In 1939 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “Life Together.” It addresses the fundamental question of “what constitutes our fellowship and our unity as Christians/the church? It is not our common practices, programs, or goals. These things emerge from our common life in Christ. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity,” he writes. Wonderfully, right? But then he adds, “Just as surely as God’s desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.” We need disillusionment to grasp what genuine community of faith is all about. Disillusionment shocks us. We may think of ourselves as a healthy missional church until we are challenged, when things aren’t working like they used, when some folks leave and others join and dare to shape the church through their calling, vision, and giftedness. Bonhoeffer warns “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial….”
And so in Christ we enter into our common life and explore it, learn from it, we learn how to live out all the 50-some “one anothers”, how to worship, how to share communion, how to listen to the Word, how to confront those family members willfully sinning, how to confess, how to repent…This will be our preaching theme for the Fall.
Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes a great blessing, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together — the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together