“The early morning belongs to the church of the risen Christ. At the break of light it remembers the morning on which death, the devil, and sin were brought low in defeat, and new life and salvation were given to human beings.”
“If we were to learn again something of the praise and adoration that is due the triune God early in the morning, then we would also begin to sense something of the joy that comes when night is past and those who dwell with one another come together early in the morning to praise their God and hear the Word and pray together.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 22 - 23.
The second section of Life Together is titled The Day Together, and Bonhoeffer begins this section with how we should begin each day in our life together, “After the silence of the night and early morning, hymns and the Word of God will be heard all the more clearly…the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God,” (page 25). Bonhoeffer portrays the morning as a time of prayer, the Word, and singing for the church – but not just any part of the morning, rather the first moments, the first minutes, the first movements of the morning – “at the break of light”. It is not enough say, “I’ll do this and then that and then I’ll have my devotions,” for Bonhoeffer writes, “…the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.”
He begins the section by quoting Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” life together under the Word means beginning each day under the Word – it does not mean beginning each day reading or listening to the news, or sports scores, or checking email, or catching up on work – Bonhoeffer writes, “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and haunted by the various kinds of concerns they face during the working day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it” (page 25-26).
Bonhoeffer fills the first pages of this chapter with quote after quote, and reference after reference, both Biblical and extra-Biblical, showing the importance of early-morning prayer, worship, singing, and time in the Word. This is a challenge for most of us in a culture where we are taught that “time is money” and that money is everything; a culture in which we are driven to perform and in which we strive to stay ahead of the curve. Our lives are often filled with more than we can do, or at least do well. Every minute is precious (unless we are engaged in entertainment for then the hours pass without accountability) and we make excuse after excuse why we cannot worship God “at the break of light”. Surely God understands why the first word and the first thought cannot belong to Him.
Distinctive thoughts toward God in the morning lead to distinctive lives lived toward God during the day; prayers with others and prayers for others lead to fulfilled prayers within others during the day. Bathing our hearts and minds and souls in the Word of God every morning prepares them to engage a hostile world, to bind up the brokenhearted, to be agents of grace and mercy to others through Jesus Christ. Eyes that see the Word of God and the image of God in Christ Jesus at the break of light are eyes that are trained to see the invisible throughout the day, they are eyes that learn to see the frailty and mockery of the world, and they are eyes that are ever looking for His appearance in the events and challenges of the day. Ears that hear the Word of God as the first sounds of the morning are ears that are tuned to listening for His voice throughout the day, they are ears that discern the voice of the Good Shepherd through the static and cacophony of the culture.