1.27.2010

nouwen says it better

Four months ago, four of my dearest friends in ministry sat around a table of home-cooked food and dreams. We knew that within hours people from all over the country were coming to a gathering of our doing. This reality baffled us, inspired us, and scared our tiny little egos into total submission.

As we sat around this table finalizing logistical and minor details of hospitality and ministry, our hearts settled back on the conversation of purpose. Why did we call these friends to come and join us in the first place? Why did we send countless emails and peddle our pipe dream like a gaggle of cookie-selling scouts?

We each had our reasons to ask for a gathering of ministry leaders. We hoped for Gospel and compassion and heart. I hoped for the anti-professional gathering, a gathering that wouldn't promote a product or another event or even an adherence to a brand of theology.

Ultimately, our gathering* was wildly successful in reminding most of us that Christian people need to hear the Gospel on a daily basis. It reminded us that we are more fully human when we hear of God's love. It reminded us how wonderful it is to healed of our infirmity.

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Today, seeking respite from the newly bitter cold, I climbed into a hot tub with Henri J. Nouwen's The Wounded Healer. I've owned it for months, failing to read it in fear of obtuse and inaccessible language. Quickly realizing my fear as needless, that fall day's meal came to rest in my mind. His words express our hopes for that gathering so well:
Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his millieu to the point of being executed as a rebel. page 20-21

Professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick, and the kingdom come into a blindfold. page 42

The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped. page 44
Nouwen in 1972 wrote my deepest concerns in ministry. Perhaps it is his critical contemplation of society and God's Word and gave him such foresight. I can only hope that I will listen and follow his lead in healing our world.

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*We gathered under the name Regeneration and will be gathering again this spring in Milwaukee. Find information here. I'd love for you to join.

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