22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”
The lectionary for this week is interesting when it is coupled with Mother’s Day. The Mother’s Day is an American tradition that began in 1914 designated by President Woodrow Wilson. The Lectionary is set up on the lunar calendar and they had no idea about the importance of the 2md Sunday of May. The lectionary is also set based on the Christian holidays and even though our Mother’s are very special they would still be considered secular. Yet the characteristics of a Shepherd which was traditionally thought of as being a male—really could be a woman who cares not for sheep but her children.
If we looked back in history about the time the holiday was created women, especially mothers made everything. Average folks—those who were not rich avoided buying new things because it was just so dang expensive. Instead everything was made at home. Mom made the clothes on the sewing machines and washed the clothes with a tub and scrub board. If the clothes got torn or had a hole in them Mom would fix them up with a patch “darn” them back together which means to stitch back together. Clothes were made. Bread was baked. Bed spreads and blankets were quilted. More often than not items were traded with neighbors instead of going to the store to buy them.
Then in the 1950s and 60s the builder generation came along. Huge transition took place. This generation did not want to make their own stuff, they wanted to go and buy it. Things became consumables and so affluent did the builder generation become that by the time the baby boomers came along this generation wanted to reject what the previous generation did and they chose to save their money high quality handmade items. Then pendulum began to swing back a little. Yet instead of saving money for the handcrafted items, the spent the money not on new things but on antiques and handcrafted items.
Today people spend money for mother of pearl earrings from Costa Rica, purses made from Yak hair in Tibet, teakwood jewelry boxes from Thailand, a quilt grandma made, a plater from Cappadocia or Italian made shoes. People love this stuff!
People also loved the stuff that Dorcas made 2,000 years ago. We do not know if Dorcas was a mother or not? Yet the qualities that she possessed would have lent herself to be a great mother. Dorcas made handcrafted items, her work was of great quality, and she worked on behalf of the poor. When death took her, the entire community was mourning. They had lost not only a special person but a skilled artesian as well. When Dorcas died according to Acts 9 the widows—those who had already lost their spouse and in that day, they would have been really poor, stood around her and showed Peter the tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made. In fact, remember that it was the widows who sent for Peter hoping he could help them out when she died.
Yes, Peter was able to resurrect Dorcas, but it begs the question when our lives come to an end, will there be people so upset that they will do anything to mourn our loss. Have we made a big enough impact in our community that our loss would be felt by many or any? Maybe that’s too high an expectation but it does demonstrate the importance of living for others and not for ourselves. The Bible said that Dorcas was “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” Good works were her life. She had no room for anything else because it was overflowing with acts of charity. She gave all she had every day and, in the process, she became an example to the rest of her community. Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
Dorcas was almost like an example of someone being too good to be true. In our gospel story in John today the people are begging Jesus to tell them if he is the Messiah. He basically says, what ese can I do to show you. If you are willing to believe all that I have done is from God then we can’t do much more. Those who know me and he uses the sheep and the shepherd metaphor will recognize what I do and know the truth.
Those who follow the calling of Christ and do good works are like handcrafted Christians. The ones who make things so beautifully everybody has to have one and they are willing to do anything to get their hands on one. When people are in need will we be the ones that someone calls? That is kind of a scary thought as well. When Peter was sent for, I’m not sure he knew what he was getting himself into. What do we say to the person who is in the hospital and wants us to come and see them? When a good friend has lost a loved one and they call us to come over what do we say? If someone is having a horrible experience and they ask us to go to coffee to help them what do we say? Do we really even want to get involved? Can we really help? I don’t know for sure.
But I do know that we all have the ability to be present and to listen. The thing I have learned over the years is it’s not so much what I say as more that I was just there. Letting people share and not trying to fix it, just listen is important. Shepherds and moms are always good at that. When the kids have things going on and we want to teach them we don’t make the decision for them but we do help them learn how to weigh the issues and how to come up with sound decisions. When someone is in distress, we know the problem and the solutions sometimes are already there as well. What we need is just someone to hear us and validate what we are trying to do. Handcrafted Christians are so good at this. They know when to speak, to help, to do and when to just be present.
There is one more point that is very important for us to remember as well. It’s that when we are in need and someone comes along who can help us, don’t discount what they are doing and saying in our midst. Rev. 7:9-10 9 “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
So many times, we have our minds set as to who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Sometimes we think they have to be guys period. We don’t allow the Dorcas of the world to share their good works with us. We perceive them as inferior and not worthy or definitely unable to know the things in life that we are dealing with. Each person is a handcrafted artesian made in the image of God and has lots to offer.
What do our good works look like? Will the be sewing and knitting? Probably not but we are called to good works so what is God calling us to? Something to think as we celebrate the mothers in our lives who helped shape us and make us who we are. Something to think about as we move into the next week. Amen.