This week we begin our reading of the sixth letter written by Henri Nouwen to his nephew, Marc, discussing his Christian faith. If you happened to miss any of the previous devotionals, they can be found in the previous Facebook posts and are also available under the Pastor's Desk tab on our church website (irvingtonumc.org
Letter 6: Jesus: The Hidden God (Pt. 1)
Nouwen's sixth letter to Marc was written from a small village in France that was the home of a woman by the name of Marthe Robin. Nouwen explains that her name kept coming up, brought up by persons who told Nouwen that she was the cause for their deep faith in Jesus. Nouwen became curious and began reading books about her; then decided to go to the village where he had been born, lived, and died. But what does all of this have to do with the fact that Nouwen entitles this letter, "Jesus: The Hidden God?"
"I've been wanting to write to you about Jesus as the hidden God. I don't think you'll ever be able to penetrate the mystery of God's revelation in Jesus until it strikes you that the major part of Jesus' life was hidden and that even the 'public' years remained invisible as far as most people were concerned. Whereas the way of the world is to insist on publicity and getting maximum exposure, God prefers to work in secret .. In God's sight, the things that matter seldom take place in public. It's the totally unknown people, praying and working in silence, who make God save us yet again from destruction.
Marte Robin is one of the most impressive examples of God's hidden presence in our world. She was born in 1902. At sixteen she fell ill, and her illness, for which the doctors could find no explanation, grew worse and worse. Slowly but surely she became aware that God was calling her to a life in which she would be linked in a special way to the suffering of Jesus .. When she was twenty-six her legs became totally paralyzed, and soon afterwards her arms. [Nouwen now relates some facts that seem difficult to accept or understand. From 1928 to 1981, Robin took no food other than Holy Communion. In 1930, she mysteriously received the wounds of Jesus on her hands, feet, and side. Tears of blood would flow from her eyes and the marks of invisible thorns appeared across her head. In the beginning she suffered with Jesus, but little by little she became the suffering Jesus. Whether you believe all this or not, Nouwen now gets to his point.]
I realize that God can achieve a great deal more in a human being than we who are of little faith are prepared to believe possible .. I want to show you that in the midst of our warring world there are people who, in a very hidden way, enter into the mystery of Jesus' suffering, a suffering for the world's sake .. Every time I walk into that little room (where Marte lived and died), O experience what I have so far never experienced anywhere else; a peace which the world cannot give, a joy which doesn't conflict with suffering, a total surrender which makes true freedom possible; and a love which comes from God himself, but which often remains unknown to us human beings .. It's a life in which joy and the cross are never separated. It's a life which doesn't seek influence, power, success, and popularity, but trusts that God is secretly at work and, in secret, is causing something new to grow ..
You see here an aspect of Jesus that we can so easily forget. Jesus is the hidden God. He became a human being among a small, oppressed people, under very difficult circumstances. He was held in contempt by the rulers of that country and was eventually put to an ignominious death between two criminals. There was nothing spectacular about Jesus' life - far from it! Even when you look at Jesus' miracles, you find that he did not heal or all back to life people in order to get publicity. He frequently forbade them even to talk about it. His resurrection too was a hidden secret .. Neither Jesus' life nor his death nor his resurrection were intended to astound us with the great power of God. God became a lowly, hidden, almost invisible God."
So, what do you think about these words of Nouwen. If you have been writing letters, or are ready to start, begin your sixth letter with this thought: is Jesus the hidden God? If you were going to come to earth as God, how would you do it? For me, I after reading these words of Nouwen, I find myself thinking how God could've come to earth as a Roman Caesar or general. Or, how Jesus could've astounded Pilate with miracles at his trial. And that leads us to consider how God works in our world today. Why does God seem to remain hidden so much of the time? Why does God seem to leave so much to us (who seem to get it wrong so often)? What are your thoughts as you write the beginning of your sixth letter on Jesus: The Hidden God?