Action to Get
Well, get up! There’s stuff to do. Action to get!
In his 1994 novel The Alienist, Caleb Carr shows us the New York City of 1896, when the brand-new Commissioner of Police is a wealthy, college-educated local named Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt would famously exhort the people around him that there was “action to get!” And the idea that you and I are being invited to get up – that there is “action to get” – is one way of looking at today’s readings. That’s an eye-opening thought, isn’t it?
If we have been feeling dead, or at least really, really tired, hav-ing someone who is overflowing with energy and passion come bursting into the room bellowing about action to get…. Well. That does tend to get the heart pumping, one way or another.
In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, Peter raises Tabitha from the dead. That is a miracle and a sterling demonstration that Je-sus’ disciples are now apostles: the students are now teachers. And in light of that truth, what happens when you and I consider the readings for today through the invitation to action?
It re-frames the narrative of Tabitha’s resurrection. I have heard, and maybe you have too, this story as Tabitha having been resurrected – of being deserving of resurrection – because she was charitable and had such a servant’s heart. And this reading tells us that many be-lieved in the Lord as a result. And being raised from the dead has lib-erated Tabitha from the power, from the finality, of death, so that she can continue with action to get, driven by her servant’s heart, which runs on God power. Which is fully and eternally rechargeable and re-newable. It’s natural – isn’t it? – to hear this story and believe that we will earn our own resurrection after our lives have ended in this place and time.
This scene shows us what resurrection is. This is what resurrec-tion does. For, and to, Tabitha, and Jesus, and you, and me. And love has never ever been about deserving. That’s what God is. Love, unde-serving. Love, raised from the dead. Love, inviting us to action.
What kind of action are you and I being invited to get?
And what about the other readings for today, from Revelation and from the Gospel of John? Perhaps not surprisingly, Revelation has ra-ther a lot to say on the subject. At least, that’s one way to look at both the book and today’s reading from it, together with the other readings for this fourth Sunday of Easter.
The beauty of the Bible, what Martin Luther called the “cradle that holds Christ,” is that this record of God the Creator of the Uni-verse, and God’s infinitely varied and beautiful creation never stops speaking to us with God’s voices, showing us God’s world, and our places in it, as individuals and in community.
In the reading for today from Revelation, we see a powerful re-minder that even when you and I, when we, when our city, our state, our region, our nation, our world seem beset with violence and division, God is our refuge and our strength, our green valley, our companion along the way. Who are these robed in white, and where have they come from?
The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
You and I, and people starting again after the storms and torna-dos here or in Mississippi or in Alabama, and people starting again af-ter flooding in Nebraska and in New Bern. You and I, and Jewish peo-ple starting again at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California and Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. You and I, and children and fam-ilies in Charlotte and Colorado. You and I, and Catholic people starting again in Sri Lanka. You and I, and Christian people starting again af-ter arson burned down their church buildings in Louisiana. When all the news seems to be large and frightening, what is the action to get?
Here in this reading from Revelation, it might be that the action we are being invited to get … is to be still. To be as a child again. With the smoke and stains of turmoil still smudging our faces and our hearts, to run on steady, confident children’s feet to an embrace and a warm washcloth for our faces and a cup of cold water. To allow our-selves to be refreshed and nourished for whatever action of the King-dom of God that God has in mind for you and for me, in the next mo-ment, and the next, and the next.
And in the reading from the Gospel of John, chapter 10 – before the events of Holy Week and Easter. Jesus is speaking with religious authorities in the Temple in Jerusalem. They are anxious. It’s the fes-tival of the Dedication, which we now know as Hanukkah.
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” And Jesus says, “I have told you, and you do not be-lieve.” He says they do not believe because they do not belong to his sheep.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” I do not hear this as a call to division and exclusion but rather as the invitation of the Shepherd of Love. “Come home. You who are weary, come home.”
And when the world makes you weary, and when your family makes you weary, and when death makes you weary, and when fighting makes you weary, and when money makes you weary, and when illness makes you weary – come home. Drink your water. Get a hug. And let the spirit of the Risen Lord blow through you and open your eyes and wake you up for the work of the Kingdom right here, right now, and for all eternity. Christ has arisen, alleluia. Amen.