After Deacons’ meeting Monday night, I drove to Atlanta so that I could be at the Mercer University School of Theology on Tuesday morning to be the guest presenter in a couple of classes and to preach in chapel. In the first class, I talked about the leader’s role in helping a congregation discern and articulate a vision for its mission and ministry. In the afternoon, I talked about staff relationships, and, since many of the students will soon be looking for ministry positions, about the process of candidating for a job. In both classes, the students were good conversation partners, and their teacher, Larry McSwain was a gracious host.

During worship this fall, the seminary community is exploring the Beatitudes of Jesus, and I was asked to reflect on “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It’s a startling and countercultural claim which Jesus makes: people who take time to enter deeply the pain of the world and to grieve honestly their losses are the ones who find themselves filled with surprising energy and hope. Mourning, Jesus taught, opens the heart to comfort, and tears wash away hurt. Jesus invites us to lament the shattering of the world and to mourn the breaking of human hearts.

We can only lament and mourn if our eyes, ears, and hearts are open to the pain around us and within us. That openness becomes the entranceway for God’s grace and mercy. Hurt faced and felt becomes, in the alchemy of God’s love, healing.