Peace be with you!
Several times this week I sat on my couch with my pups and my baby blanket wondering where to find light in the midst of much darkness. This week has been one long /emotional rollercoaster for our nation and the world. The week started with the joyous celebration of Patriot’s Day with the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013 – a date now forever engraved in our minds. Two young men changed the joyous celebration into fear and trauma. The nation spent the week on edge as police and FBI agents came together to find the two terrorists. By Friday, Boston and surrounding areas were on lockdown as the police, FBI, and more went into homes and searched for the second suspect after a bloody battle late Thursday night took the life of the first suspect. Friday evening, the second suspect was captured and taken into custody. A joyous celebration followed in Boston and on social networks. Yet for the injured, maimed and grieving, the nightmare is still not over. Families sit awaiting news of their loved ones who were injured in the week’s events and plan funerals for those who were lost.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 is another date engraved into our minds this week as a fertilizer plant exploded, destroying a whole town and neighborhood. Fourteen people were killed in the explosion while several others are injured. Some of the first responders were among the causalities.
Nothing about this week has been light-hearted. Even the history books cast a dark shadow on the dates of this past week. On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was killed. On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bomb exploded. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed thirteen people at Columbine High School. I remember having drills in school following this event just in case it happened at our school. And if that is not enough to put a pit in your stomach, April 20 is Hitler’s birthday. These kinds of events inspire fear and hopelessness in our hearts.
It is on weeks like this when I dig into my memory boxes from my childhood and take out the two blankets my great grandmother made me. The blankets were made by hand in her home – a single room schoolhouse with no running water. The first blanket was my baby blanket made from patch squares. My great grandma made one pink and white flower blanket to match my “big girl bedroom” when I was a child. You cannot buy blankets like my great grandma created with her fragile arthritic hands. The pink blanket my great grandma made me sits on lap as I write this devotion. The world seems darker after the Boston Marathon tragedy and the Texas explosion, but the blanket gives me hope for tomorrow. Born in 1900, my great grandma lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, and the Cold War, and she still had hope in the future as long as she had her shot of whiskey in her coffee each morning! Hope is stitched into the blankets she made; through them, she ensured her grandchildren and great-grandchildren would always keep warm.
In our first reading, Peter gets news that a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ has died and is asked to come visit her friends and family in Joppa. Tabitha is a woman beloved by her community where she did many works of charity such as helping widows and mothers by making them tunics and clothing (Acts 9:36). She was the Mother Teresa of the first century, caring for those that needed extra care and love. By her good works, Tabitha gained the trust of those in her community as a beloved disciple of Jesus Christ. She also brought different cultures together because she was a Greek who came to believe in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. She lived out the true meaning of discipleship by sharing Jesus’ love with others.
Her friends and family are gathered in her home, recalling memories of Tabitha. Some of her friends probably do not know what they will do without her, because Tabitha did so much for them. Others are hoping to continue to share her handmade tunics and clothing with others and to help those in need. It is a time of grieving as they call on Peter to visit.
Peter has brought back people who were dead before. Jesus was raised from the dead and walked on earth before he ascended into heaven. It was well known that Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. Tabitha’s friends and family have hope that she will be given new life through Jesus Christ.
In the days that follow the Boston Marathon tragedy and the Texas explosion, it is this hope that keeps me going – death is another chapter in one’s life. Hope carries us beyond the grave and into eternal life. Psalm 23:4 says:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me (NRSV).
Jesus Christ brings this light into the darkness to give us hope and to lead us into eternal life. In the darkness, angels continue to whisper, “Do not be afraid. The light is showing you the way home.” It is hard not to be afraid when tragedies occur. Fear is our first instinctive mechanism when tragedies happen, because we want to feel safe. However, the Lord calls us to keep calm and to have hope.
When Peter raises Tabitha to life (Acts 9:40), it is not so much a miracle as it would be today, because it was a common practice – Jesus raised Lazarus and Peter raised others. People come to believe in the Lord (Acts 9:42), because Tabitha being brought back to life changes how the world views death. Before Jesus came into the world, death had the final say. Now people are being raised from the grave. The world is changing right in front of those who watch.
We are given new life through Jesus Christ and his ascension to heaven. Jesus gives us eternal life in his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension. Tabitha’s friends and family witness new life when Peter brings her back to life; they witness the Lord working through Peter to conquer death. The world no longer has to feel threatened by death, because it is no longer gets the final say. We can hold on to hope that God the Father raised the two runners, the young boy, and the policeman killed on Monday, April 15, 2013 during the explosions in Boston. We can lift up the fourteen people killed on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 in the Texas explosion.
The end of death: this is exciting news for Christians to hear. Satan brought death into the world when he told Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. However, through his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus conquers death. Where Satan brings darkness, Jesus shines for all to see. This is the good news we, as disciples, are called to share with the world.
Everyone in our family has a blanket handmade by Great Grandma. My mom just had her blankets out and, upon seeing them, I was a little girl again, laid out on a blanket watching my great grandma sew, knit, or crochet all while telling me about God’s love. On days when a tragedy happens, I wrap myself in one of her blankets. Her loving hands were busy creating something for us to treasure. My great grandma lives through her blankets, even today.
Runners have announced their intention to run the Boston Marathon next year to keep the memory of those who died in the bombings alive. Someone placed a jersey on the historical statue at the Boston hockey game with the name of the young boy who died. After the second suspect was captured, people crowded the streets of Boston and surrounding areas and sang the national anthem in memory of those who died in the Revolutionary War and the Boston bombings. God shines his light into the darkness and raises up the innocent, the helpless, the hopeless, and the shameless to new life.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for raising Tabitha up to new life. Help us to share the good news with all those who come into our lives. Remind us the gift of new life starts with Jesus Christ, your Son, and is for all people. Thank you for the gift of new life. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Where do you find hope in the darkness? How do you keep calm when tragedies happen?
2. How do you share Jesus’ love with others?