Based on Acts 9:36-43 Go There and Show You Care!

Good Shepherd Sunday is maybe a good time to talk about the fact that religion in America has been studied for years.
Sociologists and churches themselves are always trying to gage how much people believe;… what they believe;… and whether or not they are affiliated with any particular religion or church.
In recent years, organizations like the Pew Foundation have issued reports that paint a sort of bleak picture if you are ‘pro-religion’.
The old divide of whether people are Protestant or Catholic or something else,….has given way to a new growing trend.
That trend shows that the largest growing religious preference to be the category called……’None of The Above’.

I’ve heard and read about speculation on why people don’t join a church,… but also why so many have decided to leave.
Some point to the sixties that encouraged revolt against recognized authority,…like parents,…the cops,…the govt…and the church.
Some say today’s culture downplays religion and therefore makes joining a church harder to embrace,…and easier to avoid.
And others point to the fact that, like automobiles,…today we have lots of options with many new age religious beliefs and on-line spirituality. 

What I always find interesting is that, if you talk to people in churches,…they’ll point at the people not in the pews.
But if you talk to the people not in the pews,…the pointing gets turned around and is directed at churches themselves.
Frankly, I think both are right,… but religious institutions could do a better job trying to understand why people are not present.
Better yet,…maybe look to the scriptures to see what it is that attracts people to Jesus Christ and his Church.

We have in our reading from Acts today, a rather good example of something that, at the time, did wonders for bringing people to Christ.
After his resurrection, the Good Shepherd, Jesus, sent his followers out with the purpose of trying to bring people to him.
What they were doing was early evangelism, hoping that their efforts would ultimately build up what we today call ‘the Church of Christ’.
The apostle Paul did an awful lot with the written word and all his letters to promote that growth.
And while Paul was a brilliant writer;….Peter, had the verbal skills and way with words that led many to considered him a great preacher.
Yet today,…we heard of something Peter did that had maybe more impact than either the written or spoken word.
Peter, the great preacher, brought people into the church through his actions in response to a situation of great need.
Peter accomplished a miracle when he raised a woman named Tabitha (or Dorcas in Greek)…back from the dead.

The group who summoned him to do this were a bunch of widows who were part of a charitable sowing group to which Tabitha belonged.
After Tabitha died, word got around that Peter,… who had performed other miracles previously,…. was in the area.
As soon as he was asked to come to the widows who were grieving and in distress,…Peter stopped what he was doing and went.
And when he arrived, he didn’t first ask if Tabitha had been baptized or if she’d been to confession lately.
And he didn’t ask if she or they had been properly “born-again” by accepting Jesus as Savior.
And he didn’t tell the women to become politically organized so they could get proper pay for their work.
He simply went to them,…prayed for the girl….and healed her.
And the bible passage says that when others saw what he did,…the result was that “many believed in the Lord”.

So what’s this story got to do with our comments about people wanting (or not wanting) to connect with a church?
The Christian Church,….be it Catholic, Protestant, or whatever… can only do so much about the culture around it.
Religion,…like any entity,…can only do so much to overtly affect or change people’s behaviors and habits.
And while the words we use can be an important part of any endeavor,…there is something that can have even more direct effect on people.
You’ve heard it said that;…. “actions speak louder than words”.
We’ll its true,…and especially true with respect to people being drawn to Jesus Christ,…drawn to Christianity,…and drawn to church.

A good thing the Christian church can do towards that end,….is simply do what Jesus did,…and then what Peter and the others tried to do.
When there is a need,….go there and show them that you care.
Is there a tsunami in Japan,…a draught in Ethiopia,…a war in Syria that produces refugees…..an earthquake in Chili?
Go there,…and show them you care.
I don’t mean travel to those places, but don’t just write a check either,
Go and have a public fundraiser or go and publicly get together with other churches to help out;…but go and show everyone that they care.

And while churches as institutions can go there and show they care,… so can individual Christian people.
Just like our government is not some entity out there, but actually “we the people”….so is the Christian Church made up of “we the people”.
So while churches can do things as one entity,….we can also do things in our individual lives to reflect the body of Christ.
We can be like Peter and, whenever we learn of someone who is hurting or in need,…..go there and show them you care.

Is there a someone you know in a nursing home?  Go and see them.
Is there a relative who has been sick?  Go and send them a note.
Does a friend or co-worker have a personal problem afflicting them?  Go and give them a call.
Do you see a stranger struggling with some difficult situation?  Go and lend them a hand.
Go there ….. and show them you care.
The opportunities are out there for churches, but also for people of all denominations to be the body of Christ in many ways.

One day last week, I was at local hospital where I volunteer, and I was called to a patient’s room.
When I arrived the nurse told me a 30 year old girl had overdosed and was “not gonna make it”, but that her mother was in the room.
When I entered,…. the  mother told me the young girl had just died.
As I sat there with them, I looked at the girl and wished that I could perform the miracle that Peter did and bring her back to life.
Unfortunately, all I could do was say a few words and a short prayer.
And yet,….in the midst of their grief,… to be there and to care was a sort of miracle itself.
That act of going and caring is a modern-day miracle.

God in Christ did the miracle of resurrection,…and Peter did a few miracles himself,….but we too can also do another kind of miracle. 
You don’t have to be a Chaplain or at a death bed,…but anyone in any situation can go somewhere and care  where there is a need.
To give of ourselves for a person or group of people hurting, whether close to us or around the world, is a miracle of God at work through us
We don’t have to raise people from the dead;…but to simply go there and care for someone will cause people to marvel. 

There is a Christian song written, ironically…in the rebellious sixties,… titled “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”.
When we take time to go as Peter did,…people will know we are coming from church and a faith that, like the Good Shepherd, Jesus, goes there and cares.
And maybe by doing such things, it will…as with Peter’s action,…eventually draw people to the faith. 
But even if it doesn’t,…our first task, as with the earliest disciples, is not to grow the church,…but to be the church,…wherever we are.

God began a miracle for us by going there to Bethlehem and showing humanity how much he cares.
God’s miracles continued when Jesus went there to Jerusalem and showed the world how much He cares
But God’s miracles did not end there, or with Peter’s miracles either.
They continue today - through all of us;…as the body of Christ.

Amen