2017 – Cycle A
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
When was the last time you wept, tears streaming down your face?
What was the reason for your tears?
In our culture we are made uncomfortable by tears. I wonder why? We tell people not to cry, that things will get better. We tell people to be “strong”. Whatever that means other than to tell a person to deny their feelings because we are uncomfortable, because we can’t fix it, because we don’t want to deal with such strong emotions, because a crying person may cause us to relive events and people we have consigned to the land of forgetfulness?
So people cry, sob, and weep alone and hidden.
- How many children of Syria cry daily because there is no bread?
- How many tears are held in abeyance by men whose cultures do not let them shed tears lest they be seen as weak? …like women?
- How many Somalian mothers wail as their children die in their arms from lack of clean water and food?
- How many tears are shed in war? Soldiers for the comrades, families for their homes, nations for their future.
- How many tears are silently shed by parents whose children have died, are in prison, have made poor life decisions, are devoured by addictions, are runaways, are…?
Though Absalom, King David’s son, led a rebellion against his father, when David heard his son was killed in battle the Bible records: “King David was shaken, and went up to the room over the city gate to weep. He said as he wept, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” [2 Samuel 19:1] David’s voice trails off in tears joining the chorus of all parents whose children have died.
- Have you ever cried because of the pain you feel in your chest due to relationship? A relationship that has been healed? A reunion of friends? A relationship that has faded away or broken, dead?
Do you remember the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who, out of jealousy was sold into slavery by his own brothers? The encounter in Egypt years later of Joseph with his brothers who do not recognize him is filled with tension. The conflict of revenge, memory, betrayal, hate, and surrender to be reunited with family all churning within Joseph. Tears mark the entire story for Joseph. “The brothers did not know, of course, that Joseph understood what they said, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. But turning away from them, Joseph wept.” [Genesis 42: 23-24] Later in the story, “Joseph had to hurry out, for he was so overcome with love for his brother Benjamin that he was on the verge of tears. He went into a private room and wept there.” [Genesis 43:30] “Joseph could no longer control himself… “Have everyone withdraw from me!” But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him.” [Genesis 45:1]
Tears of memory; family and betrayal, reconciliation and forgiveness, love and hate.
The 4th century Syriac Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) explains the importance of tears “…There are tears that arise from sorrow and there are tears that arise from joy…A person may weep because of their sins – and they do well to do so…”
- Have any of us ever wept because of our sins? …because of the harm we may have done to another person?
“And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus has spoken. He went out and began to weep bitterly.” [Matthew 26:75; See Mark 14:72, Luke 22:62]
“Sorrow [tears, weeping] that is because of God is regret which turns a person to salvation.” [Liber Graduum]
As Jesus and his disciples approach Mary and Martha’s home, the tension between life and death intensifies and the immediacy of grief is overwhelming. Weeping and lament fill the air. “When Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews who had been with her weeping, he was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions. And Jesus wept.” [John 11:33-35]
Tears show our vulnerability. Tears are a gift from God to remind us of our need for God and people. Tears reveal a broken, humbled heart.
…a broken, humbled heart.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you wept for yourself?