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During my childhood, the best route to our church in West Palm Beach, Florida, was along a portion of U.S. Highway 1 where a cemetery was located. A stone archway still stands at the entrance, engraved with the inscription, "That which is so universal as death must be a blessing." I can recall wondering, even then, what that proverb implied for the Christian message that considered death as "the last enemy" (I Cor. 15:26). Like every Sunday school student, I had memorized the shortest verse in the English Bible, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35), and knew it was on the occasion of Lazarus's death. In time, I have come to learn that no one is untouched by the profound and poignant experience of grief, and many people of faith wonder just what kind of blessing it brings. Each person has his or her own story to tell, with a particular understanding of how grief may relate to the journey of faith. My personal experience has involved being a pastor to those who lost loved ones, jobs, homes, marriages, and dreams; being a son learning to grieve the loss of my father; and being a professor helping students think critically and passionately about discipleship in our post September 11 world. Each reader of this journal could supply a unique perspective on this subject, offering lessons learned in the crucible of suffering. The Bible and our theological traditions contribute to this cloud of witnesses, not only by reflecting the diversity of human experience, but also by suggesting ways in which Christians can find meaning in Scripture's authoritative teaching, can understand and comfort one another in times of grief, and can minister within a world that asks for answers and longs for hope.
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