Holy Manna: March 28, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 11:1-45

What strikes me most from this Gospel, other than the obvious of Jesus raising Lazarus, is the familiarity of the scene that John sets. John makes a point for us to recognize that “… many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them,” and that “… when the Jews who were with her in the house, counseling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.”

That scene is so familiar to all of us when death arrives in our lives. The people who love us most, and those who also love the deceased, surround us to support us in our grief. There is a ritual in this process that carries through all of time. Can’t you smell the good food that their friends brought to share (maybe even a casserole or two?)? Can’t you hear the gathered friends crying together, telling stories of their friend, sometimes laughing at a funny anecdote, the silence that sometimes falls among them as they ruminate on their own memories? They are all here to grieve together and to wrap Mary and Martha in their love as they are truly suffering the loss of their dear brother.

Two weeks ago, my 23 year old daughter lost a close friend to suicide. Like Mary and Martha, my daughter is in extraordinary pain over this loss. Right now, she finds it difficult to even put one foot in front of the other, but I have been observing how she and her friends are figuring out how to mourn, discerning which rituals they need to get each other through. They have spent hours on social media talking about their friend. Now they are planning a small and intimate memorial for them to get together at a beach and hang out doing crafts together, as crafting was one of their friend’s favorite things to do.

This community of mourners is coming together to grieve, to console, to counsel, and to begin to heal. I imagine there will be tears, laughter, silence, and food. As it should be.

Lord, whether it is my time to mourn or to be with those who mourn, send your loving and healing spirit into everything I say and do. Amen.
-Charlotte Burnham