Blogging through Bonhoeffer 2

21 Jun

The Day with Others

In the first chapter Bonhoeffer clearly defines Christian community. He takes away every lofty ideal we may have and grounds us in the truth that community is only found in Christ.

In the next chapter, “The Day with Others,” Bonhoeffer gives us a practical example of what a day could look like for a community living around the truth of Jesus as Savior and King. He says, “A day is long enough to sustain one’s faith; the next day will have its own cares.” How we live our days is how we will live our lives. Bonhoeffer lived this truth with his seminarians at Finkenwalde.

He starts the chapter with the day’s beginning. He says the dawn of day is a metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus. The dark night has passed and a new day has dawned. Jesus is alive and we are awake to that truth. Bonhoeffer says that worship begins immediately upon our waking up. The silence of night is broken by the praise of God’s people. Our wakefulness should not be a time to mentally gather the day’s concerns. The dawn of day is a time for us to attune our hearts to God’s heart.

In the next section, Bonhoeffer shows us the “Secret of the Psalter.” The Psalter is simply the Psalms. We are taught that the Bible is the Word of God. However, we run into a hermeneutical dilemma when we read the Psalms. Many of these Psalms are prayers to God from an individual. How can God’s Word be our words to God? When David prays out of incredible anguish or sorrow, is that God’s word? When David prays for extreme vengeance for his foes, is this too God’s word? Too often we simply skip over these passages in favor of the easily applicable ones. We find our favorite verses or passages that give us comfort and read those. Bonhoeffer says that the Psalms are to shape our prayers as they shaped the prayers of Jesus and the Church. How then are these strange passages applicable or God’s word? Bonhoeffer says, “A psalm that we cannot utter as a prayer, that makes us falter and horrifies us, is a hint to us that here Someone else is praying, not we; that the One who is here protesting his innocence, who is invoking God’s judgement, who has come to such infinite depths of suffering, is none of than Jesus Christ himself.” Bonhoeffer says that Jesus is praying the Psalter through the Church. Bonhoeffer also points out another perspective that we often miss. We assume that the prayers we see in the Psalter need only to be applicable to us. However, we are a part of the family of God and though we may not know the depth of suffering David or other writers speak of, other members of the Body may be experiencing this first hand. We, then, are to pray on their behalf with words shaped by the Psalms. The Psalms become our school of prayer. We learn to pray selflessly based on the promises found in the Word and we learn that at times Jesus is praying the Psalms through us.

In the next section Bonhoeffer talks about the reading of Scripture together. Often times we are tempted to pick and choose scripture readings that help us get through the day. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are incredible nuggets of truth found in single verses of scripture. However, Bonhoeffer says that to truly read scripture we must read it as a whole. We are not to solely read uplifting nuggets we hand select. We are to find ourselves caught up in the entire sweep of scripture. He urges us to read every book of the Bible and to read chapters at a time. (When we read like this) “We become part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, Godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dwelt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgement and grace.” He continues, “It is not that God is a spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.” How often to we lose sight of this reality and read only to be comforted for our daily needs?

Bonhoeffer moves on to talk about our corporate worship. He says that the “new song” is sung first in the heart. He says that worship is our corporate ability to pray the same prayer and declare the same thing together–namely that Jesus is Savior and King. He says that the music is subservient to the Word. When we make the music our aim we worship an idol. Jesus Christ, the Word, is the one whom we worship. How often do exalt the worship style over the God to whom our worship is aimed?

Bonhoeffer goes on to talk about our corporate prayer. He says that prayer is the most natural thing for a Christian community to do. He urges us to pray even when we don’t feel like it. He said in the previous chapter that God is not a God of our moods and emotions. He says that prayer can be beautiful and profound but not genuine. God is always after our heart, not our carefully rehearsed sincerity. Do we pray from a place of purity?

All of life is a matter of worship. The line of sacred and secular we have created needs to be erased. Bonhoeffer speaks to this when he talks about eating together. We are to worship the giver of the gift (food in this case) and also to realize the giver of the gift is the ultimate gift himself.

Bonhoeffer then speaks to an issue that we all could use a fresh infusion of God into–our work. We have been told that work is a necessary evil in our world that distracts us from doing spiritual stuff. I have personally heard recently, “I just wish I could quit my job so I could do stuff like read my bible and pray all day.” Bonhoeffer says that there is a reason why God worked 6 days in the making of creation and rested 1. God has made us for work. “Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer.” We need a fresh dose of Colossians 3:23. Bonhoeffer says, “In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus for him the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh.” What if God is using work to make us holy and more like himself? What would a work day look like in the reality that we are in the presence of God working for his Kingdom purposes?

Bonhoeffer says that the end of the day is a time for reflection on the days work and also an opportunity to make amends for any wrongs done during the course of the day. We are not to sleep on our anger toward a brother. Therefore the evening is the time to make things right with your brother/sister in Christ. The days ends as it began, with prayer to the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). Bonhoeffer encourages us to echo the prayer of the ancient church, “that when our eyes are closed in sleep God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake.”

The sun rises again and a new day begins…

-Joseph Phillips

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