Act 9:36-43 CEB
One verse of scripture was said about Jabez and he gets a series of books written about him. Meanwhile Tabatha has a fleshed out, real story and the world is silent. It is really her story is worth our focus. Below are five great reasons why we should give more focus to the story of Tabatha:
1: The Second Generation Story
The vitality of a new organization or community is ultimately seen in the second generation. The leaders who step up after the primary generation has come and gone and how they step up set the standard for the next generation and the generations that follow. Most of the book of Acts is a second generation story. It is with the second generation we find out what the people are going to do with the founders acts and words. In this case, what are the Apostles going to do with everything Jesus taught them? In this story we see Peter, who was enthusiastic almost to the point of zealotry. When he brings Tabatha back to life he doesn't make a big deal about it. He doesn't have everyone and their second niece twice removed there to witness. He does what he does in private. He takes Jesus' teaching of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Here is someone who learned the lessons and are using them appropriately. He is the rock.
So you are doing God's work in the world as part of the Body of Christ. Your mission is vital to the community you are serving. No one else can do what you do. Well, that's the problem. It doesn't appear Tabatha prepared anyone to take her place. The ministry was hers, not the communities. Or, the community never helped Tabatha give ownership to them and assumed she would be around when they needed her. Either way, something is lost when we forget God's mission is full of relationship. All the difficult work God is calling us to do isn't worth a hill of beans if we do the work alone. Joppa had Peter to come in and save the day. Who is going to save your mission if you are doing all the work and you are not there to do it anymore? Ask yourself, “If I left my community tomorrow would the mission I am working in continue to work?” The answer should be yes. Jesus could have done it all on his own but if he did it all the story would have ended with him. If we cannot get people involved than the chapters we are writing in the Christian story, this period will be the final chapters of the book.
Let me point out something else: Creating bubbles will always lead to pain. In the case of Tabatha, where do you think her spirit was before she was brought back? Peter needed to take a soul at peace and bring it back into a world full of turmoil all because the community wasn't ready to take the mission on their own. Every bubble, no matter how big or how small, will eventually pop. The pop will always hurt. So, if you see a vibrant ministry that appears to be living within a bubble, find a way to help it survive so it can have a second generation story.
3: She Was an Apostle
I do not like to focus on a person's gender or race. In my personal life, I have always focused on character and actions. So this little tid-bit actually makes me a little uncomfortable.
It is because many churches don't focus on real Christian education apostles likes Tabatha fall through the cracks, or who is she is warped into something that fits an ideology. She becomes an example of how women can minister to women only. This is merely a shell game. It pushes Tabatha under the rug in congregations where women are told they cannot lead. If the message was either, women can minister or they can't, why doesn't Peter punish Tabatha or scold her? Why doesn't he let her stay dead? Because women in ministry is part of God's plan in the world. She was doing something important and a community was mourning her. Theological acrobatics are the only way to see Tabatha as anything but someone doing ministry for her community. It saddens me how I need to point out the obvious. I know for some, this is an eye opening scripture. For those of you: welcome. I am glad you found your way here. You are in the right place.
4: The Guy Who Made Leather
After Tabatha is brought back and the people are reunited, Peter goes to stay at a tanner's house. The reason? Peter needed to clean up. Now a Pharisee or Sadducee would have had a huge amount of ritual that had to happen before and after dealing with dead bodies. Within that ritual they would have cleaned up. Peter, bypasses all the high church stuff and goes straight to someone who knows how to wash up after dealing with the dead: someone who makes leather. It's practical. It's simple. It is where the focus really belongs. Yes, ritual is good when the ritual serves a purpose. Yes, ritual is bad when the meaning behind the ritual is lost and the people are doing it just because that is the way it has always been done. Peter teaches us to think practically. Find what God is calling you to do and do it the most practical way possible. High church is pretty and the music is nice. Do that when you want something pretty and wish to listen to beautiful music. When you want to do ministry, when you want to do service, do that. Don't confuse the two. They are two different things.
5: Freewill is Sometimes a Bitch
Part of the story the bible tells is what to do in the midst of pain and suffering. It is not a solution from it. It is nice to focus on the resurrection part of the scripture today, but I have this sneaky feeling God made pain and suffering part of the game. Focusing only on the resurrection part of the story takes the easy way out. Also, in light of recent events, the point I am about to makes seems to need highlighting. Here it is: bad things happen to good people partly because freewill is sometimes the cause. Now, freewill is the greatest gift we have. With it, we have life. Real life is not something to take lightly. With life comes responsibility. There are those who misuse that responsibility and do things that are bad. Now, we all can put our blame on some invisible evil. That's easy. It is much more difficult to point the finger at ourselves. We mess up God's plan. We do things we shouldn't do. We take God's gift of freewill and use it to ruin God's creative order.
We can't change what has happened. We can choose to do the right thing now and use freewill to bring order to the chaos. Otherwise we are only adding the the pain and suffering in the world, instead of fixing it.
After what I just shared, perhaps Tabatha deserves some good books written about her. What the bible has to say about her is much more deep and rich than the one verse of Jabez. It is more real than the prosperity theology Jebez has been tied to. So, now that I have shared, go do something with it! Create something lasting. Connect with others. Bring order to the chaos! Because if you don't do it, who will?