By Pastor Vinnie Cappetta
"Nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community"
Bonhoeffer sounds like a prophet when in the 1940s he penned the words I want to share with you today. “Any day (Christian community…the church) may be taken from us, (and) that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.” In other words, the community that we enjoy with one another can be taken from us at anytime and that time could come soon as it did in World War 2 Germany and as it has for us during the COVID pandemic.
I wouldn’t say that I have experienced utter loneliness during the pandemic, but I would say that I came pretty close to it. The only thing that kept me from this was our Live-church broadcasts which brought me to the church building to preach and/or sing placing me back with my brothers and sisters on the broadcast team.
I may not have been in touch with the loneliness that I felt until the first worship service when people were allowed back into the church building and I heard the singing voices of my fellow church members singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). This was like water for the thirsty soul.
I understand better what Bonhoeffer was talking about here:
“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 prison in the last days of his life; he would see him again and have him near…
The believer should feel 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 blesses the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of another Christian…It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom 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.” Life Together, Page 29
Let us praise God for our church community and let us not take it for granted. It is a gift from God and we want to treat it as such.