Sunday, November 29, 2015

Living Life as Advent

Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers perspective for this season and all

HOW CHRIST COMES TO US.  “We are faced with the shocking reality: Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality.  He asks you for help in the form of a beggar, in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing.  He confronts you in every person that you meet.  Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people.  He walks on the earth as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you and makes his demands.  That is the greatest seriousness and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message.  Christ stands at the door.  He lives in the form of the person in our midst.  Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?”

BETWEEN ADVENTS.  “Christ is still knocking.  It is not yet Christmas.  But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ.  Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5).”

OUR WHOLE LIFE IS ADVENT.  “Advent is a time of waiting.  Our whole life, however, is Advent -- that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: ‘On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.’  Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.  ‘I stand at the door…’  We however call to him: ‘Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!’”  

This excerpt of an Advent reflection by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing House, 2001, available at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Forgive Me For Making Faith Hard

SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND DE-FORMATION. While gratitude is an essential part of healthy spiritual formation, we also experience spiritual de-formation when its opposites are expressed and experienced. A brief contemplation on thanksgiving can bring to mind not only all we take for granted and have to be grateful for, but also our own past ingratitude and unthoughtful contributions to the de-formation of others. That's what brought about the following confession.

HARD FAITH. I observed a person whose bearing, mannerisms, and words made it evident that he works very hard at his way of faith. He works hard at believing and defending what he believes. He bolsters himself against straw men with postulated, ever-ready arguments. He wears his faith on his sleeve to ward off whatever questions or inquiries may arise. He works hard at his faith. I wonder if he ever grows weary. I did. Recalling a book which freed me from this treadmill, Tired Of Trying To Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen, I wanted offer him grace. Aware of my life of ministry, some of which has been conveyed from this "trying harder" mode, this confession formed in me:

For all the times I have tried to make holiness happen on my terms: forgive me.

For making faith appear hard to those under my care: forgive me.

For those who have perceived that faith was hard because of my words or actions: have mercy.

For times when pride of faith has made me falsely comfortable and feel superior: forgive me.

For glances or looks that have conveyed disapproval or disdain for the faith efforts of others: forgive me.

For words that have conveyed “not enough” to those who are cleaving to You: forgive me.

For the sense of earning or working or toiling to be right with You: deliver me.

For conveyed norms of dress, style, or form which make faith seem hard: forgive us.

For interpretations of the Bible which appear hidden, exclusive or obscure: forgive us.

For loading free grace down with imposed conditions and contrived costs: forgive me.

Forgive me for making faith seem hard.

Let me be reminded often of the terms of faith: grace, grace, grace.

And though it cost me everything, let me proclaim grace freely and faithfully all the rest of my days.