14th November 2010 – Remembrance and Thanksgiving

On Thursday we commemorated Remembrance Day”. We recalled the official end of World War I, as the major hostilities of World War I were formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. Unfortunately our young men and women are still called to fight on various hostile fronts. Peace on our home soil has always come at a cost… Lest We Forget!

A pastor from another Bayside church likes to send out words of encouragement to the clergy in the area. This is the message he sent last week. The words are actually those of one of my favorite Christian authors, Henri Nouwen. This message seems pertinent as we celebrate the richness of God’s blessings on our own lives – individually and corporately.

1 Corinthians 2:3 “I came to you in weakness – timid and trembling.”

Power over Power: Discovering the Power of Weakness. There is something very satisfying about enjoying the fruit of our labour. It is very satisfying to find ourselves at the top or in a prominent position of an organization after having started at the bottom. It is very satisfying to establish a reputation, whether that be as an executive, a problem solver, a speaker, a writer, or a community worker.

It is also very satisfying to have enough financial resources not only to be able to do what we must, but also to be able to do what we fancy from time to time. To have power, status, position, and money sits very well with us.

But there is a downside to all of this. These privileges can so captivate us that they become the controlling factors of our lives. As such, they prevent us from making the hard choices that involve our integrity, our need to continue to grow as persons, and the challenge of serving the wider community, even at the cost of our own securities. Henri Nouwen confides this to us: “Too often I look at being relevant, popular and powerful as ingredients for an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations.” (‘In the Name of Jesus’ p.71)

Not everyone makes this discovery. We are more inclined to think that our position, status, and reputation will enhance our effectiveness, whether that be in ‘secular” employment or “spiritual” ministry. For, by virtue of our successes, don’t we get opportunities that we would never get otherwise?

There clearly is some truth to this. But there are also powerful temptations. Ambition, self-adulation, and power can also corrupt us. These make us self-seeking more than God-centered and self-serving rather then other-concerned.

The key issue in all of this is to gain power over power. In other words, we need to gain control over our successes to the point of holding them in open hands and being prepared to relinquish them. We need to be prepared to journey beyond our securities and experience powerlessness in order to make the startling discovery that ministry can also come out of weakness, and not simply out of strength.

Reflection 82 from ‘Dare To Journey with Henri Nouwen’ Charles Ringma, Pinion Press 2000 ISBN 1-57683-226-0