Those of us using the Revised Common Lectionary  may choose to preach on the text from Acts, with its description of Tabitha as a disciple (albeit one who has died). No doubt in my mind that there were women disciples all along, even when Jesus was alive, although it may be that only here in Acts is a woman named as such.

Well, I haven’t done a search, so maybe women are named as disciples elsewhere, but regardless, it is rare and even a bit radical.

Tabitha is clearly a valuable disciple because the others want her back, no one wants her gone. Tabitha cares for people, she makes clothes, and tends to the needs of others in countless ways. That Peter raises Tabitha from the dead is a miracle, but it goes unexplained. Why does this happen? And what does one do with this text? We all know beloved and valuable people who die untimely deaths and are never brought back to life… It’s a text about miracles and death and life and new life, a reflection on the community of people who loved Tabitha and perhaps a commentary on discipleship. But what to do with it?

I will probably preach on this text, although at this moment I have no idea what I will say. I preached about miracles not that long ago, so maybe there is some food for fodder in what what I said then?

Well anyway, what are you thoughts? What text is speaking to you? For more conversation on both  lectionaries see Tuesday’s Revised Common Lectionary discussion here and the Narrative Lectionary here.

One thing I do know is that I will be here all day, with ample coffee and tea to fortify the creative juices. I also have an abundance of Girl Scout Cookies and will gladly share. Pull up a chair, let’s get this party going.

 

35 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Tabitha is mathetria

  1. Looks like I’m first. I have had the sermon written for a couple of weeks so that makes sense. Here’s a hunk:
    What’s in a name? “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Tabitha’s name is revelatory. Her parents named her “Tabitha,” Tavitha, in Aramaic. They named her Tabitha, “gazelle,” strong, swift, graceful, nimble saying something of their hopes for her. They named her in Aramaic because that was the language of the empires that had dominated their people ages ago. Those empires waxed and waned but left their language behind continuing the work of colonization even as new empires emerged. The imposition of Aramaic in the ancient world is not entirely dissimilar from the imposition of English in the modern world. The intentionality of her parents in naming her reminds me of the intentionality many African American families in naming their children, including creating new names out of the colonizers’ English. Even though Tabitha’s people spoke Aramaic, they still read their scriptures in Hebrew and Tabitha’s parents would have known that the Hebrew word for gazelle, zivyah, was also the name of one of Judah’s great queen mothers who ruled for her son when he ascended the throne at the tender age seven upon his father’s death.
    Tabitha’s name stretches back to strength and glory, acknowledges oppression and subjugation and the ability to adapt to the present situation. Her parents gave her a name that could also be easily translated into Greek, the language of their most recent oppressors, so that when the author of Acts called her Dorcas, though he wasn’t calling her by her name he wasn’t calling her that far out of it. I have to admit that when the author switches to Dorcas in the middle of her story and never switches back, I am bothered. I think about the terrible habit some Americans have of telling people that their names are too hard or too foreign and giving them easier, English names. Whenever I read this story I think about Kunta Kinte who was willing to die and was horribly mutilated because he would not relinquish his ancestral African name and accept the slave name Toby. If you do not know who Kunta Kinte was you’re in luck, Roots has been remade and will be broadcast this summer.
    The author of Acts names Tabitha something else, he names her as a disciple…

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    1. Wil, thank you so much for this. Even though this is the text I am drawn to preach on, none of the commentaries I have read thus far have sparked my interest or imagination with this text. They have all been so bland and I kept thinking there had to be something more interesting about Tabitha and this text. Thank you. I still don’t know where I am going with the text, but it just might include something about naming, beginning with how my mother named me and concluding with the power of Tabitha/Dorcas the Disciple, and how each of us is named by God, beloved. Well, I don’t know, something. At least I have some ideas…

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    2. Thank you so much for this, Wil. I am preaching a sermon entitled Dorcas Discipleship, because I want to talk about discipleship in terms of bringing our gifts to the community and the community growing out of the gifts brought to it, rather than deciding what tasks it needs to undertake and trying to find people to fill those slots. It’s a sermon connnected to the needs of my congregation during this interim period, as they emerge from a pastor-centered way of calling out gifts and begin to find their way into naming and claiming their own desires and gifts.

      That said, I did a little research earlier in the week on the names and, finding nothing at all like this, concluded that the situation was akin to something I had once read about Paul — not a name change, but a Greek version of Saul. Dorcas, I read, also means “deer,” with a related Greek verb meaning “to see.” I pondered for awhile whether to talk about discipleship as a visionary role, but could not find a way to make that idea work in this week’s very practical sermon. Maybe I will go back and find a way to include it.

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  2. I shall be reimagining a sustainable sermon on Dorcas–the brief 94 words that tell her life story and give her this rare spot as a named woman disciple. It calls forth images of the grieving friends, their display of the beautiful things she lovingly created for others, and evokes thoughts of so many in our own experience who have served others in similar ways. This Sunday is also one of our two annual United Thank Offering collections, and we will have a Moment of Ministry from our EfM group. So, connections may be drawn, I hope, between the early disciples and those in our community today.

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  3. Narrative Lectionary for me. Paul’s continuing adventures; challenging – turning the world upside down… and arriving at Thessalonica
    the readings are from Acts and 1 Thess… and I’m going to learn the Thessalonians reading to share rather than reading ts straight. this is part of a survey / exercise for Stacey Duke, and I’m both excited and scared in about equal measure. I’ll be using this reading for the children’s time, and introduction to the theme – in StB it’s Reconciling Spirit – how the Spirit works to reconcile. Which I’m not entirely feeling yet.
    I like the turning the world upside down idea – and why we write to friends; how we write; if we still write… lots of threads.. not much focus yet.

    Food is pretty scarce in my house this morning – until one of us goes to get groceries! I have a big bag of marshmallows… and coffee…. (so I’m set – right?!)

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    1. I too like the “turning the world upside down”….but haven’t figured out how to engage it – reconciling spirit and writing – connecting and communicating – hold some terrific potential however. Thank you for these ideas.

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  4. It’s morning. I’m up. I have some delicious freshly brewed Sumatra coffee, and if you like, some raw honey to help sweeten it. You all have helped me so much already this morning by sharing your ideas and thoughts for a sermon. I have been away from the church for two weeks, and its my first Sunday back – always a little rough getting the juices flowing…so, thank you, all for your great ideas.

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  5. Good morning! Smoothies and home made rhubarb muffins are on the table waiting for you to arrive. Today is the spring rummage sale at the church so Tabitha’s story will resonate for many in the congregation. I can only imagine that many of the women who have been working almost round the clock this week to get all the ‘treasures’ sorted and set up will feel like lying down, being taken care of and in need of a helping hand, a prayer and some encouraging words to get up and get going again. The Acts reading spoke to me thusly (I love that word ;-)) ‘ when we are down and out, when we are laid out flat with fatigue, ready to give up and maybe even feeling like dying from all our responsibilities, God is there to encourage us, to speak a word into our lives, to offer a helping hand to get us up and moving again’. Maybe through the presence of the Holy Spirit, maybe through the presence of friendship or family who are there for us or maybe in a variety of other ways. These are my pre sermon writing thoughts … blessings to y’all.

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    1. I like that take on this reading – when we are feeling down and out, “God is there to encourage us, to speak a word into our lives, to offer a helping hand to get us up and moving again.” That’s helpful, thank you.

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  6. No food to offer but puppy snuggles abound! We’re on our way to pick out our golden retreiver puppy (bringing her home in a few weeks) and so, of course, I’m just now starting to think about my sermon on the narrative lectionary texts. I’m focusing (I think) on the “we please god not people” piece of the epistle. Aaaand, I have no clue what/how that’s going to take shape.

    We got our holy cow congregation assessment tool survey back this week and that’s what I’ve been focusing on. But we’re not ready to share the results with the congregation yet so all that work doesn’t get to inform the sermon… So, yup, puppy snuggles. It’s all I’ve got! 😀

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    1. awww, my puppy is almost 10 months old, big and strong, more than double in size. Puppies are so delightful, playful, fun. (and, hard work). How exciting for you. Now, I also hope that sermon inspiration comes as well!

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    2. Yay for puppy snuggles! And with a new member of the family about to join your fold, surely you’re thinking about names? What a wonderful opportunity to talk about the impact of names, the hopes and dreams they carry, and more. Fun stuff!

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    3. snap!!! I went to pick out a puppy today as well!! She a sprocker (springer/ cocker spaniel mix) and in honour of this week’s RCL I’m going to call her Tabitha… probably shortened to Tabby – which I think is funny since Tabby is a cat!!
      Picking her up right after Pentecost….
      (enough procrastination!)

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  7. Thanks for hosting, Terri. I’m reworking a previous sermon on Tabitha/Dorcas, contrasting her behind-the-scenes work with Peter’s more up-front work, and proclaiming them both faithful.

    In the meantime, I’m accompanying the kids to a playdate at their favorite friends’ grandparents’ farm. It is, of course, the most fun place ever. It is raining a little bit right now, so I’m hoping that clears up, especially for the sake of the grandparents!

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    1. I too am reworking a previous sermon – much to my surprise! I do like the direction you are taking with the behind the scenes and upfront work as both faithful. It’s a glorious day here, projected to be near 70, and sunny, so I would LOVE to spend the day outside at a farm or in the woods…sigh. I hope the weather improves for you.

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  8. I am preaching on community, targeting sheep/shepherd language and fans of sports teams so far. I’d like to bring in this Tabitha story and may do so somehow around the power of community: all members are essential, or something like that. Having just read the other comments below, I think b this will work.

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  9. So my sermon is unfolding in a direction I never saw coming….I took an illustration from an old sermon, and thought I’d use some of the content of that sermon too, but instead I have completely rewritten it. I am developing the idea of “nobody’s” – who is seen and who is not? who is named and who is not? Still focusing on Tabitha/Dorcas as one who was named and seen, but not heard in this text.

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  10. Since I only usually preach once a month, I didn’t get to preach on last week’s gospel, one of my all time favorites. (I’m a deacon after all.) I plan to link last week’s “feed my sheep” to this week’s shepherd imagery. After you all’s comments, I see using the Tabitha story to talk about how we, as disciples, have each been given our own special gifts to stand in for the shepherd. We have a Baptism, so I will tie in how we are called, through Baptism, to care for God’s people.

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  11. I spent all day at a presbytery-sponsored anti-racism workshop that was nearly 2 hours away from my house. I’m home now and decompressed a little (there was one very stressful participant and I definitely needed a little time to distance my trains of thought (plural!) from his comments) so ready to get to work on the NL text from Acts. I’ve adapted parts of the 1 Thess reading as the call to worship, and I intend to mention it in the sermon, if I remember. I don’t have much more in mind than I had on Tuesday, except that now I’m considering being more explicit about how the gospel turns the world upside down, dismantling systems of oppression, and wouldn’t it be great if that’s what we were known for far and wide, the way the thessalonian church was?

    I’ve got a frozen pizza in the oven (because I can’t deal with the dishes inherent in making even an easy dinner), and a bag of Lindt truffles on the sofa (there’s an outlet store nearby, which is maybe the worst thing I have ever discovered). Help yourselves. 🙂

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    1. Oh Teri, I will never understand the demands of your Presbytery and their frequent all day Saturday events….wow. And, extra blessings for you tonight as you recoup and then work on a sermon. Also, yes please, a truffle….yum!

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      1. It wasn’t required attendance, but I want to be able to tell people they should go to the next time they have it…so I had to go this time. It really is only about 6 times a year that there’s something Presbytery-related on Saturday. Which doesn’t sound like that much until I realize that’s every other month. ….yeah.

        so many truffles! passing the bag over to you. 🙂

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  12. Preaching on Tabitha and how the gathered community becomes healing partners with God, bearing witness to the power of God seen in Jesus that is still ours. Calling for vulnerability and being okay with the messiness. We celebrated the life of a woman long homebound with a graveside service this afternoon, and I haven’t figured out how to write a sermon before the next one is preached so I’m still at the kitchen table. My daughter made vegan brownies and there are fresh strawberries if you’re still working, too.

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  13. I am so thankful to Wil and Terri and so many others for getting my wheels turning. My uncle died this morning(cancer sucks) and this sermon has been REALLY hard to write in light of those events. Praying everyone still writing gets Holy Spirit inspired in the next few minutes so you can experience holy sleep!
    My sermon will rest on my blog for the night, hopefully to get better with some much needed rest! http://randomrevhd.blogspot.com/2016/04/wonder-of-wonder-miracle-of-miracles.html

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  14. sunday morning…I decided last night that rather than keep writing a sermon that wasn’t working, I was going to go ahead and turn worship upside down too by asking questions and making people talk rather than listen to me. Then I went to bed. 😉 Now I need to settle on the questions…I’m thinking of giving a brief set-up of Thessalonica in the year 50, and then asking what they would say if they were Paul trying to show that Jesus is the Messiah…(which will also give me a chance to refute substitutionary atonement again!), and then to wonder together what it means that proclaiming Jesus king was contrary to the emperor and was so disturbing to the status quo–and how we can perhaps embody a gospel that turns the world upside down.

    Or something.

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    1. I like this idea a lot! I did something like this last summer, having the congregation comment on what they heard in the reading, and many people heard different things and then began a dialogue about that. I’ll do the same thing this summer…

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