Two years ago I was in first year at Youthworks College. Each year, the first years go away to spend time together – to be challenged and to deepen their relationships. They also get to know a guy named Dietrich Bonhoeffer by reading a deceptively small book he wrote called Life Together. I’m getting reacquainted with him over the next few weeks. Here goes nothing! Pages 17-21, for the record.
Sunday mornings are slow. They’re the mornings when I drag myself out of bed and only just begin to be aware of the world around me after the scent of coffee hits my nose. I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and groan a little bit because I know that it will be a long day, where I will be around a lot of people, and it’ll end with me feeling tired from so little time alone. There is some happiness there, but too often the overwhelming feeling is one of duty rather than joy.
Yet, Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christian praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”
The day that I groan about is given to me by grace. The day that I think of as a duty is something that I should be on my knees thanking God for. It makes no sense. It truly makes no sense. In no way does it mean that I should face church life – on Sunday and every other day – with a naive ignorance that prevents me from seeing the faults. Just wait – Dietrich picks up on those! But it does mean that the beginning point of my engagement with Christian community – with my brothers and sisters – is a joyful unity.
We are ‘held together solely in Jesus Christ’. As individuals and as a community and it is grace. It is grace that saves us and it is grace that we live by. You’ll have to forgive this ramble. You’ll have to show me some grace for being a little incoherent. Is that okay? It is a mistake that I often make to think that grace saves me and that is it. God has displayed grace to me through salvation, yes…. but he continues to show grace.
Undeserved gifts. Because Bonhoeffer doesn’t just let us know that community is an epic blessing (my words, not his there), but he shows us that God’s people are more often in isolation. That Jesus lived in the midst of enemies. That so many who live either across the world in hostile nations or down the road in nursing homes where families forgot them are alone, in isolation, without this blessing.
And it is by grace that I experience this almost daily.
And it is this grace that tonight has me grinning like a fool, because I know that tomorrow, at 7:30am which feels altogether too early, I will be gathering with some of those who Jesus has brought me together with to come under God’s Word and pray to Him. That’s epic.