Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Life Together-Community

This week I have been re-reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in as I ponder the direction of the church post-CWA. In listening, one word I have heard talked about is "unity." Bonhoeffer's first chapter, entitled "Community" opens with the 1st verse of Psalm 133, which exclaims "Behold,how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity!" Bonhoeffer observes that Christians take for granted the priviledge of living among other Christians, while Christ, in whose path we profess to follow, lived in the " midst of enemies." We live, Bonhoeffer asserts, as that people scattered of whom Zechariah speaks, among others who do not believe as we do, as seed of the Kingdom of God. We live as a people scattered who are held together "solely in Jesus Christ" in the already, but not yet time.
Yet, not all of us are blessed to be in fellowship- there are those who know the absence of this fellowship- the lonely, the sick, those who are persecuted around the world. These know most keenly the blessing they live without. They see the companionship of a fellow Christian,the face of Christ and the grace of moments we sometimes take for granted. Bonhoeffer indicts the rest of us for "trodding under foot" the gift we have each day. Sometimes our sense of entitlement blinds us to what is in our midst already.
What we have can be taken from us, this fellowship can be interrupted or disrupted. How do we respond to the notion that there are limitations? Do we chafe against these limitations as being a life that is insufficient to our desires? Can we live in the grace of a moment for its own sake? Can we live in the reality of relationships that are not all we seek? Do we live in the world at the foot of the cross or the world we prefer? Do we search for an ideal world, or Christ's reality?
Can we give thanks for the present without constantly searching for that better future we have so assuredly determined should be ours?
"If we do not give thanks for that daily Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ."
Bonhoeffer claims that "Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate."
It is because of this reality established by the cross that we enter community, not as demanders but as thankful recipients, as people who can go on living through sin and need under the blessing of grace- a divine gift even on the most distressing day. Even in the darkest hour of disillusionment, may we remember "neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed that binds us- forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ who alone is our unity.
In all of the tensions and dissatisfactions, hurt feelings and misplaced perceptions, may we start by remembering not what separates us, but what we share in common in the eyes of Christ. May we each use this view not only to support ourselves in our own hurts, but first use this view to see the other.

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