SERMON All Saints 2018 John 11
Growing up, I was always ashamed to cry in front of people. I feared how others might view me. I thought, “They think I’m weak, they feel sorry for me, I look ridiculous…” For years, I put my guard up and swallowed my feelings –which is not healthy. Worship was the one place where my guard came down and where I felt safe to cry. I wasn’t weeping in front of others, I was weeping with the Lord. Everyone else’s attention wasn’t on me, it was on Jesus. And we were all free to worship, weep, pray and praise God without fear. I have said for years now, “If you can’t cry in church, where can you cry?” I’ve cried more in worship over the years than anywhere else. Tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of thanksgiving, tears of frustration, tears of solidarity, tears from being overwhelmed by God’s majesty and goodness. I know I’m not the only one who cries in church.
Today, I am not ashamed of the tears I’ve shed. Weeping is not a sign of weakness, but rather of emotional strength. I am no longer ashamed because Jesus Christ makes holy all our tears by shedding his own for us.
In our gospel story from John’s gospel today, we see that even our Lord Jesus experienced grief when his dear friend Lazarus suddenly died. When Jesus arrived in Bethany 4 days after Lazarus had died, and when he spoke with his dear friends Mary and Martha as he accompanied them in their grief over the loss of their brother, our scripture says, “Jesus was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” The Greek word for “greatly disturbed in spirit” points to a sense of raw, gut-wrenching emotion. As Jesus witnessed their weeping and their anger and their pain –as Jesus experienced all of Mary and Martha’s raw, gut-wrenching emotion at the death of their beloved brother, Jesus asked to see Lazarus’ tomb. And even though he knew all along what he was about to do, he knew that he would raise Lazarus from the dead- so moved was he by the grief of his friends, and by his own grief, that Jesus began to weep. Jesus wept, and in so doing, Jesus hallowed every tear that we have ever shed. Every time we’ve felt punched in the gut by grief, every time we’ve found ourselves overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, every time we’ve been numb for weeks after our loved one’s death and all of a sudden crumble on the bathroom floor. Jesus has been there, and Jesus is with us each and every time we cry, each and every time we grieve.
Jesus went with the crowd to the tomb. Martha tried to warn him that it would not be a pretty picture. Lazarus had already been dead and buried 4 days, he’d already began to decompose. The tomb reeked of death. But, Jesus would not be deterred. He told Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Jesus prayed and let out a bellow to wake the dead, “Lazarus, Come out!” And Lazarus, who had been a corpse, a memory, but a moment ago, shuffled out of his tomb with his hands and feet still wrapped in his burial clothes. And Jesus declared, “Unbind him and let him go!”
Jesus sits with each one of us in our grief and pain, and in due time, Jesus calls us out of the tomb of mourning and into the light of hope for tomorrow. Jesus himself unbinds us and sets us free so that we can go on living. Just as a resurrected Lazarus would never be quite the same as he was before death struck him, so we are never quite the same after experiencing the death of the one we love. We are never quite the same, but in Jesus Christ, we are unbound and set free to find new life even after a lengthy stay inside the tomb.
Mourning and crying and pain are a part of what it means to be human. Indeed, mourning and crying and pain are part of life for anyone who has ever experienced the sublime gift of love. When our loved ones die, we mourn, we cry, and we hurt -even though we have hope through our Lord Jesus Christ that the dead will not stay dead. Today, on All Saints Sunday, we tend to one another in our grief, we remember those whom we have loved and lost, and we give thanks to God almighty for the hope in which we share. God is drawing us all together into God’s gracious will for our world, as described by Isaiah and Revelation.
The end of the world as we know it is the beginning of the Resurrection of the Dead. The end of the world as we know it is the end of all mourning and crying and pain for the end of the world as we know it is the end of death itself.
God alone knows what we’ve each been through, and God will gently wipe away every tear we’ve shed to make way for the endless joy of the new heaven and new earth. Our Lord Jesus makes holy all our tears until the day comes when we will no longer need them.
Until that day comes, we gather with all the saints in heaven and on earth when we share memory and love and Christ’s own presence at this feast of bread and wine. We share in Holy Communion with the whole Communion of Saints until we meet one another face to face around the feast of rich foods with marrow and well aged wines strained clear. Amen.