Thursday, February 26, 2009


My wife Bobbi and I share a common "favorite verse" of scripture-- the one for today. I read it often for my own well being and I often read it at funerals when people believe that they have lost so much.
The love of God, made incarnate in Christ, is crucial for us, I think, in understanding our lives as Christians. Lest we forget, our God is not merely a "pie-in-the-sky" God, but one who is intensely attentive to our lives on earth. Jesus spent so very much time in making people's lives better-- blind people, cripple people, deaf people, people with bad pasts and fearful futures, people with bad relationships. He did not come just to "save" them for eternity. He thought the next day and the next week and the next fifty years were important, too, so he set about changing them. His descending to us is a profound, foundational truth of our faith.
But I must admit that my understanding of the descending stops with God's descending to us. Nouwen's imperative that we, too, descend is discomforting to me and, I suspect, to most of us. I spend most of my time among relatively wealthy, comfortable people. I admit that I don't descend enough and I am troubled by that. I think I have some personal work to do.
His understanding of the "absence" of God and our impatience with it speaks to a great concern of my heart. Of course he is correct that we seek "rapid solutions" to the pain created by that perceived absence and that "spitirual solutions" have become "...highly sought after commercial items." Good grief. Just look at the television preachers! I love how Forrest Cate, the Program Director in our church, describes the work of the church. We are, he insists, to "create space" for the Spirit of God to work. Whether on a mission trip, in worship, or in a classroom, we are merely to create the atmosphere and the space. We trust the Spirit to do the rest. There is always a temptation for the Church, I think, to manipulate with drama, lighting, or music. But we try to resist that temptation. A good example is the Ash Wednesday worship in our church this week. Never have I heard so many good comments about worship, and they were about all the elements of worship. Some loved the handbells in the balcony. Some mentioned the 40 or so youth on the front rows, some mentioned the children who came for the imposition. Others mentioned the sermon, the communion liturgy, the size of the crowd--- all elements of worship that created a space for God to work and we experienced that Spirit. In addition to my "descending" into the lives of those around me, I am acutely aware of my own "busy-ness" and the need for some space for the Spirit of God to work in me.
Now with the Psalmist today I thirst and I long to gaze. I meditate. I sing for joy. And I cling to the support of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. While reading Nouwen's comments about "our longing for the absent God" I was reminded of the employee of the "Rocky Mountain News" (where I lived in Denver), which is closing down for good, who said "I'll even miss that obnoxious critic of the newspaper who always calls us!" Somehow, when all is silent, all our work is finished...or removed from us, when nothing is rushing us along, we begin to focus on what we long for...on what is really meaningful/
    important to a new perspective...on a loving God...a friend/relative or even an obnoxious being--a rival, a critic, 'an enemy' who was/is yet somehow vital to our existence, who shares our struggles for survival, our dreams, our hopes on this earth...such that, reflected in the face of God, they can be loved and even embraced by us in a revitalized warmth of acceptance!