It is wonderful to see all the daffodils and signs that summer is approaching. For a while I wondered if spring was ever going to come! So often in our lives, especially when we are struggling, it seems as if there is no hope for a better day. But we just have to look outside our windows and see the prospects of summer and be filled with hope. God is always giving us hope, not only through his creation but also in the smiles of a stranger, the gentle word of a friend and the company of dear people and family members.
We all need friends. We all need family members around us. Sometimes we do not have blood relations helping and supporting us, but brothers and sisters in faith, walking the extra distance with us. Nanda, Henro, Nehan and I can surely confirm the truth of this. Without blood relations, we are surrounded by brothers and sisters in faith, who love us and whom we love. This is not something new. It has been happening since the time of Jesus’ journey on earth.
For example, take Tabitha (or, Dorcas) from Joppa, in Acts 9:36-43. She was a follower of Jesus Christ, always doing good and helping the poor. She made a huge impact on the lives of all the people around her, but tragically she became ill and died. When her brothers and sisters in faith heard that the apostle Peter was in Lydda, a town not far from Joppa, they sent him a message urging him to come at once, as Jewish custom dictated that dead bodies needed to be buried before sundown.
Once Peter arrived, he went to the upper room of her house. Her fellow sisters in Christ showed him all the good work she had done while she was alive. Peter sent out the women, knelt down and prayed. After he had prayed, he said, “Tabitha arise.” At these words her eyes opened, her life returned as if she had awakened from sleep. Peter extended his hand to her and helped her up before he “presented her alive” to all those who knew that she had been dead.
The result of this miracle was that “many believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
Tabitha loved her brothers and sisters in faith and they responded to her love. I think Peter was persuaded by this love. He had a few issues with regard to ritual cleanliness, but despite these issues and personal reservations, he acted in love and broke with the Jewish custom of coming so close to a dead body. Afterwards, he even stayed with a “tanner” named Simon in Joppa. A tanner was regarded by Jews as “unclean” and not allowed to come near the temple. Everyone who touched him or stayed with him was also regarded as “unclean”. But it seems as if the episode with Tabitha made such an impression on Peter that it changed completely all the personal reservations he had.
Maybe this is the powerful lesson of the story - namely the impact of love between brothers and sisters in faith, a love that is rooted in God’s decision to give us his only Son to redeem us from sin, death and hell.
Can we say the same of our congregations, of each other, of our villages? Are we brothers and sisters in faith who help each other, take care of one another and walk the extra mile for each other?
In many respects I think as the linked congregations we meet this criteria. We care for other people in our communities, by our visiting people who are ill and alone; by having worship services at Stewart Court and Dickson Court. We are also starting a holiday club for both congregations, which I am really excited about.
I am sure there is nothing more powerful than love. We believe, as it is written in Romans chapter 8, that nothing can ever divide us from the love of God. We have received this love, and whenever we share it, it becomes a powerful vehicle of change in our own lives and in the lives of others. All we need to do is to love unconditionally.
I would like to close with this story:
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?”
Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.”
The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.
She came first to a beautiful mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.
The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.
She became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
We can do the same – making a difference every moment of every day with the love we have received from our God, who saved us from the agony of sin, death and hell!
All my love,