By the fourth Sunday of Easter we have celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and become aware of his many appearances following the Resurrection. Soon we witness the powerful Pentecostal experience recorded in the second chapter of Acts. We know that this coming of the Holy Spirit encounters not only the disciples of Jesus Christ, but many other witnesses in Jerusalem.
The disciples had awaited this empowerment which Jesus had promised them at Galilee, where a risen Jesus gave them what we today call "The Great Commission."
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always to the end of the age."
This commission was probably the focus of the conversation in the Upper Room. About 20 persons, including the disciples, awaited there the power that Jesus had promised them. When the Holy Spirit descended like the rush of a violent wind, Peter was already giving leadership to the group. As they came out of the Upper Room filled with the Holy Spirit, the devout Jews from every nation under heaven heard them speak. They were "amazed and astonished for each one heard them speaking in the native language of each ~ about God's deeds of power."
Peter addresses the crowd reminding them of the words of the prophet Joel, "In the last days it will be," God declares, that "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, etc."
He then preaches about Jesus of Nazareth, his crucifixion and his resurrection. His recognition and allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah is made very clear. Peter calls them to repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ so that their sins may be forgiven and they would receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "So those who welcome his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 persons were added to the community of believers." It was the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Peter and John continue to be spokespersons for the group, appear before The Council particularly with regard to their healing activity.
The new community of faith becomes bold in its witness. Many are converted. The apostles heal many and are persecuted. Peter becomes known as a powerful healer. Today's scripture details the raising from the death of Tabitha by Peter. In his lifetime Jesus had told the disciples that they would do even greater work than he had done. The book of Acts records the powerful work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples.
Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas, was a widowed disciple who did good works and distinguished her service by the clothes she made for the poor. She lived among the people and served them as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Peter's raising her from the dead caused many to believe in the Lord.
The Koinonia, the fellowship of believers, was as much a healing experience as any of the miracles that they were able to perform.
Tabitha was a part of this movement of sharing and giving. Her healing takes place within this context:
Acts 2:43-47 records: "Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
They exemplified in their responsibility to and for one another the right and just relationships of God's creative intentionality. They modeled a community of love in stark contrast to the powerful political competitive structures of their day and our own.
The biblical accounts of the early believers challenge us to be bold in our present day witness. Others have experienced persecution. We have the freedom to give our time and talent in service to others, to be healers in the name of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was a teacher, but he spent most or as much of his time healing. This is precisely why the early believers utilized their gifts of healing. In our day, despite scientific and medical knowledge more than 41 million people are without health care - and we are the wealthiest people in the world. Dr. M. Jocelyn Elders speaks of the 12 million children who live in poverty as members of what she calls the 5-H Club; the hungry, the homeless, the helpless, the hugless and the hopeless.
Dianne L. Nue, Co-Director of the women's alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual writes on healing.
Healing takes many forms - from swallowing grandma's home remedies to having your scalp massaged and shampooed, from receiving a reconciling embrace to sobbing alone. We find healing through a sympathetic listener, a forgiving hug, a crying spell, a belly laugh, an herbal bath, a quiet time with nature, a moving sermon, a powerful Eucharist or a deeply meaningful ritual.
Pain and violence exist in our world. We need healing. Women and children have been violated. We need healing. A woman is battered every 15 seconds in the U.S. We need healing. A rape is committed every six minutes. We need healing. One woman in four will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. We need healing. Women are violated in pastoral counseling. We need healing. Half the victims of sexual abuse are under the age 11. We need healing. One of every seven married women is the victim of marital rape. We need healing.
Healing has twin aspects; restoration now and empowerment for the future. It happens within and without, making body and spirit whole together. External healing is often a sign of inner healing; inner healing reveals itself through the body. Basically, healing restores a restoration with self, with others, with the Holy One.
We pray for the healing of nations and society. Our prayers include our commitment to change and to acceptance of all persons as children of a just and righteous God.