A Caring Woman / Fourth Sunday of Easter / Mother’s Day

Acts 9:36-43

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.

Good morning, and Happy Mother’s Day to all our mothers and grandmothers and mother-figures in the congregation this morning. Parents, both mom and dads have the hardest job in the world, and this world would be in a horrible shape without their love and sacrifice and perseverance. Of course, it’s not easy to be a Mom.

In a TikTok video, a woman explains one of the challenges of motherhood. She says, my kids wanted to know what it was like being a mom, so I woke them up at 2:00 a.m. to let them know my sock came off.

Another mom on Twitter wrote, parenting is 70% me yelling, 20% asking the kids why they’re yelling, & 10% trying to find where I left my coffee.

Speaking of misplacing your coffee, here’s one Mom’s recipe for iced coffee: have kids . . . make coffee . . . forget you made coffee . . . put it in the microwave . . . forget you put it in the microwave . . . [finally] . . . drink it cold.

That recipe for iced coffee alone tells us a lot about the challenges and sacrifices of motherhood. So, we thank you, moms, for your dedication to raising the next generation.

I don’t think you can overestimate the influence of a parent on a child’s sense of compassion, and compassion is what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Compassion is concern for the suffering of others. Or the active response to another person’s pain. Compassion is at the heart of our lesson for today. Some people seem gifted with compassion, and others, not so much.

A woman fell flat on her face in December in the middle of an icy but busy parking lot. As she was lying there trying to clear her head, another woman drove up and called out the window, are you hurt? No, I’m fine, the first woman answered. Oh, good, will you be leaving your parking space now?

In contrast, a South Carolina teacher tells of a memorable event that occurred in his first-grade class. Most of his students come from underprivileged homes. One of his students, named Paola, lives in a small apartment with her grandmother, mother, sister and uncle. Paola’s family are immigrants from El Salvador.

One day, a new boy named Billy was assigned to her class. As Billy sat down, Paola leaned toward him and whispered, Hi. I’m glad you’re in our class. Don’t worry. There’s lots to learn. I’ll help you.

Later that day, the teacher asked Paola why she wanted to help Billy. She said that she remembered how it felt to be the new kid in school and others had been kind to her. Then she added, I just wanted to be kind to him, he’s, my neighbor.

That first grader understood compassion. One child reaching out in kindness can make a big difference in the world. Our world desperately needs compassionate people, people who will reach out with kindness to meet the needs right in front of them.

I also realize it takes courage to care. Caring is dangerous. It leaves you open to hurt and looking like a fool. Do you think that’s why our world seems less compassionate these days? Do you think we’ve lost the courage to care? Do we keep a secret store of indifference as a sort of self-protection against getting hurt?

Those are some questions that flow from our scripture lesson from Acts 9 for this morning. It’s the story of a remarkable disciple of Jesus Christ named Tabitha. In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.

A truly great life can be summed up in just a few words. Which is exactly what our introduction to Tabitha is. She was always doing good and helping the poor. What a wonderful description of a life well lived.

Sadly, however, Tabitha got sick and died, evidently before her time. The other disciples in Joppa were so upset about her death that they sent for Simon Peter to come to them from a nearby town. As you remember, after Jesus’ death, Peter became the leader of the twelve apostles.

When Peter got to Tabitha’s house, he was taken upstairs to the room where they had lain her body. Among the mourners in that upper room was a group of widows. Widows and orphans were the neediest members of society in Jesus’ day. And even in our day. They were and are completely dependent on the help and compassion of others. Without help, many of the widows would’ve turned to begging or prostitution to survive.

These women were distraught. The widows stood around [Peter], crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Tabitha had made while she was alive. Evidently, Tabitha cared deeply for the widows’ needs. And she showed her compassion for them by sewing clothing for them. She saw a practical need and she filled it. Note that these women weren’t just showing Peter the clothes Tabitha made; they were showing Peter the love that Tabitha had for them. Tabitha was truly a caring woman.

So, Peter sent them all out of the room, and he knelt beside the bed and prayed for Tabitha. And then he simply told her to get up. And Tabitha, whose body had already been washed and dressed for burial, opened her eyes and sat up. Whoa, surprise! Then he called for the widows and presented her to them alive. Word got out and spread all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

I’ll bet you forgot that Peter, by the power of God, raised Tabitha from the dead. What a remarkable story, and what a remarkable woman Tabitha must’ve been! She was so loved and respected by her church family and she was brought back from the dead to continue her ministry with them. Hers was compassion with a capital “C.” She truly lived her life walking in the steps of her Master. She lived as Christ would have all of us live, with concern and compassion for her neighbor.

But what I hope all of us will see today is that living like Tabitha lived, living with love and compassion for others which, by the way, is the way Christ lived, is the only truly fulfilling way to live. You want the key to living at its best? A life of compassion is the key.

Notice, first of all, that Tabitha lived with a sense of purpose. A sad thing is that so many people today live with no real purpose at all for their lives. Tabitha, a disciple of Jesus, cared for others. She understood that God had given her skills and resources she could use for good works. She had the skill of sewing that she used to provide for the poor and for the widows. You should take some time this week to examine the skills and resources that God has given you. Then ask yourself how you can use these things to meet the needs of the people God places in your life.

This is to say that the best way to find a fulfilling life is to translate compassion into action. Jesus’ ministry didn’t consist of simply telling hurting people, I’ll pray for you. Now there’s nothing wrong with telling people you’ll pray for them. That can be very helpful, if you really mean it, and if you follow through with it. But there are some people who tell others that they will pray for them who simply use that as a substitute for doing anything else to help the person who’s in need.

That wasn’t how Jesus did it. Jesus never even told anyone to come to church to find the answers for their needs. Instead, He went to them. He went to the marketplaces and into people’s homes. He preached to crowds in the countryside. He went where the needs were, and He took action to heal the hurts right in front of Him.

It always thrills me when young people find creative ways to live out their compassion. I read that during the recent COVID-19 lockdown, reports of domestic violence rose all over the world. Most of us feel great sympathy for victims of domestic violence, but few of us take direct action to improve their situation. However, a high school student used her skills and resources to get help for people in dangerous home situations.

She set up a fake online cosmetics store. Here’s how this fake site worked. A woman “shopping” on this site could make a request for help without alerting her partner to her actions. If a woman places her order and types in an address, that’s a sign that she needs a visit from the local authorities. Since the website’s launch, this creative site has helped 350 women, including some teenagers, get help.

Now most of us may not be creative enough to come up with something that effective in helping people with a specific need, but often, if we look hard enough, we can find something we can do to reach out to show someone else with the love of Jesus.

Tabitha, this truly caring woman, lived a fulfilling life. She had a sense of purpose for her life. She translated her compassion into action. And because of the kind of life she lived, she will live forever.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that because, by the power of God, Peter raised her from the dead, she will live forever. Tabitha eventually did die. But think of it, here we are in the year 2022 talking about a woman who lived two thousand years ago. Why? Because of the caring life that she lived. What a legacy Tabitha left us. As long as people tell the Gospel story, Tabitha won’t be forgotten.

Let me tell you of one more woman who had Tabitha’s kind of compassion. In 1977, Dr. Martha Myers moved to Yemen to serve as a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology. Her target audience was Yemeni women who often lack medical care and, because of their religion, were prohibited from seeing a male doctor. Myers worked at a Yemeni hospital. But she also traveled into the most remote areas around the hospital to make house calls for her patients. Her love and commitment earned her both admiration and enemies.

One day, a patient of Dr. Myers told her husband that she had never experienced such love and compassion in her life as she did at Dr. Myers’ hospital. That was the wrong thing to say to her husband. Concerned that his wife might be influenced by the doctor’s Christian faith, her husband promptly went to the hospital and gunned down Dr. Myers and two of her colleagues.

At the time of her death, Dr. Martha Myers had served the women of Yemen for more than 25 years. The result? Over 40,000 Yemeni people attended Dr. Myers’ funeral. The former president of hospital spoke at her funeral and said, Martha’s colleagues said the gunman did not take her life. She lost her life to Christ years ago when she trusted him. Martha was not living for herself, but to serve others.

For one moment, I want you to listen to this quote and put your name in it: “She lost her life to Jesus Christ years ago when she trusted him. Martha was not living for herself, but to serve others.”

Does that describe your life right now? Is it how people will describe you after you’re gone? You and I were made to be Jesus in the world. That means living with a sense of purpose and translating our compassion into action. And if we commit to living this way, then our lives will have an eternal impact too.