Angels of Mercy

October 25th, 2007 • Category: Book of Acts
by Pastor Jeff

Today’s scripture: Acts 9:32-43 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me in this passage? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

gazelleToday’s reading paints a portrait of a saintly early Christian woman. Her name was Tabitha in Aramaic, which translates into Dorcas in Greek. Both mean “gazelle.” You know what a gazelle is, right? According to my dictionary: “Any of various small, swift, graceful antelopes of Africa, the near East, and Asia, with spirally twisted, backward-pointing horns and large lustrous eyes.”

What a glorious name! I picture a short, thin woman, with big eyes, who moves quickly and gracefully from place to place doing good in the name of Jesus. Tabitha almost sounds like a forerunner of Mother Theresa.

This image in reinforced by what the passage says: “She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.” That was her epitaph — the way she was remembered. If you or I were to die today, how would we be remembered?

  • She was angry.
  • He was busy and distracted.
  • She was filthy rich.
  • He was mean and aggressive.

It makes you think. In any event, Tabitha “was devoted to good works and acts of charity.” Later the passage says that all the women at the wake were “weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that [Tabitha] had made while she was with them.” Apparently, the focus of Tabitha’s good works and acts of charity was to make clothing and give it to friends and to those in need.

I want to be that kind of Christian. I don’t mean I want to purchase a Singer Sewing Machine (like my Mother had — do they make those anymore?). I mean I want to be intentional about blessing people along the way with simple acts of charity.

One of the most compelling, true, stories I’ve ever heard goes like this. A single mother (recently divorced) moved to a new town. She had three young kids to raise, plus a full-time job. Stretched to the limit, she worried about how — among other things – she would keep up with her yard work. She managed to mow, but had zero time extra to spend weeding and trimming.

To her amazement, she never had weeds in her lawn. She was beginning to think it was some kind of miracle, until one day she came home early from work and found her 80-year-old next door neighbor on his hands and knees pulling weeds in her lawn. He was embarrassed to be caught in the act. When she asked why, he told her he felt God wanted him to do this. She asked where he went to church. The next Sunday she shows up at the church. After service, she tells the Pastor why she’s there. Basically, she said, “I hear from a lot of Christians in this world, but I’ve never encountered anything as beautiful as this. I want to be part of a community with people like that.”

Lately, God has planted in my heart a dream for a new ministry team in our church. We already have several powerful outreach teams who engage in beautiful acts of charity — our Homeless Ministry, our Animal Ministry, our Missions Team, and our partnership with the Christian Children’s Fund. But I have a dream of one more team to round out this line up. They might be called “Angels of Mercy,” and their mission would be to work with our Deacons and Pastoral Care Team to identify people inside and outside our church who need simple, practical support. They would be a kind of SWAT team of mercy-doers who could swoop in to mow a lawn while someone is in the hospital, or bring food to someone who loses a loved one, or paint a room in the home of an elderly person. You get the idea.

We need a team of gazelles — people who move swiftly and gracefully to provide practical support to those who are hurting.

Like Tabitha, they would specialize in “good works and acts of charity.” To organize such a team, we would need some devoted volunteers and a volunteer coordinator; these would need to be people who are not already knee deep in other service projects. If God is speaking to your heart, let me know at the email address below.

Thought for the day: As you move through the next few days, be looking for a chance to bless someone with a simple act of charity. Nothing says Jesus more than that.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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