Acts 9:36-43 and John 10:22-30
- The NT passages seem to be linked … but there is something about the story from Acts speaks to me. Tabitha is called a disciple – the only place in the NT when that word is used in the feminine form. Jesus says that his sheep will hear his voice and know him – clearly, Tabitha is one of the sheep in Jesus’ fold. And she is raised from the dead by Peter in the tradition of the Jesus miracles. (Resurrection stories – belonging to God.) There is something important this passage has to say to our church – and indeed, any church that is ready “to move on” in a new way.
- Tabitha/Dorcas – the graceful ‘gazelle.’ What makes her so important as to be included in this passage? What is so important about her that she is raised from the dead? What does she do once she’s alive again – reborn?
- What do we know about her – lots! Widow, caregiver, well-respected, looked to for wisdom and help … She is the kind of person that the church depends on – salt of the earth. “Why Dorcas? … My hunch is that Peter acted as he did because of who Dorcas was (loved), and also because of who she was not. Dorcas was not a preacher, theologian or eloquent writer. She did not make her mark on the church with brave deeds or major financial gifts. But she did win converts and touch lives, and probably influenced more people that anyone else in Joppa.”
- Are you a Tabitha? Have you done wonderful work to God that has been well-appreciated? Do you feel like the best of your work is already complete and behind you? Are you lying dormant, waiting for Peter to come and say “Tabitha, get up! Your life is not over. Your work is not yet done.”
- If you are a Tabitha, what is God still calling you to do? How can your ministry be reborn? Is there a new purpose or renewed energy that you found in your resting time? Or is there a new task for which God has prepared you?
- I happen to know that the Ladies’ Association in this church did many wonderful things, is it time for a similar group to come into being? What might that look like today? Who would it serve/include? What would its purpose(s) be?
- What about you men? Just because Mother’s Day is next week and we’re talking about Tabitha, this does not exclude or excuse you from answering God’s call. Do you who hang out at Whitey’s have a call to begin a Men’s Prayer Breakfast? How can you foster your faith and the faith of the men around you? What does fostering your faith and your discipleship look like? Does it mean volunteering together or working toward some common purpose in some way?
- III. The mourning widows
- It was common in this period of history, for the family to hire professional mourners to weep and wail over their dead loved ones. These widows who gathered around Tabitha were not paid to do so. They came because they loved her; they were touched by her friendship and care of them.
- Are you a mourning widow? Who do you mourn for? Is there someone that used to be active and is not anymore – either because they are no longer attending or because they feel like they can no longer contribute?
- It’s important for the mourners among us to grieve programs and events that passed away, because this is how we let each other know what was and is important to our faith. It’s also important because it shows us what we might want to re-new and bring back to our current faith life.
- The widows who mourn may, in fact, be the most important characters in this story because they show us the importance and the power of community. They are hurting and grieving together. And they have an “optimism of grace” that allows them to lean on God and trust in the future they will experience together. They, then, experience healing together as well.
- IV. Finally, are you a Peter?
- “We wonder what went through Peter’s mind, what was in his heart, his memory and what gave him the audacious confidence that he could say two words, and then count on God, right then and there, to do something so astonishing.”
- Peter is a change agent in this passage. He is the midwife who brings Tabitha back to life and back into the community of those following The Way of Christ.
- Change agents very often are the individuals who are calm and unperturbed when things get messy or difficult. Their belief and hope in the future allows them to relax and go with the flow … they are so non-anxious that we sometimes don’t hear their quiet statements of observation – of what changes they see happening and what changes they would like to see happen more frequently.
- If you are a Peter, what is it that gives you courage enough to speak simply and let God work miracles in you? What is holding you back from speaking those two words that may bring new life to the world?
- V. Finally, where does this miracle take us? What does Tabitha do with her new life? How do the mourning widows now live out their resurrection joy? After this passage, Peter begins to understand that the Gospel message is not just for the Jewish Christians, but also for the Gentiles of the world. Who are the Gentiles in our world, that need to hear the miraculous story of Tabitha’s resurrection and the wonderful healing power that there may be in experiencing Christ’s love as a community.
- VI. Beloved Disciples of the Way – may we all be reborn and renewed in Christ Jesus. Let us pray, Lord, move in our lives today. Show us what ministries you are calling into being. Help us to listen for your movement among and within us so that we may more faithfully proclaim your kingdom’s presence to the world. Amen.
Have you ever made a mistake before? Have you ever been mean to someone?
-Saul was a Pharisee and he was really mean to the very first Christians (even had one of them stoned!) until one day he was blinded and through being forced to rely on others, he began to see in a different and new way. He became a Christian, his name became Paul and he was responsible for a very large number of people becoming Christians. In fact, he wrote a lot of the books in the New Testament!
What do you think of Saul? What do you think this story means for us?
Think back to the mistake you thought of earlier … or think of the worst thing you’ve ever done. Don’t tell me, just think about it. Now … I think what God is saying is this: It’s OK. I know who you are. I know you’ve made mistakes. It’s alright. I still love you. And I have a job for you.
How does that make you feel about God? (Relieved, happy, excited.) This is a very good thing to share, and that’s probably why Paul told so many people about God.
God, thank you for showing us forgiveness through Paul, and teaching us that you always love us. Help us to live better lives for every day. Amen.
 John Walton, Christian Century. Living by the word: what about Dorcas?
 Kate Huey, Weekly Seeds, April 25, 2010.