Today the church (the C of E) remembers Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was killed by the Nazi regime three weeks before Hitler committed suicide.
Bonhoeffer chose the way of suffering for, as a budding academic with ecumenical and academic links to churches in the U.K. and U.S. he could have avoided being in Germany during World War Two, contenting himself with criticizing Hitler’s regime from the safety of an elite foreign university.
Instead Bonhoeffer became a director of the Confessing Church, training twenty-five potential priests in an underground seminary. Bonhoeffer did not hide his contempt for the National Socialist Party and their policies. Although his published works clearly established him as a thorn in the side of the state (The Cost of Discipleship is a must read), it was his affirmative action (helping Jews escape the country and,involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler) that led to his martyrdom.
Celtic Daily Prayer, offers Matthew 7, 23-26 as one of its suggested Bonhoeffer readings: ‘Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning a furious storm came up………..’ I think you know how the story ends.
It seems the point is this: they followed His lead and then the storms broke. Following Jesus might lead us, like Bonhoeffer, into choppy waters.
So what on earth has all of this to do with Richard Rohr?
Well, Rohr argues (in: Things Hidden Scripture as Spirituality. Breathing Under Water; Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Immortal Diamond; The Search for our True Self) that Christian spirituality is distinguished through the willingness to embrace and be transformed by suffering. He goes even further arguing that:
‘Whatever happens to Jesus is what must and will happen to the soul: incarnation as embodied in the life of ordinariness and hiddensess, initiation, trial, faith, death, surrender, resurrection and return to God,’ this is your destiny and mine, nothing we do, or achieve, will make the slightest difference. The only real question is whether ‘we share in it, either joyfully and trustfully (heaven), or unwillingly and resentfully (hell).’ (quotes from Things Hidden in Scripture).
Bonhoeffer, because he knew God (more importantly he knew that he was loved by God), knew that his pain and suffering, the Cost of (his) Discipleship, could and, would be blessed and transformed by God, for as Rohr also reflects, ‘Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil (and by spending the war in the U.S. or U.S.A. Bonhoeffer could have separated himself from evil) as much as ‘an absorption and transformation of it, wherein I pay the price instead of always asking others to pay it.’
Christian spirituality isn’t just about feeling good and peaceful (although we are offered the peace of God), it is about living with, and being transformed by our experiences of both darkness and light. This is the message of the cross, this is the example set by Bonhoeffer.
Are you absorbing pain and suffering and, offering them back to God for His transformation?
Next week ‘Getting even rawer with Rohr,’ including a reflection on being ‘born again.’