Cyber Book Club Week 13: Chapter 13–Imagine the Supreme Court Running Your Church

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Ebenese concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his like-minded brethren are facing that the church in Germany has been strong-armed by the political powers that be and is now fully under the control and patronage of Nazi sympathizers. To make matters worse, those who disagree with the new anti-semitic church laws can’t agree on how to disagree. It seemed that nothing could be done to fix things from the inside.

The result? Bonhoeffer and his friends decided to write a position, the Bethel Confession, outlining where they stood on anti-semitic rulings and what they believed should be the stance of true Christians. Out of the gate, 6,000 pastors from across Germany aligned themselves with the Bethel Confession and the seed of what would become the Confessing Church was sown.

Throughout history, Christians have been faced with the problem that occurs when culture diverges in behavior from God’s standards. That’s when we become salt and light. And not very popular. It will always be so. At times the issues are different but what is required of us is the same. We must hold to truth, share it, and take the consequences. Whether it’s slavery, embryonic stem-cell research, jihadism, human trafficking, pornography, extortion, organized crime, Naziism, the KKK, we have to say “I will not go there. I love you, but you’re wrong. You have the power to do as you will, but ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'” It has gotten us crucified, beheaded, impoverished, burned, ridiculed, slandered, and more…but we cannot be made to abandon what God has taught us.

For the rest of this book, Dietrich’s persecution for holding to Christian doctrine intensifies. Bonhoeffer and, indeed, most of the world, will find how heavy the price of resisting evil will be.

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Questions for discussion:

Do you think you are brave enough to kindly and respectfully share you’re religious beliefs with others?

Can you give them the right to disagree without being rude?

Practice sharing your thoughts kindly and respectfully this week.

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EBH

Fellowship Begins With Christ

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Togetherness. Belonging. It’s what we all need. And with new trials facing Christians everyday, we need each other just as much as the first century church did. Are you a part of the church universal? Do you truly have fellowship with believers worldwide? How about those close to home? Pastor Wil Owens begins his series on fellowship in 1 Corinthians 1. Listen as Pastor Wil discusses what we must first have to find true unity with one another–Christ Himself.

Christ sustains us through this life. He carries us, upholds us, so that no matter what we face, whether it be hardship, heartache, or temptation, He enables us to keep believing, to keep holding fast to Him, to not give in or give up. Through the hardest of times, the happiest of times, the daily distractions, and the constant drift to wander, we keep holding to Christ because Christ keeps holding to us! He sustains us.

–Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Walking Toward Sunday: Running into Ugly and Finding Beauty

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I was not born pretty. Some people probably considered me ugly. At least one health professional suggested that my parents could “send me away”. In any case, the illusion that life could be a safe, comfortable experience shattered that first day of my life when even the bottle failed me and I had to be fed with a dropper. My cleft lip and palate stamped the reality of the harshness of our world front and center on my face. It did one thing to me and one thing for me. To me– it prevented me from forming any delusional reality that life is easy or simple. For me– well, it landed me straight in the arms of God.

Psalm 22:10 is a verse that resonated with me from the first day I heard it:

” On you was I cast from my birth,

and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

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So this little girl born with an amazing amount of black hair and large, blue eyes had a big problem long after the surgeries were done and the medical files closed. Was life safe? Was life beautiful or was it ugly?

As I grew I formed a sneaking suspicion that it was both. But, by gum, I would try to stay as close to the beautiful side as possible! And I feel like I have done that fairly well. I call it charm. You know, a small house can be thought of as “cottage-like”. And “slightly old” mixed with “inexpensive new” can become “shabby chic”.  A crack in the wall becomes “old-world charm” and rusty wheelbarrows can be remade into planters. Seeing the beauty and charm in things is a great skill to learn.

But what happens when you run into something truly ugly?

I don’t do well with that. It makes me very nervous. Like an exasperating Rubik’s cube (which I could never solve) some things in life cannot be twisted or turned into something “charming”. For most of my life I had seen some of these difficult things from a distance, mostly as a nurse. The range was wide: poverty, loneliness, dead babies, twisted bodies, alcoholics bleeding out, addicts in cardiac arrest dying. But that kind of ugly I could walk away from. A question always haunted me as I drove home to my safe, small home with my wonderful husband and four healthy children. “What will I do when I can’t find the beautiful or charming side to a situation? What happens when something truly “ugly” comes to me? Something I can’t charm my way out of? And make no bones about it, I knew that Ugly comes to everyone.

And then it did.

Two years ago, Ugly came. It came into my living room. It came into the lives of my children. It came into our pocketbook, into my health, into my “charming, little world”. It’s been almost a year and the journey is still on. And I am ok with it. It is Christ’s work, to help bear another’s burden. But my heart is breaking.

Oh, the grief! Dear Lord, where is the beauty? I can’t twist this anyway that makes it look better! If there were just some beauty here, I could bear it! I could bear it!

And then a still, small voice.

But maybe you are the beauty in this.

I paused.

I had never considered this option.

Beauty can be brought by someone outside a situation, for the sole sake of the person in it and change the reality of their suffering. It is so simple. So elemental. So Christian. My friend, caught in the vortex of something ugly, gazes into a mirror and I on the other side, through Christ’s help, touch the opposite side of the looking glass. My compassion, no, Christ’s compassion, beautifies what she sees. And it her suffering becomes bearable. She is reminded that she is loved by Christ. I still see ugly. She sees God working. I feel joy to know that she sees God. Later, I will see beauty. But I feel joy.

What a strange, sweet irony it is that a little girl born into trouble, and shying away from it all her life, should find out that, if she let God do the work, she could be the conduit to bring beauty in the midst of something very ugly.

I’m not so afraid of the ugly side of life anymore. As I show love to others and bring beauty into their suffering, someday someone will do the same for me. Christ will make sure of it.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4:11-12

me3Elizabeth Hiett

Cyber Book Club Week 12–State and Church Collide

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

I can’t and won’t even try to pretend that I entirely understand the relationship between the German church and the German state during Hitler’s regime. But this chapter depicts how important it was to the Nazis to consolidate the church and control the messages from the pulpit. Hitler eventually strong-armed Nazis into church leadership. Perhaps the laity could have resisted this but hind sight is 20/20 and enough people were afraid to challenge those in charge and eventually the church fell under Nazi control.

Two days later it was all moot because the state intervened and all hell broke loose….Now the real church struggle would begin. On June 28, Müller ordered SA troops to occupy the church offices in Berlin. On July 2, an SA commando arrested a pastor. Those in the opposition held prayers of atonement and called for prayers of intercession. In the resultant chaos, Bodelschwingh met with Hindenburg to explain his side of the situation, and Hindenburg said he would convey Bodelschwingh’s concerns to Hitler. Bonhoeffer began to see that the opposition to Hitler and the German Christians was weak and divided, and he was gradually losing hope that anything positive could be done.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 179). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This was a crisis for Christians who didn’t want to accept the Arian Paragraph and Nazi theology. In the next chapter we see Bonhoeffer and his fellow Christians create their confession of faith and their response to Nazi ideas. People who supported the Nazis became known as the German Christians and those who opposed Nazi ideas became part of the Confessing Church.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Questions to Consider:

How does separation of church and state protect the church?

Who and how is church leadership decided upon in your church/denomination?

Why are confessions of faith important?

What do you think your family might have done if you in Germany at the time?

EBH