A Mother's Touch
(Posted May 10, 2019)
It’s fitting -- although entirely accidental -- that this Sunday’s New Testament Acts of the Apostles text revolves around a woman named Tabitha in Aramaic, but Dorcas in Greek. After all it is Mother’s Day. What makes Tabitha unique is that she is the ONLY woman that the New Testament names from the beginning as a disciple. As you can imagine, it must have taken a special kind of woman to be valued by society in those days of inconsequential femininity to be recognized as such. And she was.
Tabitha, a widow, didn’t stop caring for people when her husband and children were gone. Not in the slightest. Instead, in this post-Easter world, Tabitha began to “mother” all those in her community who needed someone to care for them: the needy, the grieving, the lonely widows like herself.
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And then, in an instant, Tabitha was gone. Tabitha, whose name refers to the graceful gazelle. Tabitha, full of grace for raising other people up, now needs someone to raise her up. Tabitha needs someone like Jesus, who raised from death Jairus’s daughter, by calling out a name one letter off from hers: “Talitha, arise,” Jesus said.
And so it was that Peter, now the head of the Jesus believers, answered the grieving followers’ call to come to Joppa. He found her surrounded by other widows and women who had prepared her and dressed her -- tenderly like mothers. Peter recalled that he and the other disciples had been told by Jesus that they had been given his powers-- the power to forgive, to heal, to raise others up just as Jesus did. So it is with the assurance of that power that Peter stepped forward, said “Tabitha, arise,” and watched as she did. We can easily assume that Tabitha used her renewed life on earth to continue to be a shining example, not just of womanhood and maternal caring, but of being Christ’s disciple.
In the moment of that full-fledged miracle we learn that Peter and the other disciples carry on the great work of Jesus. And we, too, are bidden in this post-modern era of hate mongering and senseless acts of violence to extend our transformative discipleship far beyond the often hollow “thoughts and prayers” that people toss out at the moment of the next school shooting or racist act. The world needs “a mother’s touch” that is all action, not all talk, a touch that heals and moves forward by doing, enfolding, and not just talking.
This Sunday, we’ll be thinking back to mothers of all kinds. Not all of our mothers were living saints like Tabitha. But some of our mothers were. However all mothers have left their mark on us, and taught us that, as much as we were forgiven for not being perfect, we need to forgive others, including Moms, for being human, but always trying to grow. - Pastor Pat Kriss