Being Overwhelmed

by | May 16, 2019

Acts 9:36-43 & John 10:22-30

Peter raises Dorcas and Jesus continues his discourse about the Good Shepherd

In the summer between my second and third year in training we went to India. We knew that there would be a culture shock, different language, different cultures, 
different expectations, different driving. Poverty that redefines ones understanding of poverty. We were lucky, we spent the first month in the safety and luxury of a theological college training ministers and priests from across India. To begin with if we got off the site once a day and back again that seemed like a great achievement. By the end of a month we were ready for the more extensive travels we had planned. We knew that we needed to pace ourselves, we got into a rhythm of taking siesta’s with Iris’s naps, that break was so important. 

There were still those moments though, arriving in a new city by train, disembarking and immediately finding oneself surrounded by those offering help, or a taxi, or wanting a photo with a blonde toddler, or wanting to food to eat, or money to buy food to eat. One such time when we were arriving in a new city, we were immediately surrounded by people pulling us this way and that, we needed to get clear of the crowds and clear our heads.
Fortunately a man we had been speaking to on the train, who was coming home to visit his mother grabbed us and said, come with me. He grabbed us a taxi and gave the driver strict instructions about where we were going and within minutes we were in the comfort of our hotel for the night. 

We have all had those moments when we feel overwhelmed by situation. Perhaps starting a new job where you don’t yet know quite what’s expected of you, or working in a shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas, or standing in front of a class expected to make a presentation, either as a fellow student or as the teacher, or at the sick bed of a member of our family or a friend. We all have those moments when we feel overwhelmed, and wish we had a broom cupboard to go and sit quietly in or perhaps simply that the ground would swallow us up.

You can imagine perhaps imagine the scene when Peter arrives at Dorcas’ bedside. He has been summoned by the local church. He is immediately surrounded by people in mourning. Each of them Trying to show him what Dorcas had meant to them. Getting him to touch the clothes she had made for them: for the poor, the sick and the widowed the work she had done as she, being a disciple of Christ, wanted to show the love and compassion of God in practical ways. Peter realises what he needs is to pray. He sends them all out of the room and prays. He doesn’t know what he is meant to do – or what is meant to happen, but through prayer, he suddenly knows that he must call to Dorcas to get up.

In the Gospel Jesus is also overwhelmed with people. It is the feast of Dedication and Jesus is in the Temple. Dedication is Hannukah, it is the celebration of the dedication (or rededication) of the 2nd Temple after the Exile – as a result of the Maccabean revolt. This is the festival of lights where the oil which was only supposed to last a single night lasts 8 nights – and demonstrates God’s faithfulness to his people. So the temple is busy. Jesus is Surrounded not just by those who believed and followed him,
but by those who wanted to stone him for his claims. They are challenging him, jeering at him to prove himself. Perhaps his followers are feeling a bit daunted and overwhelmed by this crowd threatening them and their teacher.

But Jesus holds his ground, and continues with the themes of the last few verses – the model of the Good Shepherd. Jesus tells them that those who choose to believe him will recognise his voice and what he is telling them, and God will be faithful to them. Like the sheep who recognise their shepherd, and the good shepherd who will go to the ends of the earth to bring them home. No matter what they say or threaten to do, God will be there for them – they cannot be snatched away – the darkness cannot overcome the light.

And so it is with all things, the working out of the cross and resurrection is that we know that we have nothing to fear, because God has been there already. And because ultimately, God has won the day, and every day. Nothing can come between us and God. Revelation is not meant to be a literal story of the future, but a figurative explanation of the impact of the resurrection for those who are most overwhelmed by their circumstances. In todays passage from Revelation we are told that all the multitude gathered around the throne of Jesus are those who have been through the ordeal. They are the ones who have been overwhelmed, who have struggled to remain faithful, who have faltered, but who have turned to God, and God has been faithful to them. God has made their clothes pure and white so that they can join with us all, as Saints, with the whole company of heaven around the Throne of our God.

So remember no matter how overwhelmed, no matter how much you would like the ground to swallow you up – Christ is there by your side. Find your chance to be still and quiet, to pray. And listen for the still small voice of God to call you to stand up with Dorcas and share the love of God.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

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