April 27, 2010

Sermon for Easter 4, Year C

I rewrote the ending in the pulpit, but didn't make that change here. You get my drift either way.

There is an age old saying that goes “the eyes are the window to the soul.” So, If you’ll bear with me on this pigged-out weekend, I’d like you to turn to your neighbor, preferably not your spouse if you can help it, and look deeply into their eyes. What do you see? Maybe a sense of humor? Maybe a tinge of sadness? Maybe some honesty? But, do you see their soul? Do you see what they are passionate about? Mostly, all you can see is the toll years have taken. Years of smiles and laughter. Years of tears and heartbreak. Years of allergies. The crisp replacement lens of a cataracts patient. The blank stare of an Alzheimer sufferer knowing that something used to be there. But if we are really honest, the eyes are not the window to the soul.
And this is probably a good thing. Can you imagine trying to get to know someone and all you could do is stare deeply into their eyes? Awkward right? I mean by now you may enjoy looking longingly into your partner’s eyes, then again maybe you don’t. But you most certainly didn’t get to know them exclusively by staring in their eyes. At some point you had to open your mouth and ask questions. It is the answers the these questions that give you a window into the soul. What do you like? What do you care about? What are your passions? What do you do?
This morning, we met someone new. Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, won’t be in our lives for very long, but as one of only a handful of people who died and raised again, we should take some time to get to know her. History tells us very little about Tabitha. She was a disciple, that is to say she walked with and learned from Jesus. She is one of very few women who are given that particular title in Scripture. She was a dressmaker. As far as we can tell, she made very fine clothes; tunics and otherwise that she was able to sell for a very handsome price. Dressmaking was her business, her main source of income, her household economy. Luke adds one other detail to his description of Tabitha; she was, as Luke tells us, dedicated to good works and acts of charity. When she died, the widows, who we can assume were the focus of her good works and acts of charity, gathered to do what people do when someone dies. They gathered at the house to mourn and to tell stories. What is interesting about this particular gathering is that the stories that the widows tell seem to be directly related with the tunics and other garments that Tabitha, the dressmaking disciple who was dedicated to good works and acts of charity, had made.
For Tabitha, dresses were the window to her soul, not because they were beautiful or expensive or for any material reason, but because these were the garments that she used to help the widows of Joppa. She sold them for good money and used that money to help others in the name of Jesus. Those dresses are the window to her soul, and in her soul we see a passion for the downtrodden and impoverished. Tabitha’s soul was filled with the message of Jesus and her life was one of good works, and the dresses told that story. But there are windows into your soul that are even more important.
The tenth chapter of John’s Gospel takes place over the course of three months, and for three months, it seems, Jesus spoke in the metaphor of sheep and shepherd. Finally, at the Feast of Dedication, somewhere in the eight nights of Hanukkah, the crowd had had enough. “Tell us plainly,” they said, “are you the Messiah or not!” Jesus' response was what? It certainly wasn’t to tell them plainly. His response was, “I did tell you,” which John never tells us he did, “but you didn't believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify to me...”
Jesus didn't speak plainly. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, his words weren’t what was important. Jesus was content to allow his actions speak for themselves. The works he did in his Father's name, works of healing and feeding; works of forgiveness and restoration; works that manipulated nature and turned water into abundantly good wine: these were the window to Jesus’ soul. Windows to his true identity. If people looked through him they would see the Father. If they wanted to know what God cares about, all they needed to do was look at Jesus. If they wanted to see how God treats his sinful and broken creation, they need look no further than Jesus.
And, Jesus says, if you've seen him for who he truly is, if you’ve been able to see through him to his Father, then you are his sheep and you will follow him. Follow him into acts of service. Follow him into compassion for all of God's creation. Follow him to the giving up of self for the betterment of another and to the glory of God. Follow him and be a window to the Father.
The eyes may not be the window to the soul. Tabitha teaches us that everything about us should be a window into our true self, the passions of our soul. People should be able see through us into our passions and our God. Be a window for God. Let people see God's love through what you do and how you live. Let people see God's passion through how you treat your fellow man. Let people see through you that the road to eternal life begins in the here and now. In the words of Peter, “get up!” Get up! Get out of the grave that you’ve made for yourself and be the window for God that he made you to be, and do it in this world, right now. Amen.

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