I recently used the text of Tabitha/Dorcas (Acts 9) for a sermon. Tabitha was a beloved woman and when she died the widows in what is now Tel Aviv, Israel gathered around Peter and asked if he could do something. Peter prayed, and Tabitha was given back breath on this earth. Luke says that there was much rejoicing. John Wesley writing on this event said that there was much rejoicing from everyone, except from Tabitha herself. Wesley considered where she had been - before the fullness of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Wesley thought Tabitha, was glad to serve, but pining toward home.
When I think of Howard Gager, I think of Tabitha. Like her, Howard had an incredible capacity to invest in others, to celebrate life that was happening in others, and to live life fully. This capacity came from a deep well of life with God.
Howard was born a Catholic. He appreciated the contribution of the Catholic church even as he worshiped in a Free Methodist way. The Diocese of Saginaw produces little devotional books for the seasons of Advent, Lent, and after Easter. Howard used these resources and when he discovered that I would appreciate them, he gave me the next edition. After my family and I departed from Mt. Pleasant, Howard continued to send me the little devotional books. They served as private communion with Christ; they will now be a reminder of the communion that Christ brings us into with one-another, including Howard.
Howard lived faith, with compassion, celebration, sweat and sweets. When I think of sweat I am reminded of serving at the Shepherd Maple Syrup festival and Howard's labor was joyfully reflected in the sweat of his brow. His yearly Easter appearance at our door included a bunny cake surrounded by chocolates and jelly beans; a sweet delight. He loved going to ball games with anyone, but especially treasured going to watch tournaments with his sister - he celebrated life that was budding and growing. His compassion was pronounced in his reception of little children; he embraced children like Jesus would. This compassion for little ones shaped how he interacted with teens, adults, and all of us.
That Howard is gone from this earth, makes me want to join the widows who mourned over Tabitha. And yet, I know that Howard has been listening to and living in the spirit for a long time. Paul's imagery of seeing through a glass darkly is now removed. Howard sees clearly the glory of God. We bid him, farewell friend. You've run the race of faith - or rather you've hit the ball, rounded the bases and have come sliding into home plate - take up the joy of Jesus and the song of the angels.
With much love,