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“Tabitha, get up.”

22 April 2010

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In Acts chapter 9, verses 36 through 43 it reads, “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.”

It may be that Peter, the fisherman turned physician, was the rock upon which the church was built, but you could also say that it was Tabitha who was the one who made it work. Devoted to acts of charity, she takes Jesus at his word about the least of these, “when I was naked you clothed me” and does something about it. Her handiwork in the hands of weeping widows is a testimony to her devotion. Remembered well for the good she did Tabitha will be missed. But this is a resurrection story and so like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, Tabitha will live to sew again. Luke tells the story as if a person coming back to life when called by name and told to get up happens all the time, even though miracles tend to demand attention and get it. People like Tabitha, devoted to good works and acts of charity, do not and maybe that makes her life of service more of a miracle than sitting up at Peter’s command. The miracle of the church is that despite all of its drawing attention to itself, mostly for the wrong reasons, it still has a Tabitha or two quietly going about being the church. A resurrection story is always more about this life then whatever comes next and though we might long for the day when we hear that final “get up” the world would be well served, and maybe even resurrected, by a church with more devotion to do good works and acts of charity.

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