Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sharing Life

I came across a great Henri Nouwen quote over at Jordon Cooper's blog. It hit me right in the gut - very simple but profound (I had forgotten how wonderful Nouwen is). In fact, I liked it so much that I did a little research, found out where the quote was from (Gracias: A Latin American Journal), and ended up typing out the entire journal entry. The bold part is the original quote - you might read this first, and if you like it, you can read the rest. I hope some of you find this beneficial (by the way, go ahead and consider this another kind of blog recycling - using a post from someone else's blog).

Oh, one more thing, this reminded me a lot of something I posted awhile back by George Macdonald - some of his crazy thoughts on church (an excerpt from Robert Falconer).

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After more than a month in Pamplona Alta, I have come to believe strongly that a “pastoral presence” is more important than any plan or project. This conviction has grown out of the observation that, more than anything else, people want you to share their lives. This afternoon I simply walked to where I heard music. About six blocks from where I live, I soon saw people dancing around a tree and cutting it down bit by bit. It proved to be a carnival celebration that is popular in the jungle of Peru, and that some emigrants had transported to Pamplona Alta.

Although nobody knew me, it didn’t take long for people to offer me a drink and to make me part of their fiesta. One member of the band told me without blinking an eye that he was a drug dealer and had just imported a kilo of “cocaine pasta” from Colombia. He said: “I look simple and poor, but I have a good business and make enough money to go to the World Cup games in Spain.” When I told him that I had met a lot of drug buyers and drug dealers in the Lurigancho prison, he was hardly impressed. It seemed that he worked for the drug underworld, and that he was so well protected that his frankness about his business was not any real risk for him.

Besides this drug dealer, there were many others who wanted to tell me their stories, some jokingly, others seriously, some heavily inebriated, others with a clear mind. What struck me most of all was the easy way in which these Peruvians received me and let me be one of them.

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time and the freedom to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and to drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

If I ever decide to live in Peru for a long time, I think I should stay in one place and spend the first year doing little more than participating in the daily Peruvian life. A ministry of word and sacrament has to grow from a deep solidarity with the people. Contemplation is essential to ministry, and listening to people’s lives and receiving them in a prayerful heart is true contemplation. I have little doubt that out of this contemplation it will become clear how the good news of the Gospel has to be announced, and how the healing presence of God needs to be made manifest among his people.

The greatest news of all is that God is with his people, that he is truly present. What greater ministry, then, can be practiced than a ministry that reflects this divine presence? And why worry? If God is with his own, his own will show me the way.

2 comments:

and then Life happened said...

Adam,

Thanks for sharing this, I couldn't agree more.
I think it is far to easy to get caught up in the vortex of getting on with the job and forgetting how the Father new the number of days His son would have on the earth. Somehow he wasn't getting his night shirt in a knot over allowing Jesus to spend 30 of those 33 years just being, blending in with folks, God in the flesh, and yet for all intents and purposes, just one of us..wow!!
Allowing Father to so drown us in the true knowledge of His vast love for us, just might be that which turns us ever so slowly into living epistles-billboards?

Blessings to you Bro,
Richard

russ said...

i loved reading this and it's inspired me to track down the book. what an important reminder you've given us. thanks. russ.

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