A friend of mine, a retired pastor, died a couple of years ago.. He was one very special individual who touched the lives of many. In the year and a half that I knew him, he made an important impact in my life. I could trust him. I could confide in him. I appreciated his wisdom. And while I always mourn the death of my colleagues in ministry, his passing struck me very hard. I still miss him. Even though he was retired, it clearly seemed he had more to do in this world.Thus, his death seemed very premature. It felt as if this was not right, as if his death was an intrusion into his life and in the world of all who knew him.
The death of anyone is a tragedy, but there are certain deaths that seem even more unfortunate. There are those who contribute to others in a way that goes beyond the seeming call of duty. There is something very special about their lives; and because of the contributions they make, their death is more painful. The first reading from the lectionary this week recounts the tragic death of a great saint from the first generation of Christians. Tabitha was a great saint in the church at Joppa. Luke tells us that she was "devoted to good works and charity." It appears that she had a special ministry to the widows of the community; for when Peter arrived on the scene, the widows gathered there in mourning show him the garments she had made for them.
Why Peter was called to the scene of Tabitha's death, we are not told. Eric Barreto writes,
Peter's arrival brings hope in its wake. One wonders, however, what Tabitha's friends expected when they called Peter. Did they want Peter to know about this extraordinary believer? Did they wish for the memory of her dear friend to be shared with this pillar of the burgeoning church? Did they perhaps hope for a miracle beyond miracles? Did they perhaps hope against hope for a reprieve from death?Whatever the reason, Peter arrives and then does something he saw Jesus do on more than one occasion. He puts everyone out of the room where Tabitha's body lay and with a prayer and a word
she is raised again to life.
The resurrection of Jesus transported his disciples into a new world where death no longer had the final word. The effects of Christ's resurrected life had ongoing implications. No, Tabitha was not resurrected the way Jesus was transformed; she was resuscitated like Lazarus. Like Lazarus she was brought back into her same mortal body. She would have to die again. But like Lazarus, Tabitha's resuscitation was a glimpse, a preview of great things yet to come-- the renewal of life without end. In Jesus resurrection, the future was being brought into the present, and Tabitha's raising was a sign of that present future.
The disciples of Jesus Christ are People of the Resurrection. They are to live in that new life in the present, where death is inevitable, but does not have the last word.