They are the ones who give above and beyond without recognition so that another family gets Christmas. They are the ones that buy extra food without expectation and put it in the pantry basket. He waters the poinsettias every year. She cleans out the flower beds. She checks expiration dates and rearranges the food in the donation cabinet. She prays in the middle of the night and ties fleece blankets for homeless youth. He packs sack lunches and knits hats and scarves to the homeless.
They don’t do it for the accolades.
They don’t do it for fame.
They don’t do it for money or prosperity.
They do it simply because that is who they are; because that is how they show Jesus to the world. They are the disciples the rest of us count on. The disciples whose shoulders we stand on. The disciples the church was and is built on.
Her name was Tabitha, also known as Dorcus. She lived in the port city of Joppa and her trade was that of sewing - making clothing, tunics, and other garments for the locals there. She served the marginalized and forgotten people of her community.
The church at this point is very young - gaining momentum. It is critical that the disciples and the people they reach out to and minister to realize that it is the power of Jesus at work and not the power of the person being called to preach, teach, or perform miracles. This is essential to the growth of the early church because this would set them apart from all the other false prophets, teachers, and alleged “gods' ' vying for their allegiance; an allegiance to the human and not the divine. They needed to know it was Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law - the promised one and not some trickery or political plot supplied by the hands of power hungry, controlling people.
Underneath the public healings and all the noise, chatter, and energy that happened through the likes of Paul and Peter, however, was another layer spreading the message and promise of Jesus. It was a more quiet and subtle, but no less essential and no less powerful truth. A truth illustrating that the same force that moved in those who lead the charge was a work behind the scenes, in private homes, and with small numbers of on-lookers. The same power that appeared through those who took on the public demands and faced obvious widespread challenges of the day, was at work through the lives of people like Tabitha. Tabitha in her own way was just as much a disciple as Paul and Peter.
The text itself tells us …a disciple whose name was Tabitha” (Acts 9: 36). She is not identified as a widow, although she is surrounded by many at the time of her illness and subsequent death. She is not identified as a wife with her purpose and status tied to her husband’s name. She is not identified as a foreigner although by using both her Hebrew and Greek name, the author is highlighting the fact that her story is told to a mixed community. She is not identified as a daughter of so and so, or the mother of so and so.
Dorcas reminds us of five crucial lessons:
1 Use the Gifts You've Been Given to Help Others
2. Stay Faithful in Doing Good for Others
3. Build Relationships That Will Have Lasting Impact on Others
4. Make Service and Ministry Toward Others a Priority
5. Let God Use You to Witness to Others
To all who have eyes to see and ears to hear: How does the story of Dorcas speak to you? Where do you see Jesus’ invitation to bring who you are, use what you have and connect your life with the life of others? How does Dorcas challenge you? How does your life reveal the love of God, the hope of Jesus, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit? How does your life reflect what it means to be a disciple - to be a follower of Jesus?
May God be with us as we live into the answers. Amen.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine