"The word "meditation" should not frighten us. It is an ancient concept of the Church and of the Reformation that we are beginning again to rediscover." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
On a typical day, a man or woman might wake up, have breakfast and read the morning newspaper. That newspaper might contain information about wars and terrorism on an international level. It might contain stories about crime and murder on the local level. It might also contain stories about disturbing trends in society having to do with poverty, injustice and immorality. Radio, television and of course the internet will take their turns directing his attention to the violent, the extreme and the bizarre. How is a typical man or woman on a typical day supposed to keep a calm demeanour, a level head, a cheerful countenance and a positive attitude? How, moreover, can we be expected to love our neighbour when all of our information seems to suggest we ought to fear our neighbour or even to flee from our neighbour?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not one to hide from reality. He is famous for his courageous opposition to Hitler in war-time Germany. Eric Metaxas has written a comprehensive biography of Bonhoeffer that describes a man who was by turns a fine pastor, teacher, theologian and activist. By reading one of Bonhoeffer's own books-Life Together-however, we can gain a sense of how he kept a clear head. For example, while there are many important components to communal life for Christians, he speaks persuasively of the importance of meditation: "The time of meditation does not let us down into the void and abyss of loneliness; it lets us be alone with the Word. And in so doing it gives us solid ground on which to stand and clear directions as to the steps we must take." Solid ground-yes, we hope so, but even a mature Christian might read some parts of the Bible and wonder-is this meant for me? Do I understand this right?
Bonhoeffer understands that being alone with the Word may not be as easy as it sounds: "Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images and concerns that it may take a long time before God's Word has swept all else aside and come through. But it will surely come, just as surely as God himself has come to men and will come again. Lest we rely too much on our own human (flawed) intellect, Bonhoeffer reminds us: "This is the very reason why we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us." It might be gradual, but our meditation-our thinking about God-will lead us into positive territory.
Max Lucado has a few words to say about the importance of gratitude in our relationship to God:
The grateful heart is like a magnet sweeping over the day, collecting reasons for gratitude. A zillion diamonds sparkle against the velvet of your sky every night. Thank-you God. A miracle of muscles enables your eyes to read these words and your brain to process them. Thank-you God. Your lungs inhale and exhale eleven thousand litres of air every day. Your heart will beat about three billion times in your lifetime. Your brain is a veritable electric generator of power. Thank-you God.
Lucado goes on, in his personal and eloquent way, and we cannot help but start feeling better, as he gives thanks to God for the miraculous adventure of living and the things we normally take for granted.
Let's take that sense of gratitude and turn to scripture. Is the Bible speaking to us? When Paul speaks to the Ephesians he is speaking also to us:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV).
How can one sentence contain so much beauty and meaning? Paul prayed for us two thousand years ago-so that we might have strength in our inner being; so that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith; so that... well, why don't we just read those words again and enjoy them? We can ponder the meaning of those words at our leisure. We can let the power of the Holy Spirit calm us and banish our fears. We can live in hope and reach out to our neighbour. Yes. Let us read those words again. And again.
Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: HarperCollins) 1954, p.81.
 Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 2010.
 Life Together, P.81.
 Life Together, P.82.
Life Together, Pp.82-83.
 Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This (Nashville, Thomas Nelson) 2013, pp.96-97.