This morning, at the 8 AM Eucharist, I was tasked with preaching again to the lessons read this past Sunday. As I walked through the office on my way to the sanctuary, my hand passed over a book of daily readings from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In light of the themes I noted on Sunday in my sermon, I found today's readings particularly affecting. The small group gathered for worship had a powerful and moving conversation about the nature of faith, confidence in Christ and the challenge of embracing faith in a time of conflict. Here, it follows:
[We are justified] not only by grace alone but also by faith alone. So Scripture and the Reformation teach. Not love or hope, but only faith justifies a life. It is faith alone that sets life on a new foundation, and only on this new foundation can I live justified before God. This foundation is the living, dying, and rising of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this foundation a life before God is unjustified; it is surrendered to death and damnation. The justification of my life before God is to live because of and toward the living, dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Faith means to find, hold to and cast my anchor on this foundation and so to be held by it. Faith means to base life on a foundation outside myself, on an eternal and holy foundation, on Christ. Faith means to be captivated by the gaze of Christ; one sees nothing but him. Faith means to be torn out of imprisonment in one's own ego, liberated by Jesus Christ. Faith is letting something happen, and only therein is it an activity. Yet both words together cannot adequately express its mystery. Faith alone is uncertainty; everything outside of faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainity of faith. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ who tells me that my life is justified. So there is no way toward the justification of my live other than faith alone.
-from Ethics, 147-148
Every preacher struggles with the text before, during and after they preach. That challenge of, and struggle with the Word is the key to growth as we seek to faithfully and honestly speak to the truth of the Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. After this week's sermon, I have been meditating on what it means to keep my mind on divine things versus human things, and to hear in Jesus' voice some key to embrace and understand this present moment in life, in Church and in community. I learned a great deal from my fellow worshippers this morning. I learned that we all struggle daily with that hard task...and that Bonhoeffer's idea of turning to, and fixing on the face of Jesus Christ is a way, really-the way, to move through life. God keep us all captivated by that image.