A sermon by Michael Pahl on May 12, 2019, called “Tabitha, Disciple of Our Lord.” It is a reflection on the story of Tabitha, also called Dorcas, in Acts 9:36-42.
Here is a written excerpt:
We read the Bible to follow Jesus. And, in following Jesus together, we learn to read the Bible better.
And so we don’t only read those biblical statements and commands that seem to put women in their place, limiting their role in church and society.
We also read about Miriam and Deborah, prophets and leaders even in ancient Israel (that’s Exodus 15 and Judges 4-5). We read about Phoebe and Junia, patrons and deacons and apostles (that’s Romans 16). We read about Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother who first taught him the faith (that’s 2 Timothy 1). We read about “the chosen lady” in 2 John, an anonymous woman who was the leader of her house church.
We also read about the Pentecost Spirit coming down on all flesh, so that God’s “sons and daughters” all prophesy, both “men and women” sharing in the same Spirit that gives insight into the gospel of Jesus Christ and courage to proclaim and live out this gospel in the world (Acts 2). We read that in Christ “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, ‘male and female’”—we are all adopted and gifted by the same Spirit of Christ, regardless of ethnicity, class, or gender (Galatians 3).
Most of all, we look to Jesus. In the Gospels we read about Jesus describing Mary of Bethany as the ideal disciple, learning from her Rabbi what is most needful (Luke 10:38-42). We read about Jesus repeatedly commending women for their faith and piety, often in contrast to the over-zealous religious men around them. We read about the resurrected Jesus commissioning Mary Magdalene with the task of an apostle: the first to bear witness to his resurrection (John 20:17-18).
We don’t pull specific statements and commands out from the Bible and build a wall with them to keep a whole class of people from fully participating in the life of the church.
Rather, we read the Bible to follow Jesus. And, in following Jesus together, we learn to read the Bible better.
And as we do this, we find ourselves not building walls to keep people out, but building longer tables to invite more people in, to feast in God’s kingdom.
And what a feast it is! The church has been enriched immeasurably by the fullness of God’s presence in the lives of women—as mothers, as grandmothers, as wives, as sisters, as daughters, as nurses and doctors, as teachers at home or in school, as pastors and theologians, as scientists and singers, as quilters and crafters and potters and painters, as professors and gardeners and homemakers and more.
Simply as women.