Letter One – Jesus: The Heart of Our Existence
Welcome! I am so delighted that you have decided to join our study as we reflect on the words of one of the most respected and widely read spiritual mentors of the late twentieth century – Henri Nouwen. What I have always admired about Nouwen is his ability to refrain from preaching or exhortation and sharing instead, in an honest and most poignant way, the abundant spiritual life which he found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In these letters to his nephew, Marc, Nouwen seeks to express what is essential in one’s life and journey. What does it meant to live a spiritual life in a material world?
In his first letter, Nouwen writes that, “the spiritual life has to do with the heart of existence”; “the place where we are most ourselves, where we are most human, where we are most real” (page 5). To live spiritually, Nouwen believed that one had to live with Jesus at the center of one’s life. For Nouwen, the journey of the Christian life is to have Jesus become more and more important – “to live in solidarity with him” (page 7).
What I so admire about Nouwen is his ability to speak honestly about times in his life when Jesus had been pushed to the rear – when the cares of this world, the “problems of church and society” overshadowed the message of Master. This speaks to me because I think of all the many times in my life when I experience the same struggle – not to allow the problems of the day-to-day cloud or obscure my vision of keeping Jesus first.
But to assist us in getting the conversation started, I wish to draw your attention to the four questions near the beginning of this first letter: “What do I really believe? What kind of role does the church play in my life? Who is Christ for me? Does the Eucharist make sense to me?” (page 4)
I thought that by answering these questions, we can begin to enter into a spiritual conversation about “the essential”.
What do I really believe?
Can you answer that question with confidence? More importantly, are you willing to share your answer with others in these posts?!
So, here goes… What do I really believe?
I believe that every human being on this planet is created in the image of God – the divine dwells in them and our vocation is to acknowledge, marvel and respect that divine light.
I believe in the God whose love knows no boundaries, the One worshipped by Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of many faiths throughout the world and in every time and age.
I believe that Jesus is a way to God. My way to understanding God. I cannot say the “only” way to God for I have friends on spiritual paths in Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam who lead extraordinary lives of purpose and meaning. I believe it is not my place to judge their journey but to share my faith and experience their faith in ways that lead to reconciliation and wholeness among all people.
I believe that prayer grounds the seeker (and I wish I did more of it!).
I believe that Soren Kierkegaard was right when he penned: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
I believe that each and every day a person must laugh, especially at one’s self and the absurdity of life.
I believe that the three most beautiful musical instruments in all the world are the cello, the French horn and the human voice (I put that in just to see if you are still reading!)
In my daily work as a hospice chaplain, I have come to believe that listening is more important than speaking.
I believe that doubt can lead to faith.
I believe in love that was made manifest from the very core of the Divine. Love is trust and faith, in all circumstances. Love is never giving up - even in the most devastating conditions. I believe that love was the principal message of Jesus: “When you love one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” I believe that people must love, unconditionally.
I believe that light will always triumph over darkness.
I believe in grace. I believe in its power, the freedom it gives, and I believe in giving it as much as possible.
Most importantly, I believe that God’s last word for this world is not death but resurrection!
I look forward to the conversation with you. God’s blessings – Brian
Rules of Engagement
You are entitled to your opinion as much as the next person is entitled to their opinion. These discussions over the course of the next seven weeks are for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. You may disagree – but you must do so in a spirit of love and common understanding. If I should discern that a post is “attacking” in nature or derogatory, I will pull it from the site. Your assistance and understanding is gratefully appreciated!