C. S. Lewis wrote that the singular purpose of the Church is to create “Little Christs.” The simplicity, yet pin point bold accuracy of this statement strikes me deeply.  What else should creating “Little Christs” be the singular purpose of? Parenting, working, loving, serving? If we think of our purpose this way and we accept that we are all called to serve, what does that look like in real life?  These big thoughts that we may agree hold important truths beg the question of how to translate them into our day to day lives.

In my work at Christ Church I zoom in on the Christian call to serve. Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and author wrote (and I am paraphrasing) that to foster true social compassion requires a serious spiritual discipline. By serious spiritual discipline he means prayer. Because the deepest level of social compassion requires us to find and reveal our own “Little Christ.”  Nouwen asks “Can we see Christ in the world? No, we cannot see Christ in the world, but only the Christ in us can see Christ in the world.”  Boom - another piece of the puzzle. It is through prayer that the Christ in us opens our eyes to the Christ among us.

It is with Christ when we serve others that the unbearable burdens, the issues, the challenges of this community and the world emerge hope. When we direct ourselves with the heart, mind and spirit to the healing God that is with us and in us, we can truly reveal our own “Little Christ.” How do we grow the Christ in us by serving the Christ in the other?

Henri Nouwen’s book Creative Ministry was written in 1971 for priests, yet the truths he shares translate nicely for all of us. Nouwen suggests three perspectives that are critical for priests to hold, but I contend they are important for all of us to seriously consider.  First is the Perspective of Hope. This is the opposite of wish-fulfillment. Find the place in your heart that holds “hope in” instead of “wishes for.” Hope in people, in God, leaves the door open; "hope-full-ness" creates energy and sees abilities. The attitude of hope can be felt and can be spread, the attitude of “wishes for” can lead to disappointment and dead ends. Human joy, like suffering, does not have bookended beginnings and endings.

Second is the Perspective of Creative Receptivity, or as I call it, Creative Reciprocity. The person who serves must realize he/she is being served at the same time. It is through discovering the beauty of God in those we are helping that the door is nudged open to our own “Little Christ.” The reason you want to go back a second time and work in the food pantry or you want to go back to Honduras is not because you want to suffer or do a “good deed,” but because you have seen the beauty in those you are helping and they have touched the Christ in you. You feel yourself growing and becoming alive just as they are growing and become more alive when they are touched by you.

Third is the Perspective of Shared Responsibility. This is the understanding that while as an individual you have helped, it is only through an army of people (other Little Christs) you are part of a community and you can become stronger and do more together. Recognizing you are not alone in your community and the world leads to an opening of the mind and heart for solutions and support. This is integral to serving and keeps our ego in check.  More on the ego next week.

Next week: The Dangers and Pitfalls of Serving