4 November 2018 – All Saints
There is power in sharing our tears, as pastoral leaders, as people; not ruling power, but holy power. We are people who often swim in a sea of emotions, and it is hard to name and make any sense of them. Sometimes the only response we can offer is tears. I’m not saying that we need to drum up tears . . . I am saying that there is grace in tears, a grace that is humbling. –– Kathryn Barba Pierce
The themes of all these texts for today are intimately connected. Because Jesus wept, knew human suffering, understood the sorrows and the joys of our lives (witness Jesus’ love for Lazarus), God-in-Christ dwells with us still, as Revelation asserts. We can therefore say with certainty that God shares our laughter and our tears, is present in all our experiences, rejoicing and empathizing. –– Melinda Quivik
The conclusion to the raising of Lazarus contains Mary’s assertion: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v 32). The Gospel writer describes Jesus as “deeply moved” and “greatly disturbed,” and notes that “Jesus began to weep” (the well-known v 35, better known as “Jesus wept”). Jesus’ anger indicates that the miracle of raising Lazarus is not a merely a story with a happy ending. Rather, it foreshadows Jesus’ own suffering on the cross. Resurrection does not trivialize or negate the suffering of death, but overcomes death by the power of God. Sadness and anger over suffering and death are appropriate responses (Jesus is the model), but confidence in the power of God over death is the final response of faith. –– L. Edward Phillips
Written in the last century B.C.E., the Wisdom of Solomon brings a new perspective to the Old Testament view of death: immortality. Wisdom declares that the “souls of the righteous are in the hand of God” (v 1, implying beyond death) because God has “tested them and found them worthy of himself” (v 5). This is not because the righteous are perfect, for they must be disciplined: “like gold in the furnace he tried them” (v 6), echoing Malachi 3:2b, “For he is like a refiner’s fire. . .” While this may appear to the foolish to be “a disaster”. . . it is the work of God purifying them for “great good.” This text does not imply that suffering per se is good. Rather, suffering is put into eschatological perspective: the righteous trust that the trials of life and death will not be the final word. Rather, “grace and mercy are upon [God’s] holy ones” (v 9). –– L. Edward Phillips
The conclusion of the Revelation offers a startlingly beautiful picture of the renewal of all creation, a welcome relief after the violence of the cosmic warfare in earlier chapters. Revelation 4:6 had described a “sea of glass” that separates God from creation, but in the end, “the sea was no more” (v 1). God is fully present: “See the home of God is among mortals” (v 3); God will “dwell with them” (v 3). Indeed, the relationship of God and God’s people is intimate, compared to the union of a newly married couple (v 2). Revelation 21 proclaims, finally, the end of separation from God and the destruction of all that harms God’s creation. This is the hope of the saints on which they stake their lives in the midst of tribulation, a promise that is “trustworthy and true” (v 5). –– L. Edward Phillips
Kathy Barba Pierce is an ordained United Methodist pastor and trained spiritual director in Huntersveille, North Carolina.
L. Edward Phillips is an associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.
Homily Service 42, no. 4 (2009): 100-111.