Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44
This morning we celebrate and remember the Feast of All Saints. This is one of the oldest Feast Days in the history of the Church. In the beginning the early church remembered the lives of the martyrs on the anniversary of their earthly deaths, however during the mass persecutions under Roman rule so many were martyred – assassinated anonymously that it was decided that there would be one day in which all of the saints who have died would be remembered. Honored. And this is why today we remember those saints in our lives who have ended their earthly lives and are now living in the promise of the waters of baptism.
As Protestants, and more specifically Baptists, often the idea of saint is a difficult one for us to wrap our heads around. When we hear the word we often think of statues of St. Francis outside of homes, icons of the Holy Mother Mary. We don’t understand why some in the larger church pray to saints. This difficulty arises because we understand anyone in Christ to be saints. Don’t we? In our tradition we don’t have to be canonized or have investigations into our lives to determine that we are saints, but rather because we are in Christ we are already a saint. So as we celebrate and remember this day those who have gone before us, let us do so in the sure and certain promise that we are among them and they with us in the great cloud of witnesses.
Let us Pray….
Jesus wept. One of the most famous of all verses in the Bible. Mostly because it is the shortest and therefore the first one many kids learn when they are having memorization competitions…at least that is what I did. I needed to remember at least one. I wonder though if it is remembered so widely because it says something so deeply profound about Jesus that consciously or subconsciously it burrows itself into our beings. This is the lord of all, weeping. The son of God, with tears pouring down his cheeks. It doesn’t’ say Jesus wiped away a tear on his face. No it says, Jesus wept. I imagine it being a huge, snot bubble, gasping for breath cry. Not the macho man trying to keep his cool, but rather the soul shattering lament of a man whose heart is broken.
These tears, these sacred tears come about when he arrives at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. We don’t know a whole lot about Lazarus, but we are told that they were close. The relationship between Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Jesus had to have been an important one because there are two incidents recorded about their friendship in two separate Gospels. They are characters that appear in both Luke and John, something that doesn’t happen except for John the Baptist, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the disciples. It seems only those intimately associated with Jesus are named let alone mentioned in multiple Gospels.
Jesus had received word days earlier that his friend was ill. And instead of taking the quick way to Bethany he delayed his travels and eventually Lazarus died. Only the did he make his way to the home of his friends.
On the dirt road entering the village Jesus is greeted with the ailing of Lazarus’ sister Mary. Like the father running to meet the prodigal son, Mary breaks through the crowds of mourners, through the throngs of family to meet her friend on the road. Falling to her face in the dirt she wraps her arms around the legs of Jesus. Looking at him, her tears turing the dust on her face into mudslides, she cries out, “Lord, you could have saved him. You loved him. If you would have come he would be still living.”
Reaching down to his friend, he helps her up, his heart ripping to shreds, he says nothing for along time. His mind is not thinking, but his heart is crying out – compassion, mercy, frustration, anger, all the emotions fighting each other like a whirlwind in his chest. His throat choking up. He whispers in her hear, trying to keep it together for her sake, “Where have you laid him?”
“Lord, come and see.”
With those words the sacred tears begin flow. He can not hold it in any longer. His tears mix with hers in their embrace. Each one holding the other up. Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps so deeply that those around him grow concerned. They have never seen him like this, even when the news of his cousin, John the Baptizer, death. Jesus is weeping, a soul shattering lament.
The witnesses to this whisper to themselves, “If he was going to react like this which didn’t he save him? He healed the blind. He could have kept him from dying.”
Jesus and Mary amidst their mourning make their way to the tomb, and Jesus feels the doubts and questions of the whispering witnesses. This weeping continues, now with he added emotion of disbelief. How could these people not allow him to grieve the death of his friend? Are not his tears just as healing as making Lazarus well? Are not tears a gateway to the Divine, though which we come into the presence of God?
Greatly disturbed, still weeping, he tells them to move the stone and open the tomb. “Lord, he’s been dead for four days. His spirit is gone. He has begun to return to dust, his flesh is rotting, and the stench will be too much,” Lazarus’ other sister Martha says to Jesus. Afraid of what might happen, she tries to stop him. She can not see through her tears and into Jesus’ sacred tears.
She is trapped in her grief. He is gone. Lazarus is dead. Her brother will never again tell the slightly naughty jokes around the dining room table. Her brother will never hold the child she may one day have. Her brother will never again wake her in the morning with the cooking of the morning bread. He is gone Her grief is all she feels. True as the grief is, sincere as it is, through her tears that is all she is able to see – unable, yet, to see the sacred tears of the man next to her.
Our tears come in those times when the pain we have can find no other expression. The constant numbness in your legs, the ache in your knees, the kink in your backs. The diagnosis that this suffering will be will you the rest of your life. The tears come when the pain is too much. They are the rising of the pain seeking escape. Like the steam pulsating is way out of a pressure cooker, waiting for the final release. Seeking a resolution they cloud our sight. Leaving us wondering, searching, despairing. They wash over you.
They wash over you when depression and anxiety wrap around us like a boa constrictor squeezing life from its prey. Gasping for air, the light around you begins to fade. Spots of appear, the disappearing of hope. You feel your pulse pounding in your neck, in your head, you feel your heart starting to let go. The grip of anxiety and depression, seeks release in your tears. But you you can’t let them go because it will mean you are weak, your try to hold them in and as you do your breath becomes tighter and tighter.
For some the tears you shed are of shame. Afraid that if you tell your family your secret, that you are in love with someone of your own gender, you are afraid they will throw you out. That they will no longer call you their child. Your tears come because you are not free to be the person your were made to be. Shame, depression, fear form the tears.
Bullies attack you at school or at work. And the long walk home is then only place you can cry. Alone by the side of the road the tears flow.
Others it is the loss of loved ones. You can’t stop the tears flowing when you remember your son, gone long before he should have been. Your unborn child, never tasting the sweet air of this life. Your parents, the rocks of your lives. All of them have left you here alone. In your grief it is like you are having an out of body experience. You don’t even know the person shedding tears.
We cry out like Martha, “Jesus, if you would have been her you could have saved him.
And through her tears, through his tears, she hears, “Did I not tell you if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Looking toward heave, his arms lifted high, through the gasps in his weeping. His tears breaking down the barrier between heaven and earth, falling to the ground. His tears clearing the way for the pain to escape so that new words may come. New tears may fall, tears not of pain or grief, but tears of release, tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving. Looking toward heaven, through sacred tears, Jesus utters a prayer, “Through these tears, I thank you for having heard me. You always hear me. Let them believe.”
“LAZARUS COME OUT!” Jesus cries. Falling then, to the ground his tears puddling underneath him. Watching as in that fallen salt water a bloom rises, hear hears a din from the crowd, “Look, Look.” They say. He looks up and sees his friend resuscitated and emerging from the tomb. Running to him, not caring what the purity laws say, he says to those following him, “Unbind him and let him go.”
Tears are not something to be ashamed up. Tears are the waters of baptism we carry in us. When they fall, they free us to be closer to God in a way that we can never imagine. They become sacred tears reminding us that we will see the glory of God. Because ours is a faith rooted in the sacredness of tears. Rooted in the the truth of life. Rooted in the promise that one day there will be a time of no more tears. That one day God will make his home among us. That one day all this will pass away and mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Our tears connect us to that promise because we know that Jesus wept. And through is tears he shows the glory of God.
When the tears come through the pain in your body, your tears are sacred. They are true and they are yours. Your tears are the tears of the one who knew pain. They are the tears of the one who hungered for forty day, they are the tears of the one who felt the nails in his flesh. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of Christ.
When the depression and anxiety are squeeing the life out of you, your tears are sacred tears. They are the tears of the one who knew loneliness, they are tears of the one who knew betrayal. They are the tears of the one who knows what it is be be abandoned by those he loves. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of Christ.
When you are afraid. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of the one who wanted the cup to pass him by. They are the tears of the one who wanted to deny who he way. But they are the tears of the one who was accepted by his Father. They are tears of joy that come with the embrace that says I love you as you are. They are sacred tears because they are the tears of Christ.
When the bullies attack you, you tears are the tears of the one mocked and scorned.
When you are lost and alone because everyone has left you. Your son, your daughter, your parents, your friends. When their lives on this earth are no more you weep with the very tears that Jesus wept with. You weep with the sacred tears of Christ weeping for his friend.
When you are crying those snot filled sobs that leave no room for words, you are weeping with the one who descended to hell. You are weeping with sacred tears.
And when you weep with sacred tears something happens. Something begins to turn. Something begins to grow. Instead of our tragedy informing our theology our theology informs out tragedy. And we begin to see that our tears, painful as they are, are sacred and they are they very waters that run by the tree of life. We see that our tears, full of sorrow and grief as they are, are sacred tears and are they are waters of the Jordan. We see that our weeping will last the night but joy comes in the morning. We see that our sacred tears are the bearers of new life. The are the irrigation channels of healing and hope. They are the river rolling on and the mighty streams of justice. Our tears are sacred.
They are the tears of Abraham making his way up the mountain with Isaac bound turned to joy when the angel of the Lord stopped his knife wielding hand.
They are tears that rolled down the cheeks of the beaten and bloodied Joseph and they turned into tears of reconciliation and forgiveness as he beholds his brothers – lost but now found.
They are the sacred tears of a weeping Naomi turned into tears of love when Ruth says I will stay with you.
they are the tears of Job, sitting on the ash heap, turned into tears of understanding when God is revealed in the whirlwind.
Pouring off the face of the prophet Jeremiah, his shed his sacred tears proclaiming the justice of the living God.
Elizabeth’s tears of sorrow for never being able to conceive a child were a sacred prayer and were transformed into tears Joy at kicking of John in her belly.
Mary, hearing the news of the angel, shed sacred tears – tears that would flow the rest of her life.
They are the tears of Jesus. Jesus who knows the pain and hurting. The illness and anxiety. Jesus how feels loss and desires understanding. They are the tears of God with us.
And our faith in that God promises that there will be a time when these sacred tears will run no more. Their flow will cease. Because we will be in the presence, we will be in the very presence of God. Our faith says that while our tears on earth may flow it is only for a time. Our faith is the faith that knows this present darkness but looks forward to what will be. Looks forward to what will be because we get to touch it now. We are the body of Christ. When we shed our sacred tears we are the body of Christ – touching that space where heaven and earth meet. We are the body of Christ on Calvary ready for that great resurrection day. We are the body of Christ so loved that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our sacred tears are that reminder.
Our sacred tears remind us that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nether the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heights nor depths; nor anything in all of creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in our Lord Christ Jesus. Jesus who wept with sacred tears.
And this is why we celebrate this feast of All Saints. We celebrate to remember those we love. We celebrate to give thanks for lives lived. We celebrate to shed our sacred tears and be reminded that we are a part of something greater. We are the inheritors of a promise that is beyond our imagining. We celebrate because God is faithful to God’s promises. We celebrate because God’s story doesn’t end at the grave it goes on for ever and we are here and now a part of that forever. So, go from here today unafraid. Be in touch with the world. Let it touch your soul. Let it break your heart. Let us make you angry. Let us show you joy. Let it lift you up. Go unafraid to cry. Unafraid to weep. Go from this place with sacred tears and watch them reap new life where ever they fall.
Thanks be to God.