Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What is church?
It's been a while since I've blogged! This book has been one of the reasons.
I have been engrossed in the biography "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas. Warning! This book is over 500 pages long, and thus all consuming. I am reading it night and day, and often find myself apologizing to my family...
...at the dinner table. "Sorry, what did you say? I was reading Bonhoeffer."
...on long car rides. "Sorry. I can't look at the scenery. I'm reading Bonhoeffer."
...in bed at night. "Sorry. I know it's late, but I'm reading Bonhoeffer."
If you've never encountered Dietrich Bonhoeffer, let me give you a quick introduction.
Dietrich was born in Germany to an illustrious family. His father was a doctor and head of psychiatry at Berlin University. One of his brother's was splitting atoms with Einstein. And Dietrich, one of the youngest in the family, became the odd duck and followed in his grandfather's footsteps by studying theology.
It was clear to his professors that Dietrich was brilliant, and his thoughts were pretty radical at the time. For example, he was a firm believer in the fundamental word of God, and scoffed at the popular liberal views of the day. He actually believed that it was important to constantly read the Word, meditate on it, and listen to what God was personally telling you through it. Trust me, for Lutherans, that was radical!
His groundbreaking work in books like "The Cost of Discipleship" are still being taught today. Ever hear of "cheap grace"? That was a concept from the mind of Bonhoeffer.
During Hitler's rise to power, Bonhoeffer became a harsh critic of the church, which was quickly co-opted by the National Socialist party. While many in the church sat on their hands and did nothing while evil was allowed to prevail, Bonhoeffer loudly trumpeted that "to not act IS to act." He later became involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, was imprisoned, and died for the faith in the final days of World War II.
Bonhoeffer spent a lot of time asking himself the question "What is church?" He was certain that the answer could be found in the Sermon on the Mount. In a letter to his brother, he wrote:
"The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together and do this."
Later, as a seminary professor, he did just that...living in communion with students, daily breaking bread, singing, laughing, playing, reading, worshipping together.
I spend a LOT of time asking myself the question: What is church?
One of my favorite nights for "doing church" is on Wednesdays, when my family meets with other faith families to share a simple meal and dive into the Word. It is a lovely way to touch base mid-week, to eat and laugh and read and talk together.
I love it when "church" spontaneously breaks out on a Facebook thread.
And when I can do "church" with my sons long distance over the telephone? Well, that warms this mother's heart in so many ways.
Perhaps, in a way, internet forums and blogs can even be a kind of satellite church, where community is formed, faith is shared, and fellowship is achieved.
Like I said, it's got me thinking.
Tell me. If I were to ask you "What is church?", what would your answer be today?