Peter... knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, "Tabitha, get up." Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. - Acts 9
God is my shepherd; I shall not want. God makes me lie down in green pastures... - Psalm 23
When spring begins to peek around the corner, it does so shyly, like a child in her parent's arms. She smiles at us tentatively, then hides behind a safe shoulder or skirt, not certain whether it's safe to reach out.
If we persist gently, we might make friends, and the shyness and reluctance will give way to open-hearted curiosity, the seed of love and friendship.
Ahhh, spring. Right now, in its infancy, it is to be celebrated without reserve. It's still too early for the craziness of all we have to do when the lawn and the garden begin to sweep us up in busy-ness. The time will soon come when we might be too busy to contemplate miracles, even as miracles are bursting forth all around us.
The Book of Acts tells us of the time just after Jesus' death, resurrection, and re-appearance to his disciples. This week's reading tells of a new miracle; a miracle effected by Peter, who, only a few weeks ago, was a betrayer of the same Jesus who first taught his friends about miracles. Tabitha, or Dorcas, was a good woman. She is the only woman in the New Testament who is accorded the title of disciple, although we are pretty sure that there were many women in Jesus' circle who so qualified. Tabitha, whom the story tells us "was devoted to good works and acts of charity", has died. Peter is called to her funereal bed, and he brings her back to life.
Oh, great, we say. Another inexplicable bit of ancient magic that might not square with anything that we have experienced. Is there anyone among us who wouldn't love to have someone we love who has died, brought back to life? Why do we have to keep reading these stories that tell of miracles we wish could happen to us?
What do we do with such stories, other than grieve for the absence of such miracles? What do we do when we are so caught up in the busy-ness of our lives that we can't see the miracles that are happening all around us?
With a little bit of good fortune, some heartfelt prayer, and some humble reckoning, we find "goodness and mercy" in what our lives, and the lives of others, offer to us. Maybe our Tabitha won't come back to life, but her devotion to "good works and charity" will live on beyond her death. It will reside in our hearts. She will live among us in lives comforted, changed, and restored by her goodness, and by the example of our own lives, enriched at the feet of the Tabitha's we've known and loved.
God smiles on charity, on goodness, on our ability to understand stories not for their factual truth, but for their gentle nudge. Most of us know the 23rd Psalm, which we will read and sing tomorrow. "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." Our Tabitha may not spring back to earthly life, but she is a disciple, and invites us to be the same. She will always be that disciple. She will follow us all the days of our lives. Her new life, restored by Peter, a bumbling, growing, learning disciple, will continue to be among us and to teach us how to live.
Meanwhile, spring's miracles remind us that looking for them urgently blinds us to them. New life springs from the ground; from surprising resurrections. Let us pray that we don't' get too busy to notice this. Let us pray that we will be surprised by them.
Share your miracles in community, or hear stories of such miracles if you're wondering whether they are real. They are; God showers us with them - maybe especially in a tentative, at-first-shy-but-finally-welcoming springtime. The God who is our shepherd really does restore our souls. And the pastures are green. How sweet this is.