Lectionary: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30
Let us pray: O Lord, fill us with your Word this morning, that hearing it may fill our ears and our hearts and our bodies with your truth. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In your holy name we pray, Amen.
Full of Acts of Love
Mother’s Day is complicated.
Not always; sometimes we’re able to celebrate, to remember with joy our mothers and those we mother. But sometimes it’s complicated: when your mother has died, or your child has died; when you and your mother don’t get along or aren’t speaking; when you and your children aren’t speaking. Mother’s Day is complicated.
Our reading from Acts this morning is about a disciple named Tabitha, or Dorcas. She was someone who loved the people around her: the text says that she was “devoted to good works,” although some translations say that she was “full of good works,” which I love. And in fact this term is almost technical, and could describe all sorts of works: visiting the sick, caring for the dead and the grieving, feeding the hungry and otherwise helping the poor. When her community comes together to mourn her, we see that she also made clothes for her community.
To us, this may seem easy enough–after all, there are multiple places close to here where I can go if I want to buy myself every kind of clothing imaginable. But in these times, Tabitha would have to find the wool or linen or whatever else she was using, clean it, spin it, and weave it, and only then could she sew it into clothing. Making clothes was an act of dedicated, persistent love.
That, more than anything else about this story, is why I chose to preach it today, on Mother’s Day. Tabitha’s dedicated, persistent love is the same kind of love that mothers and motherers have for us.
And it reminded me, too, of the Proverbs 31 woman. If you’ve ever read through the entire book of Proverbs (you should!), you know that it ends with a poem about a woman and her efforts to care for her family and her household. Or perhaps you’ve heard it preached about before. It begins by holding up this virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10)–but a far better translation of “virtuous” (or, sometimes, “excellent” or “noble”) is “valorous.” “A woman of valor.” It’s a term often used of men and their bravery, so why not of women?
As Rachel Held Evans, a Christian author, writes about this passage:
valor isn’t about what you do, but how you do it. If you are a stay-at-home mom, be a stay-at-home mom of valor. If you are a nurse, be a nurse of valor. If you are a CEO, a pastor, or a barista at Starbucks, if you are rich or poor, single or married—do it all with valor. That’s what makes you a Proverbs 31 Woman, not creating a life worthy of a Pinterest board.
We’re all called to be women of valor, men of valor, people of valor. People who do what we’ve been called to do, and do it as well as we know how to do it. People who love those around us with dedication and persistence, like Tabitha did.
And, like Tabitha, we do not do so alone. We do not have to struggle after perfection alone (or at all). Tabitha’s resurrection reminds us of God’s presence in every part of life, just as all of Acts does: it paints a picture of a God acting in the world, to grow the church and to heal the world and to love each person. God is still acting, still growing, still healing. We do not have to love alone; instead, God is with us as we go, as we love.
And so let us love well, knowing that God is with us.