Jesus wept. – John 11:35 (NIV)
As children raised in the church, my siblings and I memorized various Bible verses. As someone who is chronically challenged with fact retention, I loved this unforgettable and bite-sized verse, which is the shortest in the Bible. Little did we know that we’d eventually find comfort in its accessible brevity when three of my four siblings and I survived the car accident that seized my 15-year-old brother’s life.
At his funeral, I cried near his casket as reality sunk into my bones. His funeral was the first time I’d witnessed the unrehearsed chorus of weeping that raw-fully wrenched free from the Black bodies of several of the women, most of whom I’d never met before.
These weeping women became conduits for the unspeakable grief of such a young and brilliant person prematurely dying. Their sonorous weeping—originating from unmappable parts of their bodies—redistributed the sorrow and created pathways for us to experience and express ours without being consumed.
Three decades later, after a prolonged pandemic season filled with loss and despair, I am yet again gripped by this scriptural snippet. I’m imagining Jesus’ body involuntarily contorting, loudly expelling deep grief from unknowable depths with and for his friends—back then and now.
Indeed, Jesus bears witness to and joins us in our pains of every variety. We don’t have to secretly sob or covertly cry all by ourselves. Jesus weeps alongside us so we don’t lose ourselves in our seemingly unending pain.
Liberate us, weeping Jesus, from the grips of death and loss. Make space for our grief, and then carry us to new life and possibility. Amen.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.