32When 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.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus 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.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I 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.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The 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.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: So they took away the stone…[and] the dead man came out.
The first time I remember confronting the realities of death was when I was ten years old. I was playing outside when my dad came out to tell me that he had just received a phone call from my mom. My mom was at the hospital visiting my great-grandfather, Fonzo Gravile. I knew him better as Papaw. He was so important to me and I never doubted that he loved me. Dad told me the sad news mom had told him on the phone. Papaw was dead. I didn’t know what to think. I knew Papaw was getting older; he was nearly 86. But I didn’t know how to process it all in my ten-year-old mind and heart. The next week, as our extended family gathered in tiny Brownsville, KY, for the visitation and funeral, I got terribly ill. I am sure that I had a virus, but I also believe my body was vulnerable from the shock of grief. I loved him so much – I am smiling right now just thinking of his big toothless grin (he would even eat corn on the cob with just his gums!).
I’m not sure, nearly thirty years later, if death is any easier to confront on the surface. I’ll admit, I have not had to deal with many family deaths since then. Only three other close family members have died since Papaw’s death in 1990. One was very tragic, though. And I have had to confront the death by suicide of a close friend, the untimely death of a college classmate, and many deaths of beloved parishioners over the years. It is never easy. Mourning touches the very depths of your being and it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the midst of grief.
Yet, with many realities in the life of faith, we must hold the pain of death and grief in tension with the hope of resurrection. One day, the door of death that traps us all will be rolled back, just like the stone from Lazarus’s grave and, later, the stone from the grave of Jesus Christ. And we will come out from death and into everlasting life. It is a promise that defies understanding or adequate description. I imagine that resurrection life will touch us as positively as death touches us negatively. In other words, consider how deeply you have mourned those you love. You will rejoice that deeply when you are reunited with them.
I’ve said before that the depth at which we mourn is directly correlated to the depth at which we loved. When you love someone fiercely in life, you will grieve them fiercely in death. That is why I don’t think grief and mourning are necessarily completely negative experiences. They are signs that we have loved and been loved. Grieving can be healing and healthy. The resurrection does not teach us not to mourn, but it teaches us to not let mourning have the final word. Unchecked mourning can lead to despair. Mourning while clinging to resurrection is not a paradox, but the path to peace.
I cannot wait to be reunited with my Papaw in the resurrection. I kind of hope he still doesn’t have any teeth in the resurrection! I do know that we will recognize one another and that we will be greeted by the Risen Christ. This week of All Saints, may we hold tightly to the hope of resurrection and to the expectation of reunion with our loved ones. As John reminds us, in 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” One day, the grave will open and we will come forward into pure, unending life.
Journaling Focus: 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.”
Have you ever felt like Mary – that if God had just acted differently or intervened in a certain way, then your life would be different? It is sometimes very difficult to reconcile our idea of how things should go and the way life actually turns out. We do not believe that God brings about tragedy in our lives in order to teach us things. However, God does use what has been meant for evil to reveal divine goodness. I think specifically of the tragedy of my uncle’s death. There was no goodness in his death, but it set the stage for my own father’s return to Christ. In what ways have you experienced something like this? How has God revealed God’s glory to you even in the face of senseless tragedy?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
Your spiritual mentors
This week think about the men and women who have shaped your life of faith. Some of them might still be living. Some might have died, waiting to be reunited with you in the resurrection to come. Personally, I can think of many people that shaped me in the love of Jesus Christ: my great-grandfather, my parents, my youth minister, my college professor, and many more. What aspects of their character do you want to have abide in you and shine through you? How can your life honor their lives? How can the presence of Christ in you connect to the presence of Christ in them? Connect with them through the timeless and mystic communion of the saints, in which we all remain unified int he resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Read and sing the hymn For All the Saints. By following the link, you can access the text and audio files for the hymn at Hymnary.org. Pay special attention to what this hymn says about the hope of all those who live and die in Jesus Christ. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.
Pray for those who mourn. Sometimes, those who have experienced great loss “come to the tomb” again after many years of dormant grief. For many of us, anniversaries or holidays bring back great feelings of pain and loss. We should never feel shame for grieving. Grieving is a natural, good, and appropriate reaction to deep loss. This week, as God to give those who mourn a peaceful “permission” to mourn and ask that they will feel God’s comforting presence. Become an active prayer and provide comfort and compassion for someone you know who is grieving. Pray especially for those who have been victims of the many tragedies that our world has experienced over the last week – tragedies that are becoming all too common in our world.
Meditation Focus: Jesus began to weep.
What do you think Jesus weeps over in our present world? Imagine that you see Jesus sitting near you. You notice that he is bent over, his face buried in his hands. He is sobbing, his brow furrowed, and his tears are streaming down to the ground. You walk over to him and sit beside him. Jesus places his arm around your shoulder. He says to you, “Come cry for the world with me.” You agree, but first you ask him, “What is it that makes you cry?” As Jesus answers your question, what does he say? What breaks the divine heart? As Jesus reveals to you his sorrow, allow those things to touch your heart as well. Pray for the hurts of the world. Finally, ask Jesus what you can do – in his power – to comfort the sorrows of the world.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have you grieved?
- How have you found hope?
- In what ways have you experienced resurrection life?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
This is All Saints week. Remember those who have died in Christ and find a way to honor them. Perhaps this will mean simply being still and replaying good memories in your mind. Maybe it will mean looking at old pictures or reading letters from loved ones. Perhaps you can tell someone a story about one of their spiritual ancestors. In whatever way you feel led, remember the dead – and remember that death is not final, for Christ is risen and so shall we rise!
Breath Prayer: LORD God, give us life.