Living in a community is a hard place to be. Community demands that we let down our guard. It demands that we peek our heads above the fence-line to see our neighbors - to love those next door - to be for one another a place of healing, of helping, of light often in the midst of overwhelming darkness.
We in Nevis and Akeley have had this come full circle for us. Tragedy has struck, affecting so many families - wives, husbands, children. Generations are impacted by hardship, pain and loss.
But also, now we can see that there will be generations impacted by love, mercy and grace that have come to the forefront. Many people are joining hands in solidarity around families who will be living in the midst of loss for some time to come, through donations and meal trains, hugs and tears.
Last Sunday night, through the work of Pastor Tim Balfanz at Peace Lutheran Church, Daunten Veit at the Church of Christ in Nevis, Pastor Steve Nordby at Calvary in Park Rapids, the people of Our Lady of the Pines, along with Pastor Chris Davis, Pastor Loren Ferch, Pastor Rene Mehlberg, Pastor Tom Drury and so many more, we as a community were able to gather in grief from all sides of this story to pray.
We sang of joyous light shining in the darkness. We begged God to hear our prayers. We celebrated the work of God in our midst, even in tragedy.
We need to hold onto that as we move forward together. That unity of the Body of Christ, and of the people of Akeley and Nevis, is what the church is meant to be about. Life is too short, suffering too immense in our everyday journeys, to allow any more to be added to it.
For pastors, the goal is to be there for the people they love, the community they have been called to serve. That is what these pastors and churches are for. Tim at Peace, Daunten and the elders of Church of Christ, Steve, Tom, Rene, Chris, Loren are here to love you - to minister to you - to pray for you and with you. They are not the focus of what is called healing among us, but the voices of those crying out in the wilderness of this life, to point to your Jesus who has come to bring you life out of death.
This Sunday, some of our churches will hear the apostle Paul speak from 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, talking about his hardships for the sake of the Gospel: how much pain and anguish he suffered in order to bring to us the truth of God looking down upon his creation in mercy. He suffered pain even under the infighting happening in the church in Corinth.
The reading will finish with one of Paul's most famous statements: But the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Let us be weak together. In that weakness, relying on the Lord who is the great Burden-Carrier, we can do all things together.
Pastor Carleton Smee serves the Heartland Community Lutheran Parish of Nevis and Akeley.