Then turning toward the woman, Jesus said to Simon (his host for the evening, not Simon Peter) “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair…therefore I tell you, her sins which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Luke 7:36-50
I am not a crier, usually. I grew up in a culture that saw tears as a sign of weakness. One of the first things I remember my grandmother, Mama Tucker, saying to me is, “Now, don’t cry!” There have been times when I have gone to see a sad movie with friends and have remained the only one dry-eyed. On the whole I am fairly stoic about a lot of things, but there are things that will drive me to tears. When I watched on TV the white officer holding George Floyd’s neck to the pavement until he died, I felt anger, frustration, helplessness, fear. But I did not cry. Not until with one of his last breaths he called out, “Mama!” did my tears start to fall. I have sons that I love, and in that moment my tears flowed. I wept for this beautiful child of God who, as his life ebbed, called out for his mother. And a few days later, I called a friend of mine, a Black mother of a young Black son – not yet a teenager - to see how she was doing in the midst of these turbulent days. I remembered how she had told me that when she was pregnant and went for her first ultrasound, she was terrified that she would have a boy. And how she said that when she learned that she would be he mother of a son, she sat in her car and wept. Not because she just wanted a girl, but because she was already afraid for him to grow up in a world such as we now inhabit. And so we wept together on the phone.
We live in difficult times. I think many tears have been shed in the last few weeks. People are suffering in many ways. 110,000 families and counting in our nation have wept over the loss of loved ones to COVID19. Others have lost loved ones to other illnesses or accidents and cannot lay them to rest as they would like because of the danger of passing the virus on. Others weep with loneliness, since they cannot be with the ones they love. Others weep because their means of earning a living have gone away, and they don’t know what tomorrow will hold.
In Roman times, women would catch their tears in jars. Mourners would catch their tears and they would be buried with the deceased as a sign of how much he or she was loved, or how important that person was. I have often wondered if the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears poured them from such a jar, and added them to those she shed right then.
Of course in those times men did not admit that they wept. But they did weep, of course. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, and Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I have a feeling Jesus may be weeping over the cities of the world today.
Recently I have heard several folks say that they would occasionally just burst into tears for seemingly no reason. When that happens, it is okay. Psalm 30 says, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” As I read in an article by Scott Hubbard, “The God who said, ‘Blessed are you who weep now.' (Luke 6:21) will not reproach you for the tears you shed as you walk through the ruins of our broken world.” Let us pray for our broken world. And then let us work to heal it.
Lord, we are your children. We often do not do the things you would have us do. Sometimes we just wait for you to fix things, when you are waiting for us to get up and get to work. Help us not only to weep and pray, but also to work for the coming of your Kingdom. Amen.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand. UMH 529
Pastor Rachel Moser