CUAA Church Work

As you're social distancing and staying home during COVID-19 shutdowns, we want to offer you some encouragement. Today's encouragement is brought to you in the form of a book recommendation from Rev. Theodore Hopkins, Ph.D., the director of the pre-seminary program.

The book I have been thinking a lot about lately is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. I realize the great irony of recommending a book on community during a time of social distancing and quarantine. But Life Together is not merely a practical guide to community, though it does reflect upon Christian practices. Life Together is a theological and Biblical reflection on the church that lives from and in the Word of God.

Particularly important for this time of quarantine, Bonhoeffer recognizes that community cannot be assumed. Christian community is a gift of God. How true Bonhoeffer’s words ring for us today! How we long and wish to gather together, to celebrate at the Lord’s Table his own meal of his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins! We yearn for such community, but right now it is only a distant wish.

Bonhoeffer’s book, however, is exactly for this kind of a time. Bonhoeffer published this text in 1939 as National Socialism was fighting tooth and nail against the Christian church in Germany, especially against the Confessing Church that refused to give in to Nazi practices and oaths. Bonhoeffer knew that the Gestapo could put an end to confessing pastors and their congregations at any moment.

Bonhoeffer wrote for a people under pressure, and though our pressure is very different, his book can speak volumes for us. First, Bonhoeffer reminds the church of basic practices that mark a community as Christian: confession and absolution, Bible reading, and prayer. With his reflection on these practices, Bonhoeffer’s book can further your own devotional time, and it will challenge you in your families at home or electronically in other groups to practice forgiveness, to read a chapter of the New Testament and two chapters of the Old Testament each day, and to spend time, real time, in prayer each day.

While director of the illegal Confessing Church Seminary at Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer required that the students studying to become pastors spend 30 minutes each day alone in prayer! Second, Bonhoeffer is convinced that Christians must learn not only how to live in community but also how to be Christians in isolation.

You may find that his words on being a Christian alone are the words that speak most profoundly to you during your own time of isolation, recognizing that a Christian is never truly alone. The Christian who has been given the Spirit is always connected by that same Spirit both to the triune God and to other Christians, no matter how isolated one may feel.

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