Lent with Bonhoeffer – Thursday, February 21, 2013

by xcrawford

Daily Office Readings

  • New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-10
  • Gospel: John 3:16-21

The Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us of the Israelites who were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience. The reading concludes by invoking David’s Psalm 95: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” The writer of the Gospel of John shows that there is a way for people to get to the Promised Land, despite their personal shortcomings and disobedience. “For God So Loved The World”- St. Augustine said that “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love”- …”that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” — Matthew Henry called this The Mystery of Divine Love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Preaching-

“The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. As long as I’ve been here, I have heard only one sermon in which you could hear something like a genuine proclamation…. In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life”  – a letter from Bonhoeffer during his time spent in the United States doing post-graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary

When Bonhoeffer taught at the “underground” Confessing Church Finkenwalde Seminary, he lectured on preaching and homiletics. During the student’s sermons, no matter what quality, he always maintained that there should be an air of respect, because God was present during the preaching of the Word. Even though he gave the utmost attention and respect to every sermon, he did have pretty exacting standards of what a good sermon should be.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Evaluation of Sermons
1 Was the sermon faithful to the text? This is the most important criteria
2 How does the sermon relate to the pastor’s Exegetical Research?
3 Do individual parts of the text presented stand in relation to each other?
4 Has anything important been overlooked?
5 Is the meaning of the text apparent?
6 Is the sermon faithful to the confessions of the church? Is it doctrinally sound?*
7 Is the sermon faithful to the Commission to Preach? (not Personal Beliefs or Agenda being taught, but The Cause of Christ)
8 Is the sermon genuine? (does the Preacher believe what they are saying?)
9 Is the presentation of the Law & Gospel approach clear, so that the congregation can see God’s Redemption?
—any non­textual sermon should be faithful to The Text (successfully done by Martin Luther but not many others)
*for the Confessing Church, the main doctrine, or “confession,” was Sola Fida- Faith Alone, was the only way to redemption

Let me cling to the cross
Help me to cling to the cross,
be crucified to the world by it,
and in it find deepest humiliation,
motives to patience and self­denial,
grace for active benevolence,
faith to grasp eternal life,
hope to lift up my head,
love to bind me for ever
to him who died and rose for me.
May Christ’s shed blood make me
more thankful for your mercies,
more humble under your correction,
more zealous in your service,
more watchful against temptation,
more contented in my circumstances,
more useful to others.
­ Puritan Prayer (adapted) from Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions