I am currently reading this and also a biography of Bonhoeffer by Eberhard Bethge. Excellent stuff and an interesting insight to the background prior to WWII.
At the age of 31, in 1936-37, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned “Life Together” while leading an underground community – an underground seminary – at Finkenwalde in Nazi Germany. The work is 95 pages in length, maybe 28,000 words, and contains five chapters.
The Day with Others, continued ..
Singing the New Song
“The prayers of the psalms and the reading of the Scriptures should be followed by the singing together of a hymn, this being the voice of the Church, praising, thanking and praying.
“Sing unto the Lord a new song,” the Psalter enjoins us again and again. it is the Christ-hymn, new every morning, that the family fellowship strikes up at the beginning of the day, the hymn that is sun by the whole Church of God on earth and in heaven, and in which we are summoned to join.” (57)
“Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). The new song is sun first in the heart, otherwise it cannot be sung at all. The heart sings because it is overflowing with Christ. That is why all singing in the church is a spiritual performance. Surrender to the Word, incorporation in the community, great humility, and much discipline — these are the prerequisites of all singing together.” (58)
“Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reasons is that in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word… It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together. it is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song.” (61)
Saying our Prayers Together
“We have heard God’s Word, and we have been permitted to join in the hymn of the Church; but now we are to pray to God as a fellowship, and this prayer must really be OUR word, OUR prayer for this day, for our work, for our fellowship, for the particular needs and sins that oppress us in common, for the persons who are committed to our care.” (62)
“The free prayer in the common devotion should be the prayer of the fellowship and not that of the individual who is praying… so he will have to share the daily life of the fellowship; he must know the cares, the needs, ,the joys and thanksgivings, the petitions and hopes of the others…” (63)
“It will happen again and again that the person charged with offering the prayer for the fellowship will not feel at all in the spiritual mood to do so, and will much prefer to turn over his task to another for this day. Such a shift is not advisable… the prayer of the fellowship will be too easily governed by moods which have nothing to do with spiritual life.” (64)
The Fellowship of the Table
God’s Word, the hymn of the Church and the prayer of the fellowship stand at the threshold of the day. “Giving thanks and asking God’s blessing, the Christian family receives its daily bread from the hand of the Lord. Ever since Jesus sat at table with his disciples, the table fellowship of his community has been blessed by his presence.” (66)
“The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus keeps with his own: daily fellowship at table, the table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, and the final table fellowship in the Kingdom of God. But in all three the one thing that counts is that ‘their eyes were opened, and they knew him.’” (66)
What does it mean to know Jesus in the presence of these gifts?
1. to know him as the give of all gifts, as Lord and Creator of this world, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “The table fellowship therefore prays, “Let THEY gifts to us be blest.”
2. the fellowship acknowledges that all earthly gifts are given to it only for Christ’s sake. “He is not only the giver but the gift itself.”
3.the congregation acknowledges that its Lord wills to be present when it prays for his presence.
“The fellowship of the table has a festive quality. It is a constantly recurring reminder in the midst of our everyday work of God’s resting after His work, of the Sabbath as the meaning and goal of the week and its toil.”
“The table fellowship of Christians implies obligation. It is OUR daily bread that we eat, not my own. We share our bread. Thus we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit but in our whole physical being. The ONE bread that is given to our fellowship links us together in a firm covenant. Now none dares go hungry as long as another has bread, and he who breaks this fellowship of the physical life also breaks the fellowship of the Spirit.” (68)
If we share this bread here with one another, one day we will receive the imperishable bread in the Father’s house. “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).
The Day’s Work
Usually the family fellowship will separate for the duration of the working day. “Praying and working are two different things. Prayer should not be hindered by work, nor work by prayer. Just as it was God’s will that man should work six days and rest and make holy day in his presence on the seventh, so it is also God’s will that every day should be marked by both work and prayer.
“Work plunges men [sic] into the world of things. The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the “it”; and this new encounter frees him for objectivity. In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh… where the Christian breaks through the “it” to the “Thou,” which is God… and then the unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day is discovered.” (70)
The labour of the day comes to an end and again the Christian family gathers together.
“The fellowship is united at the evening table and the last devotion. With the disciples at Emmaus they pray, ‘Abide with us: for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.’ This is the appropriate place for common intercessions… and the petition of forgiveness for every wrong done to God and our brothers.”
Over the night and over the day stands the word of the Psalter: “The day is thine, the night also is thine” (Ps. 74:16).