Grace to Grieve – Pastor Patty

Nestled beside the ancient gnarled olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations rests atop what tradition holds as the rock where Jesus prayed. Facing west from the Mount of Olives looking toward the Temple Mount, a dramatic mosaic over the church entrance shows Jesus weeping. The Latin inscription is inspired by Hebrews 5:7, “…Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…and he was heard.” For the tearful grieving people surrounding him, Jesus offers his own heart, cradled in the protective hands of an angel.

The church is quiet and dim, reminiscent of the gloom of night that surrounded Jesus in his grief and agony. Jesus grieved for the people he gave complete and perfect love. He mourned what he left behind and he agonized over what lay ahead.

Jesus was not alone in his anguish. God heard his prayers. Angels provided a comforting presence depicted in the mosaic above the chalice-shaped altar that stands next to the exposed rock. Peter, James, and John can be seen huddled beyond a nearby olive tree as Jesus leans against the rock and prays. They struggled to be fully present to Jesus (they kept falling asleep), but they were there.

The words of Luke 22:43-44 frame the images: “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” Jesus entered into the fullness of human life and experience. He loved, he grieved, he wept, he prayed. He leaned on his friends. Jesus, who embodied love and grace, needed the grace to grieve.

God, give us grace to grieve. Give us grace to make space for grief. To allow ourselves to take time for grief. To rest in the arms of Jesus as he weeps with us. Give us grace to remember that we are surrounded by people who carry numbing grief, often silently, needing grace to grieve. Give us grace to be gently present to those who grieve. Give us grace to grieve the hurts of our neighbors, of all nations. Give us grace to agonize over injustice that in our tears we offer our own hearts with compassion, conviction, and grace for all in the love of Jesus Christ. Thank you God, that in your grace, we never grieve alone. Amen.

Rev. Patty Froehlich