Musical Prelude and Service

Acts 9:36-43
As we gather here today on Mother’s Day, I wonder; what do we hear as we listen to
this passage of scripture from the Acts of the Apostles?
Acts sees the men closest to Jesus become apostles and they choose who enters those
ranks of going forth to spread the Good News. But at the same time, God keeps
working in others. God’s spirit is constantly on the move. An Ethiopian eunuch. A
business woman who becomes a follower. Constantly God chooses people other than
those who name themselves Apostles.
Today we encounter the healing of a woman who has dedicated her life to caring for
the widows in her community. We encounter a woman, who in death is mourned by
this collection of widows; women who are pushed to the margins of society. Women
who are ignored; silenced, seen as worth less than others in their community.
And in this place, we find God at work. Even if this place is in the midst of a society
that values force and power and wealth; a society that puts a premium on influence
and connections to those in power and ignores or perhaps exploits these women. Here
we find God at work, offering comfort and support; looking to empower and inspire
those who are too often overlooked.
God shows up and offers new life. God is revealed in an act of resurrection.
Tabitha, or Dorcas, is dead. She is mourned; but God, working through Peter, comes
into this place and says there is more for you to do.
I was hoping to preach a sermon that offered simple words of encouragement today. A
sermon that points out the fact that God comes offering new life, even when we are
experiencing the pain of heartbreak and loss. All those are certainly found in this
passage.
But this week the conversation all around us has turned. Women in the United States
are facing increased attacks to their liberty. Much of the conversation around
reproductive health is turning very extreme, and while many may wish to deny this;
language that describes women as being a mere extension of men is beginning to be
voiced.
We could say that is only happening in the United States, but if we are honest with
ourselves, we know that the border does not keep those debates out of our country. If
these things are being discussed to the south of us, those conversations are coming
our way.
I say this also knowing that women are excluded from the pulpit in a great many
churches. While this may be defended in some circles as biblical,
I find that argument less than adequate. For me, it is a polite way of promoting a form
of misogyny.
I am incredibly grateful the United Church moved past that wrongheaded position
decades ago. I won’t waste time on that particular matter this morning, except to say I
am so grateful to the countless women ministers who have inspired me, mentored me,
and supported me in my journey over the years. I have no time for a view of the world
that excludes women from the pulpit.
And I also have little patience for positions that endanger the health of women and
restrict their ability to make decisions that affect their lives.
Today is Mother’s Day. It is a day that celebrates and remembers the struggles and
the love of those who have been mothers in our lives.
But it is also a time to remember that motherhood and family can look and feel very
different to a great many people in our world.
I have struggled this week to process all this is happening right now and how this
remarkable story fits into these events. I have struggled with how much to voice my
own opinion on the subject of reproductive health and a woman’s right to choose.
Should anyone really care what I think on the matter quite frankly?
And as I have reflected on the story we read today, what I am finally struck by –
beyond the way God brings new life to a room filled with grief and heartbreak – is that
Tabitha or Dorcas is never described based on her relationship to others, beyond her
discipleship. She is not someone’s wife or someone’s mother. She is a disciple of Jesus.
She is apparently a woman of means who serves and cares for women who are
widowed.
She is known and loved by her community. She is a leader in this community.
She made a choice to serve her community and follow Jesus. She is seen as a beloved
child of God. Her worth is not measured by her marital status or her ability to bear
children. God sees her and values her.
All too often we are measured by our relationship to others. I fear that as much as the
world has progressed over the years, this is particularly the case for the women of the
world.
It is not so common today as in the past, I know, but it remains a part of our world.
Recently Ellie was looking through a number of documents of people in her family tree.
At one point it became difficult to track the lines of many women, because they were
listed as Mrs. (insert man’s name here).
This point keeps coming up for me as I reflect on scripture. God does not see the
world through human eyes. God’s view of the world is not ours.
Tabitha loves the people around her. She serves her community and in doing so,
serves God. She in turn, is loved.
God sees us for who we are and loves us and blesses us for who we are. We choose
how to respond. We choose to recognize the innate worth of the people around us and
how we will relate to them.
And so, we respond by saying Thanks be to God.

 

 

Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789