Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/21/13 Sermon

Acts 9:36-43

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen


How many of you out there can sew or knit? I know we have a few in our congregation who are very gifted in sewing or knitting.

In fact we may have a few who could probably be inducted to the American Sewing Hall of Fame.
And yes there is such a thing as a Sewing Hall of Fame. Did you know that?
I can tell that you’re on pins and needles for me to tell you more about it right?
The Sewing Hall of Fame was actually created by the American Sewing Guild or ASG which was organized in the late 1970s.

The organization’s purpose was to keep interest in sewing because sewing education had been dropped from many school curriculums. More women were working outside the home, they had less time to sew or teach sewing to their children.

Well back in 2001 they decided to open up the Sewing Hall of Fame to recognize individuals who have had an impact with unique and innovative contributions through sewing education, product development, media or other sewing related endeavors.

And each of the inductees of the Sewing Hall of Fame since 2001 has had an impressive list of accomplishments related to sewing. Obviously you have to be a gifted sewer.

But there’s also another piece to their ability to sew.
For example, the very first inductee was a woman named Nancy Zieman.

Nancy was well known for a needlework TV show called Sewing With Nancy that began airing on public television in 1982.

But two things stick out about her bio.
First, Nancy talks freely about her crooked smile, which is the result of Bell's palsy and a damaged nerve on the right side of her face.

Many viewers who suffer similar problems as Nancy find inspiration as she often speaks or writes to them directly giving them encouragement.

The other interesting thing about Nancy is that she wrote a book called Creative Kindness in which she details projects to do for others, including making school uniforms for kids in Haiti, berets for cancer victims going through hair loss, or clothes for premature babies.

In 2001 she gave a talk to the ASG where she encouraged others to make at least one thing for someone that you'll never meet.

Besides Nancy there’s another inductee by the name of Martha Pullen who was inducted in 2005. Martha opened a popular school of art fashion with lots of cutting edge innovative work.
But there's also this-----

Martha is an active member of her church and has volunteered for a Mission Board in Africa, Jamaica and Brazil where she teaches others to sew.

Then there are the 2007inductees: Joyce and Fred Drexler. Fred’s the only man in the hall of fame so far.

These 2 are owners of Speed Stitch, a custom embroidery company, and also Sulky of America which does quilting and patchwork.

But beyond these 2 companies, after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Fred set up Operation Mend, in which he invited sewers all over America to "Share their Stash" of sewing items.

The result was that they filled up two trailer truck loads of sewing machines, fabrics, patterns and other sewing tools and supplies, which were trucked to Homestead, Florida, where Florida ASG chapters located needy victims and donated the items to them.

So what does the Sewing Hall of Fame have to do with our scripture today?

Well if the Sewing Hall of Fame had have been around in the first century A.D. a likely inductee would have been a woman from Joppa named Tabitha or Dorcas, which was her name in the Greek.
The reason for the 2 names represents how she was in relationship with people of all kind, not just her own.

Tabitha or Dorcas was a seamstress. As we see, her sewing had a wonderful purpose of giving to people in need; especially poor widows who were on the outside margins of society.

She was a true disciple who was always doing good and helping the poor. And the rest of the community looked up to her and depended on her. We see that when she became ill and died.

Her death brought about a sense of desperation to this community. They were lost without her.

As a result, we see that members of her community are sent to make contact with the apostle Peter who was nearby and had been preaching the Gospel and healing people.

We’re not told whether they thought Peter could raise her from the dead or whether they just wanted him to preach at her funeral.

But clearly they needed him to give them hope because her loss was such a huge blow to their community.

As Peter arrives, we read of the widows who show off the clothes that Tabitha had made for them. The text points to the fact that they were wearing them not just showing them off.

The point is that Tabitha or Dorcas was responsible for the very clothes on their back.

We also read that they are weeping which tells us that this dead woman had been their mentor----she had not only helped them physically with the clothes on their back but also had been there to help them emotionally and spiritually.

She was clearly a sewing hall of famer that was desperately missed.
Perhaps it’s because these folks were so desperately lost without her that the next event of Peter summoning God’s power to raise her from the dead takes place.

As we read, Peter sends them out of the room ----he then gets down on his knees and he prays. And then by the power of God this once dead woman is raised back to life.

Now the temptation often in this scripture is to get caught up in this part of the story of Tabitha or Dorcas being raised from the dead.

There’s the temptation to want to prove that the miracle of someone being raised from the dead was and is possible if people would only believe like they did in the good ole days.

Still there’s also the temptation to try to connect being raised from the dead with Tabitha’s good works saying  that if you want to go to heaven you better start serving those in need.
But I think to take any of these approaches to this scripture misses the more significant point that is being made to us today.
This scripture is telling us a story about a woman and what she meant to her community.
It speaks to how the church, born in the book of Acts, is supposed to look like and model.

This story affirms that churches are to aspire to its members becoming sewing hall of famers……People like Dorcas who are quick to give their gifts to those in need as a witness to the One who has the power to raise us from the dead.

Whenever it was that Dorcas became a follower of Jesus, she didn't have to start wondering what the Lord might call her to do as a disciple. She simply began to serve and help others in a way that she knew how to help.

She was a sewer; that was her gift; and she probably enjoyed it.

And she took that gift, looked outside herself and outside the church walls to give her gifts to the many ministry opportunities in her community which was in the form of poor widows in need. 

Now we don’t know whether Dorcas had a husband or whether she was ever married, but apparently, unlike many women in that day, she did have some means of support.

Her skill, along with her income, put her in a place to address the needs of these women who, because they were no longer attached to men, had no means to purchase materials to make clothing for themselves or their children.

But what’s also significant is that she wasn’t just giving to the needy. The tears shed for her had to do with the fact that she was in a place of relationship with these women to see their other needs.

She probably also helped them with food or health care or child care. She probably taught them the gospel and offered a listening ear.

There’s clearly no doubt with the impact of her loss to this community that she inspired and empowered others, even men who went to find Peter.
Just think about the impact she had made---let it sink in.

This one individual in relationship with those in need, helping them physically, emotionally and spiritually affected the entire community ------What a witness!

Now this is where the story of Dorcas or Tabitha connects for each of us.
You see, as followers of Jesus Christ, as a church congregation, the model and mission we have is to make a difference in people’s individual lives and therefore on the community in which we live….like Dorcas.

        As resurrected, Easter people this is our mission.

Our one mission as a church is not to come together for a worship service to be entertained by a preacher or entertain ourselves listening or singing in the choir while sitting in an old historic building with a tall steeple………Friends, that is idolatry plain and simple.

Instead we are to be a group of sewing hall of famers who are using our gifts to help others in need.

We are to be a people whose number one goal is not the worship service but rather making personal relationships with those in need so that we might help them in a wholistic way.

We help others in their physical needs (food, clothing, health, shelter) while we listen to their emotional needs (listening and giving them counsel and praying with them), while we also offer them spiritual guidance (pointing them to resurrection hope).

That is who we are called to be. Tabitha was a model for her community and for us to follow as she was what a true follower of Christ is all about.

Now with that in mind we need to ask ourselves if this is what we’re about.
And one way we can reflect on this is by imagining what the community would be like without us as individuals and as a church.

First of all ask yourself today, When I die, will I be missed in this church like Tabitha? Will others even bother to come to my funeral? Have I made meaningful relationships here; listening to their needs, offering a listening ear?

And then also ask yourself, when I’m gone from this world what difference will it make to this community I live in? Will I be missed like Dorcas because of the Christ-like witness I’ve been working towards bringing about to the city I live in?

But then also we need to take this question a step further. And ask it from the standpoint as a church as a whole?

In other words if DBC closed its doors what difference would it make to the community? If it died, would people in this community weep in a way as they wept for Dorcas?
Would they weep simply because of the poor old vacant building?
Would they weep for the good ole days gone by?

Or would people weep because of the witness of Christ that the church has given physically, emotionally and spiritually to the community?

The answer to that question can identify whether the church is actually a church or not?

It can direct the church to point ministries in the proper direction such as keeping the building in nice repair to offer to outside groups or it can point a choir ministry to go and sing selflessly to nursing homes.

It can also affirm the church to be more focused ministries like offering prayer shawls to those in need, or divorce care support groups for those who are grieving, or Christmas shoe boxes to needy children, or community suppers and food pantries.

The answer to how the community might grieve the loss of the church can guide it to be more focused on its purpose of serving those outside its walls; to be more like Tabitha……………………

In closing this morning, as both individuals and as a church we’re being called to examine how we might sew the kingdom ways of God within this church and in this community.
Today let us reflect on our personal relationships with others in this church and with the community outside.
Let us examine who we are as a church and whether anyone would weep over it if it was gone…..and if they did, why.
Our calling is to follow the witness of Dorcas.
Today, may her witness continue to live on by guiding us to take on her hall of fame ways of sewing; for it’s this kind of sewing that reaps the kingdom ways of God.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen