We're in this together
Sunday, March 4, 2018
From 1 Corinthians 1
Brothers and sisters, Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung on a gallows by the Nazis in 1945, just days before armistice. That Jesus died before him, hung on a tree, comforted this preacher of Christ. In all the most important ways, this intellectual and moral giant removed power from himself and acknowledged it in Jesus Christ. He sorts out implications for the individual in his most famous book, The Cost for Discipleship.
What of Christians in relationship? How then shall we live? How can we pour ourselves out to God as a gift offering? Bonhoeffer’s less-well-known book Life Togetherclaims radical difference for Christian community.
He wrote this book under pressure, waiting for the Nazis to come and close his underground seminary. Soon after Bonhoeffer tried to leave Germany, returning for a few months to Union Theological Seminary in New York. But he could not stay away from his homeland. He sailed home and was eventually arrested, imprisoned for two years, and finally executed.
To my mind, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has earned the right to be heard.
What does he say about relationship and community? “Through Christ alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.” That means in spiritual community there “is never any ‘immediate’ relationship with one another.”
Instead Christ will always be our mediator. I know and love you through Christ, not directly. You know and love me through Christ, not directly. This changes everything, because both stronger and weaker personalities co-exist without control. Conflicts change in the presence of Christ.
This sounds too good to be true. Difficult, of course, but still true. Psychologists call this kind of relationship “triangling.” Triangles are made up of a weaker person, a stronger person, and one who tries to resolve conflict between them. This can be helpful in human community, but in spiritual community Bonhoeffer says we don’t have the confusion of a human mediator playing God. God does the work himself.
“Life together” seeks to discover ways of uncovering this freedom in Christ. Then our relationships and communities are no longer pious or emotional safe-houses, but they become gifts of a good God to his children, his love for us always right smack in the middle of all we do together: our worship, our solitude, our ministry and confession to one another, and our healing.
We are put together with our parents, Lord, and then with our friends, and most of all, first of all, with you. Jesus, you bring us TOGETHER at your table. No wonder we call it the Lord’s Supper. You are there, and you provide for us all that we need, and we are so grateful. Teach us again, every day, Lord, to pray.