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Mar 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 13, 2016 – Acts 9:32-43

What Have We Been Missing?

Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Acts 9:32-43

INTRO: I know some of us still don’t get contemplative prayer

Or why we begin Sunday mornings in silence, seeking God or waiting on him
– it is difficult to sit a few minutes in openness, responsiveness and receptivity, so why bother?
– I hope that the answers becomes clear for you today

When we catch up with Peter, he is on the road

Maybe he was following leads to locate pockets of believers
– or perhaps he was looking for such communities to encourage them
• or he was simply drifting, allowing the Spirit to direct him
– Lydda is modern day Lod, the location of Ben Gurion Airport
• it was there that Peter “found” Aeneas – as though he was on the alert for opportunities
• Luke is skimpy on the details
◦ it seems he just wants to keep the story moving — we would like a lot more information
◦ like how did Peter know that Jesus was healing Aeneas?
– “Sharon” refers to the coastal plain that ran from Joppa to Mt. Carmel
• Aeneas’ physical healing resulted in people making a turn to the Lord
• I once heard an evangelist quoted as saying, “People change, but not that much”
◦ but Luke has been showing us that it is possible to change that much

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, the laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” Acts 9:36-38

Peter’s next destination was Joppa, a seaport on the Mediterranean (modern Jaffa)
– in Luke 8:1-2 we are told the twelve disciples were with Jesus on the road
• but Luke also tells us there women were also present
◦ the women, however, are not specifically referred to as disciples
• but here, Tabitha is a disciple–the only New Testament use of the feminine form of “disciple”
– the little we know about Tabitha is what we read here
• nevertheless, there’s enough to reveal the impact made by the kindness of a good person
• that is why the believers in Joppa were not ready to let her go

So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Acts 9:39-42

At this point we may feel like we’re experiencing de ja vu
– it is as though we were watching a rerun of events reported in Luke 8

  • Jairus had “implored” Jesus to come to his home (Lk. 8:41)
    ◦ the messengers “implored” Peter to come to Joppa
  • In his home, Jairus’ daughter was dying (and died before Jesus arrived, Lk. 8:43, 49)
    ◦ Tabitha’s body lay dead in the upper room in Joppa
  • Mourners were already present and weeping in Jairus’ home (Lk. 8:52)
    ◦ widows were weeping in the upper room when Peter arrived
  • Jesus sent the mourners out
    (leaving only Jairus, his wife and Peter, James and John; Lk. 8:51 & cf. Mk. 5:40)
    ◦ Peter sent the mourners out
  • Jesus took the girl’s hand and spoke two words to her (Lk. 8:54)
    ◦ Peter reversed order, first speaking two words to Tabitha, then taking her hand

Peter’s education and training had prepared him for this moment
– having been with Jesus, he followed the example that had been set for him
– in Joppa, the physical miracle resulted in people coming to faith in the Lord

And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon. Acts 9:43

Again, Simon Peter is associated with another “Simon”

What does it take to turn our lives toward God?

Or to come to a faith in God when you had never believed or trusted in him?
– we assume it takes exactly the sort of thing we see in this passage: a miracle
• but that is exactly what Jesus hoped we would transcend (Jn. 20:29)
◦ however, that is not my concern right now
• what I want us to consider is that two bodies were the focal points of the miracles
◦ one body was paralyzed and the other was dead

Psalm 139 is a psalm of wonder
– wonder is not the theme of the poem, but its tone

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them.
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
 (Ps. 139:13-18)

• the psalmists frequently write this way: my heart, my bones, my kidneys, my lips
◦ all that is felt or done by these body parts are experiences, functions, and expressions of me
◦ nor was it only Israel’s poets who paid attention to external and internal stimuli
• visceral sensations were indicators of how a person was doing

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
My life’s juices were turned into the drought of summer.
(Ps. 32:3-4, literal)

◦ listening to our body, we can recognize even mild anxiety, fear, or upset
◦ the body also reveals the status of a person’s relationships — with God and others
– furthermore, God attempts to communicate with us through our bodies

“Knowledge of God somehow thrusts deeper roots within the human organism itself even beyond the mind’s ability to think and analyze.” Edwin McMahon & Peter Campbell

A model of the brain as a three-story building

On the first floor is maintenance and engineering
– this would be the brain stem and thalamus
• this floor is responsible for monitoring and managing systems of basic life functions
◦ respiratory, circulatory (sending blood where it is most needed), endocrine
◦ regulating body temperature, digestion, sleep, energy swings, and so on and on
• the functions on this floor are rarely noticed on the first floor
(that is to say, they seldom enter our field of awareness)
◦ but we can make ourselves aware of some of the information processed here
◦ chronic and serious issues are sent upstairs eventually
– the body responds to commands given to it by the first floor
• this includes the autonomic nervous system (“fight or flight”)
• consequences are severe if total communication is shut off from the third floor
we are whacked out not only physically, but psychologically as well

The second floor is human resources (this may be a stretch)
– this entails the limbic system
• this floor assesses and assigns value to sensations from first floor
◦ its evaluations include incoming information from both internal and external sources
◦ it determines what is useful, helpful, and necessary and what is not
◦ it determines what is pleasurable and painful
◦ if the first floor signals hunger, the second floor decides what food sounds good
◦ it is where emotions rise
– functions on this floor are shaped by experience — especially in early childhood
• it has a very quick response time to input received — e.g., our “knee-jerk” reactions

The third floor is home to the executive offices
– this floor is primarily associated with the prefrontal cortex
• it is here that conscious thought occurs (and our awareness of conscious thought)
◦ this part of our brain is responsible for reasoning, organizing and planning
◦ it is capable of processing information logically and sequentially
◦ but it is also capable of abstract thinking
• judgments and decisions regarding behavior are made here
◦ also the ability to practice patience and delayed gratification
– the third floor is first to develop, with its structures in place at birth
• most of the development of the second floor occurs within the first six years
• the third floor is still developing through late adolescence
◦ yet it is what happens on the third floor that makes us uniquely human

A crucial piece of information

The functions and performance of our brains’ three floors are shaped by others
– we all know that our brains and bodies are responsive to the behavior of others
• what is less well known is that brain and body are also responsive to others’ internal states
• facial expressions, tone of voice, posture reveal inner attitudes, and intentions
◦ our senses are always reading what’s going on within people, even if we are not conscious of it
◦ what we see in them triggers a response in the same structures of our nervous systems
– any awareness we have of the effect others have on us occur only on the third floor
• but that capacity is frequently distracted or shut down (e.g., Lk. 10:40-42)
• therefore we miss some of the early warning signs of serious internal problems

In our culture, concern for the body mostly has to do with how attractive or healthy they are
– in scripture the chief concern is spiritual–e.g., the body is a temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)
– daily the first and second floors of our brains set off alarm bells
• the question raised by scripture is critical for every aspect of our lives:
What is your body trying to tell you?

What is the value of listening to our bodies?

The lower two stories collect information we need
– of our twelve cranial nerves, all but two begin in the brain stem (first floor)
• the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve and connects with numerous organs

Bissel van der Kolk explains how understanding the many branches of the vagus nerve “provided us with a more sophisticated understanding of the biology of safety and danger, one based on the subtle interplay between the visceral experiences of our own bodies and the voices and faces of the people around us. It explained why a kind face or al soothing tone of voice can dramatically alter the way we feel. It clarified why knowing that we are seen and heard by the important people in our lives can make us feel calm and safe, and why being ignored or dismissed can precipitate rage reactions or mental collapse. It helped us understand why focused attunement with another person can shift us out of disorganized and fearful states.”

• we affect others and we are affected by others more than we have known
◦ but our body knows and carries that knowledge and past experiences inside
◦ we have the ability to turn our awareness to our own internal states

Dr. van der Kolk says that the ability to make changes in our lives “starts with what scientists call interoception, our awareness of our subtle sensory, body-based feelings: the greater that awareness, the greater our potential to control our lives.” (The Body Keeps the Score)

◦ he refers to the third floor as the “watchtower” that can learn to observe what’s going on within
– Daniel Siegel stresses the importance of integrating our physical and psychological states
• and also integrating our states with the states of others
• he says that “an essential outcome of integration is kindness.

Daniel Siegel, “When we are kind to a child, she learns to be kind to herself. In turn, this internal sense of well-being enables her to go out into the world and bring kindness into her interactions with others.”

◦ what a wonderful skill to give our children — to give ourselves
◦ if in Reflexion we had a patron saint, perhaps it would be Tabitha, the saint of kindness

So now you know why we sit in silence
– we cannot change what we are not aware of
• a real and radical turning is possible once we have discovered what drives us
• and then, a life of genuine kindness is also possible

CONC: In Acts 4:13, the high council of Israel took note of Peter and John

Though they had no formal training, there was no denying their effectiveness and confidence
– amazed at the disciples, they recognized “them as having been with Jesus”
• Luke used their own words to make a point
• and that is, being with Jesus is what made and defined a disciple

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach… (Mk. 3:14)

It has been my privilege to spend time with a few biblical scholars and theologians
– the first few times I met such a person, I blurted out a question
• it burned in my heart and I couldn’t help myself
◦ How could I make my experience of God more real to me? Tighter? Stronger?
◦ I wanted the counsel of knowledgeable and godly people
• what happened next, is that I got a blank stare
◦ then after explaining more clearly what I meant, I was recommended a book to read:
Pene’es by Blaise Pascal, Markings by Dag Hammarskjold,
and The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I realized these men and women had been with books,
but wondered whether they had been with Jesus
When I met that person, he introduced me to contemplative spirituality,
which is all about listening–to God, to nature, to my inner life and to others
And that is why we sit in silence

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