How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 14)

loaves and fish

How Jesus Grieves, a Sermon for All Saints Day
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-21
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Introducing All Saints Day
Traditionally celebrated on November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it
On All Saints Day, we remember…

  • We too are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
  • Our loved ones who have died
  • Those who have inspired our faith and led us to Christ

For some, All Saints Day is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. A day of inspiration. For some, a day of beloved memories. A day of sadness because those memories bring a reminder of grief and loss.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s ok. All those feelings are welcome.

Reading of Matthew 14:1-21, Jesus grieving the death of John the Baptist

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, is unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered. John was executed by a weak man, Herod Antipas. Herod was drunk, aroused, showing off. Herod got caught in a bad place. in order to “keep up appearances” before those who had gathered for his birthday, those he had to lead, those who might report his choice to Rome, Herod had John executed.

John had been a part of Jesus’ life from the very beginning, since before the two of them were even born. They met in their mothers’ wombs. At the meeting, John began jumping and preaching in the wilderness of his mother’s womb that Jesus was the Messiah.

John was family, literally family. If anyone understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was called to do, it was John the Baptist. If anyone understood what Jesus is going through- the sacrifices Jesus was making, the mocking, the confrontations, the homelessness, the misunderstandings, the persecution, it was John and now John is dead.

John’s disciples come to tell Jesus and Jesus is shaken by the loss. He’s grieving deeply. It’s one thing to lose a loved one, it’s another to lose a loved one in such an unjust and brutal way.

What does Jesus do? Jesus gets into a boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee to find a quiet place. But when Jesus arrives he does not find a quiet place. Jesus finds people. Thousands of people.

These folks are also grieving the death of John the Baptist. They’re heartbroken, sick, hungry, and oppressed.

Hoping to find quiet, but instead finding people, what rises up inside Jesus? What would rise up inside of you?

What rises up inside Jesus is compassion. Compassion literally means “suffering with.” He hears their cries alongside his own. He understands their pain because he is in pain. What does this pain do? This pain opens Jesus. Opens his heart in compassion, in empathy, his hands in generosity and Jesus helps.

There’s healing in the helping. He helps. He blesses. He feeds. He listens. He comforts. He heals.

Excerpt from an Instagram Post by Jen Willhoite @cobbleworks
“Jesus let himself be interrupted by the pain of others even as he was suffering, reeling in his own. He took what scraps of food and hope there were and offered it all up to Divine Love. He knew something abundant could come from something threadbare and it seemed he knew it started with honest sharing…with himself, with others, and with the Sacred One. He held it all aloft and the bread and meat grew in abundance. …

Maybe it was healing for Jesus to nourish others when he was aching. [What] if suffering alongside each other and giving our hope to God even if it’s just grieving scraps might be the thing that gets us all through. Maybe the 5,000 were fed and Jesus was fed too. Maybe we’re still being fed today by stories like this. Stories that tell us hope matters. That our pain matters. Our friendships matter. Our cries matter. Our gathering matters. Our willingness to say we’re hurting and also be interrupted by the pain of another all matters.”

Amen! It matters. It all matters.
Jesus was grieving and what rose in him was compassion and generosity and hope-
not bitterness, not revenge, not isolation, not despair

This is the power and glory of our Great God rising in the midst of death. This same power and glory of God are rising in you.

Jesus’ brokenness, the crowd’s brokenness, your brokenness – God gathers it and redeems it all. Broken hearts, broken bodies broken systems, broken bits of bread and fish- God gathers it and redeems it all.

This is our truth – God is good, God is strong, God is near. When we claim it and cling to it, this is what makes us saints. 

God’s compassion, generosity, hope rising up in us so we find healing in the helping.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints are simply people who understand their deep need and turn to God and ask God to bring good out of the pain. That’s what redeeming is- God bringing good out of the pain, out of the brokenness, out of the mess.

Today we remember we are saints. We remember the saints that have gone before us. Claim this life. Say “yes” to it. Place your trust in Jesus and follow him. Be a saint.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us remember who we are in Jesus- wounded healers, saints, set apart by God and for God.

Let us remember our purpose- to lead a devoted life of compassion, generosity, and hope. A life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. A life that inspires faith in others.

Let us recommit ourselves to this life, by first honoring the lives of those who have inspired us-
The heroic and humble who ran the race before us
The martyrs who sacrificed all for the sake of Jesus
And especially those who we have known and loved
who led us to Jesus and encouraged us to deeper faith and service

Let us pray…
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You surround us with witness after witness to your transforming love
Inspire us and empower us to persevere
Fill our hearts with courage

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You weep with us in our heartbreak and loss
Comfort us and protect us in our mourning
Fill our souls with hope

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You cry out in victory over sin and the grave
Raise us and release us to fulfill your calling
Fill our lives with faithfulness and good works

The message concludes with a prayer consecrating the elements for Holy Communion.

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How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

TED Talk Notes: The Three Secrets of Resilient People by Lucy Hone

Dr. Lucy Hone’s statement, “Adversity doesn’t discriminate” captured my heart. It revealed a truth I’d been living for a long time with those I serve as their pastor, the larger community and world I serve, and my own experience.

If adversity is a universal experience, could it be resilience is also universally accessible?

I and Dr. Hone agree. Yes!

After sharing her own experience of crushing loss, Dr. Hone says, “I didn’t need to be told how bad things were. Believe me, I already knew things were truly terrible. What I needed most was hope. I needed a journey through all that anguish, pain, and longing.”

She offers these strategies for rising up from adversity, for accessing resilience.

1. Resilient people know suffering is a part of life for all humans.

2. Resilient people carefully assess situations, knowing what they can and cannot change. We are hardwired to notice the negative. “Our threat focus, our stress response, is permanently dialed up.” Resilient people notice both the negative and the good. Focusing attention on the good, such as practicing gratitude, brings perspective and higher levels of happiness. Finding the good takes intentionality and effort.

3. Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping me or harming me?” This powerful question provides boundaries and control over decisionmaking.

She closes with, “I won’t pretend that thinking this way is easy. And it doesn’t remove all the pain. But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it’s that thinking this way really does help. More than anything it has shown me that it is possible to live and grieve at the same time and for that, I will be always grateful.”

flower breaking through concrete

What strategies help you grow and stay resilient? 

From the official TED Talk Notes: “Dr. Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, a published academic researcher, best-selling author and contributor to Psychology Today, the Sunday Star Times and Next magazine.”

Dr. Hone’s book is Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything.

Micah 7:8, ESV
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

Romans 5:1-5 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Prayer- Jesus, I Come (Matthew 11.28-30)

tunnel hall walk light

Based on Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus, I come

Barely bearing the weight
of responsibility
of loss
of troubles
of life

Jesus, I come

I need you
I trust you
For you are gentle
humble

Your yoke is so different
Easy
Light
For you bear the weight with us
and for us

So here, have my weariness
Here, bear and birth my burdened soul
Teach me your ways
School me in grace
in hope
in you
Wrap me in your deep, deep rest
Raise me in strength
and honor
and witness

Jesus, I come

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Jesus, I Come © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

#LukeActs2014: When all seems lost (Luke 2:41-50)

Searching by Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt)

Searching by Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt)

Reading for the week of January 12: Luke 2
Click Here for more information on the #LukeActs2014 Reading Plan

Have you ever lost something important? A much needed paycheck before it reached the bank. Your Social Security Card- who has my life? Your computer crashes- where went my life? My work, my plans, my memories.

What did you do? How did you feel?

In Luke 2:41-50, Mary and Joseph lose something beyond important.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

Over their lifetime, Mary and Joseph made this trip dozens of times. Three times a year a trip up to Jerusalem for the high, holy feasts.

  • Passover in the spring- the celebration of God passing over the first born of the Hebrew slaves and their release from captivity.
  • Pentecost fifty days later -the celebration of God providing the law at Mount Sinai.
  • Tabernacles in the fall- the celebration of God’s forgiveness and provision in the wilderness

Even though it was a familiar trip, it was a long and strenuous trip. Around ninety two miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem. At least five days on the road. They would take the route east down the Jordan River valley to avoid the steep mountains and shunned people of Samaria. When they reached the Dead Sea they turned west, climbing 3500ft up the rocky, robbers’ road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Even so it was joyful. Spending time with friends and family, joining other caravans of pilgrims looking forward to eight days of feasting and worship in the wonders of Jerusalem.

43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

It was normal for families to be apart during the travel day. Women and men spending time chatting with their respective genders. The children playing as the miles passed.

At night though you made your way to your own household. This night Jesus doesn’t show up for supper. Mary and Joseph begin to search the caravan. Family by family. Tent by tent. No, we haven’t seen him. The clock is ticking. The panic is rising. It’s clear- their son is lost.

Do we leave now and risk the robbers or wait till morning to retrace our steps?
Tick Tock.
The anxiety grows
What was the conversation like on the way back to Jerusalem?
A whole day’s journey
Tick Tock
Do they start blaming each other?
We made a plan. I thought he was with you. No you. I thought he was with them.
Tick Tock.
No trace
No Jesus among the rocks
Tick Tock
Fear growing
Exhaustion, too
Tick Tock
They search Jerusalem’s endless streets
Tick Tock

When does it hit them?
They’ve not only lost their son
They’ve lost the Messiah, the Promised One, the Savior

How do you pray at a moment like this?
I thought we were together, but I’ve searched and searched

Do they then make the emotional and theological leap?
I’ve lost God

It’s one thing to lose an important thing
Another to experience the sheer terror of losing a child
But to lose God
I thought we were together, but I’ve searched and searched

John of the Cross named it the dark night of the soul. A loss of hope, perspective, the ability to sense God’s presence. Prayers feel like they’re bouncing off the ceiling. Long held beliefs come into question.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, experienced it several times in his life. He went into the family business, attending Oxford University and becoming a priest in the Church of England. He and his friends were seeking God with all they had- studying the Bible, praying several times a day, working with the poor.

John felt a call to be a missionary to the “Indians”. It was a disaster. He made the long boat ride from England to Georgia only to find colonists. He preached and taught and fell in love and moved too slowly. She married another. He denied her communion and her father wanted him thrown in jail. After all, she was a governor’s daughter. John left under the cover of night, a broken, broken man.

On the boat back to England, a huge storm strikes. Everything fails him- his legacy, his education, his ordination. John is terrified to die. I thought we were together.

Surely the truly faithful never experience this. People like Mother Theresa. No, she experienced it throughout her life, too.

Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them.

In the end, John of the Cross, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, and so many others who have experienced a dark night of the soul find Jesus again. So do Mary and Joseph.

46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished.

After three days, Jesus is found alive. (I almost missed that!)

The flood of emotions- relief, guilt, anger, joy all rolled up into one. (I want to hug you and I want to ground you forever.) On top of that, there’s the astonishment and amazement. Jesus is found speaking with the best, most renowned teachers. Celebrity status. It’s like finding your 12 year old who’s into science talking to Stephen Hawking and holding his own. An uneducated boy from a rural community- not arguing, not debating, doing what rabbis do- listening to each other and asking questions.

His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?
Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

The first recorded words of Jesus. (almost missed that, too!) Had they ever heard him speak like this? Had they ever seen him like this? His simple, short response says so much.

The time is coming mom. A few more moments and I am an adult. I know who I am and I will be about my Father’s business. This is where you’ll always find me.

50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Mystery. Reality. Truth.

There are times when all seems lost. Our emotions betray us. Our understanding falls short. In these times we cling to God’s promises and walk through the shadowy valley. We never walk alone, even though it may feel that way. God is not distant. We are not abandoned. Our Beloved is near and will never leave us nor forsake us. Like our brothers John and John, and sister Theresa, and so many, many others, we cling to the promises, practices and places where Jesus is found. John Wesley returned to worship and study and preaching and serving the poor. Mother Theresa made the decision to keep doing what she had been doing when she last heard from the Lord.

Breathe in. We will find Jesus in his Father’s house. Among God’s people. In the Scriptures, the songs, the prayers. In the worship. In the words. In the welcome.

Breathe out. We will find Jesus about his Father’s business. In bringing good news to the poor. In proclaiming release to the captives. In opening the eyes of the blind. In releasing those held captive in chains of poverty, sin, injustice, addiction. In joining Jesus in his saving work of mercy, healing, and new life.

When all seems lost it isn’t. Just breathe

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For more hauntingly, beautiful work by today’s featured artist, Finnish photographer Latyrx (aka Mikko Lagerstedt), click here

For the graphics I created for my memory verses from Luke 2, click here

For the introductory post to Luke 2, click here

For more information on the art, scripture translation (NIV) and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.