In the Lent issue of Journal for Preachers I found this gem. Thomas Currie begins his article “Not without Tears,” by quoting a sermonic essay in which William Muehl tells of a group of parents waiting in a church hall to pick up their nursery school children from their last pre-Christmas class session.
As the youngsters ran from their lockers, each one carried in his hands the “surprise,”
the brightly wrapped package on which he had been working diligently for weeks. One small boy, trying to run, put on this coat, and wave, all at the same time, slipped and fell. The “surprise” flew out of his grasp, landed on the floor, and broke with an obvious ceramic crash.
The child’s first reaction was one of stunned silence. But in a moment he set up an
inconsolable wail. His father, thinking to comfort him, knelt down and murmured, “Now, it
doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter.”
But his mother, much wiser in such affairs, swept the boy into her arms and said, “Oh,
but it does matter. It matters a great deal.” And she wept with her son.
This touched me as a powerful illustration of the central truth of the Christian story—the redemption found in Jesus Christ. We have all experienced brokenness in our lives. Some things can be fixed and healed and put back together. Other things cannot. In response, we have cried tears of pain and shame, regret and lament. At times in our lives, we have moved from stunned silence to an inconsolable wail. And likely, we have been told to get over it; it doesn’t matter.
Scripture is well acquainted with tears. David cried when his city was burned and his family taken captive. Rachel wept when her children were killed. Peter wept when he denied Jesus. Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. The Psalmist cried out to God, saying: “You have put my tears in a bottle.” It matters to God so much that not a single tear is wasted—God turns them into a healing balm.
When people talk with me about difficult parts of their lives, they often start to cry and then apologize. I respond by saying, “Tears are healing. Let them flow.” During Lent, we are given space and encouraged to reflect on the broken parts of our lives, to acknowledge the pain, to let the tears flow, and to begin the healing. During Holy Week, we will tell the painful story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus—the story of God allowing his Son to be broken so that through him we can be made whole—because it does matter.
Come Easter morning, we will tell the story of how Mary went to the tomb and stood there weeping. The resurrected Jesus appeared to her and asked, “Mary, why are you weeping? I am risen from the dead. Go tell the others the good news.” Surprise! Jesus turns death to life and tears to joy.
In the book of Revelation, we are promised a new heaven, where “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
Some people will tell you that Easter doesn’t matter. But, we believe it does matter. Why? Because Easter tells the truth—that is, in tears and in joy, in brokenness and in healing, in life and in death, we belong to God. Now that’s a truth that matters--a great deal!