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Thursday, 23 April 2015

We are concerned with Christ and nothing else

‘“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” … I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy … So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.’ (John 16:16 – 22)

Jesus was speaking about his crucifixion and resurrection. He was to be taken from his disciples through his death and burial. As a result they would no longer see him and would weep and mourn. But he then rose from death and was restored to them and their pain turned into joy. Jesus, and his presence with them, was central to their emotional state. When he was with them they rejoiced, when they no longer saw him they mourned. This reality speaks to us of a simple but profound central truth of Christianity; that it is all about Jesus.

In his song ‘Heart of Worship’, the worship leader Matt Redman encourages us to sing:

‘I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about you, it's all about you Jesus
I'm sorry Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about you, it's all about you Jesus.’

Redman may express this truth in a slightly clumsy and sentimental fashion but he is essentially making the same point that the German theologian, pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer made as he outlined his Christology: ‘Christianity for Bonhoeffer was not a religion, but a person, Jesus Christ, who made difficult demands of His followers.’ ‘Bonhoeffer states, “He did not go to the cross to ornament and embellish our life. If we wish to have him, then he demands the right to say something decisive about our entire life.” “Let no one,” adds Bonhoeffer, “think that we are concerned with our own cause, with a particular view of the world, a definite theology or even with the honour of the church. We are concerned with Christ and nothing else.”’ (

We come together to hear Christ, Bonhoeffer says, but then he questions whether we have actually heard him. Today’s church, he suggests, ‘suffers from a divided loyalty to Christ and the world, and it has diluted our effectiveness.’

We know of the command for peace, Bonhoeffer says, and yet with the open eyes which are given to the church we see reality dominated by hate, enmity, and power: ‘It is as though all the powers of the world had conspired together against peace; money, business, the lust for power, indeed even love for the fatherland have been pressed into the service of hate. Hate of nations, hate of people against their own countrymen … Events are coming to a head more terribly than ever before - millions hungry, people with cruelly deferred and unfulfilled wishes, desperate men who have nothing to lose but their lives and will lose nothing in losing them - humiliated and degraded nations who cannot get over their shame - political extreme against political extreme, fanatic against fanatic, idol against idol, and behind it all a world which bristles with weapons as never before, a world which feverishly arms to guarantee peace through arming, a world whose idol has become the word security-a world without sacrifice, full of mistrust and suspicion, because past fears are still with it - a humanity which trembles at itself, a humanity which is not sure of itself and is ready at any time to lay violent hands on itself - how can one close one’s eyes at the fact that the demons themselves have taken over the rule of the world, that it is the powers of darkness who have here made an awful conspiracy and could break out at any moment?’

As a result, he states, Christ must become present to us in preaching and in the sacraments just as in being the crucified one he has made peace with God and with humanity. The crucified Christ is our peace. He alone exorcizes the idols and the demons. The world trembles only before the cross, not before us ( Christ encounters us in our brother and sister, in the English, the French, the German . . . in those who seek, those who are hungry, those who wait, those who are in need, those who hope.

Every generation must decide what they must do with Christ. As Bonhoeffer notes, “Christ goes through the ages, questioned anew, misunderstood anew, and again and again put to death.” The church is only good insofar as when it “humbly confesses its sins, allows itself to be forgiven, and confesses its Lord. [It must] daily . . . receive the will of God from Christ anew. Therefore, Bonhoeffer admonishes the church to keep its gaze always on and only on the humbled Christ. To be concerned with Christ and nothing else.


Matt Redman - Heart Of Worship.

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