Posts Tagged 'wipe away tears'

For April 28, 2013: 5 Easter, Year C

The Reading            Acts 11:1-18

This week’s reading from the book of Acts skips past Peter’s precedent-shattering visit to the Roman centurion and his family in Joppa to show what happens on his return to Jerusalem: he is grilled by the believers there, who have been taught from birth that they must keep away from Gentiles. How do we know who belongs to God?

The Response            Psalm 148

“Kings of the earth and all peoples… old and young together… let them praise the Name of the Lord.”

The Epistle            Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation this week closes with a vision of a redeemed world in which all the pain and grief that came into the world with Adam and Eve are no more. Strikingly, the holy city Jerusalem is not found far off in heaven: it comes as all our tears are wiped away by God’s own hand, and it comes to Earth.

The Gospel            John 13:31-35

“‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

 

Further thoughts

In this weary world it is impossible to love without grieving, because it is impossible to love without loss. Because not even mothers (whatever their small children may believe) can be in more than one place at one time, we suffer separations large and small; lacking God’s-eye insight into each other, we endure misunderstanding and being misunderstood. We grieve when others don’t live up to our expectations for them or when we don’t or can’t live up to theirs; we give each other grief, in more senses than one; and of course we grieve both for those who die before we were ready for them to—which takes in practically everyone—and, as we begin to see it coming, for our own death.

On some level we all know this. It is part of what makes Jesus’ charge to love another so darned hard: Sooner or later—sooner and later—it has to hurt, and hurt deeply. The reading from Revelation paints for us a luminous picture of a world in which that pain is no more… but Lord knows we’re not there yet.

One suspects that the believers in Jerusalem all went through some of this grief on Peter’s return to Jerusalem. One imagines brash, openhearted Peter rushing back to share the exciting news about the astonishing new definition of “God’s people”, only to hit the brick wall of the Judeans’ opposition; one visualizes the Judeans, horrified by accounts of Peter’s apparent dereliction and determined to make things as right as they possibly could. This situation could easily have led straight to impasse—to the sort of schism that has recurred, regrettably, throughout the history of religions and philosophies. Instead, however, both sides contained their disappointment and grief long enough for Peter to explain well and for the Judeans to listen well. They loved each other not only that much, but that well.

And perhaps that is exactly where the new Jerusalem is: not there in heaven, but here, and here, and here, in the hearts that we care for and cherish and in the hearts we miss with tenderness, in the praises we raise together and the prayers that we pray with and for each other, and in the drying of each other’s tears.

For Nov. 4, 2012: All Saints’ Day, Year B

The Reading            Isaiah 25:6-9

Today’s reading from the book of Isaiah is familiar from Easter, when we recall God’s people rejoicing in their liberation from exile. It is equally appropriate for our commemoration of All Saints, when we who yet live remember those we love who have died and weep with those who mourn.

 

The Response            Psalm 24

 

The Epistle            Revelation 21:1-6a

Isaiah’s theme of God coming to earth to liberate us mortals from death and sorrow is picked up in the astonishing book of Revelation: a holy new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, in which God the First and Last will come to live among us mortals and to wipe away all the tears and disgraces and griefs of the faithful.

The Gospel            John 11:32-44

 

Further thoughts

All Saints’ Day is a feast day of the Church. That it should be is clear from the Old Testament and Epistle readings. God Almighty comes in glory to throw a bash that features all the best of what Earth has provided, only more so: the sort of food in which one savors the range and richness of both familiar both the very best of the familiar and the very most attractive of the exotic (and who knew lutefisk could taste good?); the sort of drink on which, whatever one’s consump­tion, one grows merry but not unseemly; the sort of company with whom one can talk past three in the morning, no one is too old or too young, and Great-aunt Hortense’s old bitter jokes about Great-great-Uncle Leo are finally suffused with love and frankly hilarious because the old goat’s right there and laughing harder than anyone else; and the Honoree in Chief with the pierced palms, who is also the Host in one’s choice of senses, fills one with the desire simultaneously to prostrate oneself before him and to curl up in his lap like a cosseted kitten… This is, in short, the party to end all parties, the very Alpha and Omega of homecomings and home-beings.

There is a catch—no, not that this party is too good to be true, because my version can’t be true enough to be good enough. The catch is what has to have happened to get us all there. One must have been the product of a coupling that may as well have been spurred by violence as by love; one must have lost Mom and Dad or been lost to them, or sometimes both; if born, one has been disappointed by others, been a disappointment to others, lost and been lost by others, and been a mighty source of grief to oneself, in ways that range across the catalogue of human sloth, lust, envy, wrath, gluttony, avarice, and pride; and sooner or later one must have undergone the bizarre blend of terror and indignity that is  death—for to be human is to die.

Jesus is human. At the tomb of Lazarus he weeps, which looks like what we mortals do, but the description of him as deeply disturbed has puzzled me. Then the wife of a pastor I know told me that Andy begins his funeral sermons with the exclamation, “I hate death!” I think Andy speaks God’s mind here: death is not merely awful but deeply, irremediably wrong. Yet Jesus by choice endures and even swallows up death to get us into the banquet.

To be human is indeed to die and to weep. We Christians have faith that our tears will be dried in the Kingdom, and meanwhile we dab at our own tears with the faith that we clutch like a handkerchief. What if we bore our love into the world as a handkerchief here and now for the tears of all the souls around us?


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