Can You Drink the Cup?
Henri J. M. Nouwen
For those of us who frequently are willing to question the wisdom of God, we continue to ponder why Henri Nouwen should die so young. Last year he was ripped apart from his earthly pilgrimage and I continue to mourn all of the books and sermons he won't write and the speeches he won't give. Fortunately we have a long list of books before us and, even if read repeatedly, speak in fresh ways with each page.
In this book we learn about ministry, about journey, and about what it means to be a child of God. We discover what true community is (something the church all too frequently forgets) and a challenged to understand the blessings and responsibilities of those who drink from the cup.
Woven gently through his story about his childhood and priesthood, and the ever tender reflections from his work with the special people at L'Arche Daybreak, are some of the most sobering and inspiring glimpses of what this religion business is all about.
Community is the gathering of people at the table, around the cup, around the discovery of the letting go of ourselves so we can discover our true treasures in God as we serve one another and receive from one another. Healthy spirituality, and we are helped to recognize the damaging spirituality that can and does occur in the church, as strangers become friends. As friends toast at a fine meal, we who gather at the eucharistic meal are reminded that "When we lift our cups and say 'to life,' we should be talking about real lives, not only hard, painful, sorrowful lives, but also lives so full of joy that celebration becomes a spontaneous response." (p. 60) In this spontaneity we meet and "taste" the God who is both very spontaneous and also very predictable and dependable.
This book is a fine devotional reading, and also a good teaching tool about ministry. It would be a very helpful resources for the development of lay ministries, for parish leaders and also for clergy who all too easily get so absorbed in the tedium and monotony of ministry that they forget the truths and invitations so carefully crafted in this simple treasure of a book.
The Rev. Richard B. Gilbert, D.Min., Executive Director, The World Pastoral Care Center