Sunday Reflection Acts 9:36-43

For some of you that read Tuesday’s blog overnight or early in the morning Melbourne time, you may have noticed that I made a mistake in the first version, which I adjusted later. In the original version, I was concentrating so much on the Good Shephard motif that it had slipped my mind that the first Reading on the Revised Common Lectionary for this Sunday Easter 4 was the story of Tabitha. If you were looking for a more appropriate seethe into the concept of Mother’s Day. There it was. But initially l overlooked it.

I wonder how many will also have looked at the later readings giving precedent to the shepherd theme?

But we would all be missing out. What a story, do we have in the first reading, and not just because Peter was coming into his powers and like Jesus was continuing with the use of them for all in the community.

This is also a story of community, of intergeneration’s, of how one member can encourage the whole community to work together.

Tabitha, also known as Dorcas. Living under two names was not unusual in Diaspora communities where the birth or community name would also have a name that is appropriate for the Greek’s in which wider community she is living. In Australia, it is still such a common situation that we see migrant communities where the given name and the commonly used name are different. Though I have noticed that thankfully this is changing. But this story is already reaching across time to today’s Australia due to this small detail. We see a little later in Acts how Paul uses name to disassociate from his pre -Christian persona by changing his name from Saul. A tradition that is still practiced in some Christian communities. When women become mother’s, we gain another name, a very common one that is shared by everyone else in that situation. My eldest child learnt before she went to school, that if she called out that generic name, she would get the attention of most women around her at the time, so she took to calling me by my given name when she wanted me in public. Our name defines us.

Tabitha/Dorcas was a woman significant enough to name, significant enough to describe and significant enough for her community to summon the great man Peter. We do not know if Tabitha was a mother, or even a wife as the most important descriptor, of her is as a disciple. And this is where I see the seethe into today’s other event, Mother’s Day, because it was not what Tabitha was known for in her community but rather that she was first and foremost a disciple. So though today we acknowledge mothers in all their complexities, the greater title, the one we all want, is Disciple. We are not missing out, by not having children, or being male. We are unified by our faith, by our common descriptor, disciple.

If we look deeper into the description of Tabitha/Dorcas it is about her good works and acts of charity, today we would expect to find a description of how she looked or what she wore. But no, it’s about her contribution to community, and as Disciple is the first descriptor these actions flow from that faith. This descriptor reminds me of something I had read about women’s faith development “for most, spirituality was rooted firmly in the everyday, mundane world of work”[1], Slee, moves on to say that much of what women do in their faith, goes unrecognised, and yet here it is these very elements of her discipleship that define and elevate her.

Tabitha/Dorcas had her faith, in all elements of her life and thus her story fits comfortable in the shepherd motif as a description of faithful servitude, even in death. But it still has much to tell us independently. Do not overlook the faithful Tabitha’s in your community, regardless of their age, or gender. This is a wonderful story worth sharing on its own.


For a children’s version, you can find Tabitha retold in Brave Girls Bible Stories by Jennifer Gerhelds (2014,Tommy Nelson, Nashville)

OR Forgotten Bible Stories  By Margaret Mc Allister illustrated by Alida Massari, ( 2016 Lion Children’s, Oxford)

[1]Slee, Nicola, “Women’s Faith Development, Patterns and Processes” (2004, Ashgate, Surrey ) p.170


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