Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to read and teach some high schoolers from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book about Christian community, Life Together. We were looking at the chapter about life alone, about time spent in meditation, which for Bonhoeffer includes Scripture meditation, prayer, and intercession. Here are some of his comments.
The person who comes into a fellowship because he is running away from himself is misusing it for the sake of diversion, no matter how spiritual this diversion may appear. He is not really seeking community at all, but only distraction which will allow him to forget his loneliness for a brief time, the very alienation that creates the deadly isolation of man. 66
Let him who cannot be alone, beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. 68
The Word comes not to the chatterer but to him who holds his tongue. 69
Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s work, and coming from God’s work with a blessing. But everybody knows that this is something that needs to be practiced and learned, in these days when talkativeness prevails. 69 (Written in 1938)
In our meditation we ponder the chosen text [of scripture] on the strength of the promise that it has something utterly personal to say to us for this day and and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s Word for the Church, but also God’s Word for us individually. 72
It is not necessary that we should discover any new ideas in our meditation… It is sufficient if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells in us. 73
Prayer means nothing else but the willingness to receive and appropriate the Word, and, what is more, to accept it in one’s personal situation, particular tasks, decisions, sins, and temptations. 74
A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. 76
Intercession means no more than to bring our brother into the presence of God, to see him under the Cross of Jesus as a poor human being and sinner in need of grace. To make intercession means to grant our brother the same right that we have received, namely, to stand before Christ and share in his mercy. 76
From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.