Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, August 20, 2017

Psa 58-3 go astray

Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

I was amazed when I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words in this short commentary on Psalm 58. (I’ll deal with verses 1 through 3 tonight.)

First off, verse 1: “Are you then dumb, that you will not speak what is right, and judge the children of men with equity?” Bonhoeffer’s immediate response is somehow prescient…”It is an evil time when the world allows injustice to occur and keeps silent.” [1]

With all that has happened in these past days, between the horror from the marches and countermarches in Virginia last weekend and the subsequent vigils, marches, and other gatherings this week…it is an evil time indeed when we allow injustice to occur and the mass of humanity observing merely watches, and keeps silent. As Bonhoeffer says, so many are not only dumb, but are unmerciful.

Verse 2: “No, you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.” It is not only those who merely watch that Bonhoeffer condemns. No, it is also the rulers. The leaders and overlords of the countries involved. How long, O Lord? How long? I agree with Herr Pastor Dietrich. It is truly a mystery of godlessness that runs rampant in all humanity.

Verse 3: “The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth.” Ah. This, again, is the very depth of wickedness.

I am reminded of those verses from Isaiah 53:6 that mention “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.” (Ah, Handel, you set those verses so beautifully in your oratorio “Messiah”…) This is such a Lutheran sentiment, too.

All I can think of is running to my Lord and my God for help, for succor, for relief from sinfulness and blackness of heart. I know only too well that there is much injustice in this world. How long, O Lord? How long will we suffer? How long will You be silent?

Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our cries to You.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 77.

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, August 14, 2017

Psa 58-1, words

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

This sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer was written in 1937, just as the Gestapo were “tightening the net” around those ministers and seminary professors who protested against the Nazi regime in Germany. More than 800 of these members of the Confessing Church had been either imprisoned or taken under house arrest—for the “crime” of protesting against the regime. One example: a former seminarian at the secret seminary of Finkenwalde was arrested, and had “Evangelical Pastor” as his “crime,” written above the door of his cell.

The seminary at Finkenwalde was forcibly closed by the Gestapo in September 1937. Bonhoeffer wrote this sermon in response. (It was two more years before he actively joined the underground Resistance movement.) [1]

Sadly, how timely that this reading should be set for this time, next in the book. Given the horrors that happened this past weekend in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia with white supremacists and neo-Nazis openly marching and carrying swastikas and Nazi flags…

Bonhoeffer opens his sermon with a complete reading of Psalm 58, and then asks: “Is this fearful psalm of vengeance to be our prayer? May we pray in this way? Certainly not!” [2] No, Herr Pastor Bonhoeffer decries the sin that inhabits all of us. Our personal sin, “our spiritual indolence, our open or hidden disobedience.” [3]

Just as a good Lutheran pastor ought, Bonhoeffer reminds us of our personal guilt, and where each of us falls short. He follows this declaration with the crystal-clear fact that none of us is guilt-free, and none of us is truly able to pray this psalm. (As much as we may want to.)

True, we may desperately want to pray this imprecatory psalm, and especially those who were directly impacted by the horrific events in Virginia. Yet, Bonhoeffer says “No, we cannot pray this psalm. Not because we are too good for it (what a superficial idea, what colossal pride!), but because we are too sinful, too evil for it!” [4]

Dear Lord, deliver me—deliver us from the great sin of colossal pride. Reveal all the ways in which I have fallen short, and help me to amend my ways. Turn my thoughts to You, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 73-74.

[2] Ibid, 75.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. 76.

A Grandmother and Psalm 90

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Psa 90-12 teach us, type

A Grandmother and Psalm 90

I suspect Dietrich Bonhoeffer loved his grandmother Frau Julie Bonhoeffer intensely. That is the feeling that comes across from the words of his sermon for her funeral. And, yes, he also spoke with great thankfulness about her person, her great faith, and her deep love for three generations of her family. As Bonhoeffer mentioned, his grandmother always made time for her many family. “She was there for each one with her peace and good counsel.” [1]

This gem of a sermon is found in the book Meditating on the Word, a compilation of various writings, letters and sermons all displaying the great love Bonhoeffer had for the Word of God. This sermon is an excellent example of this devotion to the Scriptures, not only on Pastor Bonhoeffer’s part, but on his grandmother’s part, as well.

At ninety-three years of age, Frau Bonhoeffer had many years to love and care for her family. What is more, her grandson actually said that his grandmother “transmitted to us the heritage of another age. With her passing a world passes, and which we all in someway carry within us, and want to keep within us.” [2]

Psalm 90 says to “teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” As Bonhoeffer said, everyone can learn from his grandmother. Everyone can learn from her. “Applying our hearts to wisdom means knowing the limit of our life, but, even more, know that beyond that limit is the God who is from eternity to eternity, into whose hands we fall, whether we choose to or not, in whose hands we.needed to mourn and to get together, ” [3]

Bonhoeffer closes with the injunction of his grandmother to not be sorrowful. This was important to him. One gets the idea that this was important to his grandmother, too. Work each day, trusting in God. Good advice, no matter who, no matter what.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 70.

[2] Ibid, 71.

[3] Ibid.

A Funeral and Psalm 90

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Psa 90-1 our dwelling place, words

A Funeral and Psalm 90

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached at his grandmother’s funeral. (Such a sad occasion.) Bonhoeffer must have been a person of strong constitution to preach a heartfelt sermon like this. Moreover, judging from what he said, his grandmother (Frau Julie Bonhoeffer) was quite a strong person, as well.

The text for this funeral sermon was Psalm 90, an appropriate text, to be sure: “Lord, You have been our refuge from one generation to another.” This psalm has been a comfort and an encouragement to many, many people over the centuries.

Bonhoeffer was so grateful and thankful for the last days his grandmother had with her family. He talked about the final time at some length, and how aware she was until her last moments.

It makes me think of the deaths of several people I knew who died recently: full lives, touching farewells; all the way around, lives well-lived. He adds about his grandmother, “she held fast in her sickness, too; resigning herself to the will of God, bearing what was laid upon her, looking steadily and clearly at reality, doing whatever was required, quietly and without complaint, accepting what could not be helped.” [1]

What an attitude to have as she exited this life.

“Satisfy us by Your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us and the years in which we suffered adversity.”

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 69.

God is Judge, in Psalm 50

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 4, 2017

JUDGE as God, Jesus

God as Judge, in Psalm 50

Have any of my readers been in a courtroom lately? I mean, close enough to watch the judge deliberate and make rulings?

Such a vivid example of tonight’s reading, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s compilation of short writings and letters called Meditating on the Word. God has a whole lot of names, and serves as a whole lot of awesome majesty and power.

I must admit, seeing God act as stern Judge certainly would give me pause. I do not think in those terms, usually. I know I usually see God Almighty as Shepherd or Lamb, as Teacher, or as Sower of God’s seed. I realize those images are meant to be honest and serious.

However, as I have been following these particular words written in Psalm 50, I am struck by these verses. Pierced to the heart is more like it.

Bonhoeffer had several comments on God’s behalf, in reflection on Psalm 50: “The loyal followers have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the cross. Against the background of Advent, the cross comes into view. Here, in this sacrifice of God’s judgment and His loving kindness are one.” [1]

Yes, some of the Names of God are quite serious, and their description contains parts of God’s character.

Dear God, mighty Judge of humanity (and all the rest of the universe), have mercy on us. Thank You for the cross, as it stands on that hill outside Jerusalem so long ago—and still stands in the heart of God. Thank You for Jesus, the Lamb of God. And, thank You for Your gracious and merciful loving-kindness.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 65.

Judgment of People, and Psalm 50

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, July 30, 2017

PowerPoint Presentation

Judgment of People, and Psalm 50

As I read this sermon outline from Advent 1935 written by Bonhoeffer, I get little whispers of things to come. Premonitions of fearful and horrible things. The Nazi regime in Germany was becoming repressive, even as early as December 1935.

The troubling backdrop for this earnest sermon writing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s causes a lump to form in my throat. Bonhoeffer’s biographer Eberhard Bethge was also troubled: “The Protestant Church was not in the habit of opposing state legislation, but from 1935 onwards it was becoming increasingly clear that resistance would have to be offered.” [1]

(As I said, troubling times, indeed.)

The sermon taken from Psalm 50 was written to highlight God’s best. Even though there were many trials coming at the reader because of the German government, the secret seminary persisted. Bonhoeffer already thought it courageous to stand against the Nazi regime. And, God preaching to the government was something fearful people would gravitate toward.

Dear Lord, Bonhoeffer seemed to be strong and courageous in the 1930’s, with more possibilities to expand horizons. This sermon outline is heartening. I hope and pray my church (in Morton Grove) to allow considerable freedom. O, God who reveals Godself to us, help each of us to praise You, and praise all creation of Your hands. Thank You for God’s loving kindness to each of us. O God, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 62.

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 27, 2017

psalm 42-11 help of my countenance

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Have you ever been full of doubt? Downhearted, depressed and hopeless? Completely lost, with everything collapsing around you? Yeah … me, too.

That was what I dealt with for years. (Seriously, yes.) For years, I would struggle to pray, struggle with my doubts, and especially struggle with any knowledge that God was remembering me, at all. It was almost a daily struggle, for many, many months. For years, at times.

That was how the psalmist felt, too. (This psalm was written by one of the sons of Korah, so we are not sure exactly who wrote it.)

Our psalmist was of two minds as he wrote this. Sure, he told about his assurance in the Lord, and how he trusted in God. He wrote of how much the Lord would help him, and how he would pray to God regularly. On the other hand—he also poured out his heart, and confessed his doubts, his fears, his heaviness. He would mention how much his enemies oppressed him, and how far away from him he felt God was. (Yes, very far.)

And, yet … and, yet …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “Whoever has found God in the cross of Jesus Christ knows how mysteriously God hides himself in this world, and how, when we believe him farthest away, he is just there beside us.” [1]

Some might call this a paradox, others might say it is the mysterious, sometimes unfathomable nature of God. Note the closing verse of Psalm 42: “Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”

I have trust in Bonhoeffer’s closing in this mini-commentary: “He will be the help of your countenance; because he knows you and loved you before he made you, He will not let you fall. You are in his hands.” [2] I take heart in this assurance. Pastor Dietrich affirmed this blessed truth. He certainly had a good deal of challenge and hardship in his life. However, he made it through his struggles and trials. Bonhoeffer continued to thank God for being there for him and with him.

Dear Lord, help me do the same. Please, Lord.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 60.

[2] Ibid, 61.