I’m in the middle (and I mean that quite literally: when I opened to my bookmark earlier today, the book lay open flat without my holding either side) of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.
For those of you who’ve read it, I’ve reached the chapter detailing Bonhoeffer’s founding of his seminary at Zingst and Finkenwalde. I want to share a few gleanings from it…
- In a letter to Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer defends the daily routine and observance of spiritual disciplines in his seminary community. He writes, “You once said very seriously to the students that you sometimes felt as though you would rather give up all lectures and instead pay a surprise visit on someone and ask him…’How goes it with your soul?'” He goes on a little further down the letter, “It is certain that both theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life which is governed by gathering around the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayers.”
I find this instructive for both my duties as a mother and a church member. It is my responsibility to help my children develop daily disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. It is my responsibility to teach them sound doctrine. Right now, we’re pretty good about doing that on school days, but I do not want Bible study and discussion relegated to a school activity. I want it to have a prominent place in our every day lives. The remedy could be as simple as moving those activities to the dinner table.
As a church member, I don’t want my question, “How goes it with your soul?” to illicit a strange expression. Most of the time, when we ask one another, “How are you doing?” we don’t hear it and answer with our souls in mind. Rather, we answer with the usual, “Fine,” or “Well, I’m having a busy day,” or “Okay.” Many times when asked the question, I could honestly answer, “My soul is troubled today,” or “I’m still struggling in my fight against _____; I could really use some prayer and accountability for that.”
This past Sunday, our pastor preached from Psalm 73. Toward the end, he read verses 25-28, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you…But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.” He encouraged us to pursue a new affection, to pray for an overmastering passion for God so that His name might be the first on our lips, to pray that our passion be singular and Godward. Because when we have that kind of singular passion, then we will talk about Him. I pray that among the women in my church family questions directed at one anothers’ souls and conversations about what God is working into our lives will become regular (and expected) questions and topics of conversation. To an extent, we do these things already; I guess I just want it to grow.
- “Bonhoeffer took preaching seriously. For him a sermon was nothing less than the very word of God, a place where God would speak to his people. Bonhoeffer wanted to impress this idea on his ordinands, to help them see that preaching was not merely an intellectual exercise. Like prayer or meditation on a scriptural text, it was an opportunity to hear from heaven, and for the preacher, it was a holy privilege to be the vessel through whom God would speak. Like the incarnation, it was a place of revelation, where Christ came into this world from outside it.”
- “He wished to impress upon his ordinands that when one truly presented the Word of God, it would undo people because it had the innate power to help them see their own need and would give the answer to that need in a way that was not larded over with ‘religion’ or false piety. The grace of God, without filters or explanation, would touch people.”
- “Bonhoeffer’s teaching on prayer was similar. Every morning at the devotions, he offered a longish extemporaneous prayer…The life of prayer and communion with Jesus must be at the center.”
Again, as a mother and a church member I find instruction. My children need to hear me read and honor God’s Word, hear my real prayers, see how my relationship with Jesus impacts my heart and life. There’s a place for closet prayers and whatnot, but when I’m trying to raise children who walk with God I ought to allow them to see how I do that. Karl ought to allow them to see how he does that. I am reminded that I am running a little seminary in my home.
I’m so very thankful for our pastors and their wives and how they demonstrate how to pray, how to submit to the Word, and how they desire to keep all the teaching in our church in the Scriptures. I love, before the Scripture reading on Sunday mornings, to hear, “This is the Word of the Lord.”
There’s one more I want to share, but I think I’ll save it for another post.
“Habit forming is the Spirit’s ordinary way of leading us on in holiness. The fruit of the Spirit itself, is, from one standpoint, a series of habits of action and reaction.” – J. I. Packer (via Brian Hedges status update)