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Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoffer Chapter 1

The terms Church, Assembly, Congregation, Kirk, Gathering, Body speak of companies of men and women confessing faith in Jesus Christ. Yet the diversity of practice and beliefs expressed in the myriad of Christian communities appears to be significantly antithetical to the simple words of saint Paul, “One faith, one Lord, One Baptism” and his encouragement to keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace.

But for Bonhoeffer, this seemed to be a fading reality during the backdrop of encroaching totalitarianism which sought to erode orthodoxy in the historic church. When the Nazis used errastianism and terror to dilute the German church into a puppet organization of the Nazi regime, there emerged for Dietrich Bonhoeffer the need to identify with a new church, one which had not bowed the knee to Baal, that stood against the Nazis to the point of death itself.

Like the wheat and the tares, are there two churches today, one authentic and the other illegitimate, each vying for a voice in this post modern age when the notion of Church evokes suspicion even within its ranks?

Life Together by  challenges the idea the the Christian can live apart from genuine community by aptly describing that community in five short chapters, Life Together, The Day with Others, The Day After, Ministry and Confession and Communion.

You are invited to Read Life Together and comment on the Life Together Blog.

Before reading the book, please watch this introductory video by Erich Metaxis , on Bonhoeffer, a Study of his Life

Body and Blood: Food for your Journey

“And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights…” 2 Kings 19.8b

Elijah, experiencing great conflict, the residue of a a drought and famine, had an unusual gastronomic experience. One meal, food and drink, sustained him for forty days and nights.

Our pastor often speaks of the Lord’s Supper as nourishment. “If you are hungry come to the feats which has been prepared.”

After partaking of the body and blood of Christ, “real food and real drink” how easy is it to be immediately distracted by the cares and vicissitudes of life only to realize, the enjoyment of the benefits of the Super, a renewed sense of forgiveness and the presence of God, has dwindled by the afternoon.

How can the nourishment of the morning and the enjoyment of that hour last beyond the end of the meeting (or service)?

1. QUESTION: Can we mimic the experiences of Elijah the Tishbite, “he…went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights…”

2. QUESTION Is the body and blood of Christ a nourishing meal to you, more than just remembering an event in history? Does it sustain you for days subsequent to communion?

The CROSS: Onlookers or Participants

Fanny Crosby’s famous hymn, “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross”, with it’s subsequent lines, “Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; help me walk from day to day, with its shadows over me,” has achieved nearly iconic status in the world of Christian hymnody in last 130 years since its first appearance as a Sunday School song.

Rightfully so. Christians do well to think more and to think deeply about the cross and its significance. However, as Kenneth Leech in his book, We Preach Christ Crucified, poignantly asserts, “…the passion… cannot be seen or understood from the outside.” It should not be seen merely as an external event. It should be a participation, otherwise it is a source of defilement not healing.

He quotes Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3.10, to know Christ and the power of his resurrection can only occur as a result of sharing in his death. He continued that true theology…”demands passion, anguish, doubt: if these are not present, there is no true engagement with the living God, but only a fascination with or interest in the idea of god.”

This  is reminiscent of Luther’s theologia crucis (theology of the cross), in his Hiedelberg Disputations in 1518 in which he states that the cross is more than just a place to be justified, but a place where God shows up in the difficulties and sufferings of this life, “God hidden in suffering”.

Leech cites Richard Jefferies’ novel Bevis: “If God had been there, he wouldn’t have let them do it,” but “the Christian gospel hangs on the belief that God was there, that God was at the heart of the pain and anguish, that the wounds were the wounds of God. God heals us by his wounds”.

Certainly, there is great value in gazing on the scenes of the cross through the lens of biblical history as revealed in the Gospels. The atonement is on display in the death and shed blood of Christ

But there is more to the cross than substitution, or justification. Sanctification is on offer, a “co-cruxifiction”, a metamorphosis, Romans 12.1 a change that can only be understood by participation.

May God deliver us from a mere curiosity about the cross, a “fascination with or interest in the idea of god”, which leads us neither to the cross nor to God.

What is the cross to you? Are you an onlooker or also a participant?
Saint Paul was a recipient of the benefits of the cross. He declared,
“I am crucified with Christ.” Galatians 2.20

Glorious Transformation

Peter, James and John saw Jesus in his Transfiguration.
What did they see?

Matthew 17.1- 8, Mark 9.1-8 and Luke 9.29-36

  1. The Select Disciples
    Jesus chose them out of12. Peter, James and John.  Election?
    See John 15.16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you”
  2. The Shining Face of Jesus
    What they saw was transforming. Jesus was transfigured
    We need to be transformed Romans 12.2
  3. The Subject of Discussion
    His departure: His death, resurrection, ascension
    The Cross should loom large in our vision. Does it?
  4. The Shekinah Cloud
    His face shined. But then a shining cloud came along.
    Are we in awe of this glorious display of radiance?
    Does his glory occupy our sight, even from afar?
  5. The Spoken Word
    The Father’s Voice
    The material worlds were spoken into existence
    The same voice speaks His adoration of His Son
    Are we listening? “My Son is my delight”
    Is he ours?

Thinking about Lent?

This is the season of Lent, in Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches. Many use Lent as a time to reflect on the Cross. Many evangelicals repudiate it as being to “catholic”. I recently heard a broadcast in which the speaker suggested the same consideration in the preparation for Easter as is given to the preparation for Christmas, pleading that there was more Biblical warrant for the remembrance of Jesus’ death than for his birth. While not implying for a moment that the Incarnation takes a second place to the Atonement, commercialism aside, the argument was adduced that more preparation is made for Christmas. Why not for Easter? Why not for “Holy Week”? After all, in some traditions there are celebrations for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday as well as Easter (sunrise services) and Easter worship service. Why not lent? Lent, some argue has an overtone of works righteousness. Does it to all? An excellent argument against it was offered recently which suggested that keeping Lent might  to revert back to the pre lenten patterns of sin on Easter Monday! Should not the spirit of Lent be kept throughout the year? To be sure. The same has been said of the spirit of giving. Let’s keep Christmas in our hearts all year long! This has the Some iconoclasts are dismissive of all christian holidays altogether because of this banter. However, their iconoclasm serves to keep nothing in their hearts but bitterness.

Is it possible to take a middle road, to set aside a special season, which after all, leads up to Good Friday and focus on the cross more than usual. Certainly, meditations on the cross can exist during Advent, after all, the swaddling clothes that wrapped the baby Jesus may be  reminiscent of the linen cloths that wrapped his entombed body. Did not the myrrh brought by the wise men point to the bitterness of his death? Yet is seems that this time is right prior to Good Friday to reflect more than usual on the cross of Christ and all the events which surrounded it and the ultimate meaning of his atoning sacrifice.

Oh teach me what it meaneth,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant for thee the Holy One
To bear away my sin.

What do you think?