You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2011.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
As I was preparing for last Sunday’s encounter with the Beatitudes, I read Hauerwas’ commentary on Matthew. He drew so much from Bonhoeffer that I turned back to Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. I know I read it in seminary, but that was about ten years ago. I am reading it differently this time, or at least new things are popping out at me. Bonhoeffer’s insistence on the Sermon being about the community called and gathered around Jesus is challenging and freeing for Jesus does not proscribe what we must be, he simply describes us.
Commenting about the upcoming gospel reading about the community being the salt of the earth, Bonhoeffer writes:
“Ye are the salt.” Jesus does not say: “You must be the salt.” It is not for the disciple to decide whether they will be the salt of the earth, for they are so whether they like it or not, they have been made salt by the call they received. Again, it is: “Ye are the salt,” not “Ye have the salt.” By identifying the salt with the apostolic proclamation the Reformers robbed the saying of all its sting. No, the word speaks of their whole existence in so far as it is grounded anew in the call of Christ, that same existence which was the burden of the beatitudes. The call of Christ makes those who respond to it the salt of the earth in their total existence.
Of course, there is another possibility–the salt may lose its savour and cease to be salt at all. It just stops working. Then it is indeed good for nothing but to be thrown away. That is the peculiar quality of salt. Everything else needs to be seasoned with salt, but once the salt has lost its savour, it can never be salted again. Everything else can be saved by salt, however bad it has gone–only salt which loses its savour has no hope of recovery. That is the other side of the picture. That is the judgment which always hangs over the disciple community, whose mission it is to save the world, but which, if it ceases to live up to the mission is itself irretrievably lost. The call of Jesus Christ means either that we are the salt of the earth, or else we are annihilated; either we follow the call or we are crushed beneath it. There is no question of a second chance.-Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 1995 Touchstone Books, pp. 116-117
Challenging words for a tradition so hyper-sensitive to notions of works righteousness. Images that Bonhoeffer uses there at the end distress us.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment. Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously. When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination. “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!” (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings.
“Our whole life is an Advent, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people will be brothers and sisters.”
It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth. That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha.
We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.
Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy.
God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us. Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near. We think of all of God’s goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgment and grace: “Behold I stand at the door! Open wide the gates!” (Ps. 24:7)?
The name, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), has become a byword for conviction and courage. In 1935, ten years before the Nazis hanged him in Flossenburg, Bonhoeffer presided over a seminary consisting of twenty-five young pastors. They were all part of the Confessing Church, believers who refused to drape Hitler’s policies with the Christian flag. Therefore, the seminary was illegal; they literally risked their lives to pray together, study together, and live together. In 1937 the Nazis shut down this clandestine seminary, and a year later Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together, reflections on a Christian community. In the pages of this book, he taught that courage is not only standing up against the unbelieving world; it includes standing up against one’s own sin in the context of the local church.
The Church had many enemies in Bonhoeffer’s day…
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent: one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – things that are really of no consequence – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
Yesterday afternoon, after the worship service at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church on Christmas morning, I fly out of Omaha to San Diego (after changing planes in Phoenix). Every two years, my wife’s family meets at the in-laws for Christmas. I was the last to arrive. My luggage did not make it with me , but was delivered a few hours later.
In an hour or so, I plan to run around Lake Murray!
by Mark Altrogge on December 21, 2011
Christmas is the season of joy. Yeah right.
As Paul McCartney sings, “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time,” I see haggard looking parents pushing their gift-laden baskets through the aisles of stores yelling at their kids, “If you ask one more time we’re going home and never coming back ever again. And you will eat oatmeal from now on. Without sugar. And we’re never going to McDonald’s again either!” (I once threatened to never take my kids to McDonald’s again. Empty threat #302).
Would people describe you as joyful?
Would your co-workers and neighbors? Would your classmates and roommates say you’re cheerful? If your friends knew no other Christians but you what would their impression of Christianity be? Would little kids describe you as happy or fun? This quote by D Martin Lloyd Jones challenges me:
“Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from the condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who ‘scorns delights and lives laborious days’…..It behooves us, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the glory of the Christ in whom we believe, to represent Him and His cause, His message and His power in such a way that men and women, far from being antagonized, will be drawn and attracted as they observe us, whatever our circumstances or condition. We must so live that they will be compelled to say: would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does.”
Christians should be joy radiators. And not just at Christmas. This doesn’t mean we’re rosy-eyed Pollyannas who wear pasted on fake smiles all the time. This doesn’t even necessarily mean we feel happy. But there’s a joy in Christ that’s deep and lasting and real. And others should see something of it in us.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Think about it…
Ferdinand Schlingensiepen in his biography, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance writes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had already began working on his essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question” even before the Aryan Paragraph was issued. Bonhoeffer…
…had first presented his theses on this topic to a group of pastors invited by Revd Gerhard Jacobi in the parish house of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, some of whom left the room in protest because they like most Germans at the time, were of a different opinion (125).
Bonhoeffer had an ability to see an issue before others could. He also had the courage to address the issues as well.
There were never to be many who agreed with him.