First Grace’s 2018 Lenten Discipline
Each week of Lent, First Grace will be given one of the “Ministries of Life Together” that Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote for his flock. We are invited to read, reflect and practicethe ministry for the week in all aspects of daily life. Perhaps you will add to the ministries that Bonhoeffer wrote of. He spoke of the Ministry of Listening, The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue, The Ministry of Meekness, The Ministry of Helpfulness, The Ministry of Bearing the Burden of Each Other, and the Ministry of Proclamation-Speaking the Truth in Love.
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER was a German pastor and theologian known for his opposition to National Socialism-Nazism and Adolf Hitler. His ties to the July 20, 1944 conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler and to overthrow the Nazi regime led to his arrest. In April 1945, weeks before the war ended, Bonhoeffer was hanged.
His theological writings are regarded as classics throughout the Christian world. One of those writings is Life Together-a Discussion on Christian Fellowship. Bonhoeffer had opened an underground seminary where he served as dean. He wrote Life Together for the seminarians who were having a difficult time-living together and being the church for each other.
Bonhoeffer was engaged in a most serious, dangerous and joyful life-giving endeavor-living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For him and for us the gospel is one of both social transformation AND personal transformation. These two transformations do not happen in unison. Bonhoeffer confronted the ills in society and the ills in himself. His faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ enabled him to do both. Like the first disciples of Jesus, he was silenced, imprisoned and executed. Yet Bonhoeffer was known roundly as the kindest and most generous of souls. He even provided pastoral counseling for his Nazi prison guards. He is truly among the cloud of witnesses.
(Our thanks to Rev. John Winn who introduced me to this book when I entered pastoral ministry. Rev. Winn’s paraphrasing with a few edits is employed for this Lenten study.)
First Grace’s 2018 Lenten Discipline
THE MINISTRY OF PROCLAMATION
Speaking the truth in love
LIFE TOGETHER by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
WHAT WE ARE CONCERNED with here is the free communication of the Word from person to person, not by the ordained ministry which is bound to a particular office, time, and place. We are thinking of that unique situation in which one person bears witness through their words with another person… of a difficult truth that is harming themselves or others.
The speaking of that Word is beset with infinite perils. If it is not accompanied by worthy listening, how can it really be the right word for the other person? If it is contradicted by one’s own lack of helpfulness, how can it be a convincing and sincere word? If it issues, not from a spirit of bearing and forbearing, but from impatience and the desire to force its acceptance, how can it be the liberating and healing word? [One can only speak truth in love if they have first shown love to the other by their previous words and actions and demonstrate a continued commitment to the other.]
WHERE CHRISTIANS LIVE TOGETHER the time must inevitably come when in some crisis one person will have to [address a difficult truth with another person]…. no matter how old or highly placed or distinguished, they are still a person like us, in need of God’s grace. That person has the same great necessities that we have, and needs help, encouragement, and forgiveness as we do.
…In speaking the truth in love, God can re-bind elements together, re-create community and grant grace. [First show your love to another by being of helpful service, second by bearing the burden of another in love and third, by speaking the truth in love. Speak simply, directly and humbly, and trust the Holy Spirit with the rest.]
Bonhoeffer’s “Four Services” have been modified to be gender inclusive byJohn Winn