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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Life is Good

One of the businesses temporarily displaced from its Boylston Street headquarters by the Boston Marathon bombings was the “Life Is Good” company, well known for its line of optimistic apparel and other sundry items bearing the “Life Is Good” logo. When they were able to return ten days later, a reporter on the spot questioned the company president about the irony of the situation.  “We don’t say ‘Life Is Easy,'” the president replied. “We say ‘Life Is Good.’ The support we and the whole city have received testifies to that.”

 I’ve been going to cluster meetings the last few weeks. It is always true that we see a powerful change in interns between the fall cluster meeting and the spring cluster meeting. In the fall most are still in the honeymoon stage of internship. They’re getting to know the congregation.  They’re thrilled by the chance to preach and lead worship regularly. Usually they’ve got an office all their own. They’re discovering all kinds of fascinating things about the congregation.  It is easy for them to say, “Ministry Is Good.”

 By the time the spring meeting rolls around they’ve been through a few funerals, and they can see others coming down the road. They’ve experienced conflict in the congregation and maybe even some conflict with their supervisors. They’ve discovered that some weeks are relentlessly long and demanding, that sometimes when a meeting ends at 10 p.m., you need to be back to church by 8 a.m. the next day. They’ve been evaluated by their supervisor and lay committee. They’ve had Christmas and Easter in a new place, a place where their role was up-front and not in the pew. They’ve discovered, in other words, that ministry isn’t easy.

 But almost without exception they come with smiles on their faces and ready to say, “Ministry Is Good.” They’ve learned a few things about ministry, and just as important, they’ve learned a few things about themselves. They’ve taken a big step down the road to a realistic understanding of the life of a pastor. And they are embracing it.

 I consider myself one of the luckiest people at Luther Seminary because I get to spend time with interns and supervisors, a marvelous group doing ministry together in a demanding world. Invariably there’s a lot of laughter in these gatherings, the mature and realistic laughter of people who know in the core of their beings that while ministry isn’t always easy, it is good. Very good.

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