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Bonhoeffer's "This-worldiness" and the Imperative to Remain (as long as we can)

April 16, 2013

A friend sent me this early in the day of the Boston bombing--in other words, she wasn't telepathic, but somehow her passing this along to me strikes me as more than perfect for the days ahead.

It's a compound quote: Marilynne Robinson cites the Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, letter written to his friend Eberhard Bethge  the day after he, along with his brothers-in-law, were arrested for their role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. (Later, Bonhoeffer would be hanged, along with others.) The first part of the quote--printed below--is Bonhoeffer himself:
 

“By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. … How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray when we share in God’s suffering through a life of this kind?” 

 

And Marilynne Robinson adds, "These would seem to be words of consolation, from himself as pastor to himself as prisoner. But they are also an argument from the authority of one narrative moment. The painful world must be embraced altogether, because Christ went to Gethsemane."

 

Nor does one need to be even remotely Christian to share in the sufferings of those who have suffered and are--and will--in Boston. We must, I do believe, be "living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures" if we are to be fully alive. 

 

It doesn't preclude joy. But it doesn't nullify or even diminish the suffering of others.

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.