When Jesus arrived too late to say goodbye to his beloved Lazarus, his found family, one of his closest friends. When he comes too late, he does the truly human thing, he weeps. And some say, see he truly loved Lazarus, some cannot keep their mouths shut and have to admonish Jesus even as he is grieving. Why do we humans do this? Why do we shame one another when we are grieving. But we do this, we truly do this. We say don’t cry, or this is not the appropriate way to grieve, or the one you mourn wouldn’t have wanted this and tell them to knock it off.
Or we play would have, should have and we say if only we had done thing differently, then they would not have died. If Jesus had only come earlier, if only he hadn’t stopped to heal so many other people. The implication being maybe Jesus should not have given so much of his time to ministry or maybe he should have loved Lazarus more, or maybe Jesus didn’t actually know what he was doing.
The questions being asked when one is grieving can be really really harsh can’t they….
Why didn’t we know?
Why didn’t we do things differently?
Why weren’t you here?
And grief turns really easy questions hard
How are we getting through today?
How are we going to get up?
What are we eating?
Why aren’t they here?
And I think that Jesus, in the midst of his utter grief, heard the harshness of those questions. I like to think that just as Jesus did not do any miracles of time to save Lazarus or to skip the grieving–that as Jesus is sitting and crying, Jesus is also feeling the hard questions, because that is a part of being human too.
Friends, we have had a hard almost twenty months. We have been been struggling with the complexity of grief–and all too often instead of dealing with our raw emotions and our vulnerabilities, I think it is all too easy to get angry.
I know I have felt anger in the last twenty months–and I think the ultimate grace in the story here is that Jesus does not get angry at the people who do not believe him when he says take away the stone. He searches himself or is deeply moved. He has to search his soul but he is not angry, to me that is divine.
Anger is not an evil emotion, but it is not healthy if we are angry at the expense of skipping grief. It is important that we ackowlege that we are now bearing down on two years of losing people. We have lost people. It is good to say the fact out loud that life has now changed forever. It is good to know that our ablest ways need to cease and desist forever. It is important to see how many people have been living paycheck to paycheck, how much eldercare and childcare has been systematically ignored for eons, to understand that medical care for profit has resulted in this system that fundamentally does not work. We have to mourn what used to be in order to get on to the next people. After all, resurrection cannot happen without first death, and mourning.
So back to Jesus, asks where they have put him, and then at the thought of it Jesus weeps. And then, you can feel the emotional collecting of oneself, when Jesus takes a deep breath and asks once again, ok where did they put Lazarus.
They say, Jesus, look Lazarus is dead, so dead he stinks. If you want to say goodbye or whatever, it’s too late, plus he smells really bad. But Jesus says, go ahead, open the tomb. And they open it, and of course Lazarus is alive,. However this happens later. This is not until after. First Jesus grieves–so be sure to take the time to grieve this week, because if Jesus needed the time to, then surely we need to as well.
How about you, where is your spirit tending towards this Sunday? Feel free to share your thoughts or insights as we journey towards Sunday together.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny Presbyterian church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2010 and blogs prayers & Narrative Lectionary at http://www.katyandtheword.com and is pursuing her Doctorate in Creative Writing in Public Theology at Pittsburgh Seminary. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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