I read this on the plane on our way home to Indiana on Saturday:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in his book Life Together The Classic Exploration of Christian Community:
“So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blesssing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went “with the multitude… to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday” (Ps. 42:4). But they remain alone in far countries, scattered seed according to God’s will. Yet what is denied them as an actual experience they seize upon more fervently in fatih…
The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. Longingly, the imprisoned apostle Paul calls his “dearly beloved son in the faith,” Timothy, to come to him in the last days of his life…
The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual physical creatures. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother. The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God…If there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!
It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kindgom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer living an amazing life during World War II and was murdered by the gestapo for conspiring to kill Hitler.
Family, I am on my knees thanking the Lord from the bottom of my heart for the grace He has bestowed upon me for allowing me to live in this community of believers for so many years. It is an honor and a privilege to know all of you, walk with all of you, and see Jesus in all of you.
Please pray with me that as I head to Seattle tonight to be with a scattered member of our family that she would recognize Christ in me and be blessed with joy and comfort that would spur her on until the Lord’s grace allows another one of us to go out to her.