The Value of a Label

5/8/2022

Message Title: The Value of a Label
Theme:
Active Faith
Season: Easter
Main Text: *Acts 9:36-43;
Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30
RCL Scripture: *Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Focus: Faith in Jesus is more about actions than words.
Function:
To put our actions where our words are by holding nothing back in our faith for Christ.
Other Notes:
MOTHER’S DAY

SCRIPTURE READING: John 10:22-30 22 The time came for the Festival of Dedication[a] in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple, walking in the covered porch named for Solomon. 24 The Jewish opposition circled around him and asked, “How long will you test our patience? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, but you don’t believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me26 but you don’t believe because you don’t belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life. They will never die, and no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

ACTIVE FAITH EXAMPLE: Today is Mother’s Day and I’d like to talk about a spiritual mother rather than a biological mother. Mother Teresa was sainted by the Catholic church in 2016 but I believe the general population had deemed her a saint much earlier. I mean, this woman received a Nobel Peace Prize after all.

  1. I realize the humor in a Baptist talking about a Catholic saint—but if you don’t know this woman’s story, you’re missing out.
  2. In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. This congregation of nuns did mission work in over 133 countries. “Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and also profess a fourth vow – to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.””
    1. One of their first missions was to provide a place for the dying–HIV/AIDS, Leper, tuberculosis- dying with dignity.
    2. BUT the coolest story? In 1982, Lebanon was in the midst of a war. This fighting led to an orphanage for disabled children being attacked. Kids were wounded, in dangerous medical states because of their disabilities or, killed in the attacks. The workers left the kids to save themselves.
      1. Mother Teresa found out about this and instantly went to work. She wanted to go save those kids. However, the officials wouldn’t bring her into save the kids without a cease fire as they were actively bombing that area. She prayed and was completely confident the next day would bring a cease fire. Sure enough, the next day came and there was a cease fire. She arrived at 5 am so the Lebanese Red Cross could bring her in to get the kids out.
    3. Sources:
      1. https://www.asianews.it/news-en/Mother-Teresa,-the-war-in-Lebanon-and-the-rescue-of-100-orphans-and-children-with-disabilities-38470.html
      2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa
  3. Talk about maternal instincts! Mother Teresa was a mother to the dying, the poor, and the orphan. She may not have birthed children but she loved as passionately as Jesus. She embodied the motherhood of God.

TRANSITION: In our text today, we will connect the words of Jesus with the actions of a woman named Tabitha. Let’s hear her story and find inspiration for our own ACTIVE Faith.

MAIN TEXT: Acts 9:36-43 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need. 37 About that time, though, she became so ill that she died. After they washed her body, they laid her in an upstairs room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two people to Peter. They urged, “Please come right away!” 39 Peter went with them. Upon his arrival, he was taken to the upstairs room. All the widows stood beside him, crying as they showed the tunics and other clothing Dorcas made when she was alive. 40 Peter sent everyone out of the room, then knelt and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and raised her up. Then he called God’s holy people, including the widows, and presented her alive to them. 42 The news spread throughout Joppa, and many put their faith in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed for some time in Joppa with a certain tanner named Simon.

EXPLAINATION:

  1. MT: Tabitha’s Faith
    1. It would be easy to focus this story on the actions of Peter. I mean, Peter did just raise someone from the dead. But I think the more significant story is of the woman he raised.
      1. Right in the first verse of our reading, Tabitha (aka Dorcas aka Gazelle) is called a disciple. This woman is devoted to the teachings of Jesus and her life reflects that truth.
      2. Tabitha passes away and the widows gather to mourn her. Their mourning tells a beautiful story. They pull out garments that she has made for them. This woman LITERALLY “clothed the poor.” Just like Jesus said to do. Her life was shaped around caring for the vulnerable.
      3. Disciples (likely not the 12 but other disciples like Tabitha in Joppa) request help from Peter. He came and raised her up.
      4. Tabitha’s actions and resuscitation brought people to Jesus.
  2. SR: My sheep listen to my voice.
    1. This fits perfectly with the gospel passage. Jesus is in the Temple during Hanukah. A group of Jews are asking for clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah.
    2. But Jesus had just finished a whole section of “I am” statements that would have LITERALLY been Jesus giving them what they wanted. After all, God’s name is ‘I AM.” He connected the dots BUT they didn’t want to hear it.
    3. Jesus says—even my words declare this truth. He healed a man born blind before his “I am” statements. After this, he would revive Lazarus from the dead.  

INTERPRETATION:

  1. Tabitha didn’t miss it. Tabitha acted in accordance with her faith. She believed in Jesus and her actions reflected that belief. There was a chain reaction.
  2. Jesus was not only speaking but also doing the very things that SHOULD point to him being the Messiah. However, the people most educated in the scriptures didn’t see it. They missed it because of their own perceptions of who the Messiah would be or how the Messiah would act.
    1. They rejected the label of Messiah for Jesus because he didn’t fit their understanding of the Messiah.

APPLICATION:

  1. Back to intro: Mother Teresa may not have been a biological mother BUT she was a Spiritual Mother to many, not just those children she saved in Lebanon.
    1. There have been different times in her life that Mother Teresa was questioned about her methods or beliefs, especially when they were unpopular. Her response in one particular moment was to remind people to not get lost in their lives and decisions so much that they forget to love.
      1. “Mother Teresa said: “Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving.”
        1. Not get lost in the label and forget the responsibility.
  2. We can be very proud of the labels we carry: Parent, Pastor, Christian, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE. However, labels mean nothing without actions.
    1. Mother Teresa was a mother, not because of the Catholic church but because of her ministry to others.
    2. The Jews who opposed Jesus, clung to their labels but lacked in their actions.
    3. Tabitha was exemplary in actions of her faith that she claimed. She was worthy of the label of disciple because of her actions. Labels to match the actions.
  3. We can claim to be Christians until we are blue in the face. But until we are lacking love, that label is worthless. We demean the label of Christian when we act unloving.
    1. Concepts and debates don’t win new believers; genuine loving faith wins new believers.

CONCLUSION:  In this world, you will meet people you disagree with. In this world you will interact with people who practice behaviors that you abhor. You will change no one’s mind by being an arrogant jerk.  But love can change the world. Ponder this as we listen to this song.

SONG:  Love Can Change the World by Aaron Niequist

BENEDICTION: May you finally live into the right labels. May you fully embody the name Christian, not for believing the right thing but by acting like Jesus.

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