Recently, I have been reading an autobiography of Bonheoffer. Dietrich Bonheoffer lived in the early part of the 1900s. He was German, but vehemently opposed to the Nazis and the way Hitler took over the country. He was a theologian and teacher of faith in practical ways. He was very brave and almost always found ways to stand up for what was right even when trying to live in a difficult time. Bonheoffer, like many of us practical disciples, tried to be very present to what God was doing. What a challenge in World War II Germany! Yet, he came up with lots of ways to live out his faith, teach others about Christ, and impact the surrounding culture.
Today, I am thinking about how we sometimes let culture impact us, while other times we impact culture. Much of my life, I am influenced by culture. I like the wonderful lifestyle we Americans often take for granted. I am blessed to have a car, grateful for all the gadgets in our kitchen, and happy for my hot shower on a daily basis. There are many people who do not live with these luxuries. Over various periods of history people have gone without for reasons we can’t even imagine: famine, floods, real political turmoil.
Even in our own time there are things like the Arab Spring, Tsunamis, and remnants of colonization which affect people in immediate ways. Standards of living can change in a blink of an eye. Sometimes this change occurs because of external forces, and other times from death or job loss. Knowing this, what does it call me to do? What specifically do I teach our confirmation students? How do I help them know the eternal story of faith, the truths that I have come to know, and try to live out?
One of Bonheoffer’s favorite aspects of being a pastor was teaching confirmation. He enjoyed conveying theological knowledge through first hand experiences. He taught the youth the traditions of Luther, and helped them learn how to read their Bibles. He didn’t keep them from going to war. He taught them how to be pastors if they wanted to learn. He worked for what was good and right. He was grateful for firewood, tea, and movies. His life became a treasure in our Christian History. Although not as well-known as C. S. Lewis or other theologians, he lived his faith in meaningful ways. He wrote lots of books, sermons, pamphlets, and even an entire Ethic. He was working out how to be Christian in the midst of his culture and society.
We all need to work out what we celebrate, what we do to live our faith, and how we will share faith with those around us. Please feel free to share a comment or two of what you think is important for us to teach our confirmation students. What helps you to be a practical disciple?