Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Usually to use a quote one would not do such a long introduction of the person they are quoting, but I want you to know something about the person who penned these words I am about to use. Henri Nouwen was an internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor who wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages. Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21, 1996, in Holland and is buried in King City, Ontario. He wrote, “Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let god be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing.”
Can we give the process over to God or do we need to control it by committee and hierarchy? We may be able to answer this question by looking at reclamation efforts down through the years. I call them reclamation because all of them do not fall under the Reformation.
Reclamation means the process of reclaiming or the restoration as to productivity, usefulness or morality. To explore this word even further some of its synonyms are renewal, rehabilitation, restoration, reformation, and recovery. Renewal, rehabilitation, and restoration give us the idea of returning someone or something to a satisfactory state of being. Reformation means redirecting the course from error to a proper focus and direction. Recovery calls to mind the concept of restoring something lost to its rightful place or making something or someone whole again by being on the right journey or path.
If you have ever seen a mountain being stripped mined, then you know what man can do to God’s creation with machines. The Appalachians, which may be the oldest mountain range in the world, are wounded in many places by mountain top removal to get at coal so we can have cheap energy. The coal companies are supposed to do reclamation projects, but you can’t redo the handiwork of God.
The Reformation was an attempt to reform or redo the church. In 2007, there was a 500-year celebration of when Martin Luther became a monk and when he conducted his first mass. This year is the quincentenary of the birth of John Calvin and again there is a celebration of the Reformation.
Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was appointed pastor in Amsterdam upon returning from studies in Italy. Since it was a reformed pastor's custom to preach through a book of the bible, Arminius began with Romans. Three years later, he was up to chapter 7. The big theological point that got him in trouble was his belief that free will is found only in the regenerate, in those whom God has freed to know and obey him. Unbelievers remain in bondage to sin.
John Wesley and Charles Wesley both certainly made huge contributions to the idea of the church having the proper focus and direction. However, John Wesley’s support of Britain during the Revolutionary War did not help the growth of the Methodist church here in America during that period.
James O’Kelly an Anglican by birth and a Methodist by choice after a disagreement with Francis Asbury started what he named Republican Methodists. The group was primary in eastern North Carolina. The James O’Kelly chapel founded in 1794 still stands and lies a few miles south of Durham, North Carolina. It became know simply as a Christian Church in 1802. James O’Kelly is known as one of the fathers of what is called the Restoration Movement that has already broken into at least three groups.
What is my point? The church is so divided into denominations and independent churches saying they have “the truth” where is a sinner in need of the saving grace of God supposed to go? Where does one go for reclamation? Does the church need reclamation? Does Jesus even claim His bride? These questions need answers if we are truly going to do the work the Lord left us to do. We, the church, can either help folks on their journey towards the One we know or act in a way that they look at us in disgust and want no part of us. To be a haven for reclamation our lives must be a proclamation of God’s grace in us to a wounded world.

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