Saved by Grace
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
Lord, we know that you ate our Savior and Redeemer and without you we are lost and alone.
Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer, was going to a monastery for a retreat. The monks observed vows of silence and the retreat was to be meditative and prayerful. Nouwen was delayed and was late getting to the Monastery on a very miserable, rainy night. Upon his arrival, he rang the bell and was met at the door by one of the brothers. He warmly greeted Henri, took his wet coat, took him to the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. They chatted into the late night hours and Nouwen began to relax and feel ready for the retreat. He knew this monk was supposed to observe silence, so he finally asked him, “Why are you willing to sit and talk with me?” The monk replied, “Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of my order, none is higher than hospitality.”
The church is a community as well, and hospitality should be a primary focus. Today’s church should be a place of welcome to all who come our way. There should be no connotation that only “rule followers” are welcome at the church. I fear that we have forgotten the concept of radical hospitality and confused it with assimilation into our group. If the church is to practice true hospitality, it must practice inclusiveness. That means no one is barred from total participation in the life of the church. I am concerned that we have lost sight of a most important tenet of Christianity. I thank the monastics for giving us a reminder.
Prayer Thought – Lord help me to remember that the open door of hospitality can have eternal consequences.
Henri Nouwen in his L’Arche journal ‘The Road to Daybreak’ gives a really helpful example of this by quoting a summarized version of ‘The Three Hermits’ story written by Leo Tolstoy in the 19th century, that for me gets to the very heart of prayer.
“Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived, he discovered that the monks didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. So he spent all his time and energy teaching them the “Our Father” and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when his ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water – in fact, they were running after the ship! When they reached it, they cried, “Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us.” The bishop overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, “But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “Well, we just say, ‘Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us!’” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, “Go back to your land and be at peace.”
We are caught so much in the “how to” of life that we never get to the real thing. Prayer and faith are things we just do.
But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.”… I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts – by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved.
———Henri J. M. Nouwen
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Everybody wants to be somebody. Since the beginning of time people have been trying to become more important. The words used by the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve were “when you eat of [the tree of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Henri Nouwen says that ever since then, we have been tempted to replace love with power. “The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.”
The real challenge for us is overcoming this attitude. As members of Christ’s community of faith we are called to be the light of the world. It is very difficult to be the light for others when we are centered on ourselves. Pray that God will guide you in a direction of selfless love that will allow you to be the beacon of love that he created you to be.