All Saints Sunday 1 November 2015
(Isaiah 25:6-9 Psalm 24 Revelation 21:1-6 John 11:32-44)
“How Do We Hold A Tear?”
(Title Slide: #1: “How Do we Hold A Tear?”)
When she laid the prayer shawl over my shoulders, I did not realize she had been crying. When I later lifted the prayer shawl off my shoulders, I felt the dampness. These were Mary’s tears. I wanted to hold them until they were no more!
(Slide #2: Chair with Prayer Shawl). The story of Mary and the prayer shawl is partly my story. I was on retreat and as part of the opening evening prayer service, all those attending were to give each other a prayer shawl, symbolizing how we are held by God, especially in difficult times of our lives. Mary gave me that prayer shawl but was, herself, in severe physical pain from her back as well as horrendous emotional pain because of a recent divorce. Mary left that evening and I’ve never seen her again. But that night I held her tears until they dried. How do we hold the tears of one another?
(Slide #3: Wailing/Western Wall). I carried this question with me a few weeks later on a trip to Jerusalem. I carried this question to The Wailing Wall, the main supporting the wall of the Temple Mount. The wall is most often covered with dew; thus, it is called the “crying” or the Wailing Wall.
(Slide #4: papers in the crevices of the wall). Visitors entrust messages of joy and hope and fear and sorrow into the crevices of the wall. The Wall holds these messages, most often messages filled with tears.
(Slide #5: Chapel of the Tear). I also visited the chapel marking the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. It is called the Chapel of the Tear, notice its shape, also called the Basilica of Dominus Flevit, a church shaped like a tear.
(Slide #6: Sculpture of Janusz Korczak). At the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, we heard the story of Janusz Korczak. He was a successful pediatrician in Warsaw, but gave up his brilliant medical career to devote himself to the care of orphans. He set up an orphanage for more than 200 children, and when the Nazis ordered the children to board a train that was to carry them to the Treblinka death camp, Korczak refused to leave them, despite the Nazis’ offer to him for special treatment.
This sculpture stands outside the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem as a testimony to Korczak’s commitment to the children, weeping as they went to their deaths. Notice the large hand holding the children!
(Slide #7: sculptured figures outside the mall) At the Mamila Mall in new Jerusalem, visitors are greeted by figures in chains……figures reaching out…..figures looking for comfort….. embracing and holding another.
(slide #8: from hen from the Chapel of Dominus Flevit). In the Chapel of the Tear, there is a mosaic representing Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings….” [Luke 13: 34].
(Slide #9: “How Can We Hold a Tear?”) How can we hold the tears of others? The shawl, the Wall, the chapel, the sculptures, the mosaic begin to offer an answer! We hold each other’s tears by holding each other, holding with assurance and comfort, holding even when unable to take away the pain, holding to give the assurance that tears and pain and people never need go alone.
Today we heard tears in all three scripture readings on this All Saints Day weekend. In both Isaiah and in the Revelation text, we look forward to the day when God will wipe away all tears. In John’s Gospel, Jesus weeps along with Mary and all the gathered mourners before He demonstrates his power over death.
This is the day the Christian church sets aside to honor all the everyday saints, remembering their lives and faithful witness. It is also a day for celebration and reflection and thanksgiving. This is the day where tears and faith come together to yield hope in the grace and glory of God.
What an excellent opportunity to honor the journey and to tell the stories of those who have lived the faith and influenced our faith journey. Today we celebrate that this life is not the end of the story, but rather a glimpse of the glory of God!
How do we hold tears of others in our lives? Gently, deliberately, with the arms of a forgiving and healing God…..because tears are precious and sacred, because tears flow from the deepest part of who we are.
True life and resurrection cannot deny the reality of death. Sorrow is part of human existence. Jesus is overcome by grief and sorrow; yet, out of love and compassion, He shares fully in the sufferings of life.
Jesus commanded it of Lazarus and he does the same with us: “Come forth from all that binds you! Be free! Be on your way to God’s holy place! Share in the suffering of others! Believe that all things will be made new!” Amen.