Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Dangerous Path

"Doing Christianity is a lot harder than being Christian. We admire the good Samaritan but think him slightly odd," said my friend Dave, in a comment on yesterday's post. 

This morning I turned to a sermon in a collection of Dietrich Boenhoeffer's sermons. There was a prophet in Berlin in 1932 and his name was Boenhoeffer. 

Boenhoeffer wrote in a certain historical context that is explained in interesting detail in this treasure of a book. It had great significance to what he said, but he could also be speaking to any church and anyone who calls themselves a Christian today.

His text was Colossians 3: 1-4, and he spoke about what those disturbing words might mean to his congregation; about the dangerous God, who disturbs our lives and and challenges our worldview; the "cup of nothingness" that is chosen when we think that any government or other system is the answer to the problems, brokenness and disillusionment of the world.

Compellingly he spoke of the path of "religion"--those who say, "In God's name Amen," but who refuse to allow their lives to be disturbed by him; those more lost than even those who "drink the cup of nothingness," because they think that they are on the right path.

I read this sermon after the Holy Spirit had already pricked my heart and disturbed my inner "Feng shui." After I blurted out an ill considered opinion over dinner. Had I read it before that conversation, I might not have thought that Bonhoeffer was speaking to me but just to a group of self satisfied, deluded, secure "Christians" more than half a century ago.

Today I read the sermon with more humility, as a warning; to today's Church; to all of us we say we follow Christ. Suddenly I wonder, could Jesus be talking to me in Matthew 15:8-9 and not just to those "religious" Pharisees we are so fond of seeing as "them" and not "us?"

Matthew 15:8-9

New International Version (NIV)
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.[a]
I thank God for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that dissident German pastor, who from a sermon preached 81 years ago, speaks to me, and for a group of Puritan dissidents who in their prayers of even longer ago, in another treasured book, The Valley of Vision; challenge and inspire me. Interesting that those who do were considered "dissident" by the Church of their day.

Vain Service
(The Valley of Vision p. 330)

O MY LORD

Forgive me for serving thee in sinful ways--
by glorying in my own strength,
by forcing myself to minister through
necessity,
by accepting the applause of others,
by trusting in assumed grace
and spiritual affection,
by a faith that rests upon my hold on Christ,
not on him alone,
by having another foundation to stand upon
beside thee;
for thus I make flesh my arm...

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