"In The Room Where It Happens"

Stitch by Stitch is an all-woman shop in Frankfurt that grew up as a collaboration between a couple German fashion designers and refugees like Esraa Ali who fled Damascus, Syria to escape the war. “She designed, sewed and modelled her own dress for a tailoring a competition in Frankfurt. The theme was the Roaring Twenties, so she added grey lace and black pearls to her rose-pink dress and matching hijab. ‘It was a sort of Syrian roaring twenties,’ she remembers with a laugh.”[1]

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

Acts 9:36-43

May 8, 2022

Dr. Todd R. Wright Stitch by Stitch is an all-woman shop in Frankfurt that grew up as a collaboration between a couple German fashion designers and refugees like Esraa Ali who fled Damascus, Syria to escape the war. “She designed, sewed and modelled her own dress for a tailoring a competition in Frankfurt. The theme was the Roaring Twenties, so she added grey lace and black pearls to her rose-pink dress and matching hijab. ‘It was a sort of Syrian roaring twenties,’ she remembers with a laugh.”[1] Day by day, stitch by stitch, they are putting their lives together in a sisterly atmosphere. It was a response to a modern crisis, but it also followed a well-worn historical path. At the start of the 12th century, some women in the Low Countries responded to crisis – demographics and marriage patterns meant there were more women than men – leaving many in poverty. So, they gathered to devote themselves to prayer and good works, but unlike those entering monasteries, the Beguines did not take vows. Often these clusters of houses were located in town centers close to the rivers that provided water for their work in the cities' lucrative wool industry.[2] Perhaps they were simply using the skills they had or doing what society allowed. Or maybe they were inspired by the story of Tabitha!

 

The community of Joppa (current day Tel Aviv) was in crisis. Their beloved Tabitha had died. We are told she was devoted to good works and acts of charity. We are told that they sent for Peter. We are told that when he arrived the widows put on something like a fashion show, displaying the clothes that Tabitha had made and given to them, all while weeping freely. These clothes were not just simple creations of thread and cloth, or coverings for their nakedness, they were symbols of her love for them, of the power of shared community, and the dignity that comes when someone sees you as more than your poverty and powerlessness. Tabitha had brought them together. She cared for this collection of widows, one stitch at a time, long before the Apostles appointed seven deacons to care for widows in Jerusalem. And she had done such a good job of it that the gospel writer trumpets her story as a deaconess while remaining mostly silent about those seven male deacons, except Stephen.

 

I wonder what they expected when they sent for Peter. One scholar wonders whether they simply wanted Peter to know about this extraordinary believer, casting her as an example for other believers.[3] Another asks, whether they call for Peter to come and mourn with them before they lay a faithful servant to rest, as if to give proof to the old adage that misery loves company.[4] Both consider the possibility that they have heard about the other wonders he has performed and hope for a miracle! If they did hope for a miracle, they would have pinned their hopes on the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead. And that, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus had raised both the widow of Nain’s son and the daughter of Jairus from the dead. And that Elijah and Elisha had each raised people from the dead – the son of the widow of Zarephath and the son of the Shunammite woman.[5]

 

I wonder what Peter thought when summoned. He’d been in the room where it happened once. Did his thought flash back to how Jesus had cleared everyone else out, except Peter and James and John and the girl’s parents. Did he remember Jesus’ words? They were simple enough: get up! Did he walk every step from Lydda to Joppa praying that when he was in the room, God’s power would flow through him even though he was just an ordinary fisherman? He had done miracles before, but there is a world of difference between helping a lame man walk, or healing the sick, or freeing those tormented by unclean spirits and raising someone from the dead! That’s hard to even imagine! On Wednesday I arrived at the church to find a man waiting on the church’s doorstep. He was facing a crisis. Synergy health had arranged for him to have a place at a 28-day rehab facility in Parkersburg, but that wasn’t until Thursday. They had paid for one night at a nearby hotel, but he needed another. He didn’t think he could stay sober if he had to spend the night on the streets. His demon is called PTSD. I agreed to help pay for half and we went back to Synergy for the rest. While we waited, he told of some of his experiences at shelters. In one, a man overdosed and died right before his eyes. He injected him with four doses of Narcan and brought the man back to life! He spoke with wonder at his role in this pharmaceutical miracle! Is that what Peter felt?

 

How about you? What do you expect will happen … When you give generously, like Tabitha did? When you ask people to pray for someone you love who is in crisis, like the Joppa widows? When you kneel, alone, like Peter and the others, and ask God to do something life-giving? You are just an ordinary person. You know that. But this story reminds us that the risen Lord is loose in the world and that means that no crisis is as grim as before the resurrection! So, whatever crisis you are facing, do not give up hope. You are in the room! Roll up your sleeves and allow the life-giving power of God to flow, just like it did in Tabitha’s story. Amen.

[1] See https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2017/7/595a3e4f4/refugee-seamstresses-stitch-together-new-lives-germany.html [2] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beguines_and_Beghards [3] From Eric Barreto’s commentary on the text for workingpreacher.org, 4/21/13 [4] From Lisa Jenkins’ article on the text for the Christian Century, 4/16/19 [5] If you are curious, the texts are: Luke 7:11-17 and 8:49-56 and 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:18-37
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