Jesus is furious.
The translators tone it down, because their market niche is church people, who don't like their leaders to show anger, unless it's supporting theirs.
We certainly can't have Jesus committing one of the seven deadly sins.
But John's Greek is clear: Jesus is not just troubled or moved, he's incensed.
I don't know why.
There are theories, and I have suspicions, but I don't presume to understand what
exactly is happening in his heart and mind; if I did, I could too easily dismiss and
Instead, John's writing invites me to sit a moment with angry, crying, freaking out Jesus
as the crowd debates how he feels about his dead friend, whose grieving sisters
make reasonable sounding, passive aggressive remarks.
Jesus' rage has to go somewhere.
He walks it to his friend's grave.
Anger, in addition to being one of the seven deadly no-nos, has also been identified as
one of the five stages of grief.
If you've been paying attention this year, you will quickly recognize at least four of them: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.
These are not linear marching steps; grief is rarely a straight line, usually more of a house
with several rooms we wander in and out of.
Our church, and our country, are living in grief.
Some of us are in denial about that, or in denial about the messy reality of Covid,
or January 6, or the death of the way of life we used to know, with full churches and a feeling of safety in a civil, orderly society.
Some of us are wistful and sad.
Others are bargaining, like the members who call me about removing face masks
in worship, or lengthening the service, or resuming Sunday School, or whatever
other old normal we can renegotiate.
And many of us are just angry.
We're furious that this mess, however we define it, whoever we blame for it,
hasn't been cleaned up yet.
And it won't be for a while.
I know you don't want to hear that any more than I want to say it.
All the accumulated anger has to go somewhere—the ballot box, social media, family,
friends, children, whoever happens to be the unfortunate soul standing in front of you—and there's plenty of other people's anger flying at you.
And America has not trained us to be patient.
But the reality is, this situation that has stunk way too long will continue to stink
The Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth has studied the cycle of community grief
in the wake of a disaster.
A brief heroic phase, which is unsustainable, gives way to a much longer disillusionment phase, which does not end until, in the institute's wording, you are able to
acknowledge that no amount of heroics can change the fact that this loss occurred, while also goodness still exists in life.
The path forward to a wiser living phase, which includes acceptance that there is no going back to the way things were before, is a long, bumpy, winding road.
The whole process takes two to five years; we won't reach that minimum for months,
and I suspect this journey will go longer, not shorter, than most.
Too many people are affected.
Too many losses are involved, because the pandemic is only one of many issues.
And there is too much distrust in the air; how can you work together to rebuild when you
can't agree on a floor plan and are too busy litigating old grudges and playing the
blame game to try?
This state of affairs will last much longer than most of our fuses.
We are going to be living in the house of grief for a while to come.
The good news is that God's people have been here before, and God plays the long game.
The exodus took forty years; so did the Protestant reformation, more or less.
Today's texts come only after long, ugly sections of Scripture.
Isaiah's vision follows twelve chapters of woe and wrath poured out on all those
nations who are welcomed to God's holy mountain.
John's vision in Revelation follows twenty chapters of terrifying struggle with a lot of
fear, blood, tears, drama, destruction, and death.
Another John's gospel has reached a point where the authorities want to kill Jesus and the crowds have already abandoned him, then come back, wary and critical.
The beautiful scenes we see today are spoiler alerts at the end of long, complicated, difficult stories full of bad behavior and heartbreaking loss.
There are so many tears for God to wipe away.
There are so many things for the one on the throne to make new.
And he's taking his sweet time getting around to it; no, I don't know why.
What I do know is that he walks anger and sadness and grief to the grave.
He braves our stench and changes the story from death to life in ways we cannot see or
imagine, burying the pain and raising the person.
When we do see it, we will be called saints, finally dead enough to be fully alive in God.
We will be unbound and let go.
We will be made new just like those we celebrate today, those who have gone before us
through the trauma of human life to the triumph of Easter for everyone.
It's a long slow walk that takes too long and frustrates everyone, even Jesus.
Yet saints their watch are keeping, we sing; their cry goes up, How long? (ELW 654)
And after their cry goes up to God, their encouragement rains down on us: keep walking.