By Rev. Julie Yarborough
April 23, 2006
Acts 9: 36-42 and Luke 8: 40-42, 49-56
(mp3, 4.9Mb) ]
her novel, How to Make an American Quilt, Whitney Otto offers these instructions: “You need a large wooden frame and enough space to accommodate it. Put comfortable chairs around it, allowing for eight women of varying ages, weight, coloring and cultural orientation. It is preferable that this large wooden frame be located in a room in a house in Atwater or Los Baños or a small town outside Bakersfield called Grasse. It should be a place that gets a thick, moist blanket of tule fog in the winter and be hot as blazes in the summer. Fix plenty of lemonade. Cookies are a nice compliment.
choose your colors, make them sympathetic to one another. Consider the color
wheel of grammar school – primary colors, phenomena of light and dark; avoid
antagonism of hues – it detracts from the pleasure of the work. . . . Your
needles must be finely honed so you do not break the weave of your fabric. The ones
from England are preferable. And plenty of good-quality thread,
both to bind the pieces and adorn the quilt. Embroidery thread is required for
the latter. You will need to hold the work together for future generations.
who circle the frame should be compatible. . . . When you have assembled the
group, once a week for better than thirty-five years, give or take some
latecomers, you will be ready to make the traditional, free-form Crazy Quilt. . . . This is the pattern
with the least amount of discipline and the greatest measure of emotion.
Considering the eight quilters surrounding the frame in the room of the house
in the small town outside Bakersfield called Grasse,
considering the more than thirty-five years it will reveal, perhaps some emerging
images will be lambs or yellow roses or mermaids, entwined wedding rings or
hearts in states of disrepair. You will find this work to be most revealing,
not only in the material contributions to the quilt, but in who enjoys sewing
them and who does not. This random piecing together.” 
centuries, women have gathered in small groups to sew and quilt, to spin and
weave, to tell stories, to laugh and cry, to listen to and learn from each
other as they piece together the fabric that makes up their lives. Such
friendships are found in our own Shawl Ministry that gathers to knit or crochet
shawls to give to those whom are in need of being blanketed with prayer. And
just a few years ago, in the White Cross group that met at the church to make
bandages, baby blankets, and other items to give away. This camaraderie is no
doubt what Tabitha and the widows of Joppa experienced as they gathered
together to sew clothing. It’s no wonder that when Peter arrived at the house
where Tabitha was laid out for burial, he encountered the widows showing the
garments that Tabitha had sewn while she was with them, weeping and talking
about her life.
was a disciple of Jesus. In fact, she is the only woman in Acts to be
identified as a disciple, and the only time that the feminine form of the word
disciple appears in the New Testament is when it refers to her. She was an
important person in the community of Joppa, a port city north of Jerusalem, known today as Tel-Aviv. Tabitha was a woman most
likely of considerable means who did “good works and acts of charity,”
providing for others from her own means. As a faithful member of the early
church, she believed in giving of her time and her resources.
death was not only a loss for the widows, but a significant one for the whole
community. For it was upon her death that two men were dispatched to find Peter
in the neighboring town of Lydda, where he had just
performed the miracle of healing the paralyzed man known as Aeneas. “Please
come to us without delay,” is the request. Perhaps the disciples were asking
Peter to come and mourn with them, or to perform a service of burial, or maybe
they were asking for a miracle. The exact implication of their request is not
spelled out, but the result of Peter’s visit was certainly welcome, and as word
spread of the miracle, many more believers were added to the early church.
story of Tabitha echoes other resurrection stories found in the Bible.
There are similarities between it and the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter, as well as parallel structures in the
stories of people raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha,
prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the two resurrection stories that we’ve
heard today, both Jesus and Peter are absent and must be summoned, and they
both encounter people weeping when they arrive on the scene. In both stories,
the public is excluded from the room, the dead one is commanded to rise, a hand
is extended, and the dead one sits up. Peter’s resurrection of Tabitha
follows the same patterns of resurrection stories that have come before.
Following the miracle-working traditions of Elijah, Elisha
and Jesus before him, Peter is a powerful healer. The story of Tabitha’s
resurrection shows that the power of healing and prophetic ministry is not over
when Jesus leaves the earth, but continues into the life of the early church
resurrection of Tabitha is not a particularly well-known Bible story. It’s not
one that many people have heard – or if they have heard it, not one that they
are likely to remember. In fact, when Chuck asked me what I was planning preach
on, it even took him a minute to
place the story within the book of Acts. Tabitha is not a common household
name, and yet, her life and her story have the ability to speak to us today.
examined the scripture passage and what it has to say, but I’m interested in
what this passage doesn’t tell us –
for instance, what was Tabitha’s life like after she was raised from the dead?
Would she have been more grateful for each moment after coming back to life?
Would she have changed anything about the way she was living? How would she
have put her resurrection into practice?
many of us can claim to be resurrected from the dead, but I do know a few
people who’ve literally been given a second chance at life. I know at least
three members of this church who’ve had very serious car accidents and walked
away when they could’ve easily been killed. I know another who had a friend
accidentally plunge to his death on a motorcycle just a few minutes after she
had gotten off of it. You can bet that each of these people is looking at his
or her life in a different way since they walked away from those near-death
are others in this congregation who have survived battles with cancer and have
lived much longer than was ever expected by the medical establishment. For
them, each day is a gift from God, each moment full of grace. For those of us
who’ve never had such a close brush with death, it’s easy to become complacent
in our everyday lives, easy to take life for granted. We eat without really
savoring our food. We have a tendency to
hurry down the street, heads down, oblivious to the sunlight coming through the
trees. We muddle through each day, failing to notice the beauty in the faces
surrounding us. Some of us stay in jobs that we hate, or stay in relationships
that are unhealthy or even abusive. My friends, this life is too short for that
kind of behavior!
David Thoreau wrote, “When it is time to die, let us not discover that we never
lived.” Mary Oliver captures that
sentiment in her poem, When Death Comes.
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me,
and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to
step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think
of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want
to end up simply having visited this world.
us into life and wants us to live fully in each moment. Jesus came that we
might have life, and have it abundantly. This type of abundance isn’t measured
by the world’s standards. This type of abundance has nothing to do with the
salary we earn or how the market performs. We experience true abundance when we
live as faithful disciples of Christ, sharing with others, giving of ourselves
and our resources, nurturing relationships with those in our community of
faith, making a difference in the lives of other people, looking upon
everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood. This is how we practice resurrection.
friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the
world. Work for nothing. Take all you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it…
questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias…
you’re at it, savor some ice-cold lemonade and some freshly baked cookies.
 Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt, (New York: Viking Books), 1991, pp. 7-8.
 Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, Vol. 2,
(Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress), 1990, pp. 126.
 Mary Oliver, "When Death Comes", in New and Selected Poems, (Boston: Beacon Press,) 1992, pp. 10-11.
 Wendell Berry, “Manifesto:
Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” from The Country of Marriage,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
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