The Vocations of Tabitha, Peter, Lydia and Paul

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster          Presbyterian Church

Vocation or calling was the overall theme of the inspiring January 26th worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. Earlier posts have discussed two focal points of the first part of the service—Preparing for the Word. They were the Prayer of Confession and the Anthem based on “God Be in My Head” from the Sarum Primer of 1514.[1]

The second and central part of the service was “Listening for the Word” with the reading of three passages of Scripture: Acts 9: 36-43; Acts 16: 9-15 and Romans 12: 1-8 and the preacher’s discussion of them. This post will recite the first two passages and the commentary on them in the Sermon “God Is in This Place” by Rev. Meghan K. Gage-Finn. (A subsequent post will recite the third passage and the accompanying commentary.)

Acts 9: 36-43 (New Revised Standard version):

  • “Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

Acts 16: 9-15 (New Revised Standard version):

  • “During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.”

Rev. Gage-Finn said that Tabitha was “the only woman in the Bible to be given the designation of disciple, . . .[and she had the] gift[s] of sewing [and charity that] may not be perceived as important as the gift of teaching or prophecy, but her ministry and her work in the world [in making and giving clothing to widows] was in gratitude to God and it was her way of following her Lord.”

The story’s inclusion of Peter illustrates his vocation. Peter went with the two men, “not knowing what was needed of him. [His vocation was being] . . . available to the ways God would use him, the ways a community might need him. Peter was simply open to the ways God would work through him to serve others.” Paul’s going to Macedonia can also be seen as fulfilling the same vocation of responding to requests for his presence to advance Jesus’ mission.

The story about Lydia, according to Rev. Gage-Finn, was another example of someone who was “available to the work of God.” Lydia was “a successful business woman who dealt purple cloth, which was of great economic significance in that day. She mingled with the wealthy, yet her further distinction is that her conversion to Christianity [was the first] in Europe, at Phillipi in Macedonia, and through her Christ’s ministry was furthered in that region. . . . Lydia demonstrates her conversion through hospitality [to Paul].”

Note that the three of the four people in these passages had different gifts and used them in different ways. They all had the same mission, but different ways or vocations of fulfilling that mission.

[1] The Bulletin for the January 26th service is available online along with the text and audio recording of the sermon and a video recording of the service. Another blog post has discussed Westminster’s order of worship while clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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