Order, Words, & Voices

July 3, 2022

Pre-Worship Audio (SLIDE 1)

Call to Worship (SLIDES 2-4)              Randy (online)

Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.

God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.

He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!

Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!

Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.

Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.

Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.

Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—

A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.

He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.

Psalm 101 The Message (MSG)

Songs  (SLIDE 5)

Make a Joyful Noise (31)

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Make a loud noise and rejoice!

Sing praises!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Make a loud noise and rejoice!

Sing praises!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Psalm 101 (SLIDES 6-9)    – Kristin

My theme song is God’s love and justice,
    and I’m singing it right to you, God.
I’m finding my way down the road of right living,
    but how long before you show up?
I’m doing the very best I can,
    and I’m doing it at home, where it counts.
I refuse to take a second look
    at corrupting people and degrading things.
I reject made-in-Canaan gods,
    stay clear of contamination.
The crooked in heart keep their distance;
    I refuse to shake hands with those who plan evil.
I put a gag on the gossip
    who bad-mouths his neighbor;
I can’t stand
    arrogance.
But I have my eye on salt-of-the-earth people—
    they’re the ones I want working with me;
Men and women on the straight and narrow—
    these are the ones I want at my side.
But no one who traffics in lies
    gets a job with me; I have no patience with liars.
I’ve rounded up all the wicked like cattle
    and herded them right out of the country.
I purged God’s city
    of all who make a business of evil.

Psalm 101 (The Message)

Song of Praise

Bless His Holy Name (36)

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And all that is within me,

Bless God’s holy name. (repeat)

God has done great things.

God has done great things.

God has done great things,

Bless God’s holy name.

Prayer             Kristin

Scripture  (SLIDE 11)   Segun

Acts 9:36-43

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Spiritual Exercise  (SLIDE 12) Kristin

Songs  (SLIDE 13)

Lord, Be Glorified (537)

In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified.

In my life, Lord, be glorified today.

In my work, Lord, be glorified, be glorified.

In my work, Lord, be glorified today.

In our church, Lord, be glorified, be glorified.

In our church, Lord, be glorified today.

Message (SLIDE 14)   Kristin

I’m glad to join you for our final Sunday together, at least for now. This time has been a true blessing for me. I’ve enjoyed digging in further to the book of Acts, to looking at some passages that are often overlooked, and finding together some wisdom for today. Most of all, I am thankful to be in a congregation that is so welcoming and loving. Any time you ask, I will come back!

This past week I traveled to Dallas for the CBF General Assembly. I don’t want to assume that you all know what CBF is, so let me refresh your memory. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is the network that this church, my home church, and others take part in. General Assembly is our annual gathering for the people of CBF. People from around the world join for worship, renewal, learning, and a little bit of business. Mostly we come together to see old friends. I didn’t attend one breakout session this year. Instead I caught up with friends, made connections, talked to people about God, church, our world, our families, and life in general. It was the first time we had been together since the pandemic began, so it was especially meaningful.

For the first time this year, I found myself standing in the middle of the circle of life. I saw good friends who had mentored me: my favorite seminary professor and his wife, who supervised my internship; former colleagues and pastors; colleagues on committees, and others who taught me lessons of life and ministry. What made this year so different was rooming with a fellow minister whom I met when I taught her in first grade Sunday School. Yes, now I am the old mentor! She enjoyed telling people what I had taught her, much as I enjoy introducing those who have led me along. I met other young ministers from OKC and showed them the ropes of General Assembly. I met up with young people I mentor in their summer missions. It was one of those special moments in life when you see the baton passing and it was sweet for me.

This moment highlighted to me just how many Kristins there are. Not that I have multiple personalities, but that there is not just one story of me. For some I am still the young seminary student, or, as my professor told someone this week, “One of his most favoritest!” For others I am the children’s minister that showed them the joys of working with children. To others, I am the CBF long-timer who knows so many people. “How long have you been involved in CBF?” All of us wear many hats. Spouse. Child. Parent. Friend. Colleague. Neighbor. Our own identities have so many unique aspects, not seen by all people at all times. We are multi-faceted.

We have discovered this story in the book of Acts. During my first week here, three weeks ago, we spent some time revisiting the story of Pentecost. We uncovered the truth that many women disciples were present and blessed by the Spirit. Tradition and church history had hidden this story from our view, choosing instead to show a point of view in which the women were not present, or busy in the kitchen serving food. But the story God told was one of inclusion in which the women were present at the moment the Spirit was given, equally blessed in the moment the church was born.

And this is a recurring issue in Acts. To be fair, this is not necessarily done to be harmful. Any story must focus on the core of the story. We cannot know the full story of each person present or the story would last for hours as we detailed each facet of each person present. Key details are shared while others are left out, leaving room for the essential lesson to shine through. Some stories are shockingly lacking in details we wish were included. For example, I want to know how many women were at Pentecost. I want to hear how they were blessed. I want to know what they were doing as the disciples were out preaching, or assigning one another to help the widows to receive equal food in the distribution. Did the women lead in prayers in their gatherings? The Scriptures give us hints and glimpses of the women, enough to say with some certainty that they were doing plenty of these things. Their God story is there for us to see. But tradition, the human story of the church, leaves them out. It doesn’t think to include them. Again I say, this may not be done with bad intentions, it may simply be a product of a culture that held women in lower esteem. It was a story written by men: maybe they weren’t aware, or tuned in, to the presence of the women and their work. No matter the cause, we have to read closely a story such as the story of Tabitha to find the God story laying just behind the tradition.

Tabitha is someone we need to consider more closely. On its surface, this story is written to show us Peter, leader of the new church, raising someone from the dead. Peter’s actions give him authority as an apostle, they link him to Jesus’ power, and account for a miracle. Tabitha is a nice lady who does nice things and is rewarded with new life. What else can we say about Tabitha?

Tabitha is a woman who is able to build bridges across cultures and divides. It’s interesting to me that her name is given in its Aramaic form, Tabitha, and also in Greek, Dorcas. Luke has some reason for recording both her names. I suspect that she was well known in both the Jewish, or Aramaic speaking, community, and in the Greek community. She is a cultural hybrid, straddling the line between the two cultures. This isn’t easy. In Acts 6:1-11, we read of the first church conflict. It’s between the Jewish widows and the Greek widows living in Jerusalem. The Greek widows complain that the Jewish widows are receiving more food in the weekly distribution. The apostles respond by appointing seven men, some from each of the two cultures, to handle the situation. Here in the city of Joppa, one woman has single-handedly taken on the task of caring for the women of both cultures. That alone make her story important. She is exhibiting cross-cultural skills in ministry.

But more than that, her actions with the widows are the actions of a deacon. Those seven men in Jerusalem were named deacons, a term meaning “servant,” and an honorable title. Tabitha is named with the title “female disciple,” the only woman so named in Scripture. It’s a shame they couldn’t go ahead and call her a deacon, for surely her actions were the same as the deacons in Jerusalem, those seven men feeding and caring for the widows of two cultures. Take a moment to see her as a disciple, named such by tradition. But also take a moment to see her as a deacon, a God-appointed role, not recognized by the men of the church.

Perhaps that is not entirely true. When Tabitha dies, we find that it is the community who react. Tradition focuses on the widows who mourn Tabitha, who show Peter the clothes she made for them. But in verse 38, all the disciples react to her death, men and women. And they respond by sending two men for Peter. When Peter presents Tabitha, alive and well, back to the community it is all the disciples who receive her. Tabitha has built bridges between male and female, ministering to both.

We cannot say if Tabitha is married or widowed. Tradition tells us she is widowed, thus her particular care of widows. It is possible. She had money enough to make and give away clothes. She has some independence. We can’t help but notice that she is introduced on her own, not in relation to a husband or son, or any other man. She may be old, she may be young, she may be married, she may be widowed, but one thing we can say is that she is independent and celebrated. Don’t let yourself be fooled. God loves and celebrates all women, even independent ones. If you question that, reread Proverbs 31. That lady runs a business, runs her household, manages finances, everything. She is a modern-type women, doing it all and having it all. Tabitha is a Proverbs 31 woman.

We cannot leave our inspection of Tabitha without noticing the most important thing. Tabitha is full of the Spirit. Her actions are those of someone who is Spirit-filled. She is a disciple. She cares for the poor widows. She builds bridges between diverse people. Sadly, the Bible never names her as Spirit-filled. It never names one woman as full of the Spirit. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, in Acts, the natural outcome of being Spirit-filled is utterance of the Word. The refusal of the writer of Acts to call her Spirit-filled doesn’t take away this gift of God, clearly given at Pentecost through the prophecy of Amos, in which God’s Spirit is poured out on all flesh, male and female. Instead, this passage focuses on her good works. I invite you to see Tabitha as God sees her: Spirit-filled bridge builder, a disciple and a deacon, taking on tasks that even seven men find difficult. This hidden story of Tabitha is one we must hear.

In knowing the real Tabitha, we come full circle in another way. Let’s revisit for a moment the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Last week we read of their deception, their self-deception. Wanting to be like Barnabas, they offered a gift which they claimed to be as generous as his. They offered a portion of the sale of their field, a gift acceptable in itself, but they lied about it. They claimed they had given all. They hid behind a Barnabas mask, trying to deceive God about who they were. They put a lot of energy into an effort to be someone they were not rather than becoming all God called them to be.

Tabitha’s story is very different. Tabitha is living out her calling to God, despite our tendency to overlook her. She is doing the hard work of cultural bridge building. She is a seamstress, making more than enough to give away. She is a disciple, a deacon, a Spirit-filled woman. Tabitha is loved by the men and the women of her community. She isn’t trying to be someone different. If she were trying to model herself after the church in Jerusalem, she might not feel free to become a deacon to these widows. “Leave that task to the men,” someone might say. “That’s how they do it in Jerusalem!” Instead she does the task God puts in front of her. As a woman it might be easier for her to stay home, to care for her family. If she is a widow, she might in fact be eligible to receive aid. Instead she gives aid. Tabitha is a rule breaker, a bridge builder, and a Spirit filled child of God. She is unmasked before God and before us. She is everything she is called to be, everything she claims to be, and nothing more.

And what is the end result? Tabitha finds life. Ananias and Sapphira masked up, denied who they were, believed a story of themselves that wasn’t true, and they died. They died to a relationship with God and others that was honest and true. They broke community with their lies, while Tabitha built up her community with love and service. Tabitha lived into her story and found new life, both spiritual and physical, as Peter raised her from the dead. Denied the title of deacon, she lived into it. Unnamed as Spirit-filled, she lived out the Spirit placed within her by God. She lived her God story and found life.

This miracle is a demonstration of life over death, the power of Christ’s resurrection. This power gives us hope, compels us to create a more loving and just world, just like Tabitha did. As we do, we alert the world to the fact that God’s Spirit is still moving and shaking, still saving and reviving us. The God of love and justice is still willing to act on our behalf, to expose and glorify the hidden figures who serve Spirit purposes, to unmask those who deceive themselves and others, and to create a community full of new life. The Spirit places God desires in our hearts and gives us the means to fulfill that call. This is our hope. This is our strength. This is the gift of God, the power to be ourselves, fully and divinely inspired.

That same experience is available to us today. How many of us struggle to live into a story that isn’t ours? Are you seeking the career success someone told you to seek? Do you feel powerless because you don’t have the power our culture says you must? Are you hidden from view by your gender, your age, your shyness and introversion, your orientation, your culture, or any other thing? So what?! What we have seen together from Acts is a God who creates and celebrates all of your diversities. We see that God rewards those who live into who they are with life, and that those who live behind a mask find only death. Are you ready to be fully alive? Christ invites you to come into fellowship with God, to accept the gift offered to you. When you embrace the truth of who you are, flaws and all, and when you bring all of you to God, flaws and all, and claim the gift of new life Christ offers, you will be rewarded. You will find family and community. You will find honor and love, just as Tabitha did. Even if all you do remains hidden by the expectations of others, God sees and rewards you. You will be loved into the fullness of God. Come today.

Musical Response  (SLIDE 15)
This Little Light of Mine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine til Jesus comes.

I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine til Jesus comes.

I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine over the whole wide world,

I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine over the whole wide world,

I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Community  (no slide)   Kristin

Passing the Peace  (1 slide)   Kristin

Peace before us,
Peace behind us,
Peace under our feet.

Peace within us,
Peace over us,
Let all around us be peace.

Published by rickanthony1993

Husband of Andrea, Father of five, pastor of Grace Fellowship Norman OK.

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