Thursday, August 25, 2016

Reflections on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together – 56

“The breaking of bread together teaches Christians that here they still eat the perishable bread of the earthly pilgrimage. But if they share this bread with one another, they will also one day receive together imperishable bread in the Father’s house.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 49.

Life together is communion with one another in our Lord Jesus Christ, sharing both the Bread of Life and life’s bread together on a shared pilgrimage. Americans migrated to the far West via wagon train – there was guidance and protection in numbers. In the ancient Near East people often traveled in caravans – traveling together was a way of life to better ensure that one reached his destination. People who live in koinonia experience holistic health and comfort and as they face the vicissitudes of life they need not face them alone – for they are members of one another.

Because we are on pilgrimage our travels are not without internal conflict and the challenge of growth, nor are they without relational challenge. However, Bonhoeffer begins his book Life Together focused on Christ, His Word, and Mission to the world – when the Christ of the Cross is our center, when we live under the Word of God rather than seek to dominate the Word, and when mission to the world is woven into our threefold purpose (worship God, edify one another, make disciples through witnessing), then our conflicts can be offered to the Cross and we can see Jesus beyond seeing ourselves…then we can learn to prefer one another and to deny ourselves.

We know from the New Testament (and subsequent history) that the enemy seeks to create and sustain conflict within the church – to divide the body of believers in Christ. This conflict takes many forms, from ego and vanity and self-seeking to doctrinal heresy and immorality. Time together, meals together, praying together, getting to know one another, laughing with one another, rejoicing with each other, crying together, bearing one another’s burdens, relaxing together, playing together…time together binds us together, allowing our hearts to be knit together by love.

But this garden must be cultivated; the ground must be tilled, the seed must be planted and watered, the weeds must in wisdom be pulled (not haphazardly!), and the garden must be protected from creatures and elements that would destroy it. There must be intentionality – gardens do not just happen and gardens do not maintain themselves. Untended gardens revert to their surroundings and the garden plants are overrun with weeds until they are indiscernible; whatever fruit the garden may have produced is eaten by insects and animals and birds and what is unconsumed finds its way into the earth, into the soil – falling short of its intention to feed the body of man, to be shared in the body of Christ.

We too often view ourselves as sliced bread rather than as a whole loaf in Christ – and in this sense sliced bread is not something to be thankful for (any more than sanitized communion wafers?), perhaps it is not a stretch to say that we are what we eat – do we see ourselves as one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:14-17) or are we little wafers and individual slices? What we act out is important, our imagery is important. If we must use little wafers, and if we must use little cups, let us remind ourselves and one another that we are partaking of One loaf and One cup…otherwise our minds will play tricks on us and we will exclude our brothers and sisters from the table of our hearts and minds. The only style of eating that the body of Christ is called to is “family style” – family style is life together.

If our calling and trajectory is to eat the Marriage Supper of the Lamb together, doesn’t it make sense to also eat the rehearsal dinner together? 

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