Summary: This message looks at the raising to life of Tabitha (Dorcas) as a more affective means of evangelism to her community than her good works, good and necessary as they were in preparing the way.
Reading 1: Acts 9:32-43
Reading 2: Colossians 3:22-4:1
Miracles don’t really happen anymore, do they?
Our passage this morning would certainly suggest that miracles were once common in the church.
In fact, the Bible is full of miracles.
You might even have your own favourite one.
Recently at the church I’m now a member of in Leeds we held a children’s event looking at miracles.
It was interesting to find out what peoples’ favourite ones were.
Some said the giving of sight to the blind, others the healing of lepers.
The most common favourites though, were the raising of people from the dead.
However, today, when we hear people use the word ’miracle’, we often become suspicious and doubt creeps in.
We’ve probably heard of some high profile evangelists who claimed to work miracles, but were found out to be frauds.
The scientific age has explained away most things, and so we understand how things happen now, don’t we?
So the question for us become, do we believe in miracles today?
I’m not going to address that yet, but do keep that question in mind.
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Our passage today not only addresses the subject of miracles, but also suggests that many miracles take place in the ordinary events of our daily lives.
This reading would make a good film, don’t you think?
There’s a story line that involves the larger community.
There’s a hidden sub-plot of the ministry of the disciple named Tabitha.
There’s an additional, but related, drama involving her death.
There’s the mystery of her miraculous rescue by Peter, and, yes, even a happy ending.
Beneath the surface of our passage lie several hidden treasures.
Among these are doing good to the poor, the Christian and suffering, and finally miracles and their effect on the wider community.
Tabitha, or Dorcas as the name is translated into Greek, holds the distinction of being the only woman in the New Testament who is specifically referred to as a disciple.
There are a number of verses where disciples is used to refer to both men and women by implication, but this is the only example of an individual woman being called a disciple herself.
This is really amazing.
It’s a wonderful tribute to what this woman did.
Verse 36 says that her ministry was directed towards the poor and outcasts of the community.
Long before social action by the church became fashionable, Tabitha’s soup kitchen, clothes shop, and shelter for the homeless were in full operation.
Tabitha’s ministry was directed toward the poor widows in Lydda.
Culturally speaking, widows were the lost and least in society.
God had spoken through the prophets on a number of occasions to provide for the widows, but often the people had ignored this.
Here was someone, though who took these commands seriously.
Without her ministry to that community and the life giving power of her work with those widows a major community crisis could have occurred.
For those widows, Tabitha’s death meant their own death too.
For those widows, the loss of Tabitha meant the loss of their lifeline to survival.