From the Rector
Most of you know of my deep regard for the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, teacher, and Nazi resister who was martyred at the end of World War II. His work Discipleship has been as important as any outside the Bible in shaping my faith and life, but it was another, much shorter, book he wrote around the same time that served as the bedrock of my doctoral dissertation, one titled Life Together. In it, Bonhoeffer reflects on the tension between our dreams of what a Christian community “should” be like with the reality we actually experience.
“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…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.” (HarperOne, 1954, p 26-27)
This past week I was awed by several people who shared with me how they’d been praying during the Marriage Celebration for Bishop Sumner and all others in our diocese who had opposed our act of inclusion. I feel inspired by their faith and action, because they model Bonhoeffer’s wisdom: they understand that a holy and healthy Christian community is not one that has been purged of people who disagree with us, or who are hard to love. A healthy and holy church is one in which we lean into the vision of unity for which Christ prayed on his final night, even when it is very, very hard.
If we can hold onto this deeper sense of Christian community, not only will we gain greater understanding of the nature of God, we will also inevitably show the world something it is sorely lacking these days. We are living in anxious and highly polarized times, when people are ready to pounce on one another for perceived slights or failings without a moment’s thought. People are more on edge than ever, prone to speak first and think later, and our words (or fingers on the keyboard) often outpace our knowledge and understanding of one another or the facts of the matter. We need more people who are willing to pray before casting any metaphorical stones.
As we gather on Sunday for Annual Meeting, when we acknowledge the ways our community pursued its mission in 2018, I hope it is a time for celebration, and also for recalibrating our “dreams” of what we should be doing. We are not living in a perfect world surrounded by saintly avatars. We are living in a flawed but beautiful world that God declared good, with fellow sinners who are also striving to move a little further down the way of Jesus. We are fellow members of the Body of Christ, each with a role to play. And by God’s grace, in 2019 we can and will show the world a little more of his just and merciful Kingdom.
See you this weekend,