Monday, August 22, 2016

Reflections on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together – 55

“Christian community at the table also signifies obligation. It is our daily bread that we eat, not my own. We share our bread. Thus we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit, but with our whole physical being. The one bread that is given to our community unites us in a firm covenant.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 48.

How has it happened that, more often than not, we eat alone? How has it happened that members of families often eat alone? How has it happened that even when people are physically together that they often eat alone – not sharing hearts and minds with one another but rather watching video or texting or speaking on the phone? A line from a favorite prayer says, “The enemy is within the citadel, come Thou in almighty power and cast him out…”

We cannot be a city set on a hill unless we are a people, and to be a people we must share life together; it is not sufficient that we subscribe to the same worldview, or gather in the same venue once or twice a week – after all, we gather with coworkers five times a week but that does not make us a true people and it does not make us family. We gather publically and then we recede into our isolated lives with our isolated thoughts and our isolated needs and our unused and undeveloped gifts. My bread is my bread and your bread, if you have any bread, is your bread – let us not get our bread confused.

While it is true that Paul did counsel the Corinthians to eat at home before they gathered (1 Corinthians 11:17 – 34), he did this as an immediate response to an immediate problem – the Corinthians were not gathering to share bread, when they gathered they had the attitude that “my bread is my bread and if you don’t have bread you can be hungry.” Paul’s extended teaching on sharing the material things of this world in 2 Corinthians Chapters 8 – 9 portrays a way of life in Christ that is a life of sharing with one another so that no person goes hungry. What Paul, in 2 Corinthians, expects the Corinthians to do in their relationships with Christians outside Corinth, he certainly expects them to do at home in Corinth. 2 Corinthians Chapters 8 – 9 is a threat to our materialistic way of life in the church, at least in the West, perhaps we had better not preach those chapters – too dangerous – better not question our use of time or money or resources – after all, they are “mine, mine, mine!”.

Bonhoeffer continues (page 48), “As long as we eat our bread together, we will have enough even with the smallest amount. Hunger begins only when people desire to keep their own bread for themselves. That is a strange divine law.”

Yes, perhaps it is a “strange divine law,” a law that goes against our desire for self-preservation – but isn’t the way of the Cross the way of denying ourselves and following Jesus? And isn’t the way of following Jesus the way of loving others as ourselves and laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters? Can we not trust God to feed us as we feed others? Can we not trust Jesus to be at table with us all and to care for us?

Life together is a way of life, it is the way of Jesus Christ – He gave His life for us…surely we can give our lives for one another…surely we can live our lives with one another…surely we can break bread together.

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