Life Together

25 08 2015

The pastor of the church I attended while a student at university often mentioned the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This charismatic Swedish Covenant pastor spoke of the ecumenical German Lutheran pastor with so much respect that I decided to buy some of Bonhoeffer’s books.  These included The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, Letters & Papers from Prison, and Life Together.

Decades have passed. Recently, I was inspired to pull that last one listed from the shelf and take a new look at it. Even though the book was first published in English by Harper & Row in 1954, reading it anew in 2015 has been a renewing experience.

As the blurb on the back of the Harper Jubilee edition says, “This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost Biblical, words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.”

Many fine Christian scholars over the years have taught that, in this Age of the Church (which is also called the Age of Grace), the office of prophet is performed by those who preach and teach the Bible. In Pastor Bonhoeffer’s case, that title is indeed befitting. He really does sound like a New Testament apostle speaking with the authority and accuracy of an Old Testament prophet. In this epistle on how to be a church, and how to do church, Bonhoeffer’s words become, in those of an earlier minister of the Gospel, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

This is due in great part to Bonhoeffer’s reverence for the Word: Christ Jesus the Word of the Triune God, and the words spoken and written by the prophets and apostles on behalf of the Triune God. As Bonhoeffer insists, not a person and not an assembly can be any good in the Church of our Savior and Lord Christ Jesus without centering in thought, speech, and action on the Word.

“The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself.  He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to the Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

“But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Bonhoeffer presupposes this occurs in church … that is, within what we typically designate as church: services and ceremonies both formal and informal conducted inside ecclesiastical buildings.  But Bonhoeffer has other assemblies in mind, too, such as monasteries and convents, communes, families and households.  As Jesus Himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And Bonhoeffer has much to say to individuals. “We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in fellowship. Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in fellowship. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

Life Together is not one of those books to be skimmed and then cast amid the jetsam navigated by garage sailors. Read it and read it again. The book is worthy of the kind of meditation encouraged by Bonhoeffer.

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The Christmas Star

22 12 2013

It’s Advent, the season in which many people all over the world celebrate Christmas. Even those who aren’t Christian can’t ignore the season completely because it’s so popular. Indeed, many non-Christians participate anyway because the holiday has become so famous as well as festive. (Consider the observance of Christmas in Japan, for example.) 

A hallmark of Christmas is the giving of gifts, and that’s not just an inheritance from the legends of Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was later morphed into the fantasy figure Santa Claus. Much earlier, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus on that first Christmas. 

First Christmas? Wait a minute. Didn’t the Church two or three centuries after the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus establish a holy day called Christ’s Mass on December 25th in order to preempt, if not redeem, celebrations either of the Roman bruma (the southern solstice) or the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti? The history of the Christian holiday is a fascinating study. Still more fascinating, however, is the prospect that the Magi may truly have visited Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Bethlehem on the day we now designate (using the Roman name, not the Jewish) December 25th.

To read more about it, go to www.bethlehemstar.net. There, you can consider the 21st-century historical and astronomical research conducted by F.A. Larson in solving the riddle posed by the Biblical account: 

Matthew 2:1-11, taken from the American Standard Version (ASV).

1  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him.And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born.And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet,And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come forth a governor, Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel.Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared.And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him.And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.10 And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.11 And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Larson has employed Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion to look back, with the aid of modern computers, and identify what astrophysical phenomena fulfilled all nine of the details of the star presented in the Biblical account. His charts reveal the triple conjunction (think Trinity) of Jupiter, the planet of kings, with Regulus, the star of kings, in the constellation Leo the Lion (think Lion of the Tribe of Judah) between September of 3 BC and June of 2 BC. His charts reveal the constellation Virgo rising in the sun with the moon at her feet that same June. His charts reveal Jupiter coming to a full retrograde stop in the sky south of Jerusalem and, as it were, over Bethlehem on December 25, 2 BC. Larson explains the meaning and significance of all this in non-technical language.

The deduction?

  1. Jesus may have been conceived in the early autumn of 3 BC. (Could it be this occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles? Consider 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 with Revelation 21:3 and John 2:19.)
  2. Jesus may have been born in the late spring or early summer of 2 BC.  (Could it be this occurred on Pentecost, the Feast of First Fruits? Consider Revelation 1:5, 1 Corinthians 15:19-24, and James 1:18.)  
  3. Jesus may have been visited by the Magi in the early winter of 2 BC (what became Christmas).

Larson provides plenty of details, to include a refutation of the commonly-reported year of Herod’s death in 4 BC. Larson gives evidence that Herod died in 1 BC.

This Advent season, try following the star yourself and see where it leads!    IMG_0791





A Love Mystery

9 08 2013

There came a day at summer’s full
    Entirely for me;
    I thought that such were for the saints,
    Where revelations be.

    The sun, as common, went abroad,
    The flowers, accustomed, blew,
    As if no soul the solstice passed
    That maketh all things new.

    The time was scarce profaned by speech;
    The symbol of a word
    Was needless, as at sacrament
    The wardrobe of our Lord.

    Each was to each the sealed church,
    Permitted to commune this time,
    Lest we too awkward show
    At supper of the Lamb.

    The hours slid fast, as hours will,
    Clutched tight by greedy hands;
    So faces on two decks look back,
    Bound to opposing lands.

    And so, when all the time had failed,
    Without external sound,
    Each bound the other’s crucifix,
    We gave no other bond.

    Sufficient troth that we shall rise —
    Deposed, at length, the grave —
    To that new marriage, justified
    Through Calvaries of Love!

Emily Dickinson

This poem certainly invites scrutiny. More than one interpretation has been posited. Here’s mine.

The narrator speaks of an affair that, sunny and balmy as it felt (even if silent, secretive, and restrained), lasted but one season. Despite love indeed divine, for some undisclosed reason, the couple could not continue; their relationship had to be executed. Bereaved, they parted and went in different directions along the Way of the Cross … but not forever. They look forward to resurrection and being reunited, perhaps at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:6-9).

As for the undisclosed reason, here’s my hypothesis: the narrator’s lover is a Roman Catholic priest and is thus unavailable in this life.





The Last Long Drive

18 05 2013

“As he turned the star shaped rowel over in his hands, See Bird felt a knot form in his stomach. Someone had tampered with his mount. He knew that, from this moment, he would be backing down no more. He could take personal insults. He had of all his life. But his instinctive sense of fair play had been violated, and besides that, he could not abide someone who would deliberately hurt a trusting animal.”

Karl L. Stewart, The Legend of See Bird: The Last Long Drive  (Publisher Page, Terra Alta, WV: 2012)

Stewart has submitted to the marketplace of ideas a good, old-fashioned, Saturday-matinee western. This 21st-century telling is more realistic than too many of those of yesteryear, but it still possesses the mythos that has, for decades, characterized tales of the 19th-century American West.

The copy editing isn’t perfect, but that’s easy to ignore. The writing is as sturdy and straightforward as the stereotypical Texas cattleman. Here’s a sample or two.

“And while, to some, it may have seemed a picturesque or romantic enterprise, to the young men riding herd in the one hundred degree Texas blast furnace, the long drive was often tedium itself. Ten to twelve hours in the saddle, loafing along, not really driving the herd so much as following it, eating as much dust as beans – this was their job. And all for a pay day at some Kansas cow town followed by a night or two of debauchery before heading back to the ranch once again, only to birth and brand and roundup yet another herd the following year. This is what the cowboy lived for, and by and large, he wouldn’t have traded it for any other life he could imagine.”

“As See Bird rode the perimeter of the peacefully bedded herd, the distant howl of a wolf carried with it a sense of peace to his soul that he had seldom felt in his years of cowboying. The Milky Way, another trail, draped itself across the night sky. He reined in his horse and sat silently for a few moments, letting the prairie night work its magic on him. Back when See Bird was a child, his Sunday School teacher, Miss Tarkenton, taught him all about the Garden of Eden. Adam walking with God, he thought, could not have been closer to his creator than See Bird felt this night. I may not even own the horse I ride, he thought. But then why do I feel like the richest man in the world? Unable to answer his own question, he nudged his horse forward and resumed his watch. Somewhere across the herd a clear cowboy tenor was singing something sad about a town called Laredo.”

Some books make one wish he could give the paper back to the tree. This one’s no waste of resources, or of the reader’s time.





There’s An App For That!

8 04 2013

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’ ”

Revelation 7:9-10 (LEB)

To help fulfill this prophecy, the Jesus Film Project has released an App that makes the movie, which is simply entitled Jesus, and other related productions available to anyone with appropriate electronic devices … anyone in the world who speaks any of 1160 languages and counting.

Originally issued in 1979, Jesus never achieved critical acclaim or popular success as a theatrical release, at least not in North America, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe. In my opinion, there is good reason for that. An independent film made within a relatively low budget (by Hollywood standards), Jesus suffered relatively low production values.  Not long before, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 mini-series Jesus of Nazareth had already established the gold standard for films about Christ. Much later, in 2004, came Mel Gibson’s meticulous and forceful The Passion of the Christ.

Jesus has not, however, been fading for more than three decades in the vault of film history. The movie has been translated into more languages, and it has been seen by more people in more places on the planet, than any other movie since the days of Thomas Edison.

Why? The answer can be summed in one word: God. Jesus is a reverent audio-visual rendering of the Gospel according to Saint Luke. As cinematic Scripture, it has become increasingly evident over the years that the Holy Spirit has been employing the movie to draw people into saving faith. According to Jesus Film Project chroniclers, this often includes supernatural signs and wonders like unto those depicted in the Gospel itself and in Luke’s other Biblical treatise known as “The Acts of the Apostles.” Go to www.jesusfilm.org and click on Stories.  Skeptics are invited to visit http://www.jesusfact.com.

As the Jesus Film Project posts it, “Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after watching the Jesus film…. Since 1979 more than 200 million men, women and children worldwide have indicated decisions to follow Jesus after viewing the film…. Not only is the story of the Jesus film one of effective evangelism, but also a powerful tool for expanding the church worldwide. Hundreds of churches, missions groups and denominational agencies, both indigenous and global, are seeing this tool ignite the launch and growth of thousands of new churches.”

Earlier, crews would carry the film with speakers, screen, and projector from village to village, church to church, and house to house throughout the world. Then came videocassettes. Then came DVDs. And now, with the increasing availability of laptop computers, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices capable of accessing the Worldwide Web, we have an App. The Jesus Film Project App allows people to access Jesus and a number of companion productions anytime and almost anywhere, with ease, and – where safety and security are a concern – in privacy. Of special value, the App allows access in languages spoken inside more than 200 nations.

See for yourself. Go to app.jesusfilmmedia.org. Then pass it on.

 

The JESUS Film Project





Silvics

18 02 2013

foggy mountain morning

 

I received a lead just the other day from Urban Wall Art. Check out, by the way, his portfolio. His work is most definitely not vandalizing graffiti. I decided to publish a portfolio of my own entitled Silvics. If interested, go to http://www.Raymond-Wryhte.see.me.





Boxes from the Heart

4 01 2013

Allow me, please, to pass along an invitation from another blogger here at Word Press, an invitation to provide personal, individual relief for people still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. See below…

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Hi, my name is Heidi … I started “Boxes from the Heart” shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.

The idea of Boxes from the Heart was God’s idea and born out of a personal story, a story of a box given to a friend. It contained numerous notes of prayers and cards of encouragement from many well-wishing individuals. It came at a time of a personal disaster. This box caused ripples, not only in the lives of my friend’s family, but also in the community from which these cards poured.

This happened at the same time when the United States stood shocked over the fury Hurricane Sandy unleashed on the east coast. Why not do it again? Why not try to find one family or individual  in a disaster area and connect their hurt with a church who cares to pray for them personally? Why not try to duplicate the idea and bring somehow, someway, somewhere a glimpse of hope and an awareness of being loved?

I would like to invite you to join me in this effort of bringing “BOXES FROM THE HEART” to families and individuals who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. When you contact me, I would love to put you and your church in touch with one family. Their story will touch your heart and life. I believe that we truly can make a difference, one person at a time – one church at a time – one box at a time.

If you want to help, please go to How It Works – How You Can Help

If you like to pray for the individuals who have been sponsored by Boxes from the Heart so far, please go to Faces of the Storm

If you like to see how God has taken this small idea and blessed it, you can  Follow the Story

I have written in detail how God has provided from the beginning. I have kept a journal of His provisions and am adding chapters as His story unfolds. It is His work. It is His heart. It is through His Body, the Church, that we can see Him and his love for His people. He uses ordinary gifts, simple prayers, and personal touches. My hope is that these boxes would cause ripples of encouragement, not only in the lives of those who receive them, but also in the lives of those who send them.

God makes the provisions, brings hope, renews lives, and holds the hurt in His hand. He is the God who sees, who knows, who cares. Whatever seems to be over our heads is already under His feet.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jesus (John 14:27)