Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Lent – So what now?

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.


Through fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of your love.
As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feast
with joyful hearts and minds…

I have just finished presiding at the first of our two Ash Wednesday services (the other is 7:30 this evening at St John’s), where these words were said.

The challenge for me, and I guess for all of us who want to follow a “Holy Lent”, is what to do to engage with this.  The problem is that what I need is not the same as what you need, so I can’t just take something off the shelf.  I can, of course, read a Lent book, or follow one of the many daily programmes available (Christian Aid, Tear Fund, 40 Acts, and others), join a Lent Group, take up some additional daily Bible Reading or Prayer, but is that going to:

open my eyes to God’s presence in the world
and free my hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of God’s love

As an incumbent I feel as though I have two roles: one as spiritual leader, and one as MD of a small business.  It is all to easy to find myself spending too much time on one, and not enough on the other!  So this Lent, as well as some of the other things I shall be doing I am going to blog every day (except my day off, naturally) as a way of engaging with God in the world.  It won’t be a pious blog, but I hope that in doing this I will engage more with what God is doing, and a little less with my “To Do List”.

I wrote a blog post many years ago, before I was an incumbent, and I am trying to reengage with that kind of ministry.

Yesterday Henri Nouwen’s daily email read:

We  are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

This practise is to help move me towards that kind of ministry, and away from the busyness, from “running the business”.

Drinking the Cup

Beautiful piece today on the Henri Nouwen website.

After firmly holding the cups of our lives and lifting them up as signs of hope for others, we have to drink them. Drinking our cups means fully appropriating and interiorizing what each of us has acknowledged as our life, with all its unique sorrows and joys.

How do we drink our cups? We drink them as we listen in silence to the truth of our lives, as we speak in trust with friends about ways we want to grow, and as we act in deeds of service. Drinking our cups is following freely and courageously God’s call and staying faithfully on the path that is ours. Thus our life cups become the cups of salvation. When we have emptied them to the bottom, God will fill them with “water” for eternal life.

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Now a Christian

There are all sorts of regular daily readings that you can get on the web these days and we have linked to a number of them here.  However, I have recently become aware of this one which is a 5 week course on the basics of Christianity.  It is advertised as a course for those who are Now a Christian, but I think it may well be of interest to others who would like a little reminder – I’ve only just missed posting it in time for people to use it for Lent – never mind!

Also, for those who are reading and enjoying Return of the Prodigal, you might also like a daily thought from Henri Nouwen.

Lent Books and Groups

This Lent there are several options to help you to deepen your faith:

  1. Meet at the Rectory on Tuesdays from 3rd March to talk about the book “The Return of the Prodigal” by Henri Nouwen: In seizing the inspiration that came to him through Rembrandt’s depiction of the powerful Gospel story, Henri Nouwen probes the several movements of the parable: the younger son’s return, the father’s restoration of sonship, the elder son’s vengefulness, and the father’s compassion. In his reflection on Rembrandt in light of his own life journey, the author evokes a powerful drama of the parable in a rich, captivating way.
  2. Meet at St Mark’s on Wednesdays from 25th February to watch videos from “Life on the Frontline” and then we will sit around tables and discuss questions that arise from each video. We may be old or young; healthy or infirm; rich or poor; employed or not. We may be busy or bored; optimistic or pessimistic; radically cutting edge or relatively retro. Whoever we are, as Christians, we have at least one thing in common: we each have a Frontline.
    – the place where you spend much of your time
    – the place where you meet people who don’t know Jesus
    – the place God has called you
    – the place of possibility and potential
    Often though, we don’t see ourselves, our workplaces homes, colleges and clubs in this light. But what might God want to do where we are day by day? How might he use us? How will we grow?
  3. Dave Tomlinson is coming on the First Sunday in Lent – 22nd February at 6:30pm at St Mark’s to talk about his new book – “The Bad Christian’s Manifesto” – this would be good to read during Lent. Dave Tomlinson, author of How to be a bad Christian, thinks that a lot of our overly religious, formal ideas of God need to be reinvented – and a lot of our spirituality, too. What does it look like to live well and die happy – from an unapologetically generous Christian point of view? Join Dave as he considers virtues, vices, friendship, morality, mortality – and how to make a sacrament of anything from cigars to chocolate.

Contact Lesley on 01252 820537 or revdlesley@gmail.com to find out more.