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Footsteps to Follow: Mourning and rejoicing

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15 NIV).

This simple sentence is found in the middle of a long letter from the apostle Paul to the scattered Christian community in Rome. Paul originally wrote these words as part of a larger section of the letter, which focuses on what it looks like to live a life of love in action. It is also a gem that I believe is crucial for us to recover in the cultural moment in which we find ourselves.

In the last few weeks (months, years), we seem to have been bombarded by images of pain and struggle. Racially motivated violence and social unrest have been consistently in the news. Even with signs of hope on the horizon with the pandemic, the financial, emotional, and physical challenges are still all too real for all too many people.

Tomorrow, members of the Christian community begin our celebration of Holy Week with the remembrance of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. That entry opens the week that invites the faithful to not just remember, but to enter into the passion of Jesus. Through special services of worship and various faith practices, we are called to come alongside Jesus, feeling what he would have experienced that last week of his earthly life. He turned over the tables in the Temple, decrying the injustice of making money from the faithful. He gathered for a meal, in which he served his closest friends, including those who would betray and deny him. He prayed so fervently for God to choose a path for redemption that would spare him the cross, that scripture says it was like he was sweating drops of blood. From the cross, he cried out in physical and emotional anguish, answered the hate of the crowd with forgiveness, sought to care for his mother after his death, and promised eternity to a thief crucified alongside him.

We are invited, in this Holy Week, to experience with Jesus all of those feelings. We are invited to feel with the disciples, the crowd, his family, and even the forgiven thief. We are invited to mourn with those who mourned that week, in anticipation of our celebrations of rejoicing when some of those same folk found the tomb empty a few days later – rejoicing with those who rejoiced.

But I’d like to encourage those of us who claim the name of Christ to practice this “mourning with those who mourn” more often than one week per year. And we need not look to the persons in the pages of scripture to find those who invite us to come alongside. Look to the pain of our neighbors and our communities. Perhaps, look to our neighbors who are hurting, our neighbors whose experience has been different than ours. Look and listen, as Jesus did, and as Paul invites us to do.

It seems to me that, when we look and listen to one another, we can then weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Pastor Larry Leland, Faith United Methodist Church, Montoursville

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