The first time I thought about tears and faith was after I had gone to seminary and was serving in my first church, Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, California. Don’t get me wrong. I have been moved to tears as part of my Christian experience on a good number of occasions. Sometimes those tears have come as a conviction of my sins; There have been times that I have been moved by the joy of the Lord; At times it is music that moves me…OK, often it is music that moves me; on occasions silence reaches deep inside. However, it wasn’t until a conversation with the Senior Pastor at Fremont that I received an insight I have never forgotten.
I mentioned in my last blog that during my first adult baptism at Chapel by the Sea Frank began to cry and that his tears mixed with the waters of baptism. Tears.
This past Sunday during a conversation I heard the “T” word once again. I had seen the woman get up and leave the sanctuary during the baptism. I thought is was simply a needed trip to the restroom. But this Sunday, during a conversation she shared that during the baptism she had begun to weep. She couldn’t stop. She did not know what was happening. She was feeling something deep within. So, she left the sanctuary for a few moments. Tears.
During the service this Sunday my wife Terri was reading the scripture lesson. It was the story of Gabriel visiting Mary and informing her that she had been chosen by God. Terri and I had visited the two sites in Nazareth where history (or tourism) attempts to place Gabriel’s visitation. It had been a moving time for us. As Terri read those words of that visitation in Nazareth she was caught off-guard and tears began to flow. Tears.
Over the years I have had people share with me the wonderment and sometimes embarrassment as tears have come during times of worship. It may have been a song or a passage of scripture; It may have been the rush of a memory of time spent with a loved one; It may have been a look or a touch from a new friend; It may have come during a quiet moment. Whatever the stimulus, after the embarrassment was dealt with, it was almost always recognized as a thing of the Spirit. Tears.
I wonder on this day as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth if there were tears present in the story found in Luke’s Gospel. I wonder if the Shepherds had tears of fear or joy as part of their responses to the “Heavenly Hosts praising God and saying…?” I am certain that Mary experienced them. I have observed two live births and there were tears during those painful moments of delivery. I wonder if Joseph had tears as he saw Jesus enter the world and felt the immense responsibilities that he would face. Tears.
Bob was the Senior Pastor at Fremont Presbyterian Church. I had been hired at Bob’s recommendation for my first ordained position after seminary: Assistant Pastor for Youth. One day the topic of tears, faith, and Presbyterians came up. Bob shared this thought with me: “I am convinced that for Presbyterians tears are the sign of the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Most Presbyterians are pretty private people when it comes to their faith. Some might even say they are cold…’The Frozen Chosen’ as the saying goes. When God begins to melt the heart, to soften the soul, tears are often the physical manifestation of that spiritual work.” Tears
As Jesus came to die for our sins, so he came to bring us the Holy Spirit. In preparing his disciples for his death, resurrection, and ascension, he said to them:
“But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7
Jesus continues to do the work he began as he walked this earth through the ongoing work of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit in our lives. This Advent and now Christmas season, may the work of the Holy Spirit abound and if that manifests in tears….let them flow. Hallelujah!!