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Days 21-30

Day 30

A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.

Biblical Wisdom

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Questions to Ponder

  • What is more common in the church, generic prayers for “those in need” or specific prayers for specific individuals? Why?
  • How common is it for individual Christians and communities of faith to pray for the good of those they dislike or are in conflict with?
  • In what ways does intercessory prayer protect a community of faith?

Psalm Fragment

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   “May they prosper who love you.
   Peace be within your walls,
      and security within your towers.”
   For the sake of my relatives and friends
      I will say, “Peace be within you.”
   For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
      I will seek your good.” Psalm 122:6-9

Journal Reflections

  • Reflect on your prayer life. Have you ever prayed for the good of anyone you were in a conflict with?
  • If so, what happened as a result of your prayer? Did it change the way you thought about that person?
  • If not, reflect in your journal as to whether or not you are ready to pray for the good of people who have hurt you or whom you dislike for any reason.

Intercessions

Pray that your community of faith would be a place where conflict is resolved and hard feelings softened through intercessory prayer.

Prayer for Today

Forgiving God, may I see those with whom I am in conflict as your beloved, and may I share in your love for them by praying for them.

Day 29

Third, we speak of the service involved in bearing with others. “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Thus the law of Christ is a law of forbearance. Forbearance means enduring and suffering. The other person is a burden to the Christian, in fact for the Christian most of all. The other person never becomes a burden at all for the pagans. They simply stay clear of every burden the other person may create for them. However, Christians must bear the burden of one another. Only as a burden is the other really a brother or sister and not just an object to be controlled.

Biblical Wisdom

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

Questions to Ponder

  • In what ways might “bearing with others” have a positive rather than negative connotation?
  • What do you think of Bonhoeffer’s assertion that: “The other person is a burden to the Christian”? Can that be a good way to look at other people?
  • How does the church “bear with” the larger community that surrounds it?

Psalm Fragment

Cast your burden on the Lord,
   and he will sustain you;
   he will never permit
   the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Journal Reflections

  • Think of the people in your life. To whom are you a burden? How does it feel?
  • In what ways do the people in your life help bear your burdens?
  • Whose burdens are you helping to bear? How does it feel?

Intercessions

Who in your circle of family, friends, and acquaintances is weighed down with heavy burdens? Pray for them in their need and ask God to show you how to help them bear those burdens.

Prayer for Today

Loving God, thank you for bearing with me; make me willing to bear with others

Day 28

The other service one should perform for another person in a Christian community is active helpfulness. To begin with, we have in mind simple assistance in minor, external matters. There are many such things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the lowest service. Those who worry about the loss of time entailed by such small, external acts of helpfulness are usually taking their own work too seriously. We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, who will thwart our plans and frustrate our ways time and again, even daily, by sending people across our path with their demands and requests.

Biblical Wisdom

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

Questions to Ponder

  • What are the forms “active helpfulness” might take in a community of faith?
  • Is it true that: “Nobody is too good for the lowest service”? Why, or why not?
  • How does taking their own work too seriously tempt people to undervalue the real needs of others?

Psalm Fragment

For he [the ruler] delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight. Psalm 72:12-14

Journal Reflections

  • Reflect on specific instances in which you were “interrupted by God” in the form of someone in need of help who crossed your path. What did you do? How did you feel about it?
  • Write about your degree of willingness to be “interrupted by God.”
  • What might the “lowest service” be in your community of faith?

Prayer for Today

Lord, as I go about my business today, don’t hesitate to interrupt me, and give me the grace to notice the interruption.

Day 27

(When Bonhoeffer speaks of community, he means any gathering of Christians, including the family.)

The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. … We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.

Biblical Wisdom

“Listen carefully to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears.” Job 13:17

Questions to Ponder

  • What do you think of Bonhoeffer’s statement that “the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them”?
  • In what way is listening to our brothers and sisters doing “God’s work” for them?
  • Why do you suppose so many people find it so difficult to listen?

Psalm Fragment

But my people did not listen to my voice;
   Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
   to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
   that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalm 81:11-13

Journal Reflections

  • Write about a time when you benefited from having another Christian listen to you.
  • Write about your experience as a listener. Are you a good listener? Did you feel like you were doing God’s work as you listened?

Intercessions

Think about someone in your community of faith who never seems listened to. Pray that they might have the courage to speak what is on their heart and mind, and pray that you would have the compassion and interest to listen to them.

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, may I have the grace to listen to you and learn from you; may I have the grace to listen to and learn from others.

Day 26

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has singled you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called…

But the reverse is also true. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone. You are called into the community of faith; the call was not meant for you alone. You carry your cross, you struggle, and you pray in the community of faith, the community of those who are called. You are not alone even when you die, and on the day of judgment you will be only one member of the great community of faith of Jesus Christ…

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.

Biblical Wisdom

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

Questions to Ponder

  • Why do so many people in our society seem to fear being alone?
  • Why do so many churches seem to be mere aggregates of individuals rather than true communities of faith?
  • In what ways can a disciple establish a healthy balance between aloneness and community?

Psalm Fragment

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
   in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
   studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:1-2

Journal Reflections

  • Write about times when you have intentionally been alone. How did it make you feel? What did you do? Did your aloneness have any impact on how you felt when you were with others again?
  • Write about your experience in community. Do you feel an integral part of your community? Do you feel like you have a good balance between time in community and time alone?

Intercessions

If you know anyone who seems lonely, pray that they might discover true community. If you know anyone who seems afraid to be alone with themselves, pray that they might discover the joy of solitude, of being alone with God.

Prayer for Today

O Lord, when I am too much alone, help me seek community. When I am too dependent on the community, help me to set aside time to be alone.

Day 25

Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened.

Biblical Wisdom

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

Questions to Ponder

  • Where do disciples go to satisfy their daily hunger and thirst for righteousness?
  • If Christians find their salvation, deliverance, and justification not in them­selves but in Jesus Christ, how should they use their resulting freedom?
  • If God has put God’s word into the “mouth of human beings,” who is responsible to speak the word? Only pastors or church workers? Why?

Psalm Fragment

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Psalm 145:5-7

Journal Reflections

Write about specific Christians who have spoken a word from God to you when you needed it.
Write about people to whom you have spoken God’s word.

Intercessions

Think of someone you would like to be a spiritual friend with and ask God to help you build a mutually supportive spiritual relationship with him or her.

Prayer for Today

O Holy Spirit, send the people I need to bring me the word of God, and send the people I need to speak the word of God to.

Day 24

Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial…

Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly…

Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive. We thank God for what God has done for us. We thank God for giving us other Christians who live by God’s call, forgiveness, and promise. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.

Biblical Wisdom

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

Questions to Ponder

  • What does it mean to love the “dream of Christian community more than the community itself”?
  • If “we enter community not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive,” what should our attitude and action toward the community be?
  • Is it easier to “complain about what God does not give us” or to be “thankful for what God does give us”? Why?

Psalm Fragment

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
   in him my heart trusts;
   so I am helped, and my heart exults,
   and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
   he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage;
   be their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:7-9

Journal Reflections

  • Write about your response to Bonhoeffer’s ideas about Christian community.
  • Does reading Bonhoeffer on Christian community change the way you feel about your faith community? How? Or why not?
  • Does it suggest any practical changes in the way you relate to your faith community? If so, what are they?

Intercessions

Think about your faith community and spiritual friends (name them) and thank God for the support you get from them in living your life of faith.

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, I will be as important to my spiritual community as my spiritual community is to me.

Day 23

There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community at least once in her or his life. But in this world such experiences remain nothing but a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim to such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of gaining such experiences. It is not the experience of Christian community, but firm and certain faith within Christian community that holds us together. We hold fast in faith to God’s greatest gift, that God has acted for us all and wants to act for us all. This makes us joyful and happy, but it also makes us ready to forget all such experiences if at times God does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience.

Biblical Wisdom

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called․that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

Questions to Ponder

  • Why is “the uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community” somewhat rare?
  • What is the “firm and certain faith” that holds Christians together even when there is conflict and tension between them?
  • What does it mean to say: “We are bound together by faith, not by experience”?

Psalm Fragment

How very good and pleasant it is
   when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
   running down upon the beard,
   on the beard of Aaron,
   running down over the collar of his robes. Psalm 133:1-2

Journal Reflections

  • Write about an “uplifting and blissful” experience of genuine Christian community in your life.
  • Write about a time when faith kept you in community even though the experience of community wasn’t so good at the time.

Intercessions

Think about your community of faith. If there is any conflict or tension in the community, pray that faith in the unity given by Christ would sustain the community as it seeks to resolve the conflict. If the members of your community of faith are presently at peace with one another, thank God for the experience of unity.

Prayer for Today

Lord, I need Christian community. Help me to be there for others in the same way I need others to be there for me.

Day 22

The measure with which God gives the gift of visible community is varied. Christians who live dispersed from one another are comforted by a brief visit of another Christian, a prayer together, and another Christian’s blessing. Indeed, they are strengthened by letters written by the hand of other Christians. Paul’s greetings in his letters written in his own hand were no doubt tokens of such community. Others are given the gift on Sundays of the community of the worship service. Still others have the privilege of living a Christian life in the community of their families.

Biblical Wisdom

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Questions to Ponder

  • Why is Christian community so important for the life of faith?
  • What are the things that weaken community?
  • What are the things that strengthen community?

Psalm Fragment

Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:2-3

Journal Reflections

  • Write about how the gift of Christian community has been a blessing to you.
  • What kinds of Christian communities are you a part of?
  • Do you have a spiritual friend, someone with whom you can speak about faith, confide in, who encourages you, guides you and, if needed, corrects you․and for whom you are the same? If so, reflect on that relationship and what it means to you. If not, could you build a friendship like that?

Prayer for Today

Lord, enable me to be a strength of my Christian communities, and faithful in my spiritual friendships

Day 21

You complain that you cannot believe? No one should be surprised that they cannot come to believe so long as, in deliberate disobedience, they flee or reject some aspect of Jesus’ commandment. You do not want to subject some sinful passion, an enmity, a hope, your life plan, or your reason to Jesus’ commandment? Do not be surprised that you do not receive the Holy Spirit, that you cannot pray, that your prayer for faith remains empty! Instead, go and be reconciled with your sister or brother; let go of the sin which keeps you captive; and you will be able to believe again! If you reject God’s commanding word, you will not receive God’s gracious word. How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.

Biblical Wisdom

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say that you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:14-17

Questions to Ponder

  • Jesus’ commandment is that we love God who made us and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. How does obedience to this commandment nurture and nourish true faith?
  • Why does rejecting “God’s commanding word” keep us from receiving “God’s gracious word”?
  • What is it about rejecting God’s commanding word that takes us out of community?

Psalm Fragment

Then they despised the pleasant land,
   having no faith in his promise.
They grumbled in their tents,
   and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Psalm 106:24-25

Journal Reflections

  • Write in your journal about a practical experience of how your obedience to Jesus’ commandment has nurtured and nourished your faith.
  • Write about your experiences of Christian community. Reflect on both good and bad experiences. What is the difference between them?

Intercessions

Pray for your family and spiritual friends (and for all Christians) that they would continuously experience community grounded in love.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to see where I am rejecting some aspect of your will for me. Help me to obey and believe, believe and obey.

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