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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On weeping with those who weep

I am part of a large family, at least by modern standards. Nancy and I have five adult children and a growing number of sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. We have five siblings between us, each with spouses and children, so there are cousins spread across the country.

Given the realities of life, it’s a rare time when someone in the extended family isn’t experiencing difficulties or challenges. There is no shortage of suffering, no lack of need for prayer. This is simply true. So you pray, you care, you weep together in those moments.

But a wise man once counseled me about large families. He was a parishioner who also had many children. It was years ago, when one of our then-teenagers was in the midst of a rough patch. He said to me, “Sure, Rick, with a large family somebody or other is struggling most any time. But the more important thing is that, at any given time, at least one somebody is healthy and strong. And you can get through stuff together.”

That isn’t only true for large families. It is also true for those “large families” called congregations and communities, places served and cared for by pastors and interns. At any given time in a congregation, somebody is in pain, someone is struggling. There are those you love who need prayer and with whom you will weep. But even more important, at any given time, there are those in the congregation—the family if you will—who are strong and healthy. And you will get through the dark days together.

Those of you who are at midway into an internship year will surely be growing close to some who are suffering. You will experience that pain—perhaps loss, too—and tears will flow. That is part of what it means to love. But deeper still is the promise that together you will live through the hard times, and experience Easter on the heels of Good Friday.

May you love. May you weep. May you know the painful joy of walking with the wounded. And then may you know the profound promises that hold us together with one another, and with our Lord, whatever may come our way.

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