September 18, 2020

 

Day 33

 

Every act of self-discipline by a Christian is also a service to the community. Conversely, there is no sin in thought, word, or deed, no matter how personal or secret, that does not harm the whole community. When the cause of an illness gets into one’s body, whether or not anyone knows where it comes from, or in what member it has lodged, the body is made ill. This is the appropriate metaphor for the Christian community. Every member serves the whole body, contributing either to its health or to its ruin, for we are members of one body not only when we want to be, but in our whole existence. This is not a theory, but a spiritual reality that is often experienced in the Christian community with shocking clarity, sometimes destructively and sometimes beneficially.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

 

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • What do you think Bonhoeffer means by an “act of self-discipline”?
  • How can an individual’s sins “harm the whole community”?
  • What are the implications of Bonhoeffer’s assertion that, “we are members of one body not only when we want to be, but in our whole existence”?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Reflect on your experience in your community of faith. Does it feel like a living body of which you are a member? Explain.
  • How might you better serve “the whole body”?

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Holy God, thank you that you have made me a member of the Body of Christ; help me keep healthy that I may not harm the whole body.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 17, 2020

 

Day 32

 

Intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and one another. Those who deny their neighbors prayers of intercession deny them a service Christians are called to perform. Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes the more promising it is…

All this proves that intercessory prayer is a gift of God’s grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Because God has made us such an immeasurably great offer here, we should accept it joyfully. The very time we give to intercession will turn out to be a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • Is it a contradiction to say that intercessory prayer is both a “daily service Christians owe to God and one another” and “a gift of God’s grace for every Christian community and for every Christian”? Why, or why not?
  • Could the lack of joy evident in many Christians and in many Christian communities be a sign of a lack of specific, concrete, intercessory prayer? Explain.

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you. Psalm 5:11

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Write about how you feel when praying for others in your community of faith.
  • Is intercessory prayer “a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation” for you? Why, or why not?

 

INTERCESSIONS

Pray that your community of faith in particular, and all communities of faith in general, would experience the joy in God and in each other that comes from the service of daily prayer on behalf of their members.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Holy God, thank you for the joy of bringing people into your presence this day and every day.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 16, 2020

 

Day 31

 

Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace. Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away. Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress. Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid: Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:15-16

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • How does seeing others under the cross of Jesus Christ cause all that “repels me” about them to fall away?
  • In what way is everyone equal under the cross?
  • How does looking at other people through the lens of God’s mercy change our feelings about them and about ourselves?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

May he judge your people with righteousness,
   and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
   and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
   give deliverance to the needy,
   and crush the oppressor. Psalm 72:2-4

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Make a list of the people whom you would like to bring into the presence of God today.
  • Write a line or two describing the nature of your relationship with each of these people.

 

INTERCESSIONS

For each person listed in your journal today, pray: Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with (name) according to your firmness and your goodness.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Forgiving and transforming God, thank you that under the cross of Christ we all stand equally together under your love and mercy.
 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.



September 15, 2020

 

Day 30

 

A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • What is more common in the church, generic prayers for “those in need” or specific prayers for specific individuals? Why?
  • How common is it for individual Christians and communities of faith to pray for the good of those they dislike or are in conflict with?
  • In what ways does intercessory prayer protect a community of faith?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   “May they prosper who love you.
   Peace be within your walls,
      and security within your towers.”
   For the sake of my relatives and friends
      I will say, “Peace be within you.”
   For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
      I will seek your good.” Psalm 122:6-9

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Reflect on your prayer life. Have you ever prayed for the good of anyone you were in a conflict with?
  • If so, what happened as a result of your prayer? Did it change the way you thought about that person?
  • If not, reflect in your journal as to whether or not you are ready to pray for the good of people who have hurt you or whom you dislike for any reason.

 

INTERCESSIONS

Pray that your community of faith would be a place where conflict is resolved and hard feelings softened through intercessory prayer.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Forgiving God, may I see those with whom I am in conflict as your beloved, and may I share in your love for them by praying for them.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 14, 2020

 

Day 29

 

Third, we speak of the service involved in bearing with others. “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Thus the law of Christ is a law of forbearance. Forbearance means enduring and suffering. The other person is a burden to the Christian, in fact for the Christian most of all. The other person never becomes a burden at all for the pagans. They simply stay clear of every burden the other person may create for them. However, Christians must bear the burden of one another. Only as a burden is the other really a brother or sister and not just an object to be controlled.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • In what ways might “bearing with others” have a positive rather than negative connotation?
  • What do you think of Bonhoeffer’s assertion that: “The other person is a burden to the Christian”? Can that be a good way to look at other people?
  • How does the church “bear with” the larger community that surrounds it?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

Cast your burden on the Lord,
   and he will sustain you;
   he will never permit
   the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Think of the people in your life. To whom are you a burden? How does it feel?
  • In what ways do the people in your life help bear your burdens?
  • Whose burdens are you helping to bear? How does it feel?

 

INTERCESSIONS

Who in your circle of family, friends, and acquaintances is weighed down with heavy burdens? Pray for them in their need and ask God to show you how to help them bear those burdens.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Loving God, thank you for bearing with me; make me willing to bear with others.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 11, 2020



September 10, 2020

 

Day 28

 

The other service one should perform for another person in a Christian community is active helpfulness. To begin with, we have in mind simple assistance in minor, external matters. There are many such things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the lowest service. Those who worry about the loss of time entailed by such small, external acts of helpfulness are usually taking their own work too seriously. We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, who will thwart our plans and frustrate our ways time and again, even daily, by sending people across our path with their demands and requests.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • What are the forms “active helpfulness” might take in a community of faith?
  • Is it true that: “Nobody is too good for the lowest service”? Why, or why not?
  • How does taking their own work too seriously tempt people to undervalue the real needs of others?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

For he [the ruler] delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight. Psalm 72:12-14

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Reflect on specific instances in which you were “interrupted by God” in the form of someone in need of help who crossed your path. What did you do? How did you feel about it?
  • Write about your degree of willingness to be “interrupted by God.”
  • What might the “lowest service” be in your community of faith?

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as I go about my business today, don’t hesitate to interrupt me, and give me the grace to notice the interruption.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 9, 2020

 

Day 27

(When Bonhoeffer speaks of community, he means any gathering of Christians, including the family.)

The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. … We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

“Listen carefully to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears.” Job 13:17

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • What do you think of Bonhoeffer’s statement that “the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them”?
  • In what way is listening to our brothers and sisters doing “God’s work” for them?
  • Why do you suppose so many people find it so difficult to listen?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

But my people did not listen to my voice;
   Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
   to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
   that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalm 81:11-13

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Write about a time when you benefited from having another Christian listen to you.
  • Write about your experience as a listener. Are you a good listener? Did you feel like you were doing God’s work as you listened?

 

INTERCESSIONS

Think about someone in your community of faith who never seems listened to. Pray that they might have the courage to speak what is on their heart and mind, and pray that you would have the compassion and interest to listen to them.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord Jesus, may I have the grace to listen to you and learn from you; may I have the grace to listen to and learn from others.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 8, 2020

 

Day 26

 

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has singled you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called…

But the reverse is also true. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone. You are called into the community of faith; the call was not meant for you alone. You carry your cross, you struggle, and you pray in the community of faith, the community of those who are called. You are not alone even when you die, and on the day of judgment you will be only one member of the great community of faith of Jesus Christ…

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • Why do so many people in our society seem to fear being alone?
  • Why do so many churches seem to be mere aggregates of individuals rather than true communities of faith?
  • In what ways can a disciple establish a healthy balance between aloneness and community?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
   in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
   studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:1-2

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Write about times when you have intentionally been alone. How did it make you feel? What did you do? Did your aloneness have any impact on how you felt when you were with others again?
  • Write about your experience in community. Do you feel an integral part of your community? Do you feel like you have a good balance between time in community and time alone?

 

INTERCESSIONS

If you know anyone who seems lonely, pray that they might discover true community. If you know anyone who seems afraid to be alone with themselves, pray that they might discover the joy of solitude, of being alone with God.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

O Lord, when I am too much alone, help me seek community. When I am too dependent on the community, help me to set aside time to be alone.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.


September 4, 2020

 

Day 25

 

Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened.

 

BIBLICAL WISDOM

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

 

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • Where do disciples go to satisfy their daily hunger and thirst for righteousness?
  • If Christians find their salvation, deliverance, and justification not in them­selves but in Jesus Christ, how should they use their resulting freedom?
  • If God has put God’s word into the “mouth of human beings,” who is responsible to speak the word? Only pastors or church workers? Why?

 

PSALM FRAGMENT

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
   and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
   and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
   and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Psalm 145:5-7

 

JOURNAL REFLECTIONS

  • Write about specific Christians who have spoken a word from God to you when you needed it.
  • Write about people to whom you have spoken God’s word.

 

INTERCESSIONS

Think of someone you would like to be a spiritual friend with and ask God to help you build a mutually supportive spiritual relationship with him or her.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

O Holy Spirit, send the people I need to bring me the word of God, and send the people I need to speak the word of God to.

 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.