The people of the United Methodist Church: An Easter Series, Part 4

(Content from http://www.umc.org/)

A Theology of Discipleship

Theology is not just about God. It is also about us. We live out of our understanding of who we are in relationship to God, to one another, and to the world. The Christian faith is grounded in the love and grace of God, experienced through Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is our response to God’s love and grace.

The church calls our response to God Christian discipleship. Discipleship focuses on actively following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Christian disciples, we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God’s activity in the world. Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God. We order our lives in ways that embody Christ’s ministry in our families, workplaces, communities, and the world.

Loving God

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response was: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38. See Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; and Luke 10:25-28.)

Discipleship is about loving God….It is more than an acknowledgement of God’s existence or a statement of belief regarding God. It is total devotion, head-over-heals-in-love-with adoration. It is the deep desire to know God, to be one with God, and to worship God.

There are a variety of ways that we can develop our knowledge of and love of God. These include
•Prayer
•Bible study
•Worship
•Fasting
•Conversation with other Christians

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, called these practices means of grace. They are means for developing our relationship with God and for experiencing God’s presence in our lives. These practices help us spend time with God, a significant factor in loving God.

Loving Neighbor

Jesus responded to questions about the most important commandment by quoting the Hebrew Scripture’s admonition to love God with our whole being. (See Deut. 6:4-9 as well as gospel passages listed in the above section.) Then immediately he broadened the meaning of this admonition: “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:31).

These verses about loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves are known as the Great Commandment. Again and again, the Bible teaches us that loving God and loving neighbor are two sides of the same coin. We cannot do one without the other. Check out some of these passages for a glimpse at how prevalent this understanding of Christian discipleship is:
•Matthew 5:43-48
•Matthew 25:31-46
•Luke 10:25-37
•John 15:12-17
•Romans 12:9-18
•1 Corinthians 13
•1 John 4:19-21

From these passages and others we can draw several conclusions about what it means to love our neighbors. First of all, loving our neighbors means responding to specific needs—hunger, illness, imprisonment, loneliness, and so forth. Love is more than a feeling; it is behavior. It is practical and concrete.

Secondly, our neighbors include many people. Within the context of the Christian community, our neighbors are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Neighbors may also refer to the contemporary understanding of those who live near us. However, from a biblical perspective, neighbors often include people whom we might not normally consider:
•strangers;
•prisoners;
•people who mistreat us (who are our enemies);
•people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds;
•people from different religious traditions;
•people who irritate us and push the boundaries of our patience.

Therefore, loving our neighbors requires attention and sacrifice. We have to pay attention to what is happening around us in order to see our neighbors and to recognize their needs. We must also consider their needs to be as important as our own in order to live faithfully. Loving neighbor is more than random acts of kindness. It takes time, energy, and commitment. It is a lifestyle carefully cultivated in response to God.

Finally, these passages emphasize that loving our neighbors is not optional; it is mandatory. It is what Christians do and what Christians are. Our lives are a testimony to our love—our love for God and our love for neighbor.

From What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), pp. 35-38. Used by permission.

Mission and Ministry

We Have a Mission

Why does the church exist? According to Matthew’s Gospel, the risen Christ made it clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:19-20).

Based on this “Great Commission,” our United Methodist Church has stated its purpose: “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs” (From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church—2008, p. 87. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission).

So the mission of our congregation is to make disciples. This is a four-fold task….We could abbreviate our mission as one of welcoming-worshiping-nurturing-sending. (See The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church—2008, p. 88, and Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, 2005-2008.

We reach out to people and welcome them into the church

We have a direct responsibility for people of the “world” around our church, the community in which we and others study, work, shop, play, and so forth. In this world are people with many hurts, doubts, and questions. There are some who are new in the community and feel a little lost, some who are proudly self-sufficient, and others who are in desperate circumstances. Our mission is to reach out to them, listen to them, accept them, share the gospel in word and deed, invite them into the family of faith, and joyfully receive all who will respond.

We relate people to God and help them deepen their relationship with God

The second task in making disciples is to offer people opportunities for growing closer to God. Whether they are visitors or old-time members, just beginning the journey of faith or well along the road—all are in need of God’s love in Christ. Through worship, prayer, study, and honest sharing, we help one another discover that the Holy Spirit is not far off but present with us, wanting an open and loving friendship with each of us—not only friendship but commitment as well. Through our congregation’s various ministries we encourage one another to give our selves to Christ, to ground our lives in the living God.

We nurture people in Christian living

Third, our congregation’s mission is to nurture people of all ages in the Christian faith and to help them practice the disciplines of discipleship. The church exists not to serve itself but to serve the world. We come to church not only for our own personal enrichment but also to prepare ourselves to do the work of love and to get ready to be Christ’s disciples in the community. Through worship, baptism, Communion, Bible study, prayer, and other means of grace, we’re strengthened for ministry.

We support people in their ministry

As members of the congregation, we’re sent into the community to serve those in need and to make our community more loving and just. We believe that the Holy Spirit empowers and guides us in these ministries and that wherever there’s need and suffering, we meet Christ, already at work. But still, we cannot be effective in ministry on our own. So the congregation exists, in part, to surround and support each member in his or her ministry. We do not always succeed in our efforts to be faithful disciples in the world. But with the loving support of the community of faith, we can continue to grow.

Excerpt from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, Rev. 2006), p. 10-11. Used by permission.

Methodists in Mission

The United Methodist faith is deeply rooted in the Scripture and in the basic beliefs of all Christians. Out of that theology and the faith have grown some specific actions that mark United Methodists as Christians engaged in ministry to the world. The early members of the groups that eventually became The United Methodist Church

•took strong stands on issues such as slavery, smuggling, and humane treatment of prisoners;
•established institutions for higher learning;
•started hospitals and shelters for children and the elderly;
•founded Goodwill Industries in 1902;
•became actively involved in efforts for world peace;
•adopted a Social Creed and Social Principles to guide them as they relate to God’s world and God’s people;
•participated with other religious groups in ecumenical efforts to be in mission.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About The United Methodist Church, p.20-23, Discipleship Resources © 2002. Used by permission.

The Ministry of All Christians

All Christians are called by God, through their baptism, to be in ministry in the world. Therefore, the term minister is appropriately used to describe any Christian who responds to God’s call to reach out to the world and its people through loving acts of service. The ministers of the church are called to serve in a variety of ways.

As Laity—From its earliest days, Methodism has been a lay movement. The term laity comes from laos, which means of the people. The laity are the whole people of God, who serve as ministers witnessing to the work of God in individual lives and in the world.

As Clergy—Within the body of all Christian ministers, though, some are called to fulfill a specific ministry through the church.

•Deacons—ordained ministers appointed to focus on servanthood. A deacon models the relationship between worship in the community of faith and service to God in the world. Deacons serve in a variety of ministry settings, both in the church and in the world.
•Elders—ordained ministers appointed to lead congregations oc Christians in the celebration of the sacraments and to guide and care for the life of the community. Some elders may also serve in extension ministries beyond the local church.
•Local pastors—licensed ministers appointed to perform the duties of a pastor in a specific church or charge.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About The United Methodist Church, p.38-39, Discipleship Resources © 2002. Used by permission.

We Are All Called to Minister

Though our gifts vary widely, we’re all called to and engaged in the one ministry of Jesus Christ. Some aspects of our ministry are easy and come naturally. Some are difficult, involving long hours, tough work, perhaps with conflict, perhaps with disappointing results. What drives us? What keeps us going? The list includes at least these three things:

•the memory of Jesus’ life of service to others, which inspires us to follow him in ministry;
•the assurance of God’s gracious love for us, which empowers us to love others;
•the promise of God’s coming reign on earth, which draws us into action directed toward this vision.

Let’s be more specific. Where does ministry happen?

It happens in our daily activity

For those who are alert to the needs of others, each day abounds with opportunities to serve. We minister with our families as we inquire about one another’s lives, as we listen and respond with care, as we touch, as we smile and offer a kind word, and as we decide questions and reconcile conflicts. We take time to listen to a friend in need and we respond; this is often the greatest gift we can offer. We minister at work, to both co-workers and those we serve. We minister in the neighborhood or the shops as we go about the day’s work.

It happens through new initiatives

We also go out of our way to minister. We hear of a need, read of a crisis, or see an opportunity to share God’s love. It may be with someone across town, someone of another racial or economic group, a person with a disability, or a person of another nation or culture. We take time to call, to visit, to write, and to ask how we can help. We also take the time to respond.

It happens through groups and institutions

Many needs are best met by joining forces with others. We take part in community groups that are trying to serve human need or trying to change social forces that cause suffering. We give our time, our energy, and our money. Though others in these organizations may not think of it this way, for us it’s Christ’s ministry.

It happens through the church

Through our support and our contributions, we participate in the far-flung ministries of The United Methodist Church—in our district and annual conference, across the nation, and around the world. Here in our congregation we take part in service groups, we sign up for special action projects, we visit, we telephone, we lead, and we teach. And we minister face-to-face in all kinds of ways, both when we gather and in our informal contacts.

Inspired by the example of Jesus and empowered by God’s love for us, we all carry out our ministry, both individually and together with others.

Excerpt from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, Rev. 2006), p. 18-19. Used by permission.

History: Our Story

On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas. With the words, “Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church,” the new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.

Theological traditions steeped in the Protestant Reformation and Wesleyanism, similar ecclesiastical structures, and relationships that dated back almost two hundred years facilitated the union. In the Evangelical United Brethren heritage, for example, Philip William Otterbein, the principal founder of the United Brethren in Christ, assisted in the ordination of Francis Asbury to the superintendency of American Methodist work. Jacob Albright, through whose religious experience and leadership the Evangelical Association was begun, was nurtured in a Methodist class meeting following his conversion.

Read more about the history of The United Methodist Church by year:

Roots, 1736–1816

The United Methodist Church shares a common history and heritage with other Methodist and Wesleyan bodies. The lives and ministries of John Wesley (1703–1791) and of his brother, Charles (1707–1788), mark the origin of their common roots.
The Churches Grow, 1817–1843
The Second Great Awakening was the dominant religious development among Protestants in America in the first half of the nineteenth century. Through revivals and camp meetings sinners were brought to an experience of conversion. Circuit riding preachers and lay pastors knit them into a connection.

The Slavery Question and Civil War, 1844–1865

John Wesley was an ardent opponent of slavery. Many of the leaders of early American Methodism shared his hatred for this form of human bondage. The United Brethren in Christ took a strong stand against slavery, as church members could not sell a slave, and by 1837 ruled that slave owners could not continue as members. As the nineteenth century progressed, it became apparent that tensions were deepening in Methodism over the slavery question.

Reconstruction, Prosperity, and New Issues, 1866–1913

The Civil War dealt an especially harsh blow to The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Its membership fell to two-thirds its pre-war strength. Many of its churches lay in ruins or were seriously damaged.

World War and More Change, 1914–1939

In the years immediately prior to World War I, there was much sympathy in the churches for negotiation and arbitration as visible alternatives to international armed conflict. Many church members and clergy openly professed pacifism.

Movement Toward Union, 1940–1967

Although Methodists, Evangelicals, and United Brethren each had published strong statements condemning war and advocating peaceful reconciliation among the nations, the strength of their positions was largely lost with American involvement in the hostilities of World War II.

Developments and Changes Since 1968

When The United Methodist Church was created in 1968, it had approximately 11 million members, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

Advertisements

The people of the United Methodist Church: An Easter Series, Part 3

(Content from http://www.umc.org/)

We Act in Society

Taking an active stance in society is nothing new for followers of John Wesley. He set the example for us to combine personal and social piety. Ever since predecessor churches to United Methodism flourished in the United States, we have been known as a denomination involved with people’s lives, with political and social struggles, having local to international mission implications. Such involvement is an expression of the personal change we experience in our baptism and conversion.

The United Methodist Church believes God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective, not just responding to all the other “mind-makers-up” that exist in our society.

Excerpt from The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

To help guide our thinking and acting about how we live in and are in engaged in ministry in the world, The United Methodist Church has created statements to guide the church in its efforts to create a world of justice.

“Our Social Creed” is a basic statement of our convictions about the fundamental relationships between God, God’s creation and humanity. This basic statement is expanded in a more lengthy statement called the “Social Principles.” This statement explains more fully how United Methodists are called to live in the world. Part of our Book of Discipline , the “Social Principles” serve as a guide to official church action and our individual witness.

Preface

The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions.

Preamble

We, the people called United Methodists, affirm our faith in God our Creator and Father, in Jesus Christ our Savior, and in the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Guard.

The Natural World

We affirm that we’re responsible for the way we use the Lord’s creation. We support social policies that promote the wise use of water, air, soil, minerals, and plants. We support the conservation of energy and oppose energy-using technologies that threaten human health. We’re concerned for the humane treatment of animals and the respectful use of space.

The Nurturing Community

We affirm the family and work to strengthen its relationships. We affirm the sanctity of marriage and shared fidelity between a man and a woman. We recognize divorce as regrettable and intend to minister to the members of divorced families. We affirm the integrity of single persons. We recognize that sexuality is a good gift of God and that sex between a man and woman is only to be clearly affirmed in the marriage bond. We recognize the tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion and urge prayerful consideration by all parties involved. We assert the right of every person to die with dignity.

The Social Community

We affirm all persons as equally valuable in God’s sight. We reject racism and assert the rights of racial minorities to equal opportunities in employment, education, voting, housing, and leadership. We urge social practices that will uphold the rights of religious minorities, of children, youth, young adults, and the aging, of women, and of disabled persons. We affirm our long-standing support of abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs, and we support the rehabilitation of drug-dependent persons.

The Economic Community

All economic systems are under the judgment of God. We believe the private ownership of property is a trusteeship under God and must be responsibly managed. We support the right of employees and employers to organize for collective bargaining. We affirm the right of safe and meaningful work and creative leisure. We support efforts to ensure truth in pricing, packaging, lending, and advertising; and we urge people to evaluate their consumption of goods in the light of the quality of life. We call on Christians to abstain from gambling and to be in ministry with persons who are the victims of this societal menace.

The Political Community

We hold governments responsible for the protection of people’s basic freedoms. We believe that neither church nor state should attempt to dominate the other. We call for freedom of information and quality education. We defend the right of individuals to practice conscientious, non-violent civil disobedience. We support government measures to reduce crimes consistent with the basic freedoms of persons; and we urge the creation of new systems of rehabilitation.

The World Community

God’s world is one world. We hold nations accountable for unjust treatment of their citizens. We affirm the right of people in developing nations to shape their own destiny; and we applaud efforts to establish a more just international economic order. We believe war is incompatible with the teachings of Christ, and we claim that it is the primary moral duty of every nation to resolve disputes peacefully. We endorse the United Nations and commend all who pursue world peace through law.

Our Social Creed

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

Excerpt from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook, revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 88-89. Used by permission.

The people of the United Methodist Church: An Easter Series, Part 2

(Content from http://www.umc.org/)

Our Wesleyan Theological Heritage

Distinctive Emphases

Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.

The distinctive shape of our theological heritage can be seen not only in this emphasis on Christian living, but also in Wesley’s distinctive understanding of God’s saving grace. Although Wesley shared with many other Christians a belief in salvation by grace, he combined them in a powerful way to create distinctive emphases for living the full Christian life.

Grace

Grace is central to our understanding of Christian faith and life.

Grace can be defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. We read in the Letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Our United Methodist heritage is rooted in a deep and profound understanding of God’s grace. This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us. Did you have to memorize John 3:16 in Sunday school when you were a child? There was a good reason. This one verse summarizes the gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The ability to call to mind God’s love and God’s gift of Jesus Christ is a rich resource for theology and faith.”

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, described God’s grace as threefold:
•prevenient grace
•justifying grace
•sanctifying grace

Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.

Prevenient Grace

Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift—a gift that is always available, but that can be refused.

God’s grace stirs up within us a desire to know God and empowers us to respond to God’s invitation to be in relationship with God. God’s grace enables us to discern differences between good and evil and makes it possible for us to choose good….

God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. We do not have to beg and plead for God’s love and grace. God actively seeks us!

Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.

Justifying Grace

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). And in his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul wrote: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

These verses demonstrate the justifying grace of God. They point to reconciliation, pardon, and restoration. Through the work of God in Christ our sins are forgiven, and our relationship with God is restored. According to John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, the image of God—which has been distorted by sin—is renewed within us through Christ’s death.

Again, this dimension of God’s grace is a gift. God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith.

Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.

Conversion

This process of salvation involves a change in us that we call conversion. Conversion is a turning around, leaving one orientation for another. It may be sudden and dramatic, or gradual and cumulative. But in any case, it’s a new beginning. Following Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “You must be born anew” (John 3:7 RSV), we speak of this conversion as rebirth, new life in Christ, or regeneration.

Following Paul and Luther, John Wesley called this process justification. Justification is what happens when Christians abandon all those vain attempts to justify themselves before God, to be seen as “just” in God’s eyes through religious and moral practices. It’s a time when God’s “justifying grace” is experienced and accepted, a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace and joy and love. Indeed, we’re justified by God’s grace through faith.

Justification is also a time of repentance—turning away from behaviors rooted in sin and toward actions that express God’s love. In this conversion we can expect to receive assurance of our present salvation through the Holy Spirit “bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Excerpt from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook, p. 78-79.

Sanctifying Grace

Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness. (Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.)

Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived. As we pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, we deepen our knowledge of and love for God. As we respond with compassion to human need and work for justice in our communities, we strengthen our capacity to love neighbor. Our inner thoughts and motives, as well as our outer actions and behavior, are aligned with God’s will and testify to our union with God. (Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.)

We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin. (Adapted from Who Are We? : Doctrine, Ministry, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church, Revised: Leader’s Guide by Kenneth L. Carder, Cokesbury, p. 46.)

Faith and Good Works

United Methodists insist that faith and good works belong together. What we believe must be confirmed by what we do. Personal salvation must be expressed in ministry and mission in the world. We believe that Christian doctrine and Christian ethics are inseparable, that faith should inspire service. The integration of personal piety and social holiness has been a hallmark of our tradition. We affirm the biblical precept that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Excerpt from The United Methodist Primer, 2005 Revised Edition by Chester E. Custer (Discipleship Resources, 2005); p. 59.

Mission and Service

Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God through a life of service. As disciples, we become active participants in God’s activity in the world through mission and service. Love of God is always linked to love of neighbor and to a passionate commitment to seeking justice and renewal in the world.

Nurture and Mission of the Church

For Wesley, there was no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. In other words, faith always includes a social dimension. One cannot be a solitary Christian. As we grow in faith through our participation in the church community, we are also nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world.

“From Wesley’s time to the present, Methodism has sought to be both a nurturing community and a servant community. Members of Methodist Societies and class meetings met for personal nurture through giving to the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working for justice and peace in the community. They sought not only to receive the fullness of God’s grace for themselves; but…they saw themselves as existing ‘to reform the nation…and to spread scriptural holiness over the land'”

Excerpt from Who Are We? : Doctrine, Ministry, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church, Revised: Leader’s Guide by Kenneth L. Carder, (Cokesbury), p. 55.

The people of the United Methodist Church: An Easter Series, Part 1

(Content from http://www.umc.org/)

United Methodists come in all sizes, shapes, colors, dispositions, outlooks and life stories, but share a unique history and faith perspective. Our members speak many languages and live in many countries.

No matter how or where they serve Jesus Christ, United Methodists do God’s work in a unique structure—referred to as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning. Connectionalism comes to life through our clergy appointment system, our mission and outreach, and through our collective giving. We live out our call to mission and ministry by engaging in ministry with the poor, combating diseases of poverty by improving health globally, creating new places for new people and renewing existing congregations, and developing principled Christian leaders. No one congregation can do all these ministries, but together—through the power of our connection—we can make a tremendous difference.

Our Christian Roots

United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:

Trinity

We describe God in three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are commonly used to refer to the threefold nature of God. Sometimes we use other terms, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 13.

God

•We believe in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.
•We believe that God is sovereign; that is, God is the ruler of the universe.
•We believe that God is loving. We can experience God’s love and grace.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 13.

Jesus

•We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
•We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
•We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)
•We believe that Jesus is our Savior. In Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins.
•We believe that Jesus is our Lord and that we are called to pattern our lives after his.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 13-14.

The Holy Spirit

•We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with us.
•We believe that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God.
•We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live obediently.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 14.

Human Beings

•We believe that God created human beings in God’s image.
•We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
•We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 14.

The Church

•We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
•We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
•We believe that the church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
•We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 14.

The Bible

•We believe that the Bible is God’s Word.
•We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
•We believe that Christians need to know and study the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures).

Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 15.

The Reign of God

•We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
•We believe that wherever God’s will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus’ ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
•We believe that although the fulfillment of God’s kingdom–the complete restoration of creation–is still to come.
•We believe that the church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God’s kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion.
•We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and we become more Christ-like. Socially, God’s vision for the kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.

Adapted from Who Are We? Leader’s Guide, p. 28.

With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism

•Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
•Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins.
•Persons of any age can be baptized.
•We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
•A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.

The Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist)

•The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.
•The Lord’s Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family.
•By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
•We practice “open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.

Habitat for Humanity fact sheet (frequently asked questions)

(Content from http://www.habitat.org/)

What is Habitat for Humanity International?
• A nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry.
• We seek to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.
• To accomplish these goals, we invite people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need.
• Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller, along with his wife, Linda.
• Today, we have helped build over 400,000 decent, affordable houses and served more than 2 million people around the world.

Habitat volunteers and homeowners build side-by-side in New Orleans, Louisiana

How does it work?
• Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses alongside our homeowner (partner) families.
• Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (sweat equity) into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.
• Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans.
• The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat houses.

How are partner families selected?
• Families in need of decent shelter apply to local Habitat affiliates.
• The affiliate’s family selection committee chooses homeowners based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program and their ability to repay the loan.
• Every affiliate follows a nondiscriminatory policy of family selection.
• Neither race nor religion is a factor in choosing the families who receive Habitat houses.

What are Habitat affiliates?
• Community-level Habitat for Humanity offices that act in partnership with and on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International.
• Each affiliate is an independently run, nonprofit organization.
• Each affiliate coordinates all aspects of Habitat home building in its local area—fundraising; building site selection; partner family selection and support; house construction; and mortgage servicing.

Where does Habitat for Humanity operate?
• Habitat is a worldwide organization, operating in all 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and dozens of other countries. Use our search engine to find local affiliates and connect with Habitat in your community.
• Our operational headquarters are located in Americus, Georgia, USA.
• Our administrative headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

How are donations distributed and used?
• Donations, whether to a local Habitat affiliate or to Habitat for Humanity International, are used as designated by the donor.
• Gifts received by HFHI that are designated to a specific affiliate or building project are forwarded to that affiliate or project.
• Undesignated gifts are used where most needed and for administrative expenses.
• HFHI’s most recent audited financial statement is available online.

Who controls and manages Habitat for Humanity International?
• An ecumenical, international board of directors determines policy and oversees and guides the mission of Habitat for Humanity International.
• Board members are dedicated volunteers who are deeply concerned about the problems of poverty housing around the world.
• The HFHI headquarters office operates with an administrative staff, assisted by a core group of professional and support employees and supplemented by volunteers.
• Each local Habitat affiliate is managed by its own local volunteer board.

How does Habitat work with the government?
• Our Government Relations and Advocacy team works with legislators and housing regulators to increase support for affordable homeownership and eliminate poverty housing.
• We monitor public policies related to housing, community and international development.
• We advocate policy choices that increase access to decent, affordable housing for people around the world.
• We accept government funds for infrastructure, utilities, capacity building or training, and house building. We accept these funds so long as they have no conditions that would violate Habitat’s principles or limit its ability to proclaim its Christian identity.

How does a Habitat for Humanity affiliate get started?
• Habitat affiliates start when concerned citizens of diverse backgrounds come together to address the problem of poverty housing in their community.
• These volunteers research the community’s affordable housing needs and resources and evaluate the potential success of Habitat’s self-help model in their community.
• The group then applies to HFHI to become an official Habitat affiliate.
• If you are interested in eliminating poverty housing in your community, please call (800) HABITAT or (800) 422-4828 . Those calling from outside the United States may contact HFHI headquarters at 01-229-924-6935.

How can I become a volunteer?
• Use our search engine to find your local Habitat for Humanity and their volunteer opportunities.
• Explore our Get Involved section.

How can I get more information?
Through any of the following methods:
• Explore our Contact Us page.
• Write to Habitat for Humanity International, 121 Habitat Street, Americus, GA 31709-3498, USA.
• Call 1 (800) 422-4828 .
• E-mail us with your General Questions.

© 2011 Habitat for Humanity® International. All rights reserved.
“Habitat for Humanity®” and “Habitat®” are registered service marks owned by Habitat for Humanity International.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr

From Wikipedia

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pronunciation: [ˈdiːtʁɪç ˈboːnhœfɐ]; February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was also a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender. His view of Christianity’s role in the secular world has become very influential.[1]

From Wikiquotes

Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. … Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering.

In following Jesus, people are released from the hard yoke of their own laws to be under the gentle yoke of Jesus Christ. … Jesus’ commandment never wishes to destroy life, but rather to preserve, strengthen, and heal life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and founding member of the Confessing Church.

Quotes

Jesus is the Christ who was rejected in his suffering. Rejection removed all dignity and honor from his suffering.

Suffering and rejection express in summary form the cross of Jesus. Death on the cross means to suffer and to die as one rejected and cast out.

The cross is not random suffering, but necessary suffering. The cross is not suffering that stems from natural existence; it is the suffering that comes from being Christian. Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon the time which we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering. Time lost is time not filled, time left empty. As quoted in LIFE magazine (22 April 1957), p. 152; also in Letters and Papers from Prison (1967), p. 47

Discipleship (1937)
Qutoes from English translations of Nachfolge (1937), also translated as The Cost of Discipleship (1949) Should the church be trying to erect a spiritual reign of terror over people by threatening earthly and eternal punishment on its own authority and commanding everything a person must believe and do to be saved? Should the church’s word bring new tyranny and violent abuse to human souls? It may be that some people yearn for such servitude. But could the church ever serve such a longing?
When holy scripture speaks of following Jesus, it proclaims that people are free from all human rules, from everything which presumes, burdens, or causes worry and torment of conscience. In following Jesus, people are released from the hard yoke of their own laws to be under the gentle yoke of Jesus Christ. … Jesus’ commandment never wishes to destroy life, but rather to preserve, strengthen, and heal life. “Preface”, as translated by Barbara Green and Reihhard Krauss (2001)

Discipleship and the Cross

As translated by Barbara Green and Reihhard Krauss (2001)

God honors some with great suffering and grants them the grace of martyrdom, while other are not tempted beyond their strength. But in every case it is one cross. Jesus Christ has to suffer and be rejected. … Suffering and being rejected are not the same. Even in his suffering Jesus could have been the celebrated Christ. Indeed, the entire compassion and admiration of the world could focus on the suffering. Looked upon as something tragic, the suffering could in itself convey its own value, its own honor and dignity. But Jesus is the Christ who was rejected in his suffering. Rejection removed all dignity and honor from his suffering. It had to be dishonorable suffering. Suffering and rejection express in summary form the cross of Jesus. Death on the cross means to suffer and to die as one rejected and cast out. It was by divine necessity that Jesus had to suffer and be rejected. Any attempt to hinder what is necessary is satanic. Even, or especially, if such an attempt comes from the circle of disciples, because it intends to prevent Christ from being Christ. The fact that it is Peter, the rock of the church, who makes himself guilty doing this just after he has confessed Jesus to be the Christ and has been commissioned by Christ, shows that from its very beginning the church has taken offense at the suffering of Christ. It does not want that kind of Lord, and as Christ’s church it does not want to be forced to accept the law of suffering from its Lord. p. 84

“If any want to become my followers,” Jesus says. Following him is not something that is self-evident, even among the disciples. No one can be forced, no one can be expected to follow him. … “If any want to follow me, they must deny themselves … and take up their cross.” p. 85

The cross is not random suffering, but necessary suffering. The cross is not suffering that stems from natural existence; it is the suffering that comes from being Christian. … A Christianity that no longer took discipleship seriously remade the gospel into only the solace of cheap grace. Moreover, it drew no line between natural and Christian existence. Such a Christianity had to understand the cross as one’s daily misfortune, as the predicament and anxiety of our daily life. Here it has been forgotten that the cross also means being rejected, that the cross includes the shame of suffering. Being shunned, despised, and deserted by people, as in the psalmists unending lament, is an essential feature of the suffering of the cross, which cannot be comprehended by a Christianity that is unable to differentiate between a citizen’s ordinary existence and a Christian existence. The cross is suffering with Christ. p. 86

God honors some with great suffering and grants them the grace of martyrdom, while other are not tempted beyond their strength. But in every case it is one cross.
It is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering that everyone has to experience is the call which summons us away from our attachments to this world. It is the death of the old self in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Those who enter into discipleship enter into Jesus’ death. p. 87

The Cross is not the terrible end of a pious happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death. p. 87
This quote ends with an oft quoted aphorism: Jeder Ruf Christi fährt in den Tod.
Variant translations:
Every call of Christ leads into death.
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Jesus’ call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of the forgiveness of sins. Forgiving sins is the Christ-suffering required of his disciples. It is required of all Christians. p. 88

Costly Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. As translated by R. H. Fuller, with some revision by Irmgard Booth (1959) Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap? Costly Grace, p 43

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part of that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. Costly Grace, p 43

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all he has. It is the pearl of great price to by which the merchant will sell all his goods. p. 45

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. p. 45

God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” p. 49

Revenge

Patient endurance of evil does not mean a recognition of its rights. That is sheer sentimentality, and Jesus will have nothing to do with it. The shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil.

Jesus is no draughtsman of political blueprints, he is the one who vanquished evil through suffering.

Jesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives? As translated by R. H. Fuller, with some revision by Irmgard Booth (1959) The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to resist it. This saying of Christ removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law. The Church is not to be a national community like the old Israel, but a community of believers without political or national ties. The old Israel had been both — the chosen people of God and a national community, and it was therefore his will that they should meet force with force. But with the Church it is different: it has abandoned political and national status, and therefore it must patiently endure aggression. Otherwise evil will be heaped upon evil. Only thus can fellowship be established and maintained.
At this point it becomes evident that when a Christian meets with injustice, he no longer clings to his rights and defends them at all costs. He is absolutely free from possessions and bound to Christ alone. Again, his witness to this exclusive adherence to Jesus creates the only workable basis for fellowship, and leaves the aggressor for him to deal with.
The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a stand-still because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match. Of course this can only happen when the last ounce of resistance is abandoned, and the renunciation of revenge is complete. Then evil cannot find its mark, it can breed no further evil, and is left barren. p. 141

By willing endurance we cause suffering to pass. Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. By refusing to pay back the enemy with his own coin, and preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult. Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence. p. 142

By his willingly renouncing self-defence, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego. The exclusiveness of this adherence is the only power which can overcome evil. p. 142

Jesus bluntly calls the evil person evil. If I am assailed, I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance of evil does not mean a recognition of its rights. That is sheer sentimentality, and Jesus will have nothing to do with it. The shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. … The very fact that the evil which assaults him is unjustifiable makes it imperative that he should not resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil. p. 142

Jesus is no draughtsman of political blueprints, he is the one who vanquished evil through suffering. It looked as though evil had triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus. And the cross is the only justification for the precept of non-violence, for it alone can kindle a faith in the victory over evil which will enable men to obey that precept. And only such obedience is blessed with the promise that we shall be partakers of Christ’s victory as well as his sufferings. p. 142

The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. Once again, Jesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives? On the cross Jesus fulfilled the law he himself established and thus graciously keeps his disciples in the fellowship of his suffering. p. 142

Letters and Papers from Prison (1967; 1997)

The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts.

Who Stands Fast?

The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on out traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil. The “reasonable” people’s failure is obvious. With the best intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world’s unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party.
Still more pathetic is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. Fanatics think that their single-minded principles qualify them to do battle with the powers of evil; but like a bull they rush at the red cloak instead of the person who is holding it; he exhausts himself and is beaten. He gets entangled in non-essentials and falls into the trap set by cleverer people. p. 4

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people? p. 5

Civil Courage

Civil courage, in fact, can grow only out of the free responsibility of free men. What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil courage? In recent years we have seen a great deal of bravery and self-sacrifice, but civil courage hardly anywhere, even among ourselves. To attribute this simply to personal cowardice would be too facile a psychology; its background is quite different. In a long history, we Germans have had to learn the need for and the strength of obedience. In the subordination of all personal wishes and ideas to the tasks to which we have been called, we have seen the meaning and greatness of our lives. We have looked upwards, not in servile fear, but in free trust, seeing in our tasks a call, and in our call a vocation. This readiness to follow a command from “above” rather than our own private opinions and wishes was a sign of legitimate self-distrust. Who would deny that in obedience, in their task and calling, the Germans have again and again shown the utmost bravery and self-sacrifice? But the German has kept his freedom — and what nation has talked more passionately of freedom than the Germans, from Luther to the idealist philosophers? — by seeking deliverance from self-will through service to the community. Calling and freedom were to him two sides of the same thing. But in this he misjudged the world; he did not realize that his submissiveness and self-sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. When that happened, the exercise of the calling itself became questionable, and all the moral principles of the German were bound to totter. The fact could not be escaped that the Germans still lacked something fundamental: he could not see the need for free and responsible action, even in opposition to the task and his calling; in its place there appeared on the one hand an irresponsible lack of scruple, and on the other a self-tormenting punctiliousness that never led to action. Civil courage, in fact, can grow only out of the free responsibility of free men. Only now are the Germans beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith, and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture. p. 5

Are we still of any use?

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remoreseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness? A letter sent out to his closest friends for New Year’s Day 1943, also published as After Ten Years : A Reckoning made at the New Year 1943 We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remoreseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness? p. 16

The view from below
There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action. p. 17

The Friend
Der Freund, published in Widerstand und Ergebung, Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft (1952), p. 269

A friend is a gift to a friend not from the heavy soil where blood and race and oaths are mighty and holy, where the earth itself watches over the sacred hallowed and ancient ordinances and defends and avenges them, not from the heavy soil of the earth, but from free choice and the free desire of the heart, which are not in need of an oath or a law.

Not from the heavy soil of the earth, but from the spirit’s choice and free desire, needing no oath of legal bond, is friend bestowed on friend.

The free man, too, will live and grow towards the sun.

The spirit would cast aside all deceit,
open his heart to the spirit he trusts,
and unite with him freely as one.

Man seeks, in his manhood,
not orders, not laws and peremptory dogmas,
but counsel from one who is earnest in goodness
and faithful in friendship,
making man free. Nicht aus dem schweren Boden
wo Blut und Geschlecht und Schwur
mächtig und heilig sind,
wo die Erde selbst
gegen Wahnsinn und
die geweihten heilgen uralten Ordnungen
hütet und schützt und rächt, —
nicht aus dem schweren Boden der Erde,
sondern aus freiem Gefallen
und freiem Verlangen des Geistes,
der nicht des Eides und des Gesetzes bedarf,
wird der Freund dem Freunde geschenkt. Not from the heavy soil
where blood and sex and oath
rule in their hallowed might,
where the earth itself,
guarding the primal consecrated order,
avenges wantonness and madness —
not from the heavy soil of the earth,
but from the spirit’s choice and free desire, needing no oath of legal bond,
is friend bestowed on friend.
Variant translation:
A friend is a gift to a friend
not from the heavy soil where blood and
race and oaths are mighty and holy,
where the earth itself watches over the sacred
hallowed and ancient ordinances
and defends and avenges them,
not from the heavy soil of the earth,
but from free choice and the free desire
of the heart, which are not in need of
an oath or a law. As translated in A New Critique of Theoretical Thought (1953) by Herman Dooyeweerd, Vol. 3, p. 179

Beside the staff of life,
taken and fashioned from the heavy earth,
beside our marriage, work, and war
the free man, too, will live and grow towards the sun.
Not the ripe fruit alone —
blossom is lovely, too.
Does blossom only serve the fruit,
or does fruit only serve the blossom —
who knows?
But both are given to us.
When the spirit touches
man’s heart and brow
with thoughts that are lofty, bold, serene,
so that with clear eyes he will face the world
as a free man may;
when the spirit gives birth to action
by which alone we stand or fall;
when from the sane and resolute action
rises the workd that gives a a man’s life
content and meaning — then would that many,
lonely and actively working,
know of the spirit that grasps and befriends him…
Sickened by vermin
that feed, in the shade of the good,
on envy, greed, and suspicion,
by the snake-like hissing
of venomous tongues
that fear hate and revile
the mystery of free thought
and upright heart
The spirit would cast aside all deceit,
open his heart to the spirit he trusts,
and unite with him freely as one.
Man seeks, in his manhood,
not orders, not laws and peremptory dogmas,
but counsel from one who is earnest in goodness
and faithful in friendship,
making man free.
Distant or near,
in joy or in sorrow,
each in the other
sees his true helper
to brotherly freedom.

Meditations on the Cross (1996)
Das Außerordentliche wird Ereignis : Kreuz und Auferstehung (1996), as edited by Manfred Weber, and translated by Douglas W. Scott (1998)

The Extraordinary is without doubt that visible element over which the Father in heaven is praised. It cannot remain hidden; people must see it.

Before Jesus leads His disciples into suffering, humiliation, disgrace, and disdain, He summons them and shows Himself to them as the Lord in God’s glory.

Encountering the Extraordinary

(first written 1934, revised up to 1937) What is the “extraordinary”? It is the love of Jesus Christ himself, love that goes to the cross in suffering obedience. It is the cross. The peculiar feature of Christian life is precisely this cross, a cross enabling Christians to go beyond the world, as it were, thereby granting them victory over the world. Suffering encountered in the love of the one who is crucified — that is the “extraordinary” in Christian existence.
The Extraordinary is without doubt that visible element over which the Father in heaven is praised. It cannot remain hidden; people must see it. p. 1

The activity will prove to be “peculiar” by leading the active person into Christ’s own passion. This activity itself is perpetual suffering and enduring. In it, Christ is suffered by his disciple. If this is not the case, it is not the activity Jesus intended. In this way, the “extraordinary” is the fulfilling of the law, the keeping of the commandments. p. 1

Back to the Cross

(written in 1936) Before Jesus leads His disciples into suffering, humiliation, disgrace, and disdain, He summons them and shows Himself to them as the Lord in God’s glory. Before the disciples must descend with Jesus into the abyss of human guilt, malice, and hatred, Jesus leads them to a high mountain from which they are to receive help. Before Jesus’ face is beaten and spat upon, before his cloak is torn and splattered with blood, the disciples are to see Him in his divine glory. His face shines like the face of God and light is the garment he wears. p. 3

We want Jesus as the visibly resurrected one, as the splendid, transfigured Jesus. We want his visible power and glory, and we no longer want to return to the cross, to believing against all appearances, to suffering in faith … it is good here… let us make dwellings. …
The disciples are not allowed to do this. God’s glory comes quite near in the radiant cloud of God’s presence, and the Father’s voice says: “This is my beloved son; listen to him!” … There is no abiding in and enjoying his visible glory here. Whoever recognizes the transfigured Jesus, whoever recognizes Jesus as God, must also immediately recognize Him as the crucified human being, and should hear him, obey him. Luther’s vision of Christ: “the crucified Lord!” … Now the disciples are overcome by fear. Now they comprehend what is going on. They were, after all, still in the world, unable to bear such glory. They sinned against God’s glory. p. 3

Quotes about Bonhoeffer

For Bonhoeffer, the foundation of ethical behaviour lay in how the reality of the world and the reality of God were reconciled in the reality of Christ. – Douglas Huff

He was sharply critical of ethical theory and of academic concerns with ethical systems precisely because of their failure to confront evil directly. – Douglas Huff

Cross and resurrection, suffering and the overcoming of death were central themes in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s exegetical and theological work. – Manfred Weber For Bonhoeffer, the foundation of ethical behaviour lay in how the reality of the world and the reality of God were reconciled in the reality of Christ. Both in his thinking and in his life, ethics were centered on the demand for action by responsible men and women in the face of evil. He was sharply critical of ethical theory and of academic concerns with ethical systems precisely because of their failure to confront evil directly. Evil, he asserted, was concrete and specific, and it could be combated only by the specific actions of responsible people in the world. The uncompromising position Bonhoeffer took in his seminal work Ethics, was directly reflected in his stance against Nazism. Douglas Huff, in “Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906—1945)” at The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

An unsystematic theologian in the tradition of Søren Kierkegaard who has spoken to successive generations of religiously questing young people is the Nazi-martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer. At the age of thirty-nine he was executed for his implication in the abortive March 13, 1943 assassination plot on Adolf Hitler. His fragmentary writings have had an astonishing circulation and ready acceptance in many parts of the world. … Bonhoeffer questioned whether the modern church had so obscured the gospel by adding dogmas, burdensome rules, and irrelevant demands that to make a genuine decision for Christ has become extremely difficult, if not impossible … Discipleship, argued Bonhoeffer, means joy, and is not limited to the spiritual elite but is for everyone. William P. Anderson, in A Journey through Christian Theology (2000), p. 181

Bonhoeffer was disinterested in another world, opposed to setting apart so-called religious activities, such as prayer and church-going, from the everyday activities of earning a living or engaging in politics. … Religion if it is to be vital, must lead to the amelioration of social problems. William P. Anderson, in A Journey through Christian Theology (2000), p. 185

When Bonhoeffer comprehended the implications of Nazi policy towards citizens of Jewish origin, he became a convinced advocate of the need to have Hitler removed from office because he was a grotesque caricature of what a German head of state should be. Indeed, for Bohhoeffer Hitler was the agent of the Antichrist. Clearly, his principles for ultimately endorsing tyrannicide were strictly circumscribed and, as such, very different from any of the past English, American, or French revolutionaries in their situation. John Anthony Moses, in The Reluctant Revolutionary : Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Collision with Prusso-German History (2009), Introcuction, p. xi

Bonhoeffer was highly critical of the lack of intellectual rigor in Western thought … but becomes through his constructive criticism, and ardent advocate of ecumenism as an instrument that could be employed to advocate peace among nations. John Anthony Moses, in The Reluctant Revolutionary : Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Collision with Prusso-German History (2009), Introcuction, p. xix

Bonhoffer offers an insight into friendship. He notes that it is not easy to classify this relationship sociologically, unlike the relationships which derive from, what he refers to as, the divine mandates, namely marriage, work, the state and the church. Because it cannot be classified or defined as such, friendship cannot be protected by the courts or society in general. Rather, friendship develops in freedom, or as Bonhoffer says, friendship appeals to the necessitas of liberty. Friendship is defined by “the binding content between two people.” … The Christian’s service of God entails service of one’s neighbor. The community united in worship is a manifestation of God’s presence. In worship we “rehearse” or “act out” what we are to become as God’s people, namely “One.” Moreover, in a sense we “worship one another,” in that we are aware that each member of the community is an image of the living God. Thomas J. Scirghi, in An Examination of the Problems of Inclusive Language in the Trinitarian Formula of Baptism (2000), p. 127

Cross and resurrection, suffering and the overcoming of death were central themes in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s exegetical and theological work. Again and again during his lifetime … he focused on these themes, trying to disclose their relevance for human life and actions, and to answer the question regarding just what Christian life really is. Manfred Weber, in the Foreword to Meditations on the Cross (1996), p. vii

The Ultimate Questions

“Slam!” your head goes to the wall,
The barrier between you and the ultimate
Fulfillment, the meaning of existence,
Your existence, and the purpose of your life.

You can’t see through, you can’t see in,
The truth, the passageway, the gateway
To your salvation, not of your soul only,
But of your earthly, very human, life,

The body you breathe with,
The heart you feel with,
Desire with, yearn with,
The mind you reason with,

And yes, also the soul that gives
You life, the spark of genius
Imprinted on all of you,
That makes you, you,

That fire, that passion, that inspiration
And identity that tells you that “Hey,
I am me, I am the person who lives
In this body, feels with these emotions,

Exists, strives, fights, enjoys, suffers,
Struggles, connects, rejects, hurts,
And yes, also senses the earth,
Other creatures, other “me’s” all around.

“I am me, who is different from anyone,
Or anything else on this planet, in this
Galaxy, in this universe, or any other universe.”
“But,” you hesitate, “Who am I?”

That is the question that follows you
Every day of your life,
Keeps you up at night,
Haunts you, every step you take,

In every action, every reaction,
Every experience, with every feeling,
Every vision, every nightmare,
Every dream, every desire.

So, what is the answer?
And where, from who, or what,
Can it be found?
It would be nice to say,

All your questions can be answered,
All your doubts relieved, all your yearnings met
With a soothing, comforting
Affirmation of solace and contentment.

From this person, in this century,
At this place, in these words,
You may find truth,
Truth about yourself,

And truth in relation to everything
Else in your life, your experiences,
Your thoughts, your feelings,
Your hurts, your rage, your suffering.

In this religion, the “eternal truth”
Of all of existence is answered.
In this philosophy, the everlasting answer
To all questions is found.

But, is there really any place,
Any person, any time,
That holds the ultimate answer
To the ultimate question?

If there is, then why do members
Of the human race go on dying,
Suffering, doubting, scheming,
Yearning, hurting, losing, killing,

Wasting away into nothing,
From dust to dust,
What meaning is there in life?
What truth can be found in the end?

And if that truth can be found,
Why has it not redeemed the earth
And the heavens, the men and women,
The innocent creatures, and all the rest,

Of the earth? Why do we all continue
To search, to strive, to yearn to escape
This earthly existence, to find, in some
Other dimension, a better life,

Or simply, a release from this plane,
This prison that is being human?
Why do we go on searching?
And when will it all end?

Rumbling

Bling, blang, stop, ching, wing it
Stop fighting so I can slip through,
Please I don’t care about that, just
A bit of slack to go with my treats

Watch, witches will wail over roof
Tops at midnight like clocks in a
Metro town don’t leave don’t cleave
See it real see it true can’t be it me

Wander around the sea and the band
The noise and the hand of something
So ridiculously crazy and comfy if you
Go for that kind of thing, do you?

I’m not one for licking ticks but some
Times people prefer to take trips all
Over continents and things for some
Dastardly reason got me really how so

I don’t know just sayin’ that’s all where
To you get your joy I find it in strange
Places in simple things on quiet blinks
In comfortable sinks and pillows think

a gift

surfing the spam of life is like coming to the realization
that it’s all nothing important, just noise in my ear,
just distraction, just hidden agendas and dogmatic
mumbo jumbo. But does it really mean anything to
me personally. No, I don’t think so. Can I relate to it?

Of course not. It’s not within my paradigm, not my m.o.
I don’t see the world, myself, God, other people the way
that you do, and my values are different, as are my likes
and dislikes. The lens I see through is tainted by many
experiences, some worth the trouble, and some a tragedy.

And some actually are good, they lift me up, bring me to
a higher plane of existence, not necessarily closer to God,
although that is possible, but into a new self-awareness
and appreciation for life and how I interpret it. I see with
new lenses when I am gifted by another person, especially

when it is a gift that I did not merit or deserve. I was not
ambitious to claim it, but in fact it was a surprise. That is
how true gifts are: they are not expected nor asked for.
They come from another dimension inside someone else’s
head who is thinking or feeling on a totally different plane.

And all of a sudden, there it is, in all its glory. Some might
say grace happens, some might say shit happens, and they
both might mean the same thing about the same experience
or gift. Just because it is a gift, even a good gift, doesn’t
mean it will be appreciated, and especially not reciprocated.

The true gift has no expectations, there are no strings attached,
there is nothing owed, no tally of debt or favors, nothing counted.
It is all descended from an invisible cloud, which is why when so
many people receive a real gift, surrounded by all its genuine
mystery, they commonly ascribe it to a god or God. Because it

is a miracle, pure and simple. It is not the way of nature, of the
survival of the fittest, but given unconditionally, for no reason but
one: love. Love is such a mysterious thing, it comes in all sizes,
shapes, shades and colors. It comes from all directions, at all levels,
in all types of relationships. But it is not common. Definitely not.

Love is so foreign to most of us that when it happens we are filled
with disbelief and denial, rejecting the simple reality of the thing
in favor of some mysterious supernnatural power, as if only a
supernatural being has the capacity, the strength, the wisdom,
the knowledge, the power, the generosity…the grace to give it.

Or, we ascribe it to chance, which totally discredits and demeans
the value of the gift and the standing of the giver, as well as the
relationship between those receiving and those giving. That is the
truth of an every day tragedy, but the reality of gifts. They are
unrecognized, unappreciated, taken for granted, and denied, simply
for lack of trust.

Rules, Rules, Rules

Support–we all need it, crave it,
Loooooong for it, constantly,
In this world of struggling souls,
Empty and full of meaninglessness.

But how, and where?
What do we do when we’ve been shut out?
When we’ve been rejected by tradition,
or regulation, or discipline?

I once worked as a instructional assistant
For a local alternative high school.
I was a great tutor, mentor and
instructional assistant, for the most part.

Only one problem–I had no concept of
Following the rules that I never had to deal
with growing up, that were never an issue for me.
Rules that have been enacted because of “concern”

By parent organizations, teacher conferences,
principals and assistant principals, probably
just trying to keep order in the chaos of their
crazy job, but which impinge on the freedoms

of everyone around them: students, teachers,
parents and even themselves.
Rules, rules and more rules.
And the more rules that get enacted,

The more discipline it takes
to enforce those rules–blech!
I was never a disciplinarian.
You have to really, really get under

my skin to make me even care,
let alone say something,
and you have to drive me insane to
make me actually do something.

in today’s school systems,
this is not acceptable.
for the most part,
you are a babysitter first and foremost.

if you can squeeze in a little bit of
learning around that, more power to ya,
but I say all those crazy rules can many
times hold students, and teachers, back.