October is a month that is full of special commemorations for the church. Chief among them is the Reformation Day on October 31st, which the church observes on the last Sunday of October as Reformation Sunday. But the church remembers others during October as well. The first Sunday of October is LWML Sunday, an opportunity for us to remember and give thanks to God for His faithful work in the church of sending missionaries to preach the Gospel and for leading faithful women to give generously to the work of preaching and teaching the Gospel. On October 25th, the church remembers and gives thanks to God for three important women in the early church: Dorcas (also known as Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe.
Dorcas’ story can be found in Acts 9:36-42. Dorcas was a disciple from the city of Joppa, on the coast of the Mediterranean. She was known to be full of charity, and apparently a very good seamstress. When she died, her friends showed Peter all of the different garments she had made when she was alive. She was also the recipient of a miracle! Peter had come from a nearby town to see her after he had heard that she had died. When he got there, he knelt down by her bed and said and prayer, and then said to her, “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. Her story became known throughout all of Joppa, and the Holy Spirit brought many to faith through it.
Lydia is introduced in Acts 16:11-25. She was from Thyatira, a city in modern-day Turkey. However, she is living in Philippi in Macedonia, one of the first cities Paul stopped in on his second missionary journey once he had crossed over the Aegean Sea. Paul and his companions went to a place outside the city on a Sabbath Day where Lydia and other women were gathered for prayer, and there they proclaimed the Gospel. Lydia was brought to faith, and both she and her household were baptized. Afterward, Paul and his companions stayed in her house as guests while they continued to preach and teach in the city.
Phoebe is commended by Paul in Romans 16:1-2. She was a deaconess from Cenchreae, the port for the Greek city of Corinth. Paul sent her to Rome to deliver his letter to the church there, and commends her as a patron to him and to others who were working to share the Gospel.
In these three women (and many others!) we see faithful service to Jesus and His Church. Though the New Testament often highlights the work of the apostles, and early pastors like Timothy and Titus, it also casts light on the very important work of women in the early church. In many important ways, these women supported the preaching of the Gospel.
In October, we remember these and many other faithful women who have worked so hard to support the preaching and teaching of the Gospel throughout the centuries, ensuring that many would hear the good news of Jesus.