In 1944, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this very insightful note about faith, as he lived out the final months of his life in prison, before his untimely execution at the hands of Nazi captors in Germany.
“I'm still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God”
Bonhoeffer was known to wrestle mightily with expressions of faith in modern times, in what he called “a world come of age”. Until this time, and I’m afraid this idea persists to this day in some place, God’s place was reserved as the reason for all things that could not be understood by God’s people. Bonhoeffer realized that, because of 400 years of scientific discoveries, that this attitude toward God was limiting God’s impact on the world and throwing God to the margins of existence. In writing this, Bonhoeffer was encouraging us to return God to the ordinary situations of life, to find God dwelling in our joys and our sufferings, and in the joys and sufferings of others. In many ways, this writing makes me think of the story we know as “The Transfiguration”.
The Transfiguration marks a turning point in Jesus ministry. He gathers with his disciples at the top of a mountain where Peter, James and John witness something amazing – a vision of Jesus shining brightly, and standing in front of them with the two great prophets, Moses and Elijah. The disciples are so overwhelmed by this sight that they would like to stay a while and even offer to build shelters for all of them to live. What makes this a turning point, is that Jesus now moves to involve the disciples in greater participation in ministry, signified by his rebuke of Peter’s construction plans, and his command to descend the mountain without telling anyone what had happened. Jesus is turning himself toward the cross. And knowing that he will not be around much longer, begins to prepare his disciples to carry on after he is gone.
Mountaintop experiences with Jesus are great. I’ve heard many stories of special connections made with our Lord through prayer, music, worship, meditation, scripture reading, etc. Jesus welcomes us to spend time with him at all times, and in many ways. But just as he said to the disciples “Get up, and do not be afraid!” the purpose of all of this beautiful devotion is to do the work that Jesus has called us to do, remembering that the Holy Spirit empowers, emboldens, and encourages us to live unreservedly in all the events and places life would bring us. As Bonhoeffer wrote, it is in doing this that we throw ourselves into the arms of God. In doing this we find God right in the middle of things where we least expect God to me. In coming down from the mountain, we find more mountaintop experiences right here on level ground. So, get on your knees and pray, all you that love the Lord. But then get up, and live completely, and do not be afraid!
For the text of this week's sermon - CLICK HERE
Devotions for Week of February 26, 2017
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.