Sewing for Jesus

buy generic Pregabalin online Sewing for Jesus

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; May 8, 2022

4th Sunday of Easter

Psalm 23, Acts 9:36-43

 

Last week we explored the conversion of Paul. This week we shift to Peter who, earlier in the chapter heals a paralyzed man, and now, raises a woman from the dead. It seems that Luke is bent on getting his message across and the message is that the God who created the world and raised Jesus from the dead is still at work—healing the sick and bringing hope to those in despair.

 

As the story goes, in Joppa there is a disciple named Tabitha, which is Dorcas in the Greek language. We don’t know a lot about Tabitha. We know she is a disciple. We know she is devoted to good works and charity.  We know she gets sick, dies, and her body is prepared for burial. We know she is beloved by her community because two men are sent by the disciples to fetch Peter, who just happens to be nearby. We know when Peter arrives on the scene, the widows meet him with weeping and a display of garments Tabitha made for them with her own hands. Finally, we know Peter kneels by her bed, prays, and says to her dead body: Tabitha, get up. And get up she does.

 

Tabitha appears in Scripture like a blip on a screen—seemingly small and insignificant in the great scheme of things. But Tabitha has much to teach us about how one person can make a difference in the kingdom of God. She also teaches us that in hopeless times, the Spirit can make the impossible possible. In the words of one scholar,

 

[The story of Tabitha] being raised from the dead challenges our assumption that we are left to our own devices to fix our predicaments—or, more to the point, that our predicaments are not fixable at all. We live in a world where the familiar nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty has tremendous influence. Humpty Dumpty is broken, and the common assumption is that putting him back together again is an impossible task. That is just the way it is—but not according to Acts. Acts tells us that those who belonged to the Way were empowered to turn the world upside down.[i]

 

Although we do not know a lot about Tabitha, let’s explore what we are given. First, we are provided both her Aramaic name, Tabitha, and her Greek name, Dorcas. Why? It has been suggested that Tabitha had a far-reaching impact as a follower of Jesus—reaching out to the needy in her immediate vicinity and beyond. Second, did you notice that she is named a disciple? In fact, this is the only time the feminine word for disciple, mathetria, is used in Scripture. (I guess those who insist women cannot be leaders in the church because it isn’t biblical forgot to check with Luke.) Third, we know that Tabitha has a particular talent. She can sew so she sews to the best of her ability. Her gift of helps and her talent of sewing are intermingled, channeled to express her faith through good works. She sews to help widows in need. Tabitha sews for Jesus.

 

Have you ever met Tabitha? I have. I have known Tabitha in every church I have served. Here in our faith community, there are those who work for Jesus—using their gifts and talents—sometimes in front of us—but often behind the scenes. Take Kim Dudley and Bryan Almand, for example. Both are incredible woodworkers, and they create beautiful things for Jesus. Kim built a miniature house for us to use when we collect items for certain mission projects. We have used it several times in the past and hope to put it on display again soon. Bryan built the Bible stand, the votive candle holder we use for the First Friday Contemplative Service, and several of the small tables we use throughout the sanctuary. (My favorite is the one he made for our Advent wreath—simple, beautiful, perfect.) Bryan and Kim—woodworking for Jesus!

 

After getting married, Libby George Clanton moved to Fort White, which is about an hour away. Yet, regularly, when she comes to Valdosta to see her mother, she coordinates her trip with Katie Altman, our office administrator, to count the offering, balance the deposit, and sign checks. She has been a wonderful help to Katie since she took on her additional role as bookkeeper. And when Libby can’t be in town for an Administration, Finance & Property Committee meeting, she often joins us via phone or Zoom. Libby—balancing deposits, signing checks, and encouraging others for Jesus.

 

Dr. Donna Gosnell is a chemist by trade—a Chemistry professor at VSU.  She is also our music director and organist. While it is true that she is an employee of the church, I have watched her repeatedly go above and beyond the call of duty to support our musical needs. For instance, she plays piano for the Generations of Faith Sunday School Class each week and she contributes beautiful contemplative pieces for our 1st Friday Service. During the pandemic, Donna embraced new technology to post hymns for us to sing when we were livestreaming the entire service from my home. Since then, she has worked hard to make sure we have a variety of worship music through piano, organ, handbells, flute, violin, soloists and duets. On Easter Sunday when Donna played our gathering music, I was sure I saw the heavens open, and heard the angels sing. Donna—making music for Jesus.

 

If you know our beloved Florence Cole, you know that as well as being a gifted teacher of God’s word, she has the gift of encouragement. She never forgets a birthday or a special event. She is always ready with a note or a card to let her church family know she is thinking of them. She prays for her church family. She prays for me, and I am grateful. She is a wise soul, who makes any group she’s a part of, better! Florence—instructing and encouraging her church family for Jesus!

 

When you think of Kinney Hollingshead, you might be glad he sings for us sometimes. But he does more than that. Often, you will find him restocking our coffee stations, setting up for First Friday, unlocking and locking doors, turning on the sound system to set up mics before worship, leading music for Generations of Faith and 1st Friday, and cleaning up trash on the church grounds. Kinney—taking care of details behind the scenes for Jesus!

 

Three years ago, we partnered with our Presbytery to expand our Facebook presence. One of the first tasks we were given was to create a Facebook Super Group and ask everyone who joined to like, share, or comment on every post added to our page. Carol Busch was one of the first to sign on and she remains faithful to the task. Recently, when she asked to be added to our private prayer group, she had trouble accessing the group. When I offered to help, she apologized and said she is not tech-savvy. I disagree. Sure, clicking like or share or making a comment on a Facebook post daily may not seem like a big deal. But because of Carol’s commitment and the commitment of many others—we are making a difference for Jesus on a social media platform. Carol—leading the way in modern-day evangelism for Jesus!

 

Tabitha was an important disciple of the new-born church. The church is over 2000 years old now, and she has certainly had her ups and down. Neither the universal church nor our own faith community look like they did 50 years ago. We don’t even look like we did 24 months ago! In response, there are surely some among us who fear that the story of Humpty Dumpty is our story. We are broken and putting us back together is impossible. But Acts offers us another story to consider—a story of people of The Way turning the world upside down for love of Jesus. Yes, our community looks different. We meet in person. We meet via livestream and on Zoom. There are those among us we know, and there are people in our virtual community we will never meet. Yet, by the grace of God, here we are—worshiping God—learning and growing and becoming and doing—together.

 

What will this worshiping community look like in 5, 10, 20 years? Only God knows. But this much we know—this much we can count on: No matter how God shapes and reshapes the church, as long as God has good work for us to do and there are Tabithas among us who say yes to the task at hand, we can trust the Good Shepherd to lead the way. The saints of First Presbyterian Church of Valdosta can trust that:

 

The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; he restores our soul. He leads us in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we fear no evil; for he is with us; his rod and his staff— they comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies; he anoints our heads with oil; our cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Silent Reflection)

[i] Feasting on the Word, Joseph S. Harvard

*Cover photo “Saint Peter Raises Tabitha” by Fabrizio Santafede via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain