Tag Archives: Bonhoeffer

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
bearing the cross

Bearing

Though I love the benefits of Jesus’ cross, I am tempted to hate sharing in that cross with Him. It hurts to bear up under the burden He invites us to shoulder, namely grief over His Church.

During prayer for the healing of our corporate compromises, I realized: what I most value as a Christian—killing sin through swift confession before it kills me, my marriage, or another; living out loud in community in order to grow beyond same-sex attraction into real fruitfulness—is not enough believed or practiced in my Church. For this I suffer, a grief Jesus has invited me to bear. I am not alone but alongside other members who share these values and love the bride enough to grieve too.

This Lent He invited us into a little share of His cross; would we bear this for an hour or so each week in prayer? We discovered we couldn’t shake that burden after the meetings ended. It stayed with us, and seems now like a heart condition. Indeed, we carry it for her cleansing. Perhaps St. Paul’s mysterious reference in Col. 1:24 to bear in one’s body a share in Jesus’ suffering for His body applies here. Who knows? We pray on.

My friend Dana recalled her experience of a 14-mile procession she and friends made one Good Friday with a large wooden cross—each took turns shouldering it: ‘As I carried the cross, it sunk into me and its weight increased. It became a part of me; I realized that it was Jesus inviting me to walk with Him to help carry His cross. What seemed too heavy became doable with Him.’ Christ in us: to suffer, and to hope for glory (Col. 1: 27). That reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s words: ‘We know too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as Christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it, to find Christ.’

Having looked hard together at a scandalized Church, we have done more than meet to pray; rather, we have received a spirit of prayer with which to pray unceasingly for her. Over the long haul. Change takes time and occurs as prayer like underground wells spring up on the earth and accomplish the impossible.

We pray for witnesses of transformation in the sexual arena to arise and take their places alongside leaders who welcome, guide, and amplify their experience of an empowered Gospel.

We pray for the eloquent truth of Pope Emeritus Benedict—‘Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual…its meaning is to bring about the union of man and woman which gives humanity posterity, children, future. This…is the essence of sexuality’—to fuse with the fatherly compassion of Pope Francis. May that fullness of mercy and truth compel Christians to turn from sexual sin (beginning with clergy) toward the arduous, splendid process of becoming chaste.

We pray for courageous leaders who eschew politics for the transformation of souls. Might orthodox leaders refuse clericalism by equipping lay men and women to serve the broken; might the unorthodox be routed lest the Church’s mercy be diluted further by the call to ‘accompaniment’ without repentance or discipline.

Might we, horrified by our own sin, find beneath the cross that no sin can ever be alien to us (Bonhoeffer) and in mercy cry out for all sinners–bishops and busboys, popes and plumbers. Might God grace us to bear holy grief and the hope of glory long after Lent.

‘We do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope…’ (1 Thess. 4:13).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Why Gender Matters 5: Otherness Nurtures Family

Besides the obvious reasons why a man and a woman need each other to bring forth life, he and she together help the lives that they create become creative.

That takes effort: surmounting the fear that her difference from me is precisely what I most need to thrive. And trusting God that my gendered gift supplies something essential to her. We must foster that reliance upon each other so that otherness breeds more appreciation than annoyance. Or intimidation. Or judgment. I love Bonhoeffer words: ‘God created this person in His image, not mine.’ When I am tempted to forego her vantage point for mine, I recall those words and realize that I am setting myself over the Creator by denying the gift of her difference. Disagree with each other? Of course. Deny her gift? Perilous!

Lent helps here. One discipline we undertake together in this season is daily prayer and reflection on a devotional guide. I never cease to be amazed at her take on the material. It is a window to her soul that I can only discover if I look. And listen. Her splendid difference from me is precisely what engages and challenges and summons my best. She knows that her voice matters. That frees her to respect mine with the editing rights that her conscience demands. I return the favor.

At times such engaging reveals my worst. Before her I face what I do not want to express. In tough areas that I would rather leap over than submit, I must give an answer. And there I discover an ally. In the searchlight of the one I love most, I expose my own demons so that love can have its deepest way in me. My dark silence casts the longest shadow on her. So too does the light shine most brightly when we confess our faults in order to heal each other (James 5:16).

We gathered for a family birthday for Annette last week. My gratitude lies in how our kids look out for each other. I see this as a gift of how Annette has looked out for their best interests. Each of them said just that, in the particular ways she has served them. She gives generously, a mother par excellence. Might her security in the love we share stoke her freedom to offer herself?

Maybe. If so, then I consider my love for her—freely given, with all the fullness I can muster—the best offering of my life.

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November 14, 2014: Freedom for the Other, Part 1

‘Jesus and His apostles reclined at table and He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”…’ (Lk 22:14, 15)

Jesus’ ‘eager desire’ to give Himself to us liberates our freedom to give ourselves to one another. We already glimpsed how His self-giving at Calvary releases the flood and food that render us good gifts. We then must give the gift! How else will the body of Christ become whole without our gift? We must eagerly desire to offer ourselves to persons who share our passion for Jesus.

Many of us who have experienced inordinate desire for others may struggle with such an eager desire for fellowship. We are tempted to interpret our yearning for fellow saints as lustful or prideful; we fear we may infect other members with impurities. We then restrain ourselves foolishly, misperceiving our isolation as wisdom.

Does not Christ dwell in you? Is He not magnified and glorified in our seeking His face together? In my efforts to overcome same-sex attraction, I have found that I must press into fellowship amid a mixture of motives, certain that the prevailing power of Jesus in me and in the Church will render me a good life-giving gift.

My fears and illusions burn off as I offer myself in His name and for His purposes in the fellowship. I find my yearning for community is satisfied as I seek to build up the Church. In this I am merely being faithful to the Bridegroom Jesus. The Bride is better off because of me.

And I because of her. Bonhoeffer writes joyfully of ‘body’ life: ‘The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. With great yearning, the imprisoned apostle Paul calls Timothy “his beloved son in the faith” and implores his coming in the last days of his life…The believer need not feel any shame when yearning for the physical presence of other Christians, as if one were too fleshly. A human being is created as a body; the Son of God appeared on earth in the body for our sake and was raised in the body.’

We too gather in the one Body to become bodily gifts, one-to-another. What breaks the power of illusions about the other is our renewed awareness that we are mere icons of the Savior—imperfect mediators of His love. That frees us to give and receive gifts without getting caught in the trap of idolatry. We do that when we conform others to our needs rather than releasing them to the Creator.

We are all gifts, freely washed and fed by Jesus, freely given to build up the body. That frees us to welcome what others can give and to freely give only what we can. Jesus alone frees us from playing ‘savior’ or placing someone else in the role of saving us. He frees us to be like Him—a free gift that springs forth from His saving hand. In Christ, we help others realize the gift that they in truth are.    

‘Live in freedom, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.’ (1Pt 3:16)

  Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Ohio, Crispin & Annelyse DeBellis – Coordinators: For strength and vision for Cris & Annelyse, for existing groups and to see new groups established. Blessings on partnership with their church to establish more Living Waters groups throughout Ohio.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Cordoba, Argentina, Maria-Innes – Coordinator: For Lord’s guidance, strength  and protection as they their first Aguas Vivas (LW) group.   
  3. Harrisburg Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 12, 13, 14, 15

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New Birth and Battle

New Birth and Battle

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’ – Gerard Manley Hopkins

I recall one December when two warring nations agreed to a cease-fire. In light of the Prince of Peace, they agreed to a temporary peace, only to resume the battle a day later.

Like you, I will awake on Dec. 26th to the sounds of air-raids and bombs dropping. I will not linger in misty dreams of an eternal cease-fire; I must face the battle.

I derive courage from Bonhoeffer who warned his ‘army’ opposing Hitler to not use Christmas as a fantasy island, a nostalgic defense against the threat of death. Rather, he implored them to welcome the Child-King into their depths, the Christ who descended there on Christmas to make them His freedom-fighters, faithful and true!

My church bears witness of this Christmas passion eloquently, upon the altar. Christ Crucified remains central, even at Advent. But from the Lamb a sash of royal purple descends and frames a small figure of Mary on the side. She is illuminated, open and humble, and one can see that the strand of purple that descends to her also ascends from her to the babe, her Son Crucified. In a flash, the symbolism helped me recognize the indivisible bond between the God who became flesh, and the flesh that was pierced.

Mary helps us here, as we can understand the whole of Christ’s human life through her eyes, from the crib to the cross. In her humanity, we can understand His: her marvel of the Babe, and the sword that pierced her soul at His piercing.

Christmas peace brings a sword. From the cradle to the tomb, He waged and won the war that we must still fight—the fight for all to know Mercy, and be reunited with their original dignity.

Deeply grateful this Christmas, I still grieve over the state of the wounded and deceived. I just read that one in five women in the United States has been sexually assaulted, that the Obama administration recently championed gay rights as fundamental human rights to all the nations of the earth at a UN Council (a secular view of human sexuality, at least), and that divorce is now so common among conservative Christians that ‘anti-divorce’ arguments have all but disappeared’ from our ranks.

We run the risk of losing our bite and our fight as Christians, choosing to dull the darkness rather than combat it with the radiance of Jesus.

This Christmas, let us welcome the Babe who composes us in order to rouse us. From the crib to the cross, He gave all. He won our hearts, that we might hold nothing back to win the world. May His peace prepare you for war.

Like Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein was executed in a Nazi death camp. She writes: ‘The way from Bethlehem leads inevitably to Golgotha, from the crib to the cross. When the blessed virgin brought the child to the temple, Simeon prophesied that her soul would be pierced by a sword, that this child was set for the rising and falling of many. His prophecy announced the passion, the fight between light and darkness that already showed itself at the crib.’

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’

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Holy Week of the Merciful Cross: Knowing Him More

On Palm Sunday, Lent becomes Holy Week—the seven days leading to the cross. Perhaps the parallel between Jesus’ 40-days in the desert and His commitment to crucifixion is becoming clear.

Jesus sanctified the desert for us. He made a way in our wilderness. Instead of a place of temptation unto despair, He transformed ‘the desert of loneliness into a garden of solitude’ (Leanne Payne). His reliance upon the Father there grants us grace to encounter Him in the harsh realities of our lives.

Jesus’ 40 days in the desert had another purpose–it helped prepare Him for Calvary. Enduring harsh circumstance and demonic temptation was a practice run for His ultimate desert: the bitter cup of abandonment unto death. Just as He made the ‘burning sand a pool’, so shall He transform the grave into the ground for new life.

As we followed Him into the desert, so shall we follow Him to His death. Our hope lies in mercy: the first fruit of Calvary. We already believe that He died and rose again in order to unite us to the Father’s unfailing love. Yet partaking of the benefits of the cross does not exempt us from the crosses He asks us to carry.

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