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Grown men don’t cry – Revd Dr Ian McIntosh

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Preacher: Revd Dr Ian McIntosh

Title of sermon: Grown men don’t cry

Date/time/service: Sunday 13 March, 11am, Choral Eucharist


“Grown men don’t cry”.  This popular proverb has shaped many a male upbringing speaking as it does of an expectation of a masculinity which displays no emotion or weakness.  When the Tsunami hit Indonesia on Boxing Day 2004, the BBC reporter, Ben Brown, broadcast a live interview with a lady who had lost everything.  They stood amongst the rubble of a former home, surrounded by debris as she told the world of her pain.  It was heart rending.  And his response was to offer her an arm around the shoulder, with tears in his eyes.  A rare public display of compassion seen on live TV.

“Grown men don’t cry”.  Yes they do.  And they do at the moment in the Ukraine where a broadcast last week showed a distraught man able to do nothing but weep uncontrollably as his home burnt.  Tears stream down the faces of those husbands and fathers who have to say what they hope is a temporary farewell to their wives and children fleeing from railway stations in Kyiv to become refugees.

“Grown men don’t cry”.  This one does when I see the suffering of others and can do little to help.  When those I love are upset and I can do nothing about it.  When I feel overwhelmed with expectations. And in a world where the rates of males taking their own lives is alarmingly high, it is important that we all debunk these popular myths which can be so damaging.

The shortest verse in the Bible is in John’s gospel – Jesus wept.  Grown men do cry.  Jesus cried.  He cried at the tomb of his friend Lazarus who had died before Jesus could reach him.  Jesus also cried as he approached Jerusalem in the days before he was crucified distressed at how that city would turn down the offer of peace and settle instead for an option of war and conflict.  And in our gospel reading this morning we read of what is essentially part one of that visit to Jerusalem.  Here Jesus laments over Jerusalem.

Lament is a very powerful expression of emotion.  It is a deep being moved over the plight of others, in this case of Jesus knowing that his life, his values, his care and compassion of others will not be recognised in Jerusalem.  In the very place where they most needed it, those who he loves will refuse it.   At the very centre of the faith which nourished Jesus, his love would be spurned.

Jesus’ lament is also a raging.  A raging at the despotic family of Herod whose forebears had already caused Jesus’ family to flee as refugees to Egypt when he was young. And now a new Herod who Jesus names openly as a fox seeks to do him more harm. And yet in the midst of rage, Jesus is determined that his mission of love to the world, to the Herod’s of this world, will not be curtailed, even if it will end up in his own death.

Jesus’ lament comes from the depths of his compassion – that deep place of being moved in the bowels that leads to wanting to gather up others into safety but can’t.  That is where his compassion always comes from.  It is expressed here by a Jesus who is deeply in touch with his femininity as he employs a beautiful image from wider creation of a mother hen gathering her chicks.  Laments allow this man Jesus to describe his longing in an image drawn from the world of mothering and women.

Laments are part of a language of compassion.  In the Bible and especially in the psalms, they allow impossible questions to be posed without answers.  They are vehicles to express feelings that need to be expressed.  They cry out to a God who often feels a long way off and who seems powerless. Laments enable a language of tears, a primal language without words, one that is greater than words.

So grow men do cry and they do rage.  And today as we worship this morning in the midst of war in the Ukraine, we too cry and rage.  We cry with the women, men and children of the Ukraine who are battered, scarred and so fearful.  We long with the many people in Russia and around the world for an end to this outrageous war.  We name that fox Putin and pray that he will have the decency to seek a withdrawal of his troops and to ensure ceasefires that truly allow people to be safe. We weep and God weeps too as God does in Jesus Christ.  God weeps to show the depths of compassion and solidarity with a broken and fractured world.  God rages against injustice and calls us to rage too – to be angry and to channel that into acts of mercy and compassion. God calls us to work for a healed world where such tyranny will no longer be.

It is very hard to be powerless, to have little to say in the face of such trauma. However, we have a God who is as God is in Jesus – a loving, merciful, compassionate God who weeps and rages and laments and loves.  And if that is what God does when life gets unbearably tough, then that is what we are called to do this morning and this Lent – to weep, to rage, to lament and to love.

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