May 4, 2022

Sunday Worship Service for 8th May 2022

Passage: Read Acts 9.36-43

A prayer of adoration
Awesome God, full of glory,
you fill our hearts with your love.
Awesome God, full of blessings,
you fill our lives with your wisdom.
Awesome God, full of riches,
you enrich us with power and strength
for all the ups and downs of life.
Awesome God, full of Grace,
we love you and glorify your mighty name.

A prayer of confession
Lord, you walk with us through all kinds of terrains in life:
mountains, mole hills, valleys, clifftops, deserts, woods, town
centres, playing fields…

When the going gets tough and life takes on a dark hue –
black, blue – we sometimes attempt to push through it on
our own, only to find ourselves weighed down and getting
nowhere fast. We may despair of ever being rid of our burdens
and seeing life in colour again. Forgive us for these times, for
not resting in you, for not trusting in the light of your promises,
for not persevering in faith.
Merciful Lord,
forgive us, we pray.

When things are going well and we’re galloping on enjoying
life in colourful detail – yellow, crimson – we often take you
and others for granted. Forgive us for not being more aware
and appreciative of your company, for not recognising or
acknowledging your blessings and guidance. Forgive us our
Merciful Lord,
forgive us, we pray.

Assurance of forgiveness
The Lord is our shepherd, who restores our soul.
He washes us clean and anoints us with the oil of forgiveness.
Thank you, Lord.

Read Acts 9.36-43

Sermon by Rev Peter Lyth
I have to confess that I am something of a J R R Tolkein fan. I enjoy both the books and the Peter Jackson films although I felt that the series of Hobbit films stretched things out too far. But the Lord of the Rings films contain so much that I enjoy. I love the wonderful New Zealand scenery, the stirring musical score and the sheer drama of it all. But also there is the story of the triumph of good over evil. A small group of mismatched heroes (Four hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, a man and a wizard) form the fellowship of the ring and, with various alliances, take on the evil might of Sauron. There are a number of points when all seems lost, but in the end, the forces of good triumph and Middle-Earth is saved. The reading from Acts has that same thing – that when all seems lost, a miracle occurs.
In the reading from Acts, we are in a period when Peter has taken centre stage once more. He is travelling around the country, in this case he was travelling towards and then along the western seaboard. Peter then proceeds to perform two miracles, of which we heard of the second this morning. The previous one was the raising up of a paralysed man, Aeneas who had been paralysed for 8 years. Peter told him to get up, in a similar fashion to Jesus in Caparnaeum, and to tidy up his mat. As an aside, this man was almost certainly a gentile as the name is Greek and is the same used in the central character of the famous Greek poem – the Aenid. Then, in our reading we have another miracle to one that Jesus performed. It took place in Joppa, the nearest port to Jerusalem.
The episode centres on a woman named Tabitha in the Aramaic and Dorcas in the Greek – the word means Gazelle. She was someone special. She was a woman of great faith who had a leadership role. She had, through her generosity, reached out to and helped a number of widows, who in turn had formed a sort of guild who provided charity to those in need in the name of Christ. This was somewhat special in its own right as widows did not have the provision that they have nowadays but were often amongst the most vulnerable in society. Some people suggest that the tears that were shed were those of professional mourners, but the likelihood was that the tears that were shed here were all too genuine as the sisters mourned the loss of their leader and inspirational figure. These tears added to the sense of urgency that Peter felt.
But it is a danger to suggest that it was Peter that performed the miracle in his own right. For what he did was to open himself up to the spirit and so when he addresses the woman, he does so by saying only two words, her name, and “arise”. That’s it. No pleading or flowery prayers. And so, following Peter’s prayer, Gazelle is raised. The word used to describe what happened - anistemi is the same as that used to describe Jesus’ resurrection. It was not long before, at Pentecost in fact, that Peter had described Jesus as raised up. Now here he was invoking the Holy Spirit to do the same for Dorcas.
There are a number of things that I want to draw out of this.
The first is that the miracle followed the example of Jesus. The miracle was performed in a very similar way to the raising of Jairus’ daughter that Jesus did. Peter sent all of the mourners out of the room like Jesus did. The words that Peter used were almost identical. This was a direct follow on and imitation of Jesus.
Secondly, the miracle was performed in the power of Jesus. Peter invoked the power of the Holy Spirit as he prayed before giving her the command to get up. There was no sense in which he thought that he could do this under his own power and authority. Peter relied on Jesus’ power.
The third thing is that the miracle was a sign of the salvation of Jesus. Peter was so confident of the power of Jesus that he used the word anistemi as described Jesus’ raising from the dead. We must not confuse this resuscitation with resurrection however. Dorcas would ultimately die in the way of all people whereas Jesus was resurrected to new life. However it is a sign of the new life that Christ brings.
And the fourth thing to draw out of this is that the miracle pointed to the glory of Jesus. Luke, the writer of Acts tells us that when Dorcas was restored to life, “this became known all over Joppa and many people believed in the Lord”. In other words, this was another sign that authenticated the salvation message of the Gospel and brought many more people to belief.
So what does it have to say to us now? I do have to say that it is dangerous to suppose that all people that appear to be dead can be resuscitated by invoking the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that such a notion is the province of charlatans. But that the raising of Dorcas is a witness of Jesus’ resurrection power over all people. What that means is that the resurrected Christ brings the power to bring new life to all people and that this power flows out of the Christ who rose again on Easter day. That Peter stayed with Simon, a tanner is significant as tanners were widely deemed to be an unclean profession. Luke is telling us that this hope is available to all.
So, in our personal, or even in our Church lives will encounter situations where all seems to be lost. There is probably not a lot that we can do in our own strength. But then is the time to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer. Jesus’ spirit can and does bring new life and salvation.
Prayers of intercession
God of all nations, in faith and with trusting perseverance, we pray for those suffering as a consequence of the policies and decisions of their leaders; for those living in war zones; for those fleeing their countries; for those battling with the effects of climate change; for those left with less than they need to survive; for those whose daily lives are controlled by others.
Lord Jesus, be with them through their ups and downs,
and wipe every tear from their eyes
We pray for those who work in caring professions; those suffering from exhaustion; for those feeling demoralised; for those they aim to support and minister to; for those waiting for help and treatment; for those in the last stages of their life.
Lord Jesus, be with them through their ups and downs,
and wipe every tear from their eyes
We pray for the church throughout the world; for leaders who have lost their way; for those ministering in divided communities; for those in places where the church is marginalised, persecuted or simple deemed irrelevant.
Lord Jesus, be with them through their ups and downs,
and wipe every tear from their eyes
We pray for the young people of our world; for children traumatised by war and violence; for those whose abuse goes unreported; for those sitting exams; for those struggling to find their way in the world.
Lord Jesus, be with them through their ups and downs,
and wipe every tear from their eyes
And we pray for one another; and entrust to you those things that worry us; those situations we feel helpless in; those decisions that burden us; those losses that overwhelm us.
Lord Jesus, be with them through their ups and downs,
and wipe every tear from their eyes. Amen.
Prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission.

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