Acts 9:36-43 [watch video here]
Let’s take a survey.
Who has ever been transformed by love?
Raise your hand if the answer is yes.
How have you been transformed?
Has it been like the slow drip of rain
that leaves scattered holes on a rock’s surface?
Or have you experienced a sudden transformation–
like a quick strike of lightning exploding rock?
There’s so many ways to be transformed.
At a museum, I recently saw an ancient rock
with dappled grooves from rain from millions of years ago.
Rain imprints – from millions of years ago –
preserved for our viewing eyes today.
I saw another brown rock that was fossilized mud.
A muddy day preserved for our view eyes today.
Love is like the water that shapes the rocks.
Love is like the lava that forms the blocks of this earth.
Love is like the elements that have fossilized the million-year-old mud.
Love is like that. It leaves a mark.
It stamps our soul.
Love is priceless. Useless. Unable to be commodified.
Bottled. Properly sold.
People will tell you their product will fill you up,
will give you the love that you need and shake you up,
but it is just a mockup,
a facsimile, an imitation of a lesser thing.
Real love is not sold to the highest bidder.
It is not made with cheap labor.
It does not prioritize deadlines
over the creased lines left on a person’s face
when they are chastised for a bathroom break.
People have to work faster, longer
because people bought something online
and they have to have their order on time!
The mega corporations tell us that
nothing is more important than convenience.
Not your daughter’s achievements.
Nor the people that you lean on.
Got to make the deadline.
Sacrifice the humanity of all you meet and manage.
Make the product. Buy the product. Consume the product.
Become the product.
Greed sells our souls to the highest bidder.
And do we really mind? This world can stink.
It can feel better to numb out. To give up. To cheap out.
To forget the person who got this product to us
because at least we got our product on time,
and that is all what matters, right?
A million years from now.
What will be written in the history books?
What are the signs they will find on the ground?
Will someone find the sole of our shoe imprinted in the mud?
Will they know that we have loved?
That we allowed ourselves to be turned like an etch-a-sketch?
That we gave up the soft center of our soily selves
and allowed ourselves to be marked,
to be dappled with rain and exploded with lightning?
That we gave ourselves over to a dance, a rhyme, an art
that formed our very being?
That we became no longer cold rock,
but hot melted lava running over the world,
giving ourselves to new form,
inviting those who touched our hot surface to re-form, to be reborn,
to give themselves over to the dance, the rhyme, the heat, the rain, the soaking, the moment when we surrender to the force of love who transforms.
Like the magma churning beneath the earth.
We melt, we cease to take control, to be control,
to have control, to know, to plan, to order. We just say, yes.
Yes to the rain, yes to the heat,
yes to the sun, and the wind on our cheeks.
Yes to the earthy experience of being human
and allowing the mud of your soul to receive a footprint
– a soul-print – from one another,
one you thought would wash away, but instead it stays;
it fossilizes; it capsizes every notion you had that you were just an island
in the ocean, needing nothing, needing no person,
but instead, you became part of the dance, the rhyme,
the fine display of community.
The absurdity is that sometimes we think that transforming love is ours to give. It is a duty. A chore. A bore.
Something we do to raise our score. Of goodness.
But transforming love is a gift to us.
We help others but then years later,
as we examine their imprints upon our soul, we realize they helped us.
They grew our heart, our life, our purpose, they showed us who we are.
That life, it is not for shirking.
It is for conserving that which is tender at our center.
That we may touch. May feel. May human.
That we may still pray and feel the wind of the spirit blow against our face,
that the sunshine of God may warm our cheeks
and the rumble of Christ’s voice may thunder in our ear.
That we may begin. At least for a second. To live without fear.
Without a need to disappear. Or appear large than life.
That we may just be ourselves. Right here.
This is a moment the earth will mark.
Something from today will be fossilized for future generations to find.
There is an indelible mark that time cannot sweep away.
This is what the weeping widows have to say in the passage today.
They, too, have the foot-print, soul-print, left by their friend, Tabitha.
The weeping widows have seen, have felt, have touched,
have worn the clothes of transforming love.
The gift that money cannot buy.
The gift that cannot be quantified.
Tabitha gave the widows gifts of clothes and sewing.
She did not turn a profit. Or start a business.
She just gave. For free.
She loved unconditionally.
Like a waterfall flowing over rocks.
She didn’t know what would happen when the water fell,
how the stone would be shaped,
how a canyon would form,
how people thousands of years from now would read the story,
and say, My! How beautiful!
Did you see what the river of her love created?
It’s like the Grand Canyon.
The water found its way through the soft sediment of rock.
It could not be stopped.
Tabitha had no idea of the outcome of her flow.
All she said is yes, I will be water.
I will be water when I wake up.
I will become water when I go t0 bed.
I will become one with the baptizing waters.
One with the ocean of God.
One with the current of the Spirit,
sweeping us down the riverbed of wholeness.
You never see the same water in a riverbed twice.
It is always different water particles. On the move.
Down, down, down they stream.
You don’t know where they go.
You don’t know how exactly how they flow over the bedrock,
how the bedrock will be shaped for the ages to come.
And still the water particles stream.
And still the women, Tabitha’s beloveds, scream,
They wail. Tabitha, the woman they loved, her breath has failed!
She has died. And yet they have her clothes.
And yet they call for a witness, for Peter to come.
To come close
to the hot lava of their hearts
which is melted from the transforming love of Tabitha
and now erupts like a volcano into the world around them.
Look! They say, when Peter comes close.
Look at the clothes! The love!
The gift which we could not buy
but which we hungered for with all our hearts.
Look at our treasure!
Our treasure so beautiful it makes us weep,
Our treasure so beautiful it sweeps us away.
We have been fossilized like rain drops on stony outcrops.
We will never be the same.
Peter gets this!
This indelible mark.
Peter brings Tabitha back to life.
The real resurrection though?
It is in the widows.
It is in the eternal gift God, through Tabitha, bestows.
Love, it never dies.
Like the fossils we find inside the earth.
We have fossils in our hearts, artifacts, treasures we unearth,
Planted long ago by those we knew and those we passed by,
who gave us gems of transforming love which will remain
in the bedrock of our soul, even when we get old, or our heat grows cold.
The love of Tabitha it lives on.
It is alive in us.
Do you perceive?
She taught us this!
She gave us the keys!
The keys to unlock the truth of life
the purpose of it all.
Transforming love? Yeah, that’s our call!
But it’s just not our call out there it’s the call within.
That’s God calling you. Loving you. No matter what you do.
What a present!
It almost feels cheap to take this gift.
Shouldn’t we have to pay for this?
But if you let it in. Through strangers. Through kin.
Through the songs of robins. Just soak it in.
It starts to leave footprints. Soul-prints.
Fossils you can return to.
You can start to say, remember when?
Even if you have to remind yourself again. And again.
God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s big, soft care will change you.
Receive water. Become water.
Flow through the riverbed and over the falls.
Sure, you don’t know what will be left in your wake,
after the stream, after you dream. Just show up.
Become the ocean even if you’re just a drop.
Listen to the widows by Tabitha’s side.
Real love? Yeah. It never dies. It lives on.
Eternally in God.
God IS the flow!
Take a dip! Dive on in!
Oh yeah, let’s go!