Fourth Sunday of Easter – Sunday, May 12, 2019

May 12, 2019  

Acts 9:36-43

In its original Greek language, the only time the female form of the word disciple is used in the entire New Testament is here, in our reading from Acts, in regards to the disciple Dorcas (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1 p. 864).

“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” (Acts 9:36).

Her death left her friends and co-workers, who were widows, weeping (Acts 9:39). As it says at historyswomen.com/womenoffaith/Dorcas

…the widows Dorcas had laid her [body] out and prepared an eloquent eulogy on the life and character of Dorcas by showing some of the many coats and garments which she made for them. Here were aged widows whose hands were too feeble to hold the needle and too poor to pay others for their work. They showed the warm garments Dorcas had made them to protect them from the cold winds which often swept in from the Mediterranean. And here were younger widows with little children who had been clothed by Dorcas. How could they ever find another friend like her? (“Dorcas The Queen of the Needle”).

The website is taking some poetic license; clearly the details they offer are not recorded in the book of Acts, but their point is poignant and powerful.
Dorcas, aka Tabitha, was loved. Dorcas was respected. Her ministry was powerful.
Her work was important enough that, at the time of her death, one of the leaders of the church, the apostle Peter was summoned. Two men were sent to him with a request: “Please come to us without delay” (Acts 9:38). And Peter, nine miles away (TIDB, vol. 1 p. 864) got up and went. And he knelt and he prayed.
And Peter 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 (Acts 9:40-41).

We do not know anything else about Dorcas. But we do know about generation after generation of women in the Church who have modeled their work after her.

Here’s an interesting fact. When I googled “Dorcas Society” to find information, our Facebook page and website came up. Other church’s Dorcas Society information came up as well. But what does it tell us about the work of women in the Church generation after generation, when a small paragraph about our Dorcas Society is one of the first sources that come up on a global search?

Today we embrace the power and the ministry of the disciple Dorcas, aka Tabitha. And we embrace generation after generation of women around the world who have served the Church in the name of Dorcas. Whether they be members of a Dorcas Society, such as we have, or members of other Church women’s organizations. Their pictures aren’t usually hung on walls. Churches aren’t usually named after them. But their work has been and is important. Decade after decade, century after century, anonymous women have dedicated time and talent to follow the instructions of Jesus when Jesus said “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Our Dorcas Society began January 11, 1921 “when a group of young women met at the home of Miss Florence Young to organize for Christian fellowship and service, the principle objectives of this group being general charity and mission work, both local and Synodical” (“Seventy Five Years for Christ” a history book or Our Savior’s published in 1936). At their first meeting, they collected $1.61. It was noted that “the one cent in the collection no doubt meaning that someone had been tardy, as the minutes state that there would be a ‘one cent fine for tardiness and a five cent fine for absence except for sickness’” (same source).

Which made me think we ought to put a penny jar in the narthex on Sunday mornings for everyone who comes late to church!

In our congregation’s 1936 history book, written on the occasion of our 75th anniversary, it says

Wherever a church spire points heavenward, there will be found a group of women zealously working in the interest of the group. Many years ago, when La Crosse was but a hamlet, when sand and sandburs blew about the streets, and the drone of saw mills filled the air, a small group of women gathered one afternoon at the home of Miss Dahl for the purpose of        organizing a Ladies Aid Society. This meeting occurred in March 1878, before Pastor Frich located in La Crosse.” (Seventy Five Years for Christ).

In 1886 the Ladies Aid formed a “Dime Society”. Dues were: 10 cents! They met at the homes of members or in the church. They studied scripture and they prayed and they led fundraisers. Sometime after 1888 the Dime Society “bought the lot on which our present church stands, the corner of 6th and Division Streets, for $1800” (Seventy Five Years for Christ).

The apostle Peter was no fool when he raised the disciple Dorcas from the dead. Peter knew how important the work Dorcas did was to her congregation. He could see, he could hear, how much she was loved.
Just so, we embrace the work of our women’s societies here at Our Savior’s.
Our 1936 history book’s chapter on our Dorcas Society ends with these words:

There is joy in being of service in the kingdom of God. Christian activity must be directed by God, and we as Dorcas members feel that there has been a willingness on the part of the individual members and blessed team work on the part of our group. The Lord has richly blessed our efforts and  given us success… May we therefore in the name of Jesus, Our Savior, continue to ‘work while it is day, for the night cometh when no [one] shall work.’”

May we all continue to work while it is day in the name of Jesus, Our Savior.
Amen.