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Homily for 5/10/09 - Pascha 4 - Tabitha's lessons

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  • Fr David Moser
    Acts 9:32-42 Since Pascha we have heard how the Apostles have been doing all those things that our Lord did when He was with them. The sick were healed, the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2009
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      Acts 9:32-42

      Since Pascha we have heard how the Apostles have been doing all those
      things that our Lord did when He was with them. The sick were healed,
      the poor were cared for, and even as we read today, the dead were
      raised. These activities exemplify for us the clear lesson that the
      Spirit of God, by which our Lord worked His miracles, continues to live
      in the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ not only in word, but in
      Spirit and in deed as well.

      Just as the sisters of Lazarus called to Jesus to come when their
      brother was ill, so also when one of the members of the Church fell ill,
      the apostles were called to come to lay their hands upon the sick person
      and restore them to health. In the town of Joppa there was a woman by
      the name of Dorcas, or in Hebrew Tabitha. Tabitha was not a wealthy
      woman, but she worked as seamstress and thus earned her living sewing
      clothing for others. She did not have great wealth, but even so she gave
      to God out of that which He had given her. She did not have money, but
      she did have the skill of making garments and so she did just that,
      sewing without charge for those among the brethren who were poor and
      widowed. Because of her charity, she was beloved by the brethren there
      and when she fell gravely ill, even to death, the elders summoned the
      Apostle Peter from nearby Lydda. By the time Peter arrived, however,
      Tabitha had succumbed to her illness and had died.

      How familiar this must have felt to Peter. Just as the Lord came to
      Bethany too late to heal Lazarus, so also he had come too late to Joppa
      to heal Tabitha. But Peter had also learned from his Master that even
      death was subject to the Spirit of God and so moved by the Holy Spirit,
      Peter emptied the room of the mourners and began to pray. He turned to
      the dead woman and reaching out to her commanded, “Tabitha arise” and
      she opened her eyes and sat up. Tabitha had been restored to the Church
      community in Joppa by the power of God.

      From this event there are many things to learn. First is the example of
      Tabitha’s charity. Even though she herself was a peasant, having to work
      sewing clothing to provide for herself, she did not allow this to be an
      excuse for not giving. She did not look around at what she did not have,
      thinking, “if only I had riches, I could give to the Church” but rather
      she looked at what she did have and gave of her skill and ability to sew
      clothing for the poor (a luxury generally reserved for the rich). All
      too often our giving is governed by our desire for what we do not have.
      “If only” we think “I had this or that, then I could give to the Church”
      “If only I win the lottery, then I could give a large gift to the
      Church” We think about all the “if only”s and even though it is couched
      in good intentions (I’ll give to the Church when I get – whatever) still
      it becomes an excuse not to give. We only consider what we don’t have
      and therefore cannot give, and too often forget about what we do have
      and therefore could give. If you have money, then give from what you
      have. But perhaps you do not have money, but you do have a skill or an
      ability – give of that, just as Tabitha did. Perhaps you simply have
      time and energy and enthusiasm – give of those things. Do not be
      concerned for what you don’t have, rather, whatever you have – give from
      that and God will bless.

      Beyond looking at only the person of Tabitha, let us also look at the
      whole Church represented for us in the person of the Holy Apostle Peter.
      After the Ascension of our Lord, the Holy Spirit descended upon the
      Apostles and upon the company of believers. From this time on, they were
      all empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to carry on the work
      of our Lord Jesus Christ, proclaiming God’s love and His salvation to
      the world. For some, like the apostles, this meant that they were given
      various gifts which allowed them to speak with great power as they
      witnessed to what they had seen and heard and experienced in Christ. For
      others, like Tabitha this meant that they used the gifts that God had
      given not for themselves and their own gain, but rather as a means of
      expressing the love of God to others in almsgiving and other acts of
      righteousness.

      The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, which is given to us at our
      personal Pentecost, that is in the sacrament of Chrismation, empowers
      each of us in the same way. We are empowered by God such that our
      natural worldly actions become supernatural and reverberate through
      eternity. When we give alms it is not mere human philanthropy but it
      becomes a divine act by which we give not only our worldly possessions,
      but we give the eternal and divine love of God. When we pray, the words
      of our prayer are not limited to this world as though we were talking to
      ourselves or to another person, but those words cross over into eternity
      and rise to the highest heaven and are heard by God Himself. They do not
      merely evoke some inherent power within our subconscious or even the
      sympathy and assistance of those around us, but having risen to the
      Throne of God, our prayers evoke an outpouring of mercy, love and grace
      from God upon us and upon those for whom we pray. That outpouring of
      grace settles in the soul and becomes the means by which we are
      transformed from a sinful, mortal creature into the eternal image and
      likeness of the God/man Jesus Christ. When we speak of those things
      which we have seen and heard and experienced in Christ, our words are
      imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit and are capable of transforming
      not only ourselves, but also transforming those who hear them. In short,
      everything that we do has the potential to become an act of eternal
      consequence and effect. Our task as Christians is to become like Christ,
      expressing through our lives not ourselves, but Him. When we love we
      love with His love; when we pray, we pray with His voice and His
      prayers; when we give to others, we give from His limitless treasury;
      when we speak, we speak His words. We have become the incarnation of
      Christ in the world for we are part of the Body of Christ in a real and
      tangible way through the grace of the Holy Spirit Who lives within us.

      The saints of the Church, whether they be those of “’high profile” and
      great renown like the Apostle Peter, or those known only to their
      friends and neighbors like Tabitha have this in common that they live
      not with their own lives, but with the life of Christ. They have been
      transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit and have been united with
      Christ. This is also our destiny and as we pursue this destiny, we have
      the saints as our mentors and examples. But they are much more than
      simply examples of whom we read in a book, but rather by the Grace of
      God, death no longer separates us. They are our living friends and
      helpers, united to us as we are all united to Christ and filled with the
      grace of the Holy Spirit which is also poured out freely upon us by
      Christ. Let us therefore reach out to the saints, calling to them
      whenever we are in need, just as the Church in Joppa called out to the
      Apostle Peter. They will surely hear us and with the help of our Lord
      they will reach out to us and aid us as in our own transformation so
      that we might more perfectly be united to one another and to Jesus
      Christ Himself.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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