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Resurrection: In Community

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This Easter season, I am been thinking a lot about “resurrection.” I am intrigued by what this concept, “resurrection”, this idea that the Living Christ shows up for us today means. For this is who we are as followers of Jesus, right? We are people that believe in resurrection. This Jesus who is and who was and who is to come,” (Rev. 1:4b, NRSV). But… really? Resurrection? How are we to understand—in 2019—the ways in which death does not have the last word?

This is why I loved hanging out with Tabitha, also known as Dorcus, this week. And reflecting on the faith community into which her life was intricately woven. Her story is a model of discipleship. She was a model of one way to follow Jesus. She made sure that people were clothed. Her works testified to the encounter that she had with God, and the transformation she experienced.

“At that time she became ill and died” (Acts 9:37).

Tabitha’s kindness was so essential to those around her that they told stories about her good works after her death. Her illness, and death, must have shaken them to the core. How would they carry on without her? 

Because of Tabitha…

Because of Jesus…

Because of Jesus, resurrection has occurred, and continues to occur, in community—as people gather and affirm their grief will not overcome them. That death will not destroy them.

In worship last Sunday, as we shared our prayers, somebody lifted up Rachel Held Evans. An author of five or more books, blogger, and social media theologian, Rachel was raised in an evangelical faith tradition that does not recognize women preachers. I heard her speak at a conference in 2016 entitled, “Why Christian?”

Since that conference, I have loved “hanging out with” Rachel and the thousands of other people who had read her books and clung to her prophetic words. We all connected via social media. There, we “heard” Rachel confess that, “I (had) thought God wanted to use me to show gay people how to be straight. Instead God used gay people to show me how to be Christian.” Her words testified to the encounter she had with God, and the transformation she experienced. How Jesus shook up her faith.

Rachel’s kindness was so essential our loosely gathered digital faith community, that when she got sick a few weeks ago, the community was shaken to the core.

Like Tabitha, “At that time, she became ill…” (Acts 9:37).

With disbelief, we gathered on Twitter to pray for Rachel. Days later, as she was placed in a medically induced coma a hashtag emerged that drew us closer, #PrayforRHE.

And then, on May 4, Rachel died. The New Yorker magazine ran an article that shared, “Late on Friday evening, as Rachel Held Evans, a thirty-seven-year-old Christian activist, lay in a coma, in her hospital bed, in Nashville, Tennessee, her friend Nadia Bolz-Weber, a progressive pastor, anointed her forehead with frankincense. “Lord, let your servant go in peace,” Bolz-Weber intoned, beginning the liturgy of last rites.”[1]

“… and she died” (Acts 9:37a). The online, ragtag faith community Rachel resonated with mourns.

Because of Rachel…

I would venture to say that we tend to think of resurrection as something that just happened to Jesus. That overcoming death is something maybe only God has the power to do. But I would like to propose that these resurrections we are witness to in community continue. Testimonies radiate the good news throughout the years as we listen to those that witnessed Tabitha’s ministries (Acts 9), and those of Rachel Held Evans. In them, their actions, their ministries, their relationships, we hear Jesus’ words, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify…” (John 10:25b, CEB).

And these works stretch us. Are a model for us.

Because of Jesus…

Because of Tabitha…

Because of Rachel…

We are stretched beyond death, and they live on. With us. And in us. And through us.

Testimonies. The women who knew Tabatha gathered. They cried. They held tenderly the pile of clothes she had dedicated hours to make. Think about it. Think of the work that went into making the “tunics and other clothing” she had created. Nowadays most of us go to a store, or order online, and voilà, new clothes show up at the door. Tabitha painstakingly devoted her life to the task, her call, and she lived on in part through the works that remained behind.

Peter, “showed her to be alive” (Acts 9:41b).

I am struck by the similarities in the stories between Tabitha, 2100 years ago, and Rachel. They were both disciples of the Good News. They were both models of ways in which we can respond to the presence of Jesus in our lives. They both testified through their works. When each of them became sick, a faith community was shaken. And as both Tabitha and Rachel transitioned between life and death, a faith leader was called: Peter came for Tabitha, Nadia Bolz-Weber stood at Rachel’s bedside.

And both Tabitha and Rachel have, in their own way, been shown to “live on.” Tabitha lived on in the clothing she had made. For Rachel, it is her words. There is even a viral hashtag #becauseofRHE. A “hashtag” is the symbol that is used to highlight a specific topic on social media. It is a way through which people who want to get together and talk can connect. In the case of Rachel Held Evans, or RHE, it is similar to the people who “gathered in the upper room” (Acts 9:37) and “wept” (Acts 9:39), as they testify to the impact Rachel had on their lives. Responses posted online (Twitter) include testimonies such as these:

  • “How do you process the loss of someone who was essentially a stranger but whose work meant so much to you? …Her words helped me, taught me, soothed me. I am grateful for her life…” -stephbfree
  • “I learnt that not only should I be allowed in church, (Rachel) helped me to feel that I was just the kind of broken, difficult, messed up person that God would want there…” – Simon Culley
  • “#becauseofRHE I found words for my pain. I learned to trust the idea of church again. I learned to love with a bigger heart. I found strength to keep searching. I found a God I thought extinct. I found hope in doubt. And I am in a loving community once again. Thank you Rachel.” – Devin Valdivia
  • “#becauseofRHE I realized that questioning the church will not damn you to hell. That it’s okay to be disenchanted by the (what) the church is. It’s okay to talk about things no one else wants to. It’s okay to be messy.” – Rachel Lynn
  • “I work for a queer-inclusive, doubt-welcoming, antiracist, Jesus-loving church in Charleston SC. Literally all of us wander in every week wounded and scarred from church trauma. And before we had each other, all some of (us) had were the words and leadership of #RachelHeldEvans.” -Lyndsey Medford

Jesus says, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify…” (John 10:25b, CEB).

The Good News of God with Us transform us. These works, these words, stretch us. Challenge us. Heal us. Connect us in community. THIS is resurrection.

Because of Jesus…

Because of Tabitha…

Because of Rachel…

We are stretched beyond death into life.

And they live on. With us. In us. And through us. These stories are our testimony to their lives and how we have been transformed. Here we affirm that as followers of Jesus we understand that death does not have the last word and that the power of resurrection lies within us.

This is the Good News we are called to share.

I smiled as I read the Rev. Emmy Kegler comment that, “(Rachel Held Evans) taught me how to hold my faith upside down and shake it till grace fell out. I’ll do the same today, not just for myself but for all in need.”

Be stretched this day from death into life.

For resurrection continues.

God is not done yet.

May grace fall out.


~Pastor Kris

Reflection on Acts 9:36-43 and John 10:22-30 offered on May 12, 2019

[1] Griswold, Eliza, and Eliza Griswold. “The Radically Inclusive Christianity of Rachel Held Evans.” The New Yorker. May 06, 2019. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/news/postscript/the-radically-inclusive-christianity-of-rachel-held-evans.