Dec 1st to Dec 7th—Advent Week 1: Introduction, The Invitation, The Call

Reading: Introduction; Chapter 1–The Invitation; Chapter 2–The Call. (p. 11 to p. 50)

It is into this deeply tired world of ours that God sends Jesus to speak
the voice of love. Jesus says, “Follow me. Don’t keep running
around. Follow me. Don’t just sit there. Follow me.”

– Henri Nouwen, (p. 12-13)

Thank you for all the wonderful introductions as we gathered.  It is always good to learn a little bit about the people sharing their Advent journey together. We have members in our global virtual community from all across Canada and the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and as far away as the United Arab Emirates.  We are enriched by your participation and the presence of those who are following along silently.

This week we jump into the text, and there is much to reflect upon. Henri begins the Introduction by asking a profound question of us and himself: “Are you following
Jesus? . . .  Are you a follower? Am I?” (p. 11) He later tells us, “This book has been written to help you and me to . . . hear that voice that whispers in your ear, “Follow me.”  (p. 13).  Henri hopes to guide us as we change from a life of restless wandering or boredom to one in which we follow Jesus and discover our true home. This week we hear the invitation to “come and see” and we have the opportunity to accept or ignore the call to “come follow me.”  Will we hear? How will we respond?

Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them. You are encouraged to share and discuss whatever came up for you in the readings. You are also welcome to share your reflections and insights prompted by the comments of others. The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion.

1. In Chapter 1 Henri illuminates Jesus’ invitation to enter the House of God. “This image of God inviting us to his home it used throughout scripture.” (p. 20) “Home is what the incarnation is all about.” (p. 21) “(W)e realize that we are God’s home and we that we are invited to make our home where God has made God’s home. We realize that . . . we are the place where God can dwell.” (p.22)

  • Ponder Henri’s understanding of the House of God. What is your response?
  • Does Henri’s view change your understanding of God’s presence in your life?
  • What practices do you already follow or will you adopt to, as Henri says, “waste time with Jesus?” (p. 27)

2. In Chapter 2 Henri asks us to imagine that we are in the crowd while Jesus is preaching about the Kingdom of God. And then Jesus shows the disciples what it means to live in the Kingdom world.  Henri says we should “take small steps away from ‘me’ and ‘my fears’ and toward the Lord. (p. 43) He continues, “Following Jesus means to live our life in his spirit, in his light, in his heart, but with our spirit, our light, and with our heart.” (p. 47)

  • What is your response to Henri’s suggestion to “take small steps?” How are you doing that in your life today?
  • What new small steps are you prepared to adopt to allow you to follow Jesus more closely?

3. Finally, in the Editor’s Note Gabrielle Earnshaw posed an important question that we will return to throughout the discussion: Do the issues Henri brings up connect with your own experience? If so, how?

We look forward to a wonderful week of sharing. Thanks again for being here.

Peace and all good.

P. S. (Added Wednesday) In comments below, both Holly and Elaine M mention the new movie about Mr. Rogers and his friendship with a journalist. You might be interested to know that Henri and Fred Rogers were friends. In the 2016 book Love, Henri – Letters on the Spiritual Life, also edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, Gabrielle writes, “Fred
Rogers. . . befriended Henri in 1984. The two men shared a friendship of letters and visits for the next twelve years.”

That book includes a letter by Henri to Rogers in response to some criticism Fred had received. Henri writes (in words that are certainly related to Following Jesus), “It has always struck me that the real pain comes often from the people from whom we expect real support. It was Jesus’ experience and the experience of all the great visionaries in the Church, and it continues to be the experience of many who are committed to Jesus.” Here is a photo of Henri and Fred in 1992.