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.
Discipleship for those widows was revealed in the service and witness of Tabitha.
Her living witness demonstrated the love of Christ in a tangible way.
Tabitha stands as an example for us of how to live in the situations that God has placed us.
This is in terms of where we live, who our friends are, and also where we work.
Related to this is our second passage that I read from Colossians chapter 3, and verse 23.
There it says ’Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for human beings.’
If you think back to this morning’s children’s talk you can see how this works practically.
We can become very disillusioned with the work we do, whatever it might be.
As we do this we get into a frame of mind that thinks about doing as little as we can, with as little effort as possible.
When it comes down to it, though we are working for God.
Our whole lives are to be lived as worship.
It’s not just about what we do on a Sunday, or at church.
God cares about everything we do, say and think.
It all needs to be lived to His glory and praise.
Tabitha had grasped what it was to live like this.
Let’s try to follow her example then, with Christ’s help.
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The question for us, then, might become ’Do we spend all our time doing good and helping the poor, like Tabitha?’