Sundays in Easter with Henri Nouwen
On the Eucharistic Life
On the remaining Sundays in Eastertide, we are contemplating some words from Henri Nouwen on the eucharistic life. Our main source will be his book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life.
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Today, Nouwen focuses his attention on the part of the Emmaus Road story where Jesus approaches the two men and begins talking to them. In the course of their conversation, he explains the scriptures to them and how they relate to the events they had recently experienced with regard to Jesus’ death.
Then something happens! Something shifts. The stranger begins to speak, and his words ask for serious attention. He had listened to them; now they listened to him. His words are very clear and straightforward. He speaks of things they already knew: their long past with all that had happened during the centuries before they were born, the story of Moses who led their people to freedom, and the story of the prophets who challenged their people never to let go of their dearly acquired freedom. It was an all-too familiar story. Still it sounded as if they were hearing it for the first time.
The difference lay in the storyteller! A stranger appearing from nowhere yet one who, somehow, seems closer than anyone who had ever told that story. The loss, the grief, the guilt, the fear, the glimpses of hope, and the many unanswered questions that battled for attention in their restless minds, all of these were lifted up by this stranger and placed in the context of a story larger than their own. What had seemed so confusing began to offer new horizons; what had seemed so oppressive began to feel liberating; what had seemed so extremely sad began to take on the quality of joy! As he talked to them, they gradually came to know that their little lives weren’t as little as they had thought, but part of a great mystery that not only embraced many generations, but stretched itself out from eternity to eternity. (p. 39f)
Would that all of us who preach and hear sermons this Sunday could give this report about what we speak and hear!
This passage is one of the best summaries I have read about what the reading and preaching of the gospel should be and do for us.
- Clear and straightforward.
- Telling an ancient, yet ever new story.
- The voice of the living Jesus himself speaking through the readers and preachers.
- A word that places our lives in the context of God’s story, lifting us up into the great eternal mystery.
- Offering new horizons of faith, hope, and love in which we may participate.
“For all that matters is that the Word of God be given free reign to uplift and quicken souls so that they do not become weary” (Martin Luther).
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Photo by Thomas Hawk at Flickr. Creative Commons License.