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John 11: 32-44

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"


Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

By Mary Foster Parmer

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, the day in which we commemorate all those who have gone before us, those who have died in faith and are now seeing the glory of God. The Gospel reading for the day is the raising of Lazarus and this familiar narrative offers us a glimpse into the hearts of Mary, Martha, and Jesus. As role models of compassion and empathy, the laments of Mary and Martha and the tears of Jesus remind us that public displays of brokenness and grief are perfectly natural, and the grieving process is holy and essential for our emotional and spiritual well-being. As I reflect on this familiar passage and ponder the last 18 months of pandemic grief and sorrow, I recall how the Daily Office scripture became a balm to my soul. Oftentimes I record in my journal the psalm of the day, and the ones that speak to me and to which I cling are the psalms of lament. We could learn much from the psalms of lament, particularly in their open and honest dialogue with God.


Hear my prayer, O God; Do not hide yourself from my petition. Listen to me

and answer me; I have no peace, because of my cares. Psalm 55:1-2

Putting our feelings of pain, anger, sorrow, joy, and even hatred into God’s hands is far more therapeutic than keeping them inside where they will fester. In the final analysis, it is the lament that gives us a healthy, sacred way to approach God.


As Jesus heard the laments of Mary and Martha, he was ‘greatly disturbed in spirit and he ‘began to weep.’ Through his heartfelt grief, Jesus calls us into a spirit of compassion and honest healing. The Puritans called this the ‘gift of tears.’ For me personally, shedding what seems like buckets of tears has been a cleansing tool this past year as I have walked a difficult path and waded through deep wells of sorrow. Author Adele Calhoun affirms these tears in her book, Invitations from God:

"Jesus is the Man of Sorrows – God vulnerable to our sin and pain.

But Jesus Is also the resurrection and the life – God who conquers death to mend our broken lives. If you want to know the power of his resurrection, you will need to stand in solidarity with Jesus and this hurting world. That means accepting his invitation to vulnerability, weeping, and redemptive love."


As we remember and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us this All Saints’ Day, may we acknowledge the gift of lament and tears. May we also rejoice in our hope and remember that: Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:6

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Mary Parmer is the founder and director of Invite Welcome Connect, a transformational ministry of evangelism, hospitality and belonging.

Her personal call to work with congregations in newcomer ministry is borne out of her spiritual gift of exhor