Encountering Christ in Devoted Women

Written by Pastor Mark

Theme Background

Our theme for the Easter season is “Encounters with Christ”.  Today we encounter Christ in the devoted women who have followed him.  In Luke 8 we read about such women:  “Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.”  For people wanting to support “traditional family values” which I think they interpret to mean a woman who stays at home with the children while a man goes out and makes money to support the family, this has to be shocking.  Jesus, to the best of our knowledge, never had a job.  This short note in Luke is the only evidence we have of how he was able to survive, and apparently he did so through the generous donations of women.  These women then accompanied Jesus on his travels.  It is difficult for us to understand just how outside of social norms this all must have been.

The disciples were also supported by women.  In Acts 15 we read of Lydia who made and sold purple cloth.  She invited Paul and the disciples to stay at her home, and then provided for them while they preached the Gospel in that area.  In today’s lessen we have another faithful woman named Tabitha.  It is interesting to me how names are dealt with in scripture.  Often we never quite make it to English.  This woman’s name is Dorcas (in Hebrew) which is translated as Lydia in Aramaic.  There is only one step left.  The name means Gazelle in English.  She is a woman who dedicated her life to her craft.   She made articles of clothing.  This is more than simply sewing, I think.  I lthink of her as a weaver, crafting beautiful articles of clothing for those around her.

Another shocking aspect of this story is the simple mention at the start of the lesson that Gazelle was a disciple!  We have no idea how this happened.  She is the only woman explicitly named as such in the New Testament.  Her discipleship was one of service in the world.  As far as we know she did not go from place to place preaching the Gospel.  She was a student of Jesus’ teachings, but she lived out her life in service by providing clothing for those around her.

Do you think of your craft, or gift, or interest as a ministry?  Often, I think we separate out such interests from our faith.  But Gazelle’s example says we might want to rethink that separation.  A life of faith is one in which every part of our life is used for the glory of God and for the restoration of all creation to God’s loving embrace.

There is another interesting tidbit in today’s 1st lesson.  At the very end Peter (there’s another name that never quite makes it into English.  We should call him “Rocky”) is headed off to stay with “Simon the tanner.”  This is interesting for two reasons.  First tanners dealt with dead animal skins and were perpetually unclean.  They were despised by many people.  Also it is Simon’s balcony where Peter is going to have his dream about all things, and all people, being clean.

In the Gospel lesson Jesus in standing on Solomon’s porch in the Temple complex.  This is the place of judgment, where verdicts in Jewish court cases would be announced.   Jesus, however, does not speak words of judgment, but of comfort and nurture, about sheep and shepherds.

Our church could not survive without many faithful women.  It’s just impossible to think of this church without them.  Who are the faithful women in your life?

Quotes for the Week

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”    Dalai Lama

So, take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices. And make friends and love well, bring art to this place. And make this world better for the whole human race.    Jamie Lee Curtis

Most so-called women’s work is not recognized as real activity. One reason for this attitude may be that such work is usually associated with helping others’ development, rather than with self-enhancement or self-employment.       Jean Baker Miller 

“You did this carving?” Daedalus asked. It was obvious he did not believe her.
“Certainly.” Hebe flushed. “Why do you doubt it?”
“A woman! Who taught you?”
“My mother, who else? My father also. My family have been carvers and workers in wood and metal for generations. Jewelers, sculptors, potters, sometimes a needlewoman or a weaver. My mother was a great artist, and artists are honoured at this court. Why are you surprised? Are there no women in Athens who do this work?”
“Needlecrafts or weaving, yes. Those are women’s work. The others, no.”
Hebe snorted. “And people call Athens a civilized land!”     Priscilla Galloway

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base. – Dave Barry

1st Lesson Acts 9:36-43 (The Message)

36-37 Down the road a way in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, “Gazelle” in our language. She was well-known for doing good and helping out. During the time Peter was in the area she became sick and died. Her friends prepared her body for burial and put her in a cool room.

38-40 Some of the disciples had heard that Peter was visiting in nearby Lydia and sent two men to ask if he would be so kind as to come over. Peter got right up and went with them. They took him into the room where Tabitha’s body was laid out. Her old friends, most of them widows, were in the room mourning. They showed Peter pieces of clothing the Gazelle had made while she was with them. Peter put the widows all out of the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he spoke directly to the body: “Tabitha, get up.”

40-41 She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He took her hand and helped her up. Then he called in the believers and widows, and presented her to them alive.

42-43 When this became known all over Joppa, many put their trust in the Master. Peter stayed on a long time in Joppa as a guest of Simon the Tanner.

Gospel Lesson John 10:22-30 (NRSV)

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

Questions for the Week

Who is a faithful woman that has influenced your life?  What was she like?

Who are the faithful women who make our ministry possible?

How could we emulate the lives of these faithful women?

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