Saturday, February 7, 2009

the Glory of the Church

Commence long quote from Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. This is the beauty, the power, the glory of Christ and His Bride:

Thus the life of the Christian community in the world bears permanent witness to the truth that "the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor. 7:31), that the time is short (1 Cor. 7:29) and the Lord is nigh (Phil. 4:5). This thought fills them with joy unspeakable (Phil. 4:4). the world is growing too small for the Christian community, and all it looks for is the Lord's return. It still walks in the flesh, but with eyes upturned to heaven, whence he for whom they wait will come again. It the world the Christians are a colony of the true home, they are strangers and aliens in a foreign land, enjoying the hospitality of that land, obeying its laws and honoring its government. They receive with gratitude the requirements of their bodily life, and in all things prove themselves honest, just, chaste, gentle, peaceable, and ready to serve. They show the love of God to all men, "but specially to them that are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10; 2 Pet. 1:7). They are patient and cheerful in suffering, and they glory in tribulation. They live their own life under alien rulers and alien laws. Above all, they pray for all in authority, for that is their greatest service. But they are only passing through the country. At any moment they may receive the signal to move on. Then they will strike their tents, leaving behind them all their worldly friends and connections, and following only the voice of their Lord who calls. They leave the land of their exile, and start their homeward trek to heaven.
Amid poverty and suffering, hunger and thirst, they are meek, merciful, and peacemakers, persecuted and scorned by the world, although it is for their sake alone that the world is allowed to continue, and it is they who protest the world from the wrath and judgement of God. They are strangers and sojourners on earth (Heb. 11:13; 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11). They seek those things that are above, not the things that are on the earth (Col. 3:2). For their true life is not yet made manifest, but hidden with Christ in God. Here they see no more than the reflection of what shall be. Here all that is visible is their dying, their secret daily death unto the old man, and their manifest death before the world. They are still hidden from themselves, and their left hand knows not what their right hand does. Although they are a visible society, they are always unknown even to themselves, looking only to their Lord. He is in heaven, their life is with him, and for him they wait. But when Christ, who is their life, shall be manifested, then they too shall be manifested with him in glory (Col. 3:4).
They wander on earth and live in heaven, and althought they are weak, they protect the world; they taste of peace in the midst of turmoil; they are poor, and yet they have all they want. They stand in suffering and remain in joy, they appear dead to all outward sense and lead a life of faith within.
"When Christ, their life, shall be manifested, when once he appears in glory, they too will appear in glory with him as princes of the earth. They will reign and triumph with him, and adorn heaven as shining lights. there joy will be shared by all" (C. F. Richter).
That is the Church of the elect, the Ecclesia, those who have been called out, the Body of Christ on earth, the followers and disciples of Jesus.

O God, would that we might experience -- rather, would that we might choose to make such a community. We want to be your Bride, in the beauty of her complex, intricate, holy design.

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