A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison
All Saints; Oct 28, 2018
Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
Jesus wept. Those of us of a certain age who were raised in a Christian tradition are more familiar with this translation from the Revised Standard Version: Jesus wept.
I find them to be two of the most comforting words in the entire biblical canon. Jesus wept.
Here, in the anguish of a sister who has lost a beloved brother, Jesus weeps. Jesus doesn’t shed a silent tear. This is no stoic Jesus. All decorum is lost. The original Greek makes clear the depth of Jesus’ response; it is a gut-wrenching response – a moan, a cry that begins within one’s bowels and grows until it catches in the back of the throat and explodes from the mouth because one cannot contain the depth of emotion any longer. It is a response from deep within the core of Jesus’ being and it is visceral, physical, and vocal. Jesus lamented.
Here, with Mary and with Martha, with the sisters of Lazarus and for the sisters, together in their collective grief, Jesus wept.
I can wax philosophical and theological about the many interpretations about a weeping Jesus … but today as we commemorate and celebrate All Saints, and in those moments of my own grief at the loss of loved ones, that Jesus wept is nothing but comfort. God in the flesh – God incarnate – God come to earth to be among us as one of us – Jesus, the earthly form of the God of Love stands with grief and in grief and weeps.
I do not weep alone. You do not weep alone. We are not alone in the most desperate and anguished times. God is here and God intimately knows our very human pain.
Two little words – Jesus wept – underscores the psalmist’s promise that God is near the brokenhearted (Ps 34); God not only collects our tears in a bottle (Ps 56.8) but also weeps on our behalf. That Jesus laments highlights every proclamation made by every prophet that God is with the people in their exile. That Jesus wept gives depth of meaning to every prophetic promise that God will comfort those who mourn. There is Divine presence and there will indeed be restoration.
Restoration and presence. In grief, we can also celebrate – muted, cautiously at first. We lament the deaths of loved ones and yet, at the same time we extol the God of all creation who transforms our lives and will continue to transform our lives and all creation, making all things new.
The Jews pray Kaddish – a hymn of praise to the magnificence of God and the sanctification of God’s name. The Kaddish is sung during every Shabbat service.
Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say: Amen.
Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort. To which we say: Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say: Amen.
May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel. To which we say: Amen.
This is the same prayer Jews pray during bereavement and on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Even in grief, Jews sing praises to the God of glory, who created the heavens and the earth and to whom all honor is due no matter the circumstance. The Kaddish reflects an abiding trust in God’s presence, peace, and the restoration of all things.
The psalm appointed for this day expresses similar sentiments: the earth and all that is in it belong to God. We, and everything in creation, belong to no other rival powers. We belong to God. Grief, in its power, will visit us; it will take hold of us, it will be a constant aching companion for a season or two or three – every grief is different and every person experiences grief differently. It will occupy our minds and rend our hearts and color – even distort – our view of the world for a time.
Ultimately neither grief, nor loss, nor even death own us or rule us because we belong to God. In the presence of the crippling power of grief, with tears streaming down our faces, we have the temerity to sing our praises to the One to whom we truly belong.
We belong to the One who wept in love and grief with friends.
We belong to the One who lived and taught and modeled Love.
We belong to the One who suffered horrendously at the hands of those who feared Love.
We belong to the One who died for the sake of Love.
We belong to the One who rose again because of Love and in Love, and whose Love continues to be present with us.
And those who have gone before us – our loved ones now dead – also belong to this same One, this God of Love, this God of restoration and peace, who is making all things new, this God who weeps with us in our pain.
As we remember our loved ones who have died, as we shed our tears of loss and grief, Jesus stands in our midst, enfolding us in loving care, and sheds tears with us. Through those tears into the empty tomb we praise and honor our God who has conquered death and who is making all things new.
Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan. May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say: Amen.
Blessed be God forever.