Retreats

We just got back from a wonderful weekend away with the church for our annual Immanuel Summer Retreat. In many ways it may have been the best one I’ve been to yet. God answered so many prayers. There were definitely some warm fuzzies. But I take these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together as a good warning:

Experience has shown [that] it is precisely in retreats of short duration that the human element develops most easily. Nothing is easier than to stimulate the glow of fellowship in a few days of life together, but nothing is more fatal to the sound, sober brotherly fellowship of everyday life.

There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting experience of genuine Christian community at least once in his life. But in this world such experiences can be no more than a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim upon such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of acquiring them. It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together. That God has acted and wants to act upon us all, this we see in faith as God’s greatest gift, this makes us glad and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences when God at times does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience.

‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’ – this is the Scripture’s praise of life together under the Word. But now we can rightly interpret the words ‘in unity’ and say, ‘for brethren to dwell together through Christ.” For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. ‘He is our peace.’ Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper, 1954), 39.

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