Acts 9:36-43 (NRSV)
Verse 36Now 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. Verse 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Verse 38Since 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." Verse 39So 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. Verse 40Peter 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. Verse 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. Verse 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Verse 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
As a preacher I was never sure what to do with stories where people were miraculously raised from the dead. After all, what can one really say other than to affirm the faith of the early church and to acknowledge that with God all things are possible? At the same time, it always seemed to me that true hearing of the gospel was encountered beyond the miracle itself. The story in Acts does not tell us what happened to Tabitha after she got up, but what has endured throughout the ages is the story of acts of generosity which she inspired. Sometimes the work of God is best revealed in the legacy we leave to others.
Basketball coach Jim Valvano was famous for leading North Carolina State to a national championship. At the same time, he will probably best be remembered for establishing the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research. His own life cut short by cancer, he offered hope to others not only for his vision but for the way he embraced life in his dying.
Gracious God, the one to whom we may entrust ourselves in dying, teach us how to live for others. Amen.