“Please come to us without delay.” I wonder if you have ever received a message like that. For me, it brings back memories of being called to the hospital because a church member was dying. I can still feel my heart beating faster as I dropped whatever I was doing and set out, never quite sure what I would find when I got there, but desperately wanting to offer whatever support I could.
Peter’s response to the news about Tabitha is a master class in deathbed pastoral care! First, he responded immediately. Even though she had already died, he recognized the importance of going to be with those who were walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Second, he allowed the mourners to share with him what Tabitha meant to them. They held precious memories that were important for them to talk about.
Third, he spent time alone with Tabitha, and he prayed. I imagine this privacy also enabled him to express his own grief.
Obviously, what happened next has never been my experience! However, Peter’s use of Tabitha’s name, his making sure that she knew that he was there, and the touch of his hand are all valuable ways of ministering to people on the threshold of life and death.
Peter then “showed her to be alive.” A proclamation of our Easter faith to those who are grieving is crucial, particularly when we have to believe without seeing. Finally, Peter “stayed in Joppa for some time.” He did not rush away as quickly as he had come. His pastoral care was ongoing.
Eternal God, stretch out your hand to those who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death and lift them into the light of your presence. Amen.
The imagery of sheep plays a prominent role in three of this week’s readings. Psalm 23 uses the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep as its guiding metaphor. The Lord is our shepherd and leads us to safe and fertile places. Even when we pass through a dark valley, the Lord is there protecting us with a shepherd’s weapon, a staff. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd who calls his sheep. Because they are his, they hear his voice. In Revelation, Jesus becomes the sheep—or more specifically, the Lamb that was slain on our behalf. Those who endure will praise the Lamb forever. Acts is different in that it focuses on a resurrection story, a manifestation of God’s power working through Peter.
Read Acts 9:36-43. How can you be a witness and a vessel for God’s activity?
Read Psalm 23. Reflect on the questions the author poses in Tuesday’s meditation. Allow God’s guidance and correction to be comforting.
Read Revelation 7:9-17. How does knowing Christ as both Lamb and Shepherd help you work to bring about things not yet seen?
Read John 10:22-30. How does your faith allow you to hold your convictions without needing to grasp tightly to certainties?
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