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Over the past couple of years I have worked on my Doctor of Ministry thesis-project on the impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the twenty-first century preaching and preachers. I can see much more light at the end of the tunnel now! During this process, I have discovered that even those who have a limited understanding of Bonhoeffer usually know that he is the author of classic Christian book called Life Together.
I was first introduced to the book 30 years ago while I was student at Bethel College (now known as Bethel University) in St. Paul, MN. At Christianbook.com, there is a helpful description of the book:
“After his martyrdom at the hands of the Gestapo in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer continued his witness in the hearts of Christians around the world. In his book Life Together we learn of Pastor Bonhoeffer’s experience within Christian community. This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost biblical, words. Life Together serves as bread to all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship” (Access the site)
As you can see in the links above this is the second impact that Bonhoeffer can have on twenty-first century preaching. If you are new to the site, then I welcome you to explore it. And if you have the time, please make any comments. There is also an “Evaluation Form” link at the top of the page.
In the coming days, we revisit Bonhoeffer’s understanding of Christian community.
Greetings! Thank you for taking the time to check this blog site out. If you are a regular reader, then you probably know by now that I post reminders about the purpose of this blog about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
It is to share with my fellow pastors and preachers the impact that Dietrich Bonhoeffer can have on our preaching and our lives. There are six reasons why Bonhoeffer can make a difference in twenty-first century preaching:
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer placed a high premium on the meditation of the Scriptures (posted on 02/25/08).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of Christian fellowship (posted on 03/03/08).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasized a non-compromising faith (costly grace) (posted on 03/10/08).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against evil in society (posted on 03/17/08).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplifies serving Jesus in the severest of trials (posted on 03/24/08).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced the grace of living well and dying well (posted on 04/01/08).
The creation of this blog and the feedback I receive from those who visit it will help me in the completion of my Doctor of Ministry degree through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. My D.Min. track is called “The Preacher & the Message“. It is under the leadership of Dr. Haddon Robinson (picture on the right).
It is important that I continue to receive feedback. You can click the “Evaluation Form” at the top of the page or leave a comment on any post. You may also e-mail me, if your desire, at email@example.com.
Have a great day in the Lord,
A half hour is the minimum amount of time which a proper meditation requires. It is, of course, necessary that there be complete quiet, and that we intend to allow nothing to divert us, no matter how important it may seem (34).
Bonhoeffer was convinced that meditation was the key to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the richness of God’s Word. The twenty-first century is an age of short-cuts. But can we afford to short-cut our time in prayerful, reflective meditation of the Scriptures? It would be better to heed the words of Bonhoeffer:
We dare not allow ourselves to cease from this daily engagement with the Scripture… (35).
Any comments are welcome.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer provides some very practical information on the spiritual discipline of scripture meditation for us twenty-first century followers of Jesus. For example, he asks and then answers the question…
What text, and how long should the text be?
It has proven helpful to meditate on a text of approximately ten to fifteen verses for a period of a week. It is not good to meditate on a different text each day, since we are not always equally receptive, and the texts for the most part are much too long for that.
Notice now that his next words are addressed to preachers…
Whatever you do, do not take the sermon text for next Sunday. That belongs in your sermon meditation time (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 34).
I am glad Bonhoeffer made that distinction even though it means for us preachers, that our time in scripture meditation is two-fold. We need the meditate on the scriptures for spiritual nourishment and we need to meditate on the Sunday’s text for the understanding and application of God’s Word for His people.
My next post will look at the time of time we should meditate according to Bonhoeffer.
How shall I meditate?
…In the same way that the word of a person who is dear to me follows me throughout the day, so the Word of Scripture should resonate and work within me ceaselessly. Just as you would not dissect and analyze the word spoken by someone dear to you, but would accept it just as it was said, so you should accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart as Mary did.
That is all. That is meditation. Do not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would in a sermon! Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you! Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.
It is not necessary every day to go through the entire text we have chosen for meditation. Often we will hold on to one word of it for the entire day…
…If during meditation our thoughts move to persons who are near to us or to those we are concerned about, let them linger there. That is a good time to pray for them. Do not pray in general, then, but in particular for the people who are on your mind. Let the Word of Scripture tell you what you ought to pray for them…
…We begin our meditations with pray for the Holy Spirit, asking for proper concentration for ourselves and for all who we know are also meditating. Then we turn to the text. At the close of the meditation we want to truly able to say a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart that is full (33-34).
My next post will focus on the actual text we are to meditate on. Until then, may we continue to fill our hearts with God’s Word.
In his book, Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave solid reasons why preachers of God’s Word should consistently meditate. Actually, his reasons can apply to anyone who follows Jesus. Bonhoeffer then went to answer another question…
What do I want from my meditation?
We want in any case to rise up from our meditation in a different state from when we sat down. We want to meet Christ in his Word. We turn to the text in our desire to hear what it is he wants yo give us and teach us through his Word. Meet him first in the day, before you meet other people. Every morning lay upon him everything that preoccupies you and weighs you down, before new burdens are laid upon you. Ask yourself what still hinders you from following him completely and let him take charge of that, before new hindrances are placed in your way.
His fellowship, his help, his guidance for the through his Word—that is the goal. Thus you will begin freshly strengthened in your faith (32).
Again, we don’t meditate simply for the sake of meditating. Rather, we do so in order to become more and more intimate with our Savior, Jesus.
Today, let us continue to glean encouraging words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about the importance of consistent mediation on the Word of God. In answer to the question: “Why do I meditate?”, he answers…
Because I need help against the ungodly haste and unrest which threaten my work as a pastor. Only from the peace of God’s Word can there flow the proper, devoted service of each day (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 31-32).
A pastor’s day (and any Christian’s day) is often filled with threats that want to disrupt his focus and intimacy with the Lord Jesus. If Bonhoeffer is correct, then the solution is quiet reflection and the pondering of God’s Word.
There were several reasons why the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer developed the regular practice of meditating on verses and passages in the Bible. Here is his third reason…
Because I need a firm discipline of prayer. we like to pray according to our moods–briefly, at length, or not at all. But that is to be arbitrary. Prayer is not a free-will offering to God; it is obligatory service, something which he requires. We are not free to engage in it according to our own wishes. Prayer is the first divine service in the day.
God requires that we take time for this service. “Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. My eyes are open in the night watches, that I may meditate upon your promises” (Psalm 119:147-8). “Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:164). God needed time before he came to us in Christ for our salvation. He needs time before he comes into my heart for my salvation (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 31).
Again, there is a strong connection between scripture meditation and prayer. We twenty-first century followers of Jesus will probably agree that prayer is important. Yet, would we also agree that the regular practice of meditating on God’s Word is just as vital?
There is a second reason Dietrich Bonhoeffer meditated on the Word of God. Notice in his statement below how he connects meditation with prayer. He wrote…
Because I am a preacher of the Word. I cannot expound the Scripture for others if i do not let it speak daily to me. I will misuse the Word in my office as preacher if I do not continue to meditate upon it in prayer.
If the Word has become empty for me in my daily administrations, if I no longer experience it, that proved I have not let the Word speak personally to me for a long time. I will offend against my calling if I do not seek each day in prayer the word that my Lord wants me to say for that day. Ministers of the Word are especially called upon to perform the office of prayer: “But we will devote oursleves to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The Pastor must pray than others, and has more to pray about (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 31).
These words speak to all Christians, but especially to preachers.
Why did Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent so much time in prayerful meditation of God’s Word? Well, in his own words…
Why do I meditate?
Because I am a Christian. Therefore, every day in which I do not penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of God’s Word in Holy Scripture is a lost day for me. I can only move forward with certainty upon the firm ground of the Word of God. And, as a Christian, I learn to know the Holy Scripture in no other way than by hearing the Word preached and by prayerful meditation (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 30).
Yes, he was a theologian, Christian leader and a pastor. Yet, the primary reason Bonhoeffer meditated on God’s Word was because he was a follower of Jesus Christ.
The application is simply: Our delight is to be in the law of the Lord, and on that law, we meditate day and night (Psalm 1.2).