There is no better book on the Christian life today.
This read will cause you to reexamine and release expectations had of God. Reading will help the heart re-hear the words of Jesus and see where (directionally) God is forming us. Christ is the substance, the journey, and the destination. We must always face the question: How does it turn out for Jesus and what is the journey to that destination?
Nouwen’s book, like no other book he had written, helps the heart discern where divergence from the way of Jesus has happened and how to recognize the Way once more.
The title itself is grace: The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Way of Christ.
Below you’ll find some neat ideas on cultivating community, cultivating spiritual growth and cultivating compassion for your group. The ideas below are suggestions and could feel overwhelming if we felt like our group was supposed to express all of the listed characteristics at once! It’s not supposed to be that way; groups go through seasons and the ideas below are helpful for navigating the seasons we go through together.
I invite you and your group to pause and wonder. Let the ideas below spur your imaginations. Let the ideas nudge your group toward experimenting with helpful ways of listening to and living like Jesus together. Sometimes all we need is a good question to come our way and we see new life blooming in its wake.
Thoughts On Cultivating Community
• Everyone has someone in their life who knows everything about them—there is nothing being carried alone in darkness • Within the group, both marriage and singleness are supported with a healthy and balanced perspective • People are comfortable both giving and receiving mentoring • People feel that they belong to a group who together form an authentic expression of church • The group is characterized by regular and gracious hospitality • You all feel loved emotionally and supported practically by the group—it’s not just going to meetings • People regularly discuss with each other how they are seeking to be better followers of Jesus • Overall, people feel surrounded by meaningful community
Thoughts On Cultivating Spiritual Growth
• Group members make regular time to retreat, reflect and pray • Together you have found a way of praying regularly that suits your life and community personality • People in the group feel close to God at the moment • Your group worships God in numerous creative ways • You hear God’s voice when you gather and put into practice what He is saying • As a group, you observe both regular and occasional Spiritual Disciplines • Together you find relevant ways to learn from and be shaped by Scripture
Thoughts On Cultivating Compassion
• Your group has a clear missional focus towards which you devote time and energy • Your community spends time with lots of friends and contacts who are not in church • In the last month, your group has found ways to lovingly demonstrate the power of the Kingdom to people who are not Christians • Your group has seen people with whom you are in contact start to follow God in the last year • Members are involved in lots of activities beyond church life • The place where many group members spend most of their time (at work, study, play, etc.) is predominately in relationships with non-Christians • As a group, you are excited about your involvement in serving the wider missional context • In the last three months, each member has offered to pray with someone who is not a Christian • Your group has a name that reflects who you are • Your group is actively involved in an area in which injustice exists
[WIth some of my own editing, these ideas mostly come from: Breen, Mike; Alex Absalom (2010–11–11). Launching Missional Communities (Kindle Locations 3073–3082). 3DM. Kindle Edition.]
(The conclusion of a short series: comparing four views of the cross from the four Gospel writers.)
“John ‘spiritualizes’ the cross more than the synoptic [Matthew, Mark and Luke] authors do, stressing the intimate connection between Jesus’ crucifixion and his exaltation. The life of the Son of God is best understood as a journey: he comes from his preexistent state in heaven, dwells among women and men, then returns to heaven. In essence, John overcomes the scandal of the cross by interpreting in terms of Jesus’ exaltation (12.32-36). Of spiritual significance for believers are the moments on the cross when Jesus confers a familial relationship on the beloved disciple and Mary, then gives up his spirit (19.26, 30). Orthodox Christian faith sees the establishment of the Church and Christian tradition in these acts. Christian spirituality is thus understood to be informed by Jesus’ spirit.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, “Cross and Spirituality”, Elizabeth Koenig, p. 221.
I think we can agree that John’s take on the cross (and so much else about Jesus) is a bit different than the other Gospel writers – but we love his perspective all the same.
As you remember reading John’s description of the cross, how do you relate to what Koenig wrote? I found the Orthodox conferring of the spirit part most intriguing.
This concludes the short series comparing the four Gospels and four views on the cross. I hope the brevity and the resource was helpful. I enjoyed thinking through this myself.
“Luke brings two distinctive emphases [on the cross]. One the one hand, he inserts a psychological and spiritual theme when Jesus says, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ (9.23) [quoted author's emphasis]. On the other hand, Luke’s identification of Jesus’ passion as that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah emphasizes the salvation-historical necessity of the cross, the universality of his mission, and highlights Jesus’ exaltation and vindication as the salvific event (24.46-47). Spiritually, this suggests that believers should mirror that universality through gracious acceptance of others, Gentiles, Jews, and criminals in particular. Moreover, they should also embody the righteousness, humiliation, and lowliness of the Servant.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, “Cross and Spirituality”, Elizabeth Koenig, p. 221.
When I read this description of the cross and Luke’s gospel, I think about the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. In those stories we see God in Jesus coming to embrace us, redefine solidarity with us, and send us loved in order to love.
How do you resonate?
(We continue our journey looking at brief descriptions of the view of the cross from the four gospels.)
“The spiritual theme for Mark is discipleship even to the cross. He understands Jesus’ ministry to involve an inevitable sequence of events whose climax is Golgotha. Through the cross, Jesus is made known as the Son of God who wins salvation for the new community of faith – a community called to follow him in faithful discipleship. Thus, Jesus’ call to follow him is equivalent to an invitation to take the way of the cross. ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (8.34-38).” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality p.221.
I’m once again enamored with Elizabeth Koenig’s description of a Gospel writer’s take on the cross – this time from Mark.
How do you resonate? Where does the imagery of Mark’s gospel take you mentally? How do you feel about the imitation of Christ to the point of a cross?
Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (Matthew)
(The beginning of a short series comparing four views on the cross from the four Gospels.)
“Matthew values Jesus’ obedience to God, his steadfastness in his mission and his solidarity with the pain and hope of his people. Jesus’ death on the cross continues his life and work and anticipates the future kingdom of God. Moreover, Matthew testifies that Jesus predicted both his death and the kingdom during the Last Supper in promising his disciples that he would ‘never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom’ (26.29). The community that lives after him is asked to live spiritually in relation to Jesus and in the light of God’s kingdom by loving one another as Jesus loved them.” _The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality_ p. 221.
As you and I think about how we’ve seen Jesus portrayed in Matthew’s gospel, do you feel that Elizabeth Koenig (the author of the quote above) gets its pretty much right?
I find this insightful. It is helpful for me to contemplate and wonder: who is Jesus and what is he up to?
Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross
“Each of the four Gospels interprets the meaning of the cross differently, eliciting a distinct spiritual response.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, p.220.
Over the next four days, I want to share brief thoughts I’ve found in The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. I’ll share four views on the cross from four Gospel writers.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and responses.