“He always seems to arrive at the wrong places at the wrong times with the wrong people, outside the walls of the city when the feast is over, with a few crying women.” — Nouwen
This is my favorite line from Henri Nouwen’s Wounded Healer. It is a book about ministry in our brokenness. How our wounds – what might be our humiliation – become sources of healing. Places we connect with others and experience the transformation of the Messiah! These moments lack flash. Away from the spotlight. Like John Mark McMillian sings, “Hope grows between the cracks in the asphalt.” The flower of God’s grace springs up in the most unlikely of places. (This album, The Medicine, may be my favorite worship set.)
Owen and I read the book together. He has an updated version. A good decision, written in the 70s, it uses terms like “nuclear man”. Clear to me, who grew up nervous about ballistic missiles and fallout, but less clear to Owen. The editor changed the term to a more inclusive term “modern human”. And throughout made the book gender inclusive. Something I strongly support (and Nouwen, though he has passed, would also).
Yet the editor didn’t always understand Nouwen’s point. “A few crying women” sounds sexist. So the editor took it out entirely. But “a few crying women” is actually a reference to the great bravery of women. Maybe the gender’s greatest moment. For the women went to the cross. The women were there to cry. And in the brokenness they were the ones who went to the tomb and found it empty. Outside the city walls. After the feast. Fearful and afraid. Brokenness leads to Resurrection.
This is our ministry. Away from the limelight. Without fanfare. Among the broken. This can be discouraging, if, like me, you want to measure success. To amass praise. But it is outside the walls of fame and power we join Jesus. There he wipes our tears. And there we discover the life giving power of God’s grace.
Today we begin our daily Resolve readings in Revelation and this Sunday we look at three big themes of the book. I shared the above story for its truth, but also as a spring board. Too many read Revelation and miss the point. They search for times and dates, which is flashy and exciting (even though Jesus said we wouldn’t know, no one wants to be left behind!). But the point isn’t a future map, instead it reveals Jesus! This Sunday we land in chapter 5 and find the lion is a lamb.
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