Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prayer and action (compassion)

Chapter Ten of Wendy Wilson Greer's book of writings from Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing, is about prayer and intercession. Some gems from the chapter...

p. 136 - "Prayer and action... can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive."

p. 138 - "Our call to compassion is not a call to try to find God in the heart of the world but to find the world in the heart of God."

p. 139 - "Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation."

On 140 is this section entitled "Action as a Grateful Response":
Action is a grateful response that flows from our awareness of God's presence in this world. Jesus' entire ministry was one great act of thanksgiving to his Father. It is to participation in this ministry that we are called. Peter and Paul traveled from place to place with a relentless energy; Teresa of Avila built convents as if she would never get tired; Martin Luther King Jr. preached, planned, and organized with an unquenchable zeal, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta fearlessly [hastened] the coming of the Lord with her care for the poorest of the poor. But none of them tried to solve the problems of the world or sought to gather praise or prizes. Their actions were free from these compulsions, and consequently were spontaneous responses to the experience of God's active presence in their lives. Thus our action can become thanksgiving, and all that we do can become Eucharist.

Good, good stuff. May my ministry be motivated by such as this.
One last tidbit (and maybe the best so far), from 141, in the section "Acting within the House of God" (bold print mine):
...All Christian action - whether it is visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or working for a more just and peaceful society - is a manifestation of the human solidarity revealed to us in the house of God. It is not an anxious human effort to create a better world. It is a confident expression of the truth that in Christ, death, evil, and destruction have been overcome. It is not a fearful attempt to restore a broken order. It is a joyful assertion that in Christ all order has already been restored. It is not a nervous effort to bring divided people together, but a celebration of an already established unity. Thus action is not activism. An activist wants to heal, restore, redeem, and re-create, but those acting within the house of God point through their action to the healing, restoring, redeeming, and re-creating presence of God.

Wow. That is some powerful stuff right there!! One word that kept coming to mind through this whole chapter was "paradox." We live in such a paradox... citizens of two very different worlds. And that last quote just blows me away. I'm not sure yet I can wrap my mind around it... We are not trying to create a better world; a better world already exists. It is merely finding our way there... or learning to live there... or learning to live "in Christ"... or something.

I think this has huge implications in all things missional (or even emerging, depending on your use of the word). If you understand missional as "participating with God in his redemptive mission in the world" (Reggie McNeal), then this would mean that the mission is not so much 'redeeming,' but helping people learn to LIVE AS redeemed people. Right? Hmm. Thinking, thinking....

Peace out, peeps; and in.