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Monday, May 13, 2019
Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 9:36–43
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner. (NRSV)
I have often thought of Tabitha as the very first deacon. Why? Because this text attests to the fact that Tabitha did the work of pastoral care. As the text states, “She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.” She reached out to widows, created clothing for them that must have felt like an embrace, and was a clear leader in her community. If that were not true, men would not have come to Peter in order to seek his help for Tabitha.
Deacons are often the heart of a faith community. Our Presbyterian Book of Order states that deacons have a special responsibility to pay attention to those on the margins, to look out for the friendless, to comfort the grieving, and to work for justice within unjust systems. They are some of what my father always called “God’s hard hats for hope,” meaning they embody the compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ. We certainly see that here at Fourth Church. Our deacons feed people who are hungry; they call people and ask how we might pray for them; they meet people after worship who need someone to pray with and for them; they take communion to people who are unable to get to worship. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of what our deacons do in this congregation.
I am pretty sure Tabitha was a deacon. She had the heart of Jesus Christ, so much so that when Peter called out her name, she was healed. And I imagine they threw a big party that day while Tabitha got out her knitting and began to weave together a garment of compassion and care for someone else.
Gracious God, help me to live with Tabitha’s kind of compassion. Give me a heart so full of love and mercy that I cannot help but reach out to others. And I thank you for all those whom you have called to serve as deacons. May we support them as they do this important pastoral care work here in our midst. Amen.
Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor
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