In my own family names have been very important. As I believe I've told you all before, my parents picked mine and my brother's names on their third date. Family names, names that meant something. Names that they hoped would leave us in good stead.
In the biblical accounts names are often exceedingly important. Abram and Sarai, both have their names changed through a close encounter with the divine. Is sacs name mean laughter because his mother laughed at Gods promise. Jacobs name means trickster and it was perhaps a bit too on point! Why the whole book of Ruth is filled with names of meaning, Malon, weakness, Chilion meaning sickly, it's no surprise when both of Naomi's sons die as very young men. Joseph means, may the Lord increase, and through Joseph the lord increased The Israelites.
In our scripted today we have another important name, Tabitha.
Tabitha is an Aramaic name. That in and of itself should give us pause. There are not many strictly Aramaic words recorded in scriptures. Aramaic was the language of an oppressed people. The People of Judea used Aramaic as their everyday language, they had Hebrew in the synagogue and Greek was the language of commerce.
The name comes from the word for gazelle. It evokes the image of a beautiful wild creature, graceful, swift and strong. It tells us something of the hopes and dreams her parents must have had for her.
Her name is beautiful. But it is also surprising. Surprising because we know it at all. Many of the women recorded in scriptures don't have names given. Simons mother in law, the syrophenitian woman, the widow who helped Elijah all have had their stories told and there names forgotten.
Here, in 94 words we get the story of a named woman.
Not only is she called by name, she is called something else, she is named a disciple.
What a bold claim! What a worthwhile and wonderful title. We are told of her works, her legacy, her actions of grace. Really it is almost like hearing her eulogy.
I was privileged to speak yesterday at a women's Spring Fling at Bates Hill CP church in McMinnville, TN. There they spent a great deal of time remembering together a woman from that community who had passed away last year. Charlotte Rose was a woman of great creativity, hope, joy and encouragement. She started a grief support group that has made a huge impact on her community. As I sat there looking at her pictures and listening to her friends testimonies I couldn't help but think about Tabitha.
Her friends had gathered as well, to grieve, to remember, to morn. They too had sought comfort from one another by gathering things given to them by Tabitha. No doubt their gathering was similar to one we have during a visitation for a loved one.
But something was different among Tabitha's friends. They could not, would not let her go.
They sent for Peter, the Apostle who came, heard their cries of distress and then, in a quiet room prayed, and God worked a miracle, bringing her back from the dead to sit among them and serve with them once more.
And when I read this part of the story I get mad.
Why does this happen for Tabitha, but not for others? Why did they get the miracle and the rest of us don't? What made her more special than anyone else?
Why did she come back, surrounded by loved ones, while my uncle passed away yesterday morning surrounded by his loved ones?
It's easy to get caught up in the why question. It's easy to feel anger or sorrow or confusion. Especially in this particular text because we are not given a reason for this miracle. Peter does not give a speech about Jesus' healing power or lordship. He doesn't give a speech at all, which is really unusual for Peter.
We are left with an unexplained miracle, unjustified miracle one might say.
And while there is much of me that wants to put this tension aside, much in me that wants to give an answer as to why Tabitha was resurrected and others are not, I can't. And I won't.
Miracles exist outside of what we can understand or explain. That's why we call them miracles! Tabitha was restored to a community and she was able to be a living reminder for a time of Christ's wonder working power. Her story is shared even today as a reminder that death does not have the last word and God is more powerful than we can even imagine.
Tabitha serves as a reminder of all of the named and unnamed saints who work tirelessly for the gospel.
We don't know why this miracle was granted to Tabitha and her friends, and honestly the why doesn't matter.
It's what happened after the miracle that is important. She is returned to community and she continues to do what she has been called to do! No resting on her laurels, no going around in a traveling circus side show as the resurrected woman. She goes back to serving the Lord in a manner that allows this story, her story, Tabitha's story to be told for generations to come.
The miracle isn't the end of Tabitha's story, it's the intermission.
Friends, each of us here as experienced at least one miracle in our lives. If we believe in Christ, if we have surrendered ourselves to his salvation, we have experienced our own resurrection! We are no longer slaves to sin and death. Rather we are new creations, citizens of heaven sent forth to share that miracle with those around us.
Will we be like Tabitha, working loving breathing reminders of the resurrection? Will we share God's love in such a way that generations later people will associate our names with his resurrection power?
That is the life we are called to live here at Christ church, we are called to bear witness to the miracle of Christ's resurrection and of our own resurrections. As new creations may we wear the name of Christ and boldly love as resurrection people with nothing left to loose!