Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reflections with Bonhoeffer

Sometime in the last year, I started reading a daily reflection with writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I had read portions of some of his books, but he is very heavy and I find it hard to digest too much at one time, so this book has been great.  Just small but often heavy doses once a day.  What I have also found helpful, as I read some of his writings, is that since I do not consider myself a trinitarian Christian as he clearly is, that by secularizing his language I find his message more accessible.  The basic translation I find helpful  - and I hope still keep with the spirit of his writings, given his messages of inclusiveness, love and humility - is to consider "Christian communities" as "loving communities", "Christian service" as "loving service", and so on.  My belief is that God is a loving God, and our calling is to be loving people towards all, so it works for me.

Periodically, in this blog space, I'll be putting a writing of his that moves me and seems applicable to the work of William Penn House and Quaker Workcamps.  Yesterday's message was one such message, especially as it was a day that we were doing a few hours of service with students from Baltimore Friends School.

"The basis of all pneumatic, or spiritual reality, is the clear call to love and to live with grace.  At the foundation of all psychic, or emotional reality are the dark, impenetrable urges and desires of the human soul - the ego. The basis of spiritual community is truth; the basis of emotional community is desire.  The essence of spiritual community is light. For 'God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all' (1 John 1:5); and 'if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another' (1 John 1:7).  The essence of emotional, self-centered community is darkness, 'for it is from within, from the human heart, that egotistical intentions come' (Mark 7:21).  It is the deep night that spreads over the sources of all human activity, over even all noble and devout impulses.  Spiritual community is the community of those who are called by love and grace; emotional community is the community of pious souls.  The bright love of service, fellowship and grace lives in the spiritual community; the dark love of pious-impious urges burns in the self-centered community.  In the former, there is ordered, loving service; in the latter, disordered desire for pleasure.  In the former, there is humble submission one to another; in the latter, humble, yet haughty subjection of other people to one's own desire."

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