March 14, 2020
“An Unspeakable Gift”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood isolation and being cut off from the people and things he held dear. Imprisoned in a Nazi Concentration Camp, Bonhoeffer was executed in April of 1945. With that keen understanding of how precious our life together as human beings is, Bonhoeffer wrote a wonderful book reflecting on the gift of Christian community. The book is titled Life Together.
The first chapter begins with these words from Psalm 133, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1) Celebrating the gift of community Bonhoeffer writes about the joy of the physical presence of other Christians, how there is even a yearning for the physical presence of other Christians. For those who are in particularly difficult situations, the prisoner, the ones who are sick, exiles, the “companionship of a fellow Christian is a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God.” Noting how individuals who are separated from the Body rejoice in just the smallest taste of fellowship, Bonhoeffer goes on to write, “But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter with a brother or sister, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians.” (p.20)
That daily fellowship, that weekly worship, is removed from us right now. We pray that it will soon be restored.
I write today to ask you to reflect on something else Bonhoeffer calls to our attention. “It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian community is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that may one day taken from us…Therefore, let the one who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of their heart. Let them thank God on their knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brothers and sisters.” (p. 20)
Until now we have had the privilege of meeting together. For a period of time that gift is taken away. May our sense of loss also spur us to give thanks that in our normal lives, in our everyday lives, we have that gift. Let us never take that gift for granted. Knowing that we will not be able to gather as we normally do for a period of time, may we together join in giving thanks to God for the precious gift of community.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.”With the love of Christ,