Pathways through Lent

The Ministry of Helpfullness

Recently my youngest brother, Don, sent me notes from  Life Together, a book written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1939. The author had been one of our favorite Lutheran theologians (we were raised in the Lutheran faith, and Don now serves as a certified lay minister in the church). Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazis during WWII, protected scores of Jewish families, and was executed two weeks before Hitler met his end.

In chapter four of Bonhoeffer’s book he focuses on the meaning of ministry and included the following: the ministry of listening; the ministry of holding one’s tongue; the ministry of meekness; the ministry of helpfulness; the ministry of bearing  one another’s burdens; and the ministry of proclaiming God’s word  – –  as Bonhoeffer said, “What a difficult thing it is to utter the name of Jesus even in the presence of a brother.”

In reviewing my brother’s notes, I realized that our rector’s sermon on Ash Wednesday on how we might observe Lent was consistent with Bonhoeffer’s writings. Luis suggested we take time to be silent ( listening is one of the best ways to experience God), study ( if we proclaim God’s word, we must know what we are talking about – – this is my take on the value of studying the Bible), and service ( Galatians 6:2 says, ” Bear ye one another’s burdens so as to fulfill the Law of Christ.” ). When Bonhoeffer wrote about the ministry of helpfulness, he meant that we must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God who sends us people with claims and petitions. As I pass by a homeless person, I will remember this.

A final note: In Hebrews 10 we are told to stand by our faith and put our trust in God.  This is what Lent means to me. I’m confident Dietrich Bonhoeffer would agree.

-Fred Webber


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