Sermon: Bonhoeffer

A man was painting the home of an 89 year-old lady in Spokane. She had a large family Bible prominently displayed on the coffee table and remarked that it was 116 years old and a priceless heirloom. the painter commented on how remarkable that was, and added, “It doesn’t matter how old the Bible might be, what’s on the inside is what matters.” She immediately replied, “Oh, I know. That sure is the truth. Why, we have family records and births and marriages and deaths that go so far back, all recorded in that Bible; we could never replace them.”

Episcopalians may be accused of being the “frozen chosen” or because of the the Book of Common Prayer, “Those Who Read to God,” but no one can ever accuse us of not reading our Bibles. I think we read more Holy Scripture on a Sunday than any other church out there.

In the study of Holy Scripture I know of some that set themselves out a plan for reading the entire Bible in a year, some three years, and others – well others are pretty much like that lady having her house painted, it’s a good book to have around to record family relations or press flowers, but other than that… I suppose we all have favorite books of the Bible, but I’ve also heard folks say that if it’s not printed in red (meaning the words of Christ) they can’t be bothered. It is also true for many that they, with perhaps the exception of the Psalms, don’t read any of the Old Testament. Their reasoning, “I don’t like the God of the Old Testament.” That is essentially an old heresy, Marcionism, in a new wrapper. Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was an evil creator God who the God of the New Testament, through Jesus, came to destroy.

Yet, what we learn through studying the Gospels is that Jesus was a big fan of the Old Testament, he quoted it about 80 times in the Gospels, the most memorable being when he had been in the desert 40 days and rebuked the devil. Seems that Jesus had been considering Deuteronomy when the devil came along, because all three of those rebukes came from that book.

For us, the Old Testament also helps us to have a greater understanding of God and how all that took place points to the need for a Savior. This is what Jesus was referring to in our Gospel today when he said, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” If we are to properly know God, to know Jesus, we must study both the old and the new. The God of the Law and the God of the Law revealed and fulfilled. The same God, but a more complete and accurate picture.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who we celebrate today, understood this. He wrote, “My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and more like those of the Old Testament. It is only when one knows the unutterability of the name of God that one can utter the name of Jesus Christ; it is only when one loves life and this earth so much that without them everything seems to be over that one may believe in the resurrection; it is only when one submits to God’s law that one may speak of grace. It is not Christian to want to take our thoughts and feelings too directly from the New Testament.”

The Holy Bible is more than a collection of Sunday school stories and nice sayings. It is the history of our God. In the Old and the New Testaments, it is the place to discover Him, know Him, and to be known by Him.

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