Written by Cheryl Broetje, Founder and President
I displayed a copy of Henri Nouwen’s journal Gracias! at home during the month of November, a season of Thanksgiving in the U.S. I was just about to put it back in its place on the bookshelf, when, while casually thumbing through its pages, my eyes landed on his entry for October 31st. He said he had been thinking about the significance of gratitude in mission work.
… the old attitude for missionaries was that they had to teach the knowledge of the Gospel to the poor, ignorant people and thus offer light to their darkness. But over time, as that attitude began to change, more missioners started seeing their work as waking up themselves first, and then helping others to wake up, claim their own God given gifts and talents, and consider how God might want to invest them. My friend Bud used to say that “Jesus came to show us our riches, not his”!
Nouwen says that gratitude is the attitude that enables us to see and receive the hidden gifts of those we to serve and make those gifts visible to the community as a source of celebration. The true skill of ministry is to help fearful and often oppressed men and women become aware of their own gifts by receiving them in gratitude to the point that we depend on the gifts and capacities that others have but often do not realize they have. True servants depend on those whom they serve-because only those who truly believe that they have something to give can experience themselves as spiritually adult. As long as someone feels that he/she/they are only the object of someone else’s generosity, no true dialogue, no mutuality, no authentic community can exist.
Henri goes on to say that God’s life, God’s Spirit in us allows us to see and hear that of God in others. Seeing God in the world and making God visible to each other…. this is the core of ministry and contemplative life. This is the work of Christmas.
The Advent message that Jesus is coming changes to “the Lord is come” during Epiphany. Be on the lookout! He usually shows up disguised…I have seen Jesus in the physically or mentally disabled, the foreigner, the farmworker, the lawbreaker, the child, the single mom for examples. I am a beneficiary of their presence. As they discover and claim their identity in Christ, we discover Jesus in our midst. In whom is Jesus showing up for you these days?