Sermon Text: Taught by Tabitha
In my line of work, I cannot ignore death. And I think that’s a good thing. Experiencing funerals on a regular basis might be hard. But it also makes you think about what’s really important in life. And that’s a good thing.
Living life with an awareness of its end point makes life richer and sweeter. When my sweet wife was diagnosed with cancer, it put a lot of stuff in perspective. And her so-far successful treatment made everything sweeter. If I get ticked off by the small stuff, when I remember that big stuff, the ticked off part seems silly.
Going to a funeral is a help to those who are in grief. But going to a funeral is also a help to your own soul. It makes you remember what is really important in life.
In last week’s exciting sermon episode, I talked about Peter, and how he so often messed up. Isn’t it nice to see Peter shine in today’s story, which takes place afterwards? Peter actually raises someone from the dead, like Jesus did. At least at that moment, Peter had the Spirit of Jesus working in him in a powerful way.
The story is told in the Acts of the Apostles partly to remind us that the resurrection is still our hope. The resurrection was not just a one-time deal on Easter morning. The resurrection is an ongoing reality.
But let me put that miracle stuff aside for a minute.
The story of Tabitha in the Book of Acts always tugs at my heart a little. When Peter arrives, Tabitha’s friends show him all the craftwork she used to do. They tell him about how she was so kind, and did such good things for others. Her tearful friends were full of grief.
Haven’t you experienced the same thing many times? I can’t count the funerals I’ve done where people tell sweet stories of the deceased, and remember that person with such love.
I remember one funeral I did here at St. Mark’s for a non-church member. By coincidence, her name was Tabitha. She lived in the same group home my daughter lives in. During the service, there was a time for people to stand up and talk about her.
Tabitha’s brother got up. He talked about how sweet Tabitha was, in spite of her disability. He talked about how close he felt to her when they were kids. And then he confessed that he had not been in touch with her for a couple of years. He said there were reasons — a lot was going on in his life with his own children, and with job turmoil. But then he said that was not an excuse.
He went on to say, “Connect with the people you love. Don’t wait to visit the person you haven’t seen for a while, that person you care about but have not been in touch with.”
The congregation went silent. You could have heard a pin drop. This was maybe the most honest thing I ever heard a family member say at a funeral.
So I pass it on to you. Take it to heart. Life is short, and we don’t have too much time to gladden the hearts of those with whom we journey along the way. If I’ve learned something from doing hundreds of funerals, it’s that we need to connect with the people we love — all the time. Don’t delay. Don’t take time for granted. Life is short.
Now, what do you want them to say at your funeral?
Three guys were talking about that. One guy said, “I hope they say I was a good man who served his family, his community, and his country.” Second guy said, “I hope they say I was kind and honest.” Third guy said, “I hope they say, ‘Look at the casket! He’s moving!’”
What do you want them to say at your funeral? I wouldn’t mind if people said, “He was amazingly tall and totally glamorous!” That’s not gonna happen. But I really do hope they will say, “He was kind. He was a good listener. He was compassionate.”
That’s how I want to live. That’s how I want to die. That’s what I hope people will say about me.
But that thing about “Look at the casket — he’s moving!” — that would be okay, too.