A verse from our Psalm: “You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.”
‘‘Mommy I love you”
Eddie Justice sent his first text to his mom at 2:06am.
‘‘In club they shooting.’’
‘‘Trapp in bathroom’’
“Pulse. Downtown. Call police.’’
‘‘I’m calling them now”
“U still in there.”
“Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us.”
“Stay there he don’t like gay people.”
‘‘I’m gonna die.’’
“Answer your damn phone”
“Text me please”
“I love u”
“Baby text me” …
Last weekend, Eddie texted with his mom for an hour, from 2am to almost 3am, from the bathroom at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, then the silence of death, and a mother’s tears.
I went to a couple of vigils this week, in response to the mass killing: one at a church in Chapel Hill, a solemn service, where we prayed and sang hymns and lit candles; the other was at a gay bar in Durham, where we filled the street, hundreds of us drawing close together, as we listened to people reflect on those deaths and the society that makes such killing possible.
For all the differences between the two vigils—the one at church and the other at a gay bar—one thing was the same: the tears. Quivering chins, tears streaming down cheeks—bodies shuddering, trembling with sorrow.
This has been a week of tears, tears like a river, flowing from Pulse nightclub to all the rest of us, as we mourn the loss of life, of precious lives, beautiful life.
“To see yourself reflected in the beauty of others”—that’s what Justin Torres said it’s like to go to Pulse on Latin night. It’s a sanctuary, he said, a sacred refuge for people who have been ostracized by their culture, by society, by their churches, by their families. “To see yourself reflected in the beauty of others. You didn’t come here to be a martyr,” Torres said, “You came to live, papi. To live, mamacita. To live, hijos. To live, mariposas.”
So much beauty, all in one place, a sanctuary, a safe place for queer lives, until it wasn’t. And now there are tears.
“You have fed them with the bread of tears,” the Psalmist says, “and given them tears to drink in full measure.”
The tears of people who lost loved ones at Pulse, the tears of all the rest of us who mourn the loss of life, crying out for peace, for a world without cruelty, without violence—these tears belong to the world of our Bible. These tears flow like a stream through the pages of our Scriptures, sometimes turning into a river in books like Lamentations and Jeremiah, sometimes only a trickle in the Gospels, but no matter what book you open up in the Bible, you’ll find tears running across the pages. Our holy scriptures is a memory book of tears.
Genesis 33, “Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
Genesis 43, “Joseph hurried out, for he was overcome by affection for his brother and was at the point of tears. So he went to his room and wept there.”
1 Samuel 1, “Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord… She was deeply hurt and prayed to the Lord, and wept with many tears.”
Job 16, “My face is red with weeping, red from my tears, and dark shadows encircle my eyelids… My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God.”
This week, as I heard the news unfold about the killings at Pulse, as I read stories like Eddie Justice texting his mother from the bathroom in the club, just before he died, as I attended prayer vigils in Chapel Hill and Durham—as I let all those tears wash over me, I decided to flip through my Bible, reading all the parts about weeping.
If God offers us the bread of tears, as the Psalmist says, I thought I should get a taste for it—a taste for the Word of God, a taste for the bread of life as dough made with tears.
Ecclesiastes 4, “I saw all the oppressions under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them. On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them.”
Isaiah 15, “In the streets they bind on sackcloth; on their roofs everyone howls and wails, and melts into tears.”
Lamentations 2, “My eyes are spent with weeping; my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, because infants faint in the streets.”
Psalm 6, “I am weary with my groaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.”
In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo said that the church is like a loaf of Communion bread—when we see the bread, we see ourselves. We are the grain, he said: “after a certain amount of pounding and crushing, we are joined together by means of water.”
Augustine says that the water for bread-making is baptism. But I wonder if it’s the tears that come with the pounding and crushing, the joining that happens when we cry over crushed bodies on the dance floor, and in the bathroom.
“You have fed them with the bread of tears,” the Psalmist writes, “and given them tears to drink in full measure.”
The bread is a sign of a miracle, the mysteries of grace—where tears become a holy ingredient, taken into the dough, tears as the softening of the Holy Spirit in us, making it so that God can knead us into one another, into one loaf.
The bread of tears, a communion that stretches us into one another, drawing us into the tears of Eddie Justice’s mother, mingling her tears with ours, bleeding into our Scriptures, folding us into story after story of people who cried out before God, tears streaming from page after page, life after life.
Luke 7, “A woman stood behind Jesus, at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. She kissed his feet and anointed them.”
John 11, “Jesus said to them, ‘Where you have laid Lazarus?’ And he burst into tears. And they said, ‘See how he loved him.’ ”
John 20, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white… And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ”
Why are you weeping? Because of love. The woman loved Jesus. Jesus loved Lazarus. Mary loved Jesus. Tears remind us of love; they overflow from a wellspring of love. Teresa of Avila, in the sixteenth century, told of the tears that come with love, when loves grabs a hold of you—like the woman’s tears that poured over the feet of Jesus, like the tears of Mary at the empty tomb. “God gives us tears,” Teresa said, “to awaken us to love.”
The bread of tears as soft bread, softened by tears of love.
Where there is weeping, there is love.
Jeremiah 9, “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people… Thus says the Lord of hosts: Let them quickly raise a dirge over us, so that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush with water.”
God cries. “My eyes a fountain of tears,” God says in Jeremiah,
my “eyelids gush with water.” God is like the mother of Eddie Justice, weeping day and night. God is like a man who went home early from the club, leaving his beloved on the dance floor with friends, and now spends night after night this week, alone–his tears soaking through his pillow, crying out for the love of his life, now gone: his papi.
God as a fountain of tears, eyelids gushing with water.
Where there is weeping, there is love. And where there is love,
there is God, the God who is love, the God who loved the world so much that God became flesh, to draw near, to get close to us, as close as possible, to join us in our tears.
John 11:35, “And Jesus wept.”
Christ weeps with those who weep. He cries on behalf of those who mourn. And that’s what we do, as Christ’s body—we are drawn into the tears of others, into fathers and mothers whose children were killed last weekend, into the sobbing of a lover who lost her beloved mamacita, his papi, their mariposas.
We become part of them, and they are part of us, as we lose ourselves in their grief. Their mourning becomes our mourning. “When one member suffers,” the apostle Paul says, “all suffer with them.”
The good news is that Christ has promised that all our cries for redemption will be answered—all our tears, the pools of tears outside the club in Orlando, generations of tears that dampen the pages of our Bibles, tears that are the Word of God, the mourning and longing that are the pulse of God’s heart for the world.
Blessed are those who weep now, for they shall be comforted.
2 Kings 20, “Thus says the Lord: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you.”
Revelation 7, “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more, for the Lamb will be their shepherd, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Isaiah 25, “The Lord God will swallow up death forever and will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
As we wait for God to heal our society, to heal the church, from the hatred of queer people, as we wait for all who are still mourning in Orlando to be comforted, as we wait for God to wipe away the tears of Eddie Justice’s mom, as we wait for death to be swallowed—as we wait, we remember their names, each of them, so much beauty, every hair on their head numbered by God, lives held by God, bodies beloved by God.
Simon Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Miguel Angel Honorato
Brenda Marquez McCool
Gilberto Silva Menendez
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Xavier Serrano Rosado
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Juan Rivera Velazquez
Each of them so beautiful,
every hair on their head numbered by God,
lives held by God,
bodies beloved by God.
(With permission I borrowed ideas from this sermon by Melissa Florer-Bixler: “Through a Veil of Tears“)