Headshot portrait of German religious leader and resistance participant Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945), who touches his forehead, early to mid 1930s. An outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, the Lutheran pastor and theologian was ultimately hanged at Flossenburg Concentration Camp. (Photo by Authenticated News/Getty Images)
TWELVE AROUND TABLE this morning, as of long ago, gathered for burning bush encounter the rabbi said all could and should know. With genius insistence on open hospitality, Jesus gathered people around – thankfully, eucharistically, speaking of God in the midst of them, in-their-flesh, in ‘adamah, earthed and in touch, breathing ruach, God-breath, communion, in and through and for and all around them – in and on and of Genesis ground.
There are times, many times, when it seems that God’s message for all of us is, as Fr Richard Rohr often reminds us: “Don’t get rid of the pain until you have learned its lessons.” Hard though it be for us to grasp, desperately disinclined to undergo it, brokenness heals us into wholeness.
Unfortunately, Fr Richard goes on to reflect, “we have the natural instinct to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego always insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until you move to a deeper level where it all eventually makes sense in the great scheme of God and grace.” (Adapted from The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered)
And, of course, some of us have no other choice available to us than lonely grace and space into which to speak our prayers and our questions. For some, some of the time, as for Pastor Bonhoeffer, there’s no other option available. But the life and witness of this pastor called our attention to the Jesus who calls people to round table, to pray and to stay and to question together – breathing the life of communion: a higher, lower, deeper, broader, wider dispensation, the kingdom of heaven.
WHO AM I? … Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!
WHO AM I? They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a Squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me I used to speak to my warders freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune equally, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of? Or am I only what I myself know of myself? Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!