Henri Nouwen – hospitality for weak people

I finally finished Nouwen’s short read, The Wounded Healer, and thought it worthy to pass on to you some of Nouwen’s parting thoughts about pastoral ministry from weak people to weak people.   While Nouwen’s conclusion certainly emphasizes the way that Christ habitually ministered to the wounded – the weak and broken and poor and blind and downtrodden – and that we are called to minister in the same way but out of our woundedness, I found it surprising that he didn’t emphasize the woundedness of Christ for our sin.  He was wounded for our transgressions…

Even so, Nouwen nails the “necessary mindset” of the minister (at least this one).  He calls us to minister not so much with authority as with hospitality to the wounded that leads to community among the wounded.  I was introduced to this thought of ‘gospel hospitality’ at the GCA churchplanting conference in July (Martin Ban, planter of Christ Church in Santa Fe).  If you are interested, while I haven’t listened to all of it, Drew Goodmanson of Kaleo Church (Acts 29 network) in San Diego recently preached a sermon on how the gospel mandates that we make room (hospitality) for people who are different than us so that we might engage them with the gospel – because making room for ‘the different’ is what God did for us in Christ!  The gospel is divine hospitality, if you will. Go to http://www.kaleochurch.com/sermon/gospel-hospitality-making-room.

Anyway, this is good stuff that has everything to do with being weak and ministering the powerful transforming gospel of Christ to a weak world.   Nouwen writes it like this:

Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their loneliness away.  But when they enter a house with real hospitality they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to teh calling sounds of their own wounds…

From this we get the idea of the kind of help a minister [believer] may offer.  A minister is not a doctor whose primary task is to take away pain.  Rather, he deepens the pain to a level where it can be shared.  When someone comes with his loneliness to the minister, he can only expect that his loneliness will be understood and felt, so that he no longer has to run away from it but can accept it as an expression of his basic human condition [WEAKNESS/WOUNDEDNESS… CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL]…

When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.  Through this common search, hospitality becomes community.  Hospitality becomes community as it creates a unity based on the shared confession of our basic brokenness and on a shared hope.  This hope in turn leads us far beyond the boundaries of human togetherness to Him who calls people away from the land of slavery to the land of freedom [IN CHRIST THE ONE WHO WAS WOUNDED FOR THE WOUNDED!].

A Christian community is therefore a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains [WEAKNESSES] become openings or occasions for a new vision [of Christ in the gospel!].  Mutual confession then becomes mutual deepening of hope, and sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength.

A long quote.  But at least re-read the last paragraph.  Thank you Nouwen (who surrendured his life not just to articulating, but living ‘hospitality’).  May we give ourselves to gospel hospitality so that “the sharing of weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength” in the final and full redemption of weak people by The Wounded Healer! 


2 thoughts on “Henri Nouwen – hospitality for weak people

  1. Nancy(mom) says:

    I have never read any of Nouwen’s writings. I had never even heard of him until your writings. I am participating in a study on the Sermon on the Mount by Angela Thomas. SHE refers to his writing entitled “Turn My Mourning Into Dancing” (1991). She quotes him “Ultimately, mourning means facing what wounds us in the presence of One who can heal.” Now I am wanting to know more about this man. Interesting 2 times mentioned in a one week time period. Hmmmm……

  2. Sarah B says:

    Nancy, apparently that is going around. Although it took me two weeks 🙂 Think God is trying to tell me I should read Nouwen?

    Apparently it is the thing to do for my on-line reformed reading to quote him. From his work, “The Inner Voice of Love”.

    “Your own growth cannot take place without growth in others. You are part of a body. When you change, the whole body changes. It is very important for you to remain deeply connected with the larger community to which you belong. It is also important that those who belong to the body of which you are a part keep faith in your journey.” part of a bigger passage in the artilce at catapult magazine: http://www.catapultmagazine.com/lets-get-together-5/article/gaudis-cross-the-community-of-two


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