Is it really Mundane?
Below is an essay I wrote for www.aplainaccount.com this week. Luke’s accounts of the Acts of the apostles tells the story of the early church. While the book has been called the acts of the apostles, it would not be inaccurate to call it the Acts of God through the apostles for the book records the incredible things that God does in, for, and through the church.
Most scholars believe that the letter went through many redactions. Luke researched his gospel to write an orderly account. His gospel was written so that it fit perfectly on a standard scroll. Acts also fits on a standard scroll. We can rightly assume that this letter has been meticulously crafted. As such there are probably dozens if not hundreds of stories which could have been included in the book, but they were excluded making the question, “Why was this account included” a valid question for any pericope. When we come to the story of Tabitha, this question helps provide even more insight.
The obvious answer to “Why was this included” is that Peter was the one through whom the Holy Spirit resurrected Tabitha. We do not have authoritative accounts of every apostle resurrecting someone. Healings are amazing, but they pale in comparison to a resurrection! Of course Luke would include a resurrection.
The resurrection, however, forces another question. Why was Dorcas the one who got resurrected? N.T. Wright points out, “Dorcas cannot have been the only follower of Jesus to have died in the first years of the movement.” The scriptures do not say that she was vital to the mission of the church. She does not seem to be exceptional either. Yes, “She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.” This is definitely a good thing, but we have every reason to believe that most early Christians were devoted to good works and acts of charity. Acts 2 and 4 establish that they did not have private property, and that which they had was owned in common. Luke makes sure to drive home that point with the Holy Spirit’s killing of Annanias and Sapphire in the beginning of Acts 5.
We find out a few verses later that she is a seamstress of sorts. The people mourning her loss show Peter he clothes that she had made while she was alive. Yet this is not an extra-ordinary detail either. Many people made their own clothes. Why was she resurrected? Perhaps she was resurrected because she is so normal. “we have to assume that there were dozens in the early years, and thousands in later years, who, like her, lived their lives in faith and hope, bearing the sorrows of life no doubt as well as celebrating its joys, and finding in the small acts of service to others a fulfillment of the gospel within their own sphere, using traditional skills to the glory of God.”
When our daughter was born, the hospital gave us a hand knit hat for her. The hat had been knit by the ladies from some church in town. We don’t remember the church, but we do remember how neat it was that we had someone hand made for our daughter. Every baby born at that hospital gets the hats. It is an act of love from the women of that unknown church. Their church might not get new members or grow because of the love that the knitters have, but they are blessing new parents from all over west Michigan.
In North America much of what we value has come through the patterns of this world. We value efficiency, results, and a return on our investment. In fact, we even call time we spend discipling others investments, as if the person spending time with is not a person loved by God. We can fall into the trap of using people, treating them as if their value is only found in what we can get out of them. Dorcas stands as a corrective against that. She is a normal person doing normal things, serving God with what she has. We ought to learn that God seeks to bring us new life in the midst of our mundane lives. The seemingly banal parts of our lives could be exactly what God desires from us. Living a quiet life of faith is not a waste of life, it could actually be a testimony to the resurrection.