[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

5.22.2004

the temptation of relevance

if you read these pages, you know i'm struggling a little bit w/ how i am to be a priest in such a "broad" church as the ecusa. how does one preach to a community when we don't agree about everything (or, really, anything)? well, from out of the badlands of kansas, the first threads of an answer come. caleb loaned me henri nouwen's in the name of jesus, which i now believe every priest and minister should read every few months (along w/ reading baxter's the reformed pastor every year or so).

nouwen's book is short enough to read in just a few minutes and deep enough to meditate on for days @ a time. for me, nouwen's most incisive words serve as permission, in a sense. i'm so worried about being accepted, intent on preaching "relevant" messages, enamored w/ the idea of my own indispensableness (and, obviously, fantastical vocabulary). so, apparently, was nouwen, but then he came to live in a community of mentally retarded people, and god used nouwen's community to give him permission to become something else. he writes:
i am . . . convinced that the christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world w/ nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. that is the way jesus came to reveal god's love. the great message that we have to carry, as ministers of god's word and followers of jesus, is that god loves us not b/c of what we do or accomplish, but b/c god has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life. jesus' first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread . . . but when he was asked to prove his power as the son of god by the relevant behavior of changing stones into bread, he clung to his mission to proclaim the word and said, "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of god." [christian] leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of jesus there. (39-31, 35.)
wow. i brought the book to renee' and announced "i think if i've ever needed to read a book @ a particular time, it's this book right now." centered around the stories of jesus' temptation in the desert (matt. 4.1-11) and his call of peter (john 21.15-19), the book is chock full of insight into the necessity of confession, community, humility and incarnational theology. hopefully i can find a used copy on ebay or somewhere b/c i intend to read this book often as i move toward the priesthood.

thanks, caleb. you're not just ellie grace's g-pop, you're a shrewd judge of "what sam needs to hear right now." and what sam needs to see right now is foulke get a 1-2-3 ninth.

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