Pastoral Letter 116

Dear Members of St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, Friends and Adherents,

Grace and peace to you all.

Last Sunday, after Morning Tea, we had our fellowship meal for Mother’s Day. We gathered a week before the official day to celebrate and honour our mothers, leaving this Sunday for family celebrations. We had an enjoyable time together, with delicious food and excellent company. The lucky mother was Virginia Knowles, and her gift was a beautiful table clock, donated by Vahe Tomassian of ‘Good Times Watchmaker’ in St. Ives. Ivy Lee and Heather Astle were the youngest and the eldest mum at the gathering. As we officially celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, we say to our mothers: “Thank You for everything!”

If you will not be able to join us at our face-to-face service, you can worship with us at home. Please light a candle and follow the attached Order of Service.

Be safe and well, continue to pray, remembering those who need care, support and love and let us know if any member of the congregation that you know of needs our help and prayers.

Here are some more prayer points for this week:

  1. Pray for Breeze, a young child and a relative of Luigi and Isabel, who is terminally ill with cancer.
  2. Pray for the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the struggling and the stressed.
  3. Pray for world peace and ask for God’s blessings.
  4. Pray for the hope that God gives.

Please let me know if you or anyone else has prayer points.

Best Regards,



Tabitha – Dorcas

An Exemplary Woman

Acts 9:36-43

Serving God happens in different ways. Some people serve God by preaching, proclaiming the good news and inviting people to accept Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour. Others serve God by using their God-given talents to write songs, sing them, writing books. Others leave everything dear and go to serve as missionaries. Others extend a helping hand to the needy and give from what they have to support those who are facing financial challenges.

Others serve God by organising programs and leading groups in the church community, such as the Market Morning, donating food to charity organisations, such as the Exodus Foundation, sponsoring families and children of less fortunate people, and working to keep the church premises clean and well-maintained, as well as serving as members of church council and committees.

Others serve by sending out encouraging e-mails or cards and praying for family, friends, neighbours, the minister and our church family.

And then there are some … like Tabitha … who serve God by sewing clothes.

The first thing that we learn about Tabitha is that she was a “disciple” of Jesus Christ (v. 36). This is a rare title for a woman in the New Testament. So rare, in fact, that she is the only woman in the entire Bible who bears that title “disciple”.

A “disciple” was a student or follower of a particular teacher who not only desired to learn as much from the teacher as possible, but to model the teacher’s habits and behaviour and become as much like the teacher as possible. The woman called Tabitha tried as hard as she could be a mirror image of Jesus. Jesus didn’t just go around “preaching” about God and the Kingdom of God or God’s love and compassion, but He lived it. He showed it through His actions, the way that He lived and carried Himself. He was constantly doing good works and charitable deeds. We read about this in the Gospels.

Luke says that Tabitha was always doing good deeds. The literal translation of the Greek says that Tabitha was “always doing good works and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). “Good works” refers to “general acts of kindness,” but Luke said that Tabitha did more than just “general acts of kindness.” She “helped the poor”. In other words, she did “charitable” acts, which are different from “good deeds”. “Charitable deeds” are acts that relieve the burden of the poor and the needy, or those who are in desperate need and actions of caring people relieve their suffering in some way.

In the reading, we hear two names, Dorcas and Tabitha. They are not two different people, but they are the same person. “Tabitha” was her Aramaic name and “Dorcas” was her Greek name. So, why does she have an Aramaic and a Greek name? Because both names, Tabitha and Dorcas, mean the same thing: “Gazelle”. The gazelle is a symbol of grace, beauty, swiftness, and speed in the Bible.

There’s another reason that Tabitha was known by two names. She did good deeds and charitable works for all her neighbours and the citizens of Joppa, be they the upper class and wealthy and educated who spoke Greek or her Jewish neighbours who spoke Aramaic.

Tabitha/Dorcas was more than “moved” by the needs of the people around her. Like her name’s sake, “gazelle”, she leaped into action whenever there was a need. She did more than just feel pity for the dilemma of her less fortunate friends and neighbours. She did something about it. She was full of good deeds and charity just poured out of her. When she saw a need, she was swift to respond and take care of it or the person, Greek or Jew or whomever.

Tabitha didn’t do anything heroic like Ester or Ruth, or risky, like Rahab. She simply served her saviour by sewing!

In one of his letters, the Apostle Peter said that “each one should use whatever gifts he [or she] has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). I wonder if he was thinking about people like Tabitha when he wrote this.

The Apostle James asks us: “What good is it, brothers [and sisters], if a [person] claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him [them]? Suppose a brother [or sister] is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to [them], ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’ but does nothing about his [their] physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead” (James 2:14-17).

Tabitha was continually at work, trying to meet the pressing needs of those around her … particularly the widows, people who had no one to care for them. She didn’t just do charitable deeds once in a while, but she was always working on some project or another.

When Tabitha died, her friends sent for the Apostle Peter. When Peter arrived, “he was taken upstairs to the room” where her body was being prepared for burial (v. 39). “All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (v. 39).

As Peter entered the room where they were preparing Tabitha’s body for burial, the weeping widows gathered around Peter and put Tabitha’s deeds on display by pointing to their clothing. When Luke says that the women were showing Peter the tunics and other clothing that Tabitha had made for them, the Greek means they were showing Peter their undergarments as well as their outer wear. In other words, the women were trying to tell Peter that everything they had on was made by Tabitha’s own patient, caring, loving hands. Their tailor-made outfits revealed how Tabitha saw each of them as individuals.

The widows gathered around Peter, showing him the tunics and other clothes that Dorcas made for them, but it really wasn’t about the clothes. It was about her friendship, her love and concern for them. The clothes were a representation of the connection that she had with them, even in death they still had a “piece” of her. Their clothes were graphic, tangible symbols of the way in which she touched the hearts and lives of these often forgotten and over-looked women.

Tabitha stands as the Biblical model of “servant evangelism”. She didn’t do it for riches or glory or to get a crown in Heaven and to get her name in the Bible. She just did it. She was in Christ and Christ was in her … and when that happens, good deeds and charity just pours out.

Dorcas met the real needs of the people around her with real love, demonstrating her faith through her actions. She was a real servant with an attitude of servanthood, which was her way of life. She reached people that nobody else could. God used her in a really big way, and when she died, He raised her from the dead. He brought her back to life through Peter, who no doubt remembered the time when Jairus came to Jesus and asked Jesus to come lay hands on his sick daughter. When Jesus got there, he told the mourners to go outside and then, with the disciples Peter, James, and John watching, Jesus took the little girl’s hand and said: “Talitha koum!” … which means: “I say to you, get up”.

And here we see Peter took Tabitha by the hand and said: “Tabitha koum!” “Tabitha, get up!” and Tabitha gets up. “She opened her eyes,” says Luke, “and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive” (Acts 9:40-41).

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened next. But we can assume that she probably went right back to her quiet life of serving God by sewing and God surely used her to bring many to faith.

This is how service evangelism works. We use our God-given abilities to serve God by serving others. We don’t bring anyone to Christ. It is the Christ in us, working in us and through us, that brings people to Him. And that is the true miracle of servant evangelism.

A woman, who embodied real service for the glory of God with total commitment and dedication.

So, today on Mother’s Day, we learn a lot about being a mother, about being a disciple, about loving others, all from a woman who wasn’t even a mother, but she was an exemplary woman. Yes, Dorcas was not a mother, but she mothered the widows.

What a blessing she was for the people around her, as are our mothers for us and their families.