Lent with Bonhoeffer, Monday, February 25, 2013

by xcrawford

Daily Office Lectionary

  • New Testament: Romans 1:1-15
  • Gospel: John 4:27-42

Today’s lectionary readings parallel what we have been learning about Bonhoeffer so well. Bonhoeffer taught that the dual purpose of the sermon, of Discipleship even, was evangelizing (bringing in non-believers) and ministering to the congregation (building-up and instructing people who already believe). The Gospel reading picks back up the story of the Samaritan woman at the well that we left off with on Saturday’s reading. After her encounter with Christ, she left her water pitcher and ran into town to tell everyone “Come and see, the Christ is at the well!” People from the town followed her back to meet Jesus, and hearing the words he spoke, asked him to stay with them. The Gospel of John says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, (John 4:39 ESV).” She was fulfilling the first purpose of The Word, spreading it. The reading from Romans includes an example of Paul demonstrating the second purpose of The Word, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—[12] that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12 ESV).” Paul was looking to instruct (depart spiritual gifts) and build-up (encourage) the Roman church. Further connections could be made to Bonhoeffer’s lectures on preaching if we look at what Jesus preached to the woman (and we assume the other Samaritans as well). Bonhoeffer’s foundational idea was Law and Gospel hermeneutics. The Law would  convict, and then the Gospel would set free. If we go back to Saturday’s Gospel Reading (the first part of John 4), then we will see that Jesus followed that same structure. The Law was telling the woman she was correct, she had several husbands and her current man was not one of them. Then He delivered the Gospel message. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’ (John 4:21-26 ESV).”


Before we start talking about Bonhoeffer’s view of Relevance in Sermons, we will look at more of his background.

During Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s time at Union Theological Seminary, Bonhoeffer said he heard sermons on almost every subject- except for The Gospel of Christ and The Cross. He did find a place in Abyssinian Baptist Church, an African-American church in New York. He found a love of African-American spirituals and taught Sunday School there. He was troubled by the racial relations in the U.S. in the 1930’s.

He believed the unpopular position that whatever Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews, he did to God’s People. He also was a Spy and connected to unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This led to his execution- to learn more about Bonhoeffer, check out the video below.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine
O Lord,
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
–St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354­430)