Sunday, April 25, 2010

Acts 9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.

For those of us who grew up in the sixties, the name Tabitha will always be associated with the cute blonde haired daughter of Samantha Stephens, in the television series “Bewitched.” I can still see her smiling mischievously and touching her nose as she made her toys fly around the room. I now can’t believe that Tabitha is in her forties, has four sons, and is on her third marriage. Time moves on regardless.

As for the original Tabitha, I learned about her in the seventies, when I started to read the Bible again. I didn’t know she existed until I read the Book of Acts for the first time. In Scotland, ministers tended to call her “Dorcas,” and in the church where I worshipped, there was even a stained-glass window depicting this disciple of Christ busily hand-sewing a shirt. In the part of Glasgow where our church was situated, cotton merchants, weavers and tailors prospered, so the window was dedicated to Dorcas, patron saint of tailors & seamstresses.

Whoever Dorcas or Tabitha was, she must have been very important to the Christian community at Joppa. The fact that two men went to find Peter to raise her from the dead shows us just how dearly she was loved and appreciated. Her charitable works and words of encouragement must have strengthened the local church. Her making and giving of clothes to the poor probably saved the lives, especially amongst the destitute widows in the city. She used her gifts to help the helpless; she inspired faith in others through her kindness and compassion.

Today, or perhaps this weekend, we will each be given an opportunity to be a Tabitha in our communities. We will hear or read about others whose needs are desperate and whose plight is serious. Hopefully, when we are informed of these things, we will act accordingly by using our gifts, resources and skills to help others through tough times and painful circumstances.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the witness of true saints like Tabitha. The story of her kindness to the people in Joppa has been read, told and preached for almost two thousand years. She was just an ordinary person like us, but she did much to glorify You and to serve her people. Enable us to do the same. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He writes the devotional and art blog "Heaven's Highway."

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