Daily Riches: The Church In Politically Troublesome Times (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“A state that threatens the proclamation of the Christian message negates itself. There are thus three possibilities for action that the church can take vis-à-vis the state: first, . . . questioning the state as to the legitimate state character of its actions, that is, making the state responsible for what it does. Second, is service to the victims of the state’s actions. The church has an unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. ‘Let us work for the good of all.’ (Gal 6:10) These are both ways in which the church, in its freedom, conducts itself in the interest of a free state. In times when the laws are changing, the church may under no circumstances neglect either of these duties. The third possibility is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to fall [ourselves] within the spokes of the wheel itself. Such an action would be direct political action on the part of the church. This is only possible and called for if the church sees the state be failing in its function of creating law and order, that is, if the church perceives that the state, without any scruples, has created either too much or too little law and order. It must see in either eventuality a threat to the existence of the state and thus to its own existence as well.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“So [Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle;
he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”
John 2:15 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think about that first sentence. Does government have a genuine self-interest in protecting Christian proclamation?
  • Bonhoeffer says the church must bind up the victims’ wounds in an unjust state. When a government is really out of control, such victims could include large parts of the population–even its majority. In such a case, wide-spread neighbor love (likely in some form of “direct political action”) is required. (Matthew  22:39) Is your church even thinking about these responsibilities? Are you?
  • Does the church where you live focus on other things rather than these things? If so, on what?

Abba, give me a heart for any of my neighbors who are victims.

For more: Works (Vol. 12) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Daily Riches: Moving At Brick-Making Speed (Walter Brueggemann)

“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of . . .  resistance . . . . It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life . . . .” Walter Brueggemann

“The departure from that same system [the exploitation of modern day ‘brick-makers’] in our time is not geographical. It is rather emotional, liturgical, and economic. It is not an idea but a practical act. Thus the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is an act of trust in the subversive, exodus-causing God of the first commandment, an act of submission to the restful God of commandments one, two, and three. Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives. It is for good reason that sabbath has long been for theologically serious Jews, the defining discipline. It is for good reason that Enlightenment-based autonomous Christians may find the Sabbath commandment the most urgent and the most difficult of all the commandments of Sinai. We are, liberals and conservatives, much inured to Pharaoh’s system. For that reason, the departure into restfulness is both urgent and difficult, for our motors are set to run at brick-making speed. [But] To cease, even for a time, the anxious striving for more bricks is to find ourselves with a ‘light burden’ and an ‘easy yoke.'” Brueggemann

“And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding,
‘Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’”
Exodus 5:14 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The Sabbath calls on you to stop, even if you prefer “brick-making speed.” How else will you practice “neighborly engagement?”
  • Many brag about working 80-hour weeks, or never taking vacation. Does it make sense to you that anyone would brag about living like a slave? . . . as if life were all about making bricks?
  • If Sabbath-keeping in our seductive culture requires “enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement”, is there any hope that you’ll succeed at it? What can you do?

Abba, help me to join the subversive, exodus-causing God, and his community, in resisting unjust powers in my day. Make me available for loving my neighbor.

For more: Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these “Daily Riches!” Look for my upcoming book –Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more of these provocative quotes, verses, questions, and prayers.

Sources:

Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014.

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