Archive for February 29th, 2008

Nothing More, Nothing Less

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Today’s scripture: Acts 9:36-42 (ESV-text and audio) (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 (Deb Doty):

Tucked away at the end of an action-packed chapter is this jewel of a story about Tabitha (or her less melodious Greek name, Dorcas).

Tabitha was a much-loved widow in the church at Joppa who spent her days doing good things like making clothes for the poor. When she died, the Joppa church sent for Peter who was visiting a nearby city. Yes, her church sisters and brothers sent for Peter with the obvious expectation that God would use him as the means to bring their beloved Tabitha back to them. God honored this, and Tabitha was brought back to life. End of story.

It’s so easy to go breezing through a short story like this without recognizing the great depth it contains. So, let me repeat a key point: Tabitha’s church sisters and brothers actually sent for the great Apostle Peter so God could use him to bring a dressmaker back from the dead.

Usually, we focus on Peter — the great apostle with the gifts of healing and miracles and faith, etc., etc.. He was a greatly gifted man, so he was called to perform this fantastic miracle — wasn’t that the point of the story? I’m not so sure.

Many people in the Bible go unnamed — particularly women. But not Dorcas — we get both her Aramaic and Greek names! And hers is a unique situation. It’s the only story I can think of out of all the resurrection stories in the Bible where someone was called from another city specifically to raise a person who was already dead. (Nope, Lazarus doesn’t count — the call went out to Jesus before Lazarus died!) And the Holy Spirit moved the author of Acts to write the dressmaker’s story down.

It’s easy to see why we tend to focus on Peter. He was a well-known person with the big, impressive title of “Apostle.” He was a gifted evangelist, teacher, and preacher. He could heal people and even raise them from the dead! Everybody knows who Peter is. And maybe we focus on Peter because we want to be like him — wouldn’t it be pretty doggone wonderful to have the gift of raising the dead? Or wouldn’t it be neat to have the gift of preaching or teaching? Think of the prestige!

Sadly, we don’t focus on Tabitha, although it’s pretty clear she was a remarkable woman who was loved dearly by everyone who knew her. You know, I have never known a person who prayed for the gift of sewing — and yet that appears to have been one of her main gifts.

Why do we have such a desire for the “flashy” gifts? That’s easy — we’d feel important. Why don’t we desire the less “flashy” gifts? Well, they don’t pack out stadiums for Jesus. And they don’t get you a nifty title like “Apostle.”

I’m not saying it’s bad to raise the dead. Hey, if that’s your gift, use it! If you have the gift of evangelism, use it! But if your gift is sewing, then use it! Don’t think, “I’m a nobody — I just make clothes.” Let’s not envy others because of the gifts God has given them, and let’s not be unappreciative of the gifts God has given us. Let’s be who God has gifted us to be.

And read verse 36 closely in the New Revised Standard Version. Dorcas had a title: disciple. Really, isn’t that enough for any of us?

Thought for the day: Lord, I want to be your disciple — nothing more, nothing less.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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