Faith in Community 3

27 04 2008

Now that we have examined a life or corporate worship and prayer as provided by the Daily Office and integrating it into our daily lives, Bonhoeffer then turns to what it means to have time alone with God.

The Day Alone

People seek to be alone because they are discouraged by other people or even Christians may be discouraged by other Christians.  Others might find themselves to be so lonely that they hope to find solace in the company of other people or other Christians.  In both cases, disappointment on some level will set in.

Real Christian community is not a place of like-minded folks.  If you are using community as a means of escape, you are misusing that community for the sake of diversion.  In fact, you may not be seeking community at all, but a distraction from the day.

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Faith in Community 2b

27 04 2008

Continuing where we left off in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together we finish the second chapter called “The Day with Others”

The Days Work

Work is of necessity part of our life. Consequently, neither work nor prayer should hinder each other. Dietrich goes on to suggest that where each have their proper place in life, they are not mutually exclusive, but rather inseparable.

Work is about the the physical world of things, of “its.” Our challenge as Christians is to break through the “it” of things and into the “Thou” of God in our work. Prayer and work eventually become more and more integrated into our day, and it is only then we can really know what it means to “pray without ceasing” as it says in the New Testament. When we can find or see God in our work, so then prayer becomes a part of work. “Every word, every work, every labor of a Christian becomes a prayer, no in the unreal sense of a constant turning away from the task, but in a real breaking through the hard ‘it’ to the gracious ‘Thou.'” (p71)

Work will always be called work (there’s a punchline to a joke which says “it’s called work for a reason!”) but our patience and energy will increase the more we have integrated prayer into our daily lives.

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Faith in Community Part 2a

21 04 2008

Continuing along with our lectio divina of sorts with Bonhoeffer’s work “Life in Community,” dear old Dietrich leads us through parts of the Daily Office in his second Chapter, “The Day with Others.”

Chapter 2: The Day with Others

The Day’s Beginning

In the Old Testament, the day began at evening, a time of expectation.  In the New Testament, the shift of the beginning of the day to dawn, seen as a time of fulfilment where we remember the Resurrection.  Sin and Death are defeated and new life and salvation is given.  Today, we have no fear of night.  We would actually be hard pressed to find a time when we truly experience darkness.  What if we were to recapture the sense of wonder when day broke after a long night?

Our common life using the office begins with common worship at the beginning of the day.  We should not begin immediately thinking of our work and what we have to do or how we are going to get through the daily grind.  If we get up early out of a sense of worry and there being way too much to do, that is in Dietrich’s word, “unprofitable” (p44).  Rising early for the love of God is the practice of our spiritual forebears such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Jesus.  Morning devotions today vary according to the needs of the community.

The Secret of the Psalter

The use of psalms have had special significance since ancient times.  It is not only God’s word, but our own prayers.  There are psalms we can identify with and those we can’t.  Our challenge is to live into the entire psalter.  It is a book of prayer, if not our owns then someone else’s, but all are lifted up to God.  It is an example of a truly inclusive book.  Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of humanity as well as divinity, is able to pray the psalter in all of its beauty and ugliness.  Prayer means “praying according to the word, the basis of promises.” (p47)

Do we dare pray what are known as the imprecatory psalms, the psalms of vengence?  We dare not by ourselves, but we can pray them in and through Christ who suffered wrath so his enemies could go free.  We dare not call ourselves innocent or righteous on our own except when we pray them out of the heart of Jesus, who is the only one of us who was truly innocent.

What about psalms of suffering?  We do not know the depth of suffering portrayed in its verses.  But the same principle applies here for Christ also suffered for everyone, so we can pray the psalms of suffering through him and in him … and with each other.

The psalms teach us to prayer as a fellowship, for our own individual prayers are but a “minute fragment of the whole prayer of the Church.” (p49) Take Psalm 5, for instance.  There are clearly two voices present, which serve to remind us that no one ever prays alone.  Dietrich suggests that the entire psalter could be summed up in the Lords Prayer.  Even there, there is no “I” or “me” only “us.”

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Faith in Community Part I

6 04 2008

My Spiritual Director has requested I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work, Life Together, which is about Dietrich’s thoughts on what it really means to be in Christian Fellowship and Community. Instead of sermons for the next month or so (which may still pop up occasionally if the readings for the week move me), I will share my thoughts and notes on what Dietrich has to say. Citations are from HarperSanFrancisco’s publication, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Chapter I: Community

We cannot take for granted that Christians live among other Christians. “Jesus came to bring peace to the enemies of God” (p17) so, too, the Christian does not work among fellow believers but around those hostile to the Christian faith, or if not hostile, then indifferent as an option among many. The Body of Christ is not a unified earthly entity but is scattered to the four winds to be the seed for the Kingdom of God. Our identity and our community is based in him.

In the West, we take for granted a place to worship and fellowship, but in places where we are a minority (eg Asia and the Mid-East) visible fellowship is seen more for what it is: a blessing. It is natural to yearn for the physical presence of other Christians. Even in the “spiritual but not religious” crowd, you will find a yearning to be part of a fellowship. Our faith is very much physical as it is spiritual. In other way, think about someone who is someone who is sick or lonely and meets another fellow Christian, and how wonderful it is for them to fellowship. How much greater then, should our joy be if we have the privilege of gathering regularly week after week, “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (p20) Community means belonging to each other in Christ, whether it is a one-time encounter or a sustained fellowship.

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