God honors our tears - Reflections 10-31-18

 Texts for Sunday November 4, 2018

 All Saints' Sunday

 Isaiah 25:6-9
 Psalm 24
 Revelation 21:1-6a
 John 11:32-44


 I’m not well acquainted with practices of the Jewish faith. But, because of the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I’ve learned about Jewish mourning traditions. And I am touched by what I learned. The immediate family spends a week in mourning, reflection, and healing. That practice is called “sitting shiva”. In many cases, the family doesn’t even leave their home for seven days. The community comes to them, with prayers, food, and general care. The community creates time and space for the family to stay focused on death and to allow the tears, the grief, the pain and other emotions that come with loss to just be.  The idea of sitting with one’s grief, letting it in without distractions, feels profound. And feels even deeper that it takes place with the support of community.

This Sunday, November 4, is when we give thanks for, and, yes, grieve again, the people from our congregation who have died this past year, as well people who have died who were dear to congregational members. For a moment, we call All Saints’ Sunday, we sit and acknowledge the pain of death. The Gospel reading tells of the time when Jesus was stung by the death of someone close. When he arrives at the scene, he joins with Mary, and the community members surrounding her, in weeping for her brother. 

"Jesus wept" says the Bible. God honors our tears.

But our focus on the saints this Sunday is not a just remembrance or commemoration. It is promise. It is hope.

The first lesson from Isaiah – which is my ultimate favorite choice for reading at a funeral – describes how God will destroy death by taking it into himself; he swallows it. And then, God turns toward us and wipes away our tears. All people will come to the feast and rejoice.

The second lesson from Revelation tells a very similar story. God comes down to live among mortals and wipes away our tears because death itself has passed away. All things are made new.

And the Gospel does not end with Jesus sitting with Mary in tears and grief. Instead he strides to the burial place and calls “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said “Unbind him and let him go”. 

That is the hope and promise which we have been given. 

And so, we pray that we may join with the saints of all time when the first things have passed away. But what about right now?

Life is filled with so many losses; grief and tears continue. But through Jesus, things have already begun to be made new. We are not stuck, not bound, in death. Jesus calls out to unbind us each day. From what are you called to be freed?


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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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