Tabitha vs. Dismas

After a weekend in which people around the globe wore green, marched in parades, celebrated Irish heritage, and wondered how in the world St. Patrick could have lost to Constance in the first round of Lent Madness 2011, we're back for another full week of saintly thrills and spills! Believe it or not, we're halfway through the Round of 32 with eight contests decided and eight more to go.

To catch everyone up, on Friday, Ephrem of Nisibis routed Mellitus 70% to 30% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen, where he'll face John Chrysostom. Today, we're back to our Biblical saints as Tabitha squares off against Dismas on the plush purple carpet of the Lent Dome.

Stay tuned as later today Tim and Scott will release another epic episode of Monday Madness. For the uninitiated, the award-winning* Monday Madness is a production of the Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness, featuring high production values and even higher content value. These brief, split screen videos filmed live and (believe it or not) always in a single take, offer color commentary and inside information on issues related to Lent Madness. For the true aficionado of the Saintly Smackdown it is must-see-TV.

*Fine - "award-winning."


Actions speak louder than words. At least, they do in the story of Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, recorded in the book of Acts. Few words are spoken in the text, and Tabitha herself never speaks, but we learn about her from her own actions and the actions of others on her behalf.

We learn she was always doing good and helping the poor. We learn from the two men who run to Peter to urge him to come at once when Tabitha dies that she is known and loved by the community of believers in Joppa.

We learn from the widows who show up—crying and showing Peter the clothing and robes she has made for them—that her ministry provides for some of the most marginalized in society.

We learn from the words Peter speaks—“Tabitha, get up!”—how important he believes she and her ministry are both to the community and to the early church. We learn from her response, opening her eyes and sitting up when she sees Peter, how powerful the God she served is.

We learn from the fact Peter then presents Tabitha to the disciples—and especially, the text notes, to the widows—how central these women are to Tabitha and to the early church in a patriarchal society in which it was believed women “belonged” to a man and widows were left vulnerable.

Tabitha gives us an example of an ordinary believer in the early church and how the work of the people in the pews quietly providing for others’ needs—collecting school supplies and lining pantry shelves and volunteering for service projects—is just as important as the work of those out front, leading the church.

Today, Tabitha is celebrated in several Christian traditions, oftentimes alongside two other important women in the early church: Lydia, a successful businesswoman and early convert to The Way, and Phoebe, a leader in the church at Cenchreae who delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans. Their varied ministries show there is more than one way for women to follow Jesus.

Collect for Tabitha
Most Holy God, whose servant Tabitha you raised from the dead to display your power and confirm your message that your Son is Lord; grant unto us your grace, that aided by her prayers and example, we may be given a new life in your Spirit to do works pleasing in your sight; Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Emily McFarlan Miller


Dismas spent his life as a thief—eyeing something until greed overtook him, looking around to see if anyone could catch him, then maneuvering his body at just the right angle for the sleight of hand.

Why did Dismas do it? Did he need to steal in order to feed his family? Was he taking bread so that he might provide nourishment for eager and hungry mouths?

Or was Dismas consumed with jealousy? He could intuit the value of things and people. So, when Dismas saw the shine of coins or the sparkle of jewels, did he salivate with longing? Did he yearn to possess what belonged to his neighbor? Did he covet what he did not earn?

There are only a few things we know for sure about Dismas: He was a thief. He was caught stealing and sentenced to death. At the end of his life, people mocked Dismas as he hung on a tree. The slow torture happened publicly, as a warning to anyone who might consider stealing.

It’s hard to understand then why Dismas is included in our saintly line-up. What did he do to gain such recognition?

The Roman soldiers crucified Dismas next to two other men—another criminal and Jesus of Nazareth. The other offender mocked Jesus, jeering along with the soldiers and crowds, asking why Jesus wouldn’t save himself.

Dismas stood up to the bully, asking, “Do you not fear God?” Dismas pointed out that Jesus was innocent and didn’t deserve to die. Then Dismas pulled off the greatest heist of his life. While he was hanging on the cross, with the piercing pain of nails in flesh and the humiliating mob below him, as he gasped with collapsing lungs and felt the full weight of his crimes, Dismas asked Jesus for something that he didn’t earn or deserve. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The two men died together. They suffered together, feeling their lashed skin stinging in the dry air. And yet, even among that harsh brutality, Dismas had the hope of paradise.

Collect for Dismas
God of grace, we thank you for your forgiveness, even when we deserve punishment. We thank you for the gift of those who suffer with us and for the continued hope that we might someday share joy with them. Through Jesus, we pray. Amen.

-Carol Howard Merritt

Tabitha vs. Dismas

  • Tabitha (74%, 6,161 Votes)
  • Dismas (26%, 2,119 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,280

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Tabitha: By Wolfymoza [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Dismas: By Anonymous, Moscow school (Moscow Kremlin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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177 comments on “Tabitha vs. Dismas”

  1. Blessèd Tabitha (or Dorcas in Greek)
    Made robes and tunics for widows each week.
    It should not have dazed her
    That St. Peter raised her:
    She heard Jesus, and turned the others chic.

      1. Susan Lee Hauser,
        "I second that emotion"

        (Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, appropriately enough)

    1. Clap, clap, clap! Extra credit for getting the name "Dorcas" in there and so very wisely not using it for an end rhyme.

  2. Our show tune tribute to Tabitha and Dorcas comes from Mel Brooks's classic musical "The Producers" and is sung to the tune of "Springtime for Hitler":

    Israel was having troubles
    (Roman occupation).
    Needed a Messiah
    To restore the Hebrew nation.
    He came, was crucified;
    Rose after he died.
    The ones he left
    Were quite bereft
    And also sanctified.

    So, now it’s…

    Vote time for Dismas and Tabitha.
    Dismas’s the thief on the cross.
    Penitent as his ember dims.
    Asks Jesus to remember him.

    Vote time for Dismas and Tabitha.
    Tab tends the widows and poor.
    Dies in Acts 9; Peter raises her.
    God’s commitment to her is made sure.

    (Dance Break)

    Tabitha: I was dead and with the corpses. That is why they call me “Dorcas.”

    Dismas: Don’t be stupid. If a thief, REPENT, and make the Christ your chief!

    Vote time for Dismas and Tabitha.
    Their tales inspire us today.
    He shows repentance can’t be late.
    She states that small works still are great.

    Vote time for Dismas and Tabitha.
    By now, you know what to do.
    Vote time for Dismas and Tabitha.
    Means that we are halfway…
    Wir sind halb fertig...
    Halfway through the Round of Three-Two!

    1. How long have you been working on these?? Another Michael Wachter Lent Madness hit!

    2. Well said. When Tabitha was in the lessons a few weeks ago, I decided I would vote for her. Today's blog just reinforced that for me.

    3. Where's the rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-one's-head-off emoji when you need it?
      (I keep asking Facebook the same question, but do they listen???)
      I'll probably be humming this most of the day.

      By the way, I voted for Dismas--partly because he was being trounced, and partly because it's Lent, which is all about repentance and forgiveness. But Tabith/Dorcas is worthy.

  3. please every one vote for Dimas, I know he was a theif but he was sorry and Jesus forgave him can you please.

    1. My husband and I share voting. He chose Dorcas, but my heart is with Dimas. I can’t believe you made us choose.

        1. Good question. I believe he might be hooked on lent madness. Since he is technically challenged we’re approaching this as a team. It has led to some great discussion. I’m thankful he’s interested and knows more than he thought.

    2. I used to work against the death penalty, which included making visits to those on Death Row. Those of us in this movement had a difficult time getting other Christians involved. After all, even though every service is equally worthy, some are more socially acceptable to others. Gathering school supplies and Christmas presents for the poor, especially children, are services to innocent and deserving sufferers. It a little harder is to embrace the guilty who have done great harm to other human beings. They remain one of the last groups of people we feel okay about hating. We can hold on to our desire for vengeance and unleash our anger towards these "monsters". We call them "inhuman" because that lets us off the hook for forgiving them and sharing God's Redeeming Love with them. We look at each as the very embodiment of evil on this earth. However, Jesus doesn't make those distinctions. He sees only brothers and sisters, God's children whom God loves. His stretched out arms on the cross are ready to embrace anyone who turns to him and asks. I love everything that Tabitha stands for. It is hard not to give her my vote today. But I am going with Dismas because he showed me what it means to be showered with the infinite Grace of God no matter how damaged or damaging we have have been in our lives. He showed me not to be afraid to ask no matter how unworthy we and others proclaim we are.

      1. I voted for Dismas, yet felt somewhat guilty about it. So I scrolled through the comments seeking confirmation and found you! Thank you, Mary, for the work you have done for our most vulnerable and for expressing your thoughts so eloquently. I was moved by the courage of Dismas in standing up to those who mocked Jesus. I am encouraged by his belief in goodness and hope in the face of condemnation and death.

  4. The power of forgiveness . . . asked for and given. I'm going with Dismas. Beautiful and persuasive writing by Carol Howard Merritt. I feel uplifted.

    1. Dear Sara, Today I went with Tabitha. Although I get the forgiveness part of Dismis and love the chant "Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom", I was swayed by Tabitha's work with and for the marginalized in her society.

    2. I agree. For Dismus there is compassion, forgiveness and grace. I want Jesus to remember me when he comes into his kingdom.

  5. As a quilter, I had to vote for Tabitha. It is nice to think that one's work with the needle will keep someone warm.

  6. Although I rejoice at dramatic death time conversions, I honor more lifetimes of diligent service. At age 82 I hope and pray my life since re-birth at age 11, might be a good model, as it is not a story of a dramatic conversion.

  7. Dear LM friends, I was not too worried when I found the Saintly Scorecard was sold out (I could still Kindle it) but then I realized I would miss this year's trading cards - egad! If someone has an extra to spare, I'd gladly reimburse or trade for 2018 or 2017 scorecard as I have extras. Hope I haven't flouted any rules, but a nice Lentorium plug never hurts.....

    1. You are not missing trading cards, there are none this year. However the booklets are still nice to have. I have some extras if you want one, email is firstnamelastname at sbcglobal dot net.

  8. Tabitha is wonderful, but I had to go with Dismas. I love the verse from "Are you able to remember when a thief lifts up his eyes that his pardoned soul is worthy of place in paradise?"

  9. I am voting for Dismas because he had the courage to ask for something he did not earn or deserve. God calls on all creatures, including humans, to ask. The risk of eternal damnation is so great, it is appropriate to be afraid to ask. Dismas trusted God enough to take the risk.

    1. I believe that it was Martin Luther who said, "Sin boldly, but believe more boldly." I think Dismas holds the record. All honor to Tabitha nonetheless, for diligently providing for the needs of the marginalized. Thanks be to God for both. It was a tough choice.

      1. It was a tough choice but I kept thinking that even while suffering an agonizing death, after what quite probably was not an easy life, Dismas challenged the mocking thief in defense of Jesus. And asked only to be remembered - not a place in the Kingdom, no praise or promises, not even gratitude - he asked only to be remembered. I am grateful for Carol Merritt's touching and lyrical biography. I decided to remember Dismas by casting my vote for him.

  10. Dismas may be a figment of Luke's imagination -- why would the other three evangelists leave him out of their accounts if he really repented? -- while Tabitha is the only woman given the title "disciple" in the NT. Tabitha also seems to have been far more important to her community than just a generous seamstress. See Teresa Calpino's "Women, Work and Leadership in Acts" (Mohr Siebeck, 2014)
    No choice here: Tabitha

    1. I don't think there are trading cards this year.... at least my copy of the Saintly Scorecard did not contain any.........

    2. Thanks so much for the tip on this dissertation. I wish I'd had it when I wrote my study of Acts last year, but it will make good reading now anyway.

  11. Tough choice this am. I would have voted for a devoted servant of the marginalized who was raised from the dead because of her importance to the community almost every time. Unless, of course, her challenger was the single person who truly stayed by Jesus’ side in His long day of suffering; who through his own great pain was the only one who spoke up to defend Jesus that day; and who shows us all that it’s never too late to believe, to act, to repent, to be forgiven.

  12. Much as I love the story of Dismas and the hope that it offers to all those who run out of time, my vote goes to Tabitha and to quiet faithfulness and compassion; to meeting the need before you with love and grace, and to all the saints, living and departed, who lead lives of ordinary service.

  13. Tabitha has my vote because of her work and love for those around her with no thought and probably no knowledge of Jesus. She is an example for all of how a simple act you are able to do can reflect that loving kindness on those who are not thought of as being worthy of love and change the world around you. Isn't it what Jesus came here for? In my mind she seemed to just live the example with no rewards in her mind, which is the best example we could have to follow.

      1. I think there was meant to be a comma in between - "No, Tabitha." As in "No, vote for Tabitha."

  14. This was a hard choice. We don’t know why Dismis did the things he did, but he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He may have been the “Robinhood” of his time.

    1. Absolutely! I agree! Tabitha took care of others with fiber arts! She's my pick for the day!

    2. Perhaps those of us who are prayer shawl knitters, could appoint Tabitha our patron saint ourselves! I love the idea!

  15. Dismas received the blessing of “knowing” his eternal end. However, a saint he ain’t.

  16. This was easy: Tabitha, a woman raised from the dead. I know that in the ancient world hired mourners were common, given money to weep and wail. But a ministry to widows would have been essential and yet easily overlooked. For all the women who blazed the path and walked the way with their own feet, I'm voting for Tabitha.

  17. On behalf of CK, a young man currently in prison, who is a friend of a friend, I feel I must vote for Dismas. CK has less than a year left in serving his sentence, which he knew he deserved. He is turning his outlook on life around, and is hoping to help others like himself when released. I pray for him each day, and ask your prayers for him, too.

  18. Beautiful blogs today--so moving. Then I read Michael Wachter's parody du jour and cackled with laughter. Lent Madness at its finest.

  19. Fabulous write-ups both! Neither of you had much to work with, but you did some Pulitzer writing nonetheless. (Dismas "pulled off the greatest heist in his life"--nice!) While Dismas exemplifies the very heart of salvific theology, I've got to go with my girl Tabitha (spelled with an "i," y'all!). In college I was in an organization of secret good-doers called the Dorcas Society, and I'm still a huge fan of the 60s sitcom "Bewitched."

    So for my Dorcas sisters, and for Samantha's witchly daughter on "Bewitched," I hereby cast my vote today for Tabitha.

  20. I love the brave women of the Bible , Tabitha ‘s life being another example of what women do in humble quiet faith.

  21. Brilliant write up for Dismas. I really felt for him - as Jesus clearly did.
    Still i voted for Tabitha. Because, well , fellow feeling for a woman of a certain age.

  22. St. Dismas! The first saint! The patron saint of being in the right place at the right time. Think of how many millions of souls he has counseled and consoled at their times of death.

  23. Tabitha. Easiest decision in the history of Lent Madness. A thief who just happens to be crucified next to Jesus Christ and get a last second repreive does not even merit consideration.