When we belong to a faithful community we find that serving others comes naturally. Clearly Tabitha had discovered this and offered herself to the community in good works. Joppa, a coastal town, probably had its share of widows and orphans due to the loss of seafaring husbands and fathers. So Tabitha made clothes to express her faith and her friendship.
Those who have benefited from Tabitha’s generosity are in genuine mourning at the loss of their friend—no paid mourners for Tabitha. Peter comes to the room, dismisses the mourners, and prays. Rather than copious words and pleading, Peter speaks only the woman’s name and “arise” (rendered “get up” in the New Revised Standard Version). The Greek word for arise is the same one used in affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection. Tabitha sits up and is restored to her community of “the saints and widows.”
My experience of deep community in seminary made it possible for me to serve writers and produce books of spiritual nourishment. But once I left that seminary community I knew I had to find another group of true friends in order to continue to serve. The vital relationship between the depth of my communal experience and the authenticity and power of my service or work was not lost on me in seminary. Over the years I have built small communities around every activity I was involved in: work, family, running, writing, and even reading. It has not always been easy to be vulnerable and open to the cycles of friendship, but the gospel stories always put community right in the center of spiritual works. The community of the faithful can serve as a channel of resurrection power that brings new life. And it is a lesson that we all must learn over and over again.
Jesus, give me the courage to be open and honest in the midst of life’s vicissitudes. Amen.