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Life Together

My spiritual reading this Sunday was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship. It was mentioned by our Augustinian guest last week, Father Bob Guessetto, as the source of the famous quote that “the person who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian, was a martyr of the Nazis at Flossenburg in April 1945, only a couple months before Allied victory in Europe. Prior to his capture in 1943, he was active in the Confessing Church and the German resistance, teaching in an underground seminary (like the one Karol Wojtyla attended in Poland) and ministering to the Germans who fought against Hitler’s regime.

His discussion is only about 120 pages, touching on the themes of the community itself, the day with others, the day alone, ministry in the community, confession and communion. Leave it to a Lutheran to give one of the most eloquent descriptions and defenses of confession I have ever read!  (Luther, as you probably know, was a devoted participant in the sacrament of Reconciliation, originally keeping it along with Baptism and Eucharist as truly sacraments).

He highlights the aspects/gifts of ministry in community as The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue, The Ministry of Meekness, The Ministry of Listening, The Ministry of Helpfulness, The Ministry of Bearing, The Ministry of Proclaiming, and the Ministry of Authority.

The book is definitely worth a read, for anyone living in Christian community (including family life!) or serving in ministry. I thought I’d share a few nuggets worth expropriating:

“First, Christian community is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, Christian community is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.”

“Life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself intoa  movement, and order, a society, but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole church”

“It is not the experience of Christian community, but solid and certain faith in community that holds us together. … We are bound together by faith, not by experience. … for Jesus Christ alone is our unity”

“Listening can be a greater service than speaking. He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.”

“The day of the Lord’s Supper is an occasion of joy for the Christian community. Reconciled in their hearts with God and the brethren, the congregation receives the gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and receiving that, received forgiveness, new life and salvation. … The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. … Here the community has reached its goal. Here joy in Christ and his community is complete. The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the sacrament.”


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