Friday, September 5, 2008
It is the fellowship of the Cross to experience the burden of the other. If one does not experience it, the fellowship he belongs to is not Christian. If any member refuses to bear that burden, he denies the law of Christ. - said by the guy to the left, in his book, Life Together.
Back when I laid the initial pipes for this message I picked up a copy of Dietrich Bonhoefferr's book, Life Together. It seemed to me that Romans 12 is about how Christians are to live this new life in Christ, with each other. Paul's words aren't full of a lot of mystery, just clear instruction about how to treat each other now that our lives are "living sacrifices." The foundation of life together is put simply by Paul, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" - vs 2. The rest of the chapter suggests what this transformed life looks like - together.
So I've been reading Life Together for the first time since seminary days. It's like reading something from another planet. What Bonhoeffer talks about is so unfamiliar to me and American Christianity (for the most part) that I don't even know how to go about doing what he says. He says that a believer's focus should be so fully on Christ alone that nothing else really can move us or shake us up at all. He writes that most of our desires regarding what Church should be like are poisonous "wish-dreams" that destroy fellowship and the Church. He talks about reading the Bible together as a family every morning before the day gets moving. Lots of the Bible - chapters of it together. Then, sing a few hymns with your kids around the corn flakes. On pg 60 he rips into bad singing in church. I liked that part, though I'm not a good singer. He advocates lots of alone time for prayer, meditation, and being with God. And finally he talks about ministry, not in terms of "success" and "goals" being accomplished, but in terms of meekness, humility, "holding one's tongue" and being simply "helpful" to others.
What century did this guy live in?! Oh, wait, that's right - he lived during the first half of the last century; formed an underground seminary community where people actually lived out all of these Biblical ideals; was executed at 39 yrs of age because he had the courage to stand for his convictions.
So the sermon has, as usual, been difficult because the way I actually live, and the way I suspect most of us live, is so disparate from the way the bible intends us to live. I think the reason that Romans 12 doesn't shock me as much as Life Together is simply because I get used to reading what the bible has to say and I become numb to its teaching. The Spirit tries to blast through my spiritual deafness, but it doesn't always happen too well.
So in the message this week I'm going to invite people to think of Paul's words from a bit of a different angle - a cafe' parable, in a sense. But if you don't mind slightly slow reading, check out Bonhoeffer's stuff. We would do well to make our church, and The Church, a lot more like his Life Together. - Curtis