• Pastor Margot Wright

All the If's-invite us to Ponder, Pause and Pray



I can hear it. I can identify. I can feel it. In our gospel reading for this All Saints Sunday November 7, 2021 John 11:32-44. There are a number of “If’s” in chapter eleven Reading through the entire chapter I hear all the “if’s”. I can identify when both Martha and Mary use if in the “if only you had been here”. In their grief, in their sorrow, they wonder… what if?


What if? What if Jesus hadn’t waited four days before coming to Bethany? What if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was just sick and not dead?


Both Mary and Martha say to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”.


If only…can you relate to those if’s of- the “should have, would have, could have” the ifs of regret o rof blame or of confusion. “If” is one of the words that often accompanies the heart broken open. In our grief. In our sorrow. In our fear. In our anger. In our blame. In our confusion. In our regret. In our remorse…the list can go on and on and we wonder “what if” or proclaim “if only”. This is the place where the wide expanse of human feelings is laid open. This is part of our human experience of grief especially the grief that surrounds death.


Into all these “ifs” - the if only’s- especially I invite you to pause. Allow for a deep breath right now even as you read this. Pause. Ponder. Pray. When in the midst of grief, heartbreak, sorrow, doubt, fear, regret, anger, outrage, agitation, disturbance, turbulence- practice these 3 “p’s” pause, ponder, pray.


Pause. In a deep breath. God is with us in every breath. God breathed into each of us our first breath and God is with us at our last breath. Breathe. This pause can help create the space- get our hearts and minds and bodies back into the very present moment. If’s go to the past or project into the future. In the pause- be in this very present moment. More will be revealed and when we can be in the very moment when more is revealed we will be present for it.

Ponder. Quietly, deeply, soberly. This is an extension of the pause.


Pray Even when you have no words we trust the Spirit intercedes for us. The song in the video at the top of this post is based on Romans 8:26-27:.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Into all the “ifs” as well as the ands and the buts- pause, ponder and pray. The expression “no ifs ands or buts” is used to express certainty- without a doubt. Here’s a little history of that expression. This journey of following Jesus is an invitation into faith which can hold all the uncertainties as it is not about us- faith is for us. A gift in the midst of grief and an acceptance of all the ifs, all the ands and the all the buts.


As we ring a bell for all the saints those who have died and those who have been baptized we pause, we ponder and we pray trusting the Spirit intercedes for us - in our if’s, in our if only, in our should have, could have, would haves and brings us back to this very moment where the power and presence of God are in each breath.


I can hear it. I can identify. I can feel it. In our gospel reading for this All Saints Sunday November 7, 2021 John 11:32-44. There are a number of “If’s” in chapter eleven Reading through the entire chapter I hear all the “if’s”. I can identify when both Martha and Mary use if in the “if only you had been here”. In their grief, in their sorrow, they wonder… what if?


What if? What if Jesus hadn’t waited four days before coming to Bethany? What if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was just sick and not dead?


Both Mary and Martha say to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”.


If only…can you relate to those if’s of- the “should have, would have, could have” the ifs of regret or of blame or of confusion. “If” is one of the words that often accompanies the heart broken open. In our grief. In our sorrow. In our fear. In our anger. In our blame. In our confusion. In our regret. In our remorse…the list can go on and on and we wonder “what if” or proclaim “if only”. This is the place where the wide expanse of human feelings is laid open. This is part of our human experience of grief especially the grief that surrounds death.

Into all these “ifs” - the if only’s- especially I invite you to pause. Allow for a deep breath right now even as you read this. Pause. Ponder. Pray. When in the midst of grief, heartbreak, sorrow, doubt, fear, regret, anger, outrage, agitation, disturbance, turbulence- practice these 3 “p’s” pause, ponder, pray.

Pause. In a deep breath. God is with us in every breath. God breathed into each of us our first breath and God is with us at our last breath. Breathe. This pause can help create the space- get our hearts and minds and bodies back into the very present moment. If’s go to the past or project into the future. In the pause- be in this very present moment. More will be revealed and when we can be in the very moment when more is revealed we will be present for it.


Ponder. Quietly, deeply, soberly. This is an extension of the pause. Creating space for the power of the Spirit to be felt by us.


Pray Even when you have no words we trust the Spirit intercedes for us. Here is a song based on Romans 8. The song in the video at the top of this post can serve as a prayer when you have no words. Others' prayers can become our prayers. And even those moments of deep silence can become our prayers.


26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Into all the “ifs” as well as the ands and the buts- pause, ponder and pray. The expression “no ifs ands or buts” is used to express certainty- without a doubt. Here’s a little history of that expression. This journey of following Jesus is an invitation into faith which can hold all the uncertainties as it is not about us- faith is for us. A gift in the midst of grief and an acceptance of all the ifs, all the ands and the all the buts.


As we ring a bell for all the saints those who have died and those who have been baptized we pause, we ponder and we pray trusting the Spirit intercedes for us - in our if’s, in our if only, in our should have, could have, would haves and brings us back to this very moment where the power and presence of God are in each breath. With each ringing of the bell to pause, ponder and prayer even if.

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