The elements of water, air, fire, and earth combined to give us our creation. So too Christianity is a combination of fresh elements. It is a revolutionary way to connect with God. It is different from all other religions. Do not be fooled into believing Christianity is like all other religions. It is not. It is exclusive and channels all through Jesus Christ to reach God. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
In the context of growth, a seed of hope planted in fresh soil, breaking forth to breathe fresh air, soaking in the light of fresh sun, bears fruit once exposed to fresh elements. As a church, we have fresh elements to help us thrive in service to God in the post-Covid world.
Dorcas inspired her friends in her day and inspire many to this day. The Church has often used her name for outreach missions that provide clothing to the poor. Perhaps you have heard of a Dorcas Society? They were at their height in the 1800s but still carry on to this day. The name has been used to carry the Gospel message through acts of charity to England, America, Africa, Asia, and more. Dorcas represents fresh elements to serve Christ because of Christ’s salvation for us. It is not our works that saves us but the work of Christ.
Dorcas is a symbol of admiration for the common Christian. Her story elevates the everyday Christian as the hero. She inspires us to realise that it is practical wisdom not theory that ministers the Gospel effectively. Just as God called the tradesmen of Moses day to use their skill to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, so too God calls YOU to use your skill to build God’s Kingdom today.
You may say, “What skill do I have?” Dorcas could sew. Perhaps yours is cooking. Maybe you are good with a shovel? Some are able to clean. These practical skills are examples of what God uses to communicate the Gospel. Yes, there is a place for business persons and the educated. But if you look into scripture, they are few and far between. The Acts and the story of the first century Church is one of everyday people believing and promoting the Gospel to their family, friends, and neighbours.
The story of Dorcas is one where the mundane become the magnified.
God is love – yes – but God is holy first and foremost. The holiness of God means there are no works you can perform to appease God. There is absolutely nothing you or I could do that would be good enough to earn heaven!
That is what makes Easter so special! Salvation is not humanly possible but for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. It is the faith of Christ that moves God to offer salvation to sinful humanity. It is a message of hope for those who are honest enough with themselves to know they are not good enough for God or heaven. It is a message of joy for those who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
Have you ever asked God to save you? Has there ever been a time in your life where you stopped and said, “I am a sinner. I cannot save myself. Jesus, I believe you died for my sin. Jesus, I do not deserve heaven. Jesus, save me. Save me from the hell I deserve. Save me from the consequences of my sins. Save me from the pride of myself. Jesus, have mercy on me.”
St Johns Papatoetoe; Church family; we have fresh elements to move forward in our mission to connect with God and community. It begins with members who know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. It then moves toward our working together through a common vision and mission. Let us be inspired by Dorcas, a woman of faith, on this Mother’s Day.