The Ministry of Absence

In John 17, Jesus puts words around the necessity and purpose of his leaving. He has more he wants to teach us by his absence. This can be painfully difficult for us to understand or appreciate.

Henri Nouwen has said a few wise words about the ministry of absence:
"there is a ministry in which our leaving creates space for God's Spirit and in which, by our absence, God can become present in a new way." (The Living Reminder)

Wil Hernandez says in his book, Mere Spirituality:
"Knowing when to be present or absent can understandably be a challenge. Still, we need to learn how to creatively navigate our way through this tension so we can best cooperate with God. To be a hospitable soul host with, to, and for others calls for a spacious heart - a heart able to create and offer both interior space for one's self and exterior space for others, as well as a discerning heart that wisely knows who to exercise "creative absence.""

This is a matter for our prayer.

John 16:5-15 (NLT)
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your longing for an Advocate. Where are you needing someone to defend you or fight for you? Bring these longings into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Understanding the Father's Heart

We begin to truly flourish when we come to know the heart of Abba Father in our own hearts. When our lived experience allows us to taste the Father's love and compassion for us we become enabled to see the God's signs more readily around us. Our pain, sorrow and suffering can become gateways to discovering the heart of the Father and we need to be very gentle with ourselves in the process.

John 15:18-16:4 (NLT)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.
16 “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. 2 For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. 3 This is because they have never known the Father or me. 4 Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

This text might evoke painful memories of hatred. Be very gentle and compassionate with yourself as they arise. Simply ask God for what you need and share the longings of your heart for healing in you or a situation.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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