January 7, 2021
After months of being apart, why does it even matter that a church gathers together? In the next season of our Reflections on Life Together devotional series, Pastor Scott will help us understand from the Scriptures and from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book why there is no substitute for the gathering of the church-community. Today's episode introduces the series and helps us prepare to learn what daily life looks like in essential, intentional, Christ-centered relationships with followers of Jesus. (And if you want to catch up on the first season's episodes on the theme of the gathered church-community, check out the archive.) #lifetogether #community
Hopefully the absence of normal church life over the last several months has convinced you of the necessity of church-community. But maybe it also has made you ask the question, why do we even bother to go to church in the first place? Why don’t I just stay at home and read my Bible, listen to a good podcast, and stream whatever service seems like it has my favorite songs and the most interesting sermon title? In Philippians 3:17, the Apostle Paul commands the church, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” If we read the Bible, then we’ll know: There is no normal way to live the Christian life that does not pursue intentional relationships with other disciples as an essential part in becoming like Jesus. That’s why church-community is so vital for our Christian lives and why, in part, we have missed it so much in this season of absence. We need not just contemporary models we can look to, but also models of Christians in other times and cultures who can help us to learn, who can challenge some of our assumptions us to lose our blind spots and see more clearly things as they really are and as God’s Word says they ought to be. And as I think about saints in the cloud of witnesses who have helped to shape my understanding of the essence and imperative of biblical church-community, I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a prodigy, one of the most popular young professors at the prestigious theology faculty of the University of Berlin with a promising career ahead. But he recognized the dangers of Hitler’s pretentions from the start and didn’t shrink back from warning the church not to follow blindly one who would lead them toward idolatry and unbelief. At the point when the state church demanded conformity to Hitler rather than Christ and greater loyalty to the ideology of the party than to the Bible’s ethic of love, Bonhoeffer and others withdrew, choosing fidelity over complicity and integrity over compromise in the vain hope of influence. They formed the Confessing Church—a church that would be faithful to the confession that Jesus Christ alone is Lord and Savior of all—and Bonhoeffer was invited to lead their new underground, illegal seminary in Finkenwalde near the coast of the Baltic Sea. There, Bonhoeffer led 25 young ministers to consider what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ, the people of God by the grace of God led by the Word of God to the glory of God. And Bonhoeffer didn’t just give lectures on this; he lived it out, shaping the life of this community to model how these pastors could shape future church-communities according to God’s Word. Life Together captures that teaching and the lived experience of Christian community these brothers shared together until the Gestapo forcibly disbanded the seminary. Of course, Bonhoeffer himself was influenced by other Christians and the legacy of those who have gone before; in particular, influence of the African-American community in Harlem during a year that he spent in NYC in 1930. As the Nazi Party rose to power and consolidated their suffocating influence and corruption of every part of German society, Bonhoeffer carried with him the sorrowful lament and living hope voiced in the spirituals of the Black church tradition. Just as these songs were gifts of the Spirit to sustain those oppressed by violence and prejudice in our country, they became rallying cries for a small band of young German pastors who refused to be complicit in the injustice and idolatry of Aryan nationalism. They were written on Bonhoeffer’s heart and they helped him to write a book that speaks so profoundly and hopefully about how Christ intends for us to live a life of faithful discipleship together in community with our brothers and sisters, even and especially in the midst of dark and difficult days.