Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sully Notes 2 | Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community Part 1 of 3


Sully Notes Emmaus City Church Life Together Faith in Missional Community Worcester Massachusetts


Sully Notes 2: Books in 25 minutes or less


Sully Notes are meant to provide you with more than a book review. They will include direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. Each book will have three parts to keep the posts brief so you can read the quotes in ten minutes or less, while also whetting your appetite for the next round. 

Here is the link to the previous Sully Notes book:



Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Church Network of Missional CommunitiesThis week's Notes begin with Part 1 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community. This book helped me better understand the gift that God has given us in each other. I can see much clearer now how becoming more like Jesus requires that I know and believe that in the bad and in the good, "It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in Christian community."


Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community | Sully Notes 2: Part 1 of 3


Chapter 1 | Community  


"Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is our commission, our work. 'The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ. If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?' (Martin Luther)." – pgs. 17-18

"When God was merciful, when He revealed Jesus Christ to us as our Brother, when He won our hearts by His love, this was the beginning of our instruction in divine love. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with each other. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we, too, were made ready to forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love. Thus God Himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ. 'Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God' (Rom. 15:7)." – pgs. 24-25

"The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be scattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial." – pgs. 27-28 

"Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. ... When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God." – pgs. 28-30

"Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases. Christian family is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it." – pg. 30

"When the way of intellectual or spiritual selection is taken, the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church, driving it into sectarianism. The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. ... It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together. That God has acted and wants to act upon us all, this we see in faith as God’s greatest gift, this makes us glad and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences when God at times does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience." – pgs. 37-39

Chapter 2 | The Day with Others

"The Bible speaks of the morning hour as the time of God’s special help. Of the city of God it is said that in the morning 'God shall help her' (Ps. 46:5); and again God’s mercies 'are new every morning' (Lam. 3:23). For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. ... With remarkable frequency the Scriptures remind us that the men of God rose early to seek God and carry out His commands, as did Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua (Genesis 19:27, 22:3; Exodus 8:16, 9:13, 24:4; Joshua 3:1, 6:12, etc.). The Gospel, which never speaks a superfluous word, says of Jesus himself: 'And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed' (Mark 1:35). Some rise early because of restlessness and worry; the Scriptures call this unprofitable. 'It is vain for you to rise up early … to eat the bread of sorrows' (Ps. 127:20. But there is such a thing as rising early for the love of God. This was the practice of the men of the Bible." – pgs. 43-44 

"The Body of Christ is praying, and as an individual one acknowledges that his prayer is only a minute fragment of the whole prayer of the Church. He learns to pray the prayer of the Body of Christ. And that lifts him above his personal concerns and allows him to pray selflessly." – pgs. 48-49

"Oetinger, in his exposition of the Psalms, brought out a profound truth when he arranged the whole Psalter according to the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. What he had discerned was that the whole sweep of the Book of Psalms was concerned with nothing more nor less than the brief petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. In all our praying there remains only the prayer of Jesus Christ; this alone has the promise of fulfillment and frees us ... The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become." – pgs. 49-50

"As a whole the Scriptures are God’s revealing Word. Only in the infiniteness of its inner relationships, in the connection of Old and New Testaments, of promise and fulfillment, sacrifice and law, law and gospel, cross and resurrection, faith and obedience, having and hoping, will the full witness to Jesus Christ the Lord be perceived. ... Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listener and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also." – pgs. 51, 53-5

"The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is 'external to ourselves.' I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him. In this light the whole devotional reading of the Scriptures becomes daily more meaningful and salutary. What we call our life, our troubles, our guilt, is by no means all of reality; there in the Scriptures is our life, our need, our guilt, and our salvation. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we shall be saved. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and Father of Jesus Christ and our Father. ... God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the 'morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy' at the creation of the world (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the 'song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb' (Revelation 15:3). It is the new song of the heavenly fellowship." – pgs. 54, 57-58

"Christians, in their wholehearted joy in the good gifts of this physical life, acknowledge their Lord as the true giver of all good gifts; and beyond this, as the true Gift; the true Bread of life itself; and finally, as the One who is calling them to the banquet of the Kingdom of God. ... The table fellowship of Christians implies 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 in our whole physical being. The one bread that is given to our fellowship links us together in a firm covenant. Now none dares go hungry as long as another had bread, and he who breaks this fellowship of the physical life also breaks the fellowship of the Spirit. 'Deal thy bread to the hungry' (Isaiah 58:7). 'Make not an hungry soul sorrowful' (Ecclesiastes 4:2), for the Lord is meeting us in the hungry (Matthew 25:37). 'If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?' (James 2:15, 16). So long as we eat our bread together we shall have sufficient even with the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue." – pgs. 66-69

"The prayer of the morning will determine the day. Wasted time, which we are ashamed of, temptations that beset us, weakness and listlessness in our work, disorder and indiscipline in our thinking and our relations with other people very frequently have their cause in neglect of the morning prayer. The organization and distribution of our time will be better for having been rooted in prayer. The temptations which the working day brings with it will be overcome by this break-through to God. Decisions which our work demands will be simpler and easier when they are made, not in the fear of men, but solely in the presence of God. 'Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men' (Colossians 3:23). ... After the day’s work we pray God for the blessing, peace, and safety of all Christendom; for our congregation; for the pastor in his ministry; for the poor, the wretched, and lonely; for the sick and dying; for our neighbors, for our own folks at home, and for our fellowship. When can we have any deeper sense of God’s power and working than in the hour when our hands lay down their work and we commit ourselves to the hands of God? When are we more ready for the blessing, peace, and preservation than the time when our own activity ceases? When we grow weary, God does His work. 'Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep' (Psalm 121:4). Then, too, the evening prayer of the family fellowship should include particularly the petition of forgiveness for every wrong done to God and our brothers, for God’s forgiveness and that of our brothers, and for readiness gladly to forgive any wrong done to us." – pgs. 71, 74-75

"Most remarkable and profound is the ancient church’s prayer that when our eyes are closed in sleep God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake. It is the prayer that God may dwell with us and in us even though we are unconscious of His presence, that He may keep our hearts pure and holy in spite of all the cares and temptations of the night, to make our hearts ever alert to hear His call and, like the boy Samuel, answer Him even in the night: 'Speak, Lord; for they servant heareth' (1 Samuel 3:9)." – pg. 75

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