Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Need for Repentance

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Environment #1

This month I’ll be posting parts of a Lutheran Via de Cristo talk I gave about Environments.  This is the first installment.

It’s has been said, and rightly so, that the Christian life is not a destination, but a journey.  You might choose to think of it as a train trip.  Our first talk spoke about the importance of having an ideal.  It’s just crucial–think about it–you might be at the train station, but you can’t get on the right train if you don’t know where you’re headed.  As Christians, we want to head toward the life of grace, a conscious and growing life in Christ.  This means a lifelong process of reforming and transforming our lives as our will is conformed to His.  Talks about piety, study and action gave us some idea of how to do this through personal spiritual discipline.  Our last talk ,Leaders, presented a picture of the truly dynamic Christian as a leader.  This talk goes a step further because Jesus called us to follow Him, not only for our own salvation, but for the salvation of the world.  This is the true mission of the church.  It’s not enough to get on the right train and sit quietly reading our Bible until the journey ends.  It’s not enough to interact in a friendly and helpful manner with our fellow passengers. We must get off at every stop and invite others to come along with us.

There’s a very good book you might want to read sometime, called “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this book, Bonhoeffer says that Christianity means community and the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters is a gift of grace, pure grace.  Then he goes on to tell us that the Christian’s calling is not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the midst of the world, even among enemies!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples, saying:

“….you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house ….Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

We can’t stay isolated in our churches and in groups of fellow Christians. We must go out — to our families, our workplaces, our communities –and radiate God’s love into our personal environments.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Praying For One Another

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

We lay people need to pray for our Pastor and for each other.  I have found, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that in praying for someone my feelings about them transform.  Often God reveals something that shows me I have been misjudging or misunderstanding them.  Prayer is an important ministry of the laity;  we are never too old, too young, too ill, or too ignorant to pray.  It is such a simple gift we can give others, and one we often neglect.

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Piety

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Blessed Are the Merciful by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ These men without possessions or power, these strangers on Earth, these sinners, these followers of Jesus, have in their life with him renounced their own dignity, for they are merciful. As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Staying On Course–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“But to deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight that deviation may be.  It is not our judgement of the situation which can show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God.  Here alone lies the promise of God’s faithfulness and help.  It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What is Spiritual Direction?

I first heard the term “spiritual direction” when I attended  a Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990.  Spiritual direction was mentioned in a list of disciplines that could be helpful in increasing piety, but we received little information to explain what this discipline entailed, or how to go about doing it.  Being the curious person I am, I went back to my home congregation and asked my Pastor, “what is spiritual direction and are you my spiritual director?”  Turns out he didn’t really know either.  That started me on a journey that led to lots of reading and research, 5+ years of being a spiritual directee, and finally a two year program through Oasis Ministries called, “Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides” during which I had several directees of my own.  After all of this, I still found myself asking, “Exactly what is this thing called spiritual direction?”

Most Lutherans, like me, are unfamiliar with the idea of spiritual direction.  The closest concept in our tradition is probably “seelsorge,” or care of souls, which is regarded as part of the pastoral office.

Like other Christians, however, we Lutherans do want to explore and deepen our faith lives and we know that certain relationships with others help us do that. Even those who have not heard of “spiritual direction” are comfortable with the idea of having a spiritual friend or mentor.  Luther himself spoke of “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together,  says:

“God has willed that we should seek and find His living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself …”

Simply put, spiritual direction is pointing another person toward God.  I believe the ability to do this is a charism, or spiritual gift and it often occurs naturally in the Christian community, sometimes without the individuals involved being fully aware of it.

Stay tuned for my next post about my own experiences in spiritual direction …..