Category Archives: Bonhoeffer

Why we have to learn how to Ruminate!

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When I started blogging several years ago, I chose the title Ruminations. It’s still in the subtitle. It’s not just a graphic term for bovine digestion. It was adopted early in the church as a metaphor for the essential discipline of meditation. It means internalizing and assimilating the truth of God (specifically from Holy Scripture) into our spiritual bloodstreams. It runs counter to our frenzied culture but it’s the only way we flourish and mature in Christ-likeness! You can listen to the sermon here and I’ll include more below on the WHY and HOW of biblical meditation.


What is Biblical Meditation and why is it so important?

::  It has a vocal component: “to talk; mutter; whisper; muse; ponder; moan; sigh. It’s talking with God about His Word and your life.

::  It’s getting God’s truth from the ‘head’ to the ‘heart.’

::  It’s “the sister of reading, the nurse of prayer, and the guide of action;”  “the beginning of all good!”

::  It’s internalization God’s Word so as to transform our way of life. It’s not about emptying the mind as in some religions and spiritualities. Biblical meditation opens us to the “mind of Christ” and to God’s presence in the world.

::  It’s listening to God; giving attention (someone has said, “Inattention is the greatest obstacle to the life of faith!”)

::  It’s tuning into God with all the “antennae of the soul” (mind, emotions, imagination, and will.)

::  It’s spiritual digestion – or rumination! “Words and truths of God “eaten, chewed, received in unhurried delight” (Eugene Peterson)


So HOW do we Practice Meditation? Some suggestions:

Choose a verse, chapter, or story in the Bible – perhaps from your overall reading or a sermon or Bible Study. (You can also meditate on an attribute of God, like God’s justice; or a name of Christ, like the Good Shepherd or the Bread of Life)

1. “a.e.i.o.u.” is a way of “chewing” on the passage you are reflecting on. The vowels stand for:
Ask questions (Kipling’s “6 honest serving men” who taught him all he knew: What and Why and When; and How and Where and Who!)
Emphasize different words
In your own words, or paraphrasing
Other verses that relate and inform
Use, i.e. “Lord, how do you want me to apply this truth?”

2. Martin Luther taught a simple and practical way to meditate and pray:
Luther took for example, The Lord’s Prayer and using each petition, he wove “a garland of four twisted strands. That is, I take each (petition) first as a teaching, which is what it actually is, and I reflect upon what our Lord God so earnestly requires of me here. Secondly, I make out of it a reason for thanksgiving. Thirdly, a confession and fourthly, a prayer petition.” You can read more about his practice here from a past blogpost.


However you and I come to “ingest” the Word of God, let our prayer be with the hymn writer: “Beyond the sacred page – I seek YOU Lord!” *

Let’s be people who Ruminate on God and His truth!

(*from “Break Now the Bread of Life” – Covenant Hymnal, A. Groves, alt.)

Your Ordinary – High Calling!

ordinarypeopleThe calling of the first disciples in John 1:35-51 is an intriguing picture of  simple invitation and mysterious Divine plan. The number of disciples first increases through the organic networking of family and friends. It still does! 

“Come and see,” says Jesus to Andrew…who finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus…who calls Philip to follow him…who finds cynical Nathanael and invites him to “Come and see!” Ordinary people doing ordinary things, like running to find those you love most to introduce them to the irresistable King. (“The High Calling” is a sermon in our series – found here.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives us an earthy reminder:

“Thy Kingdom Come” – this is not the prayer of the pious –
of the individual who wants to flee the world,

nor is it the prayer of the utopian fanatic.
Rather, this is the prayer only of the church-community of children of Earth…who persevere together, in the midst of the world, in its depths,
in the daily life and subjugation of the world…

Here, in the midst of the dying, torn, and thirsting world, something becomes evident to those who can believe, believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

         – D. Bonhoeffer, “Thy Kingdom Come!”

Psalm 119 ~ Bonhoeffer’s Unfinished Book

DietrichBonhoefferWorksVol15I have three of the 17 volumes of Bonhoeffer’s Complete annotated works translated from the German over a 20 year span. They include background notes from scholars and often fascinating detail from the margin of his Bibles, letters previously unpublished, etc. One gem in Vol. 15 is the notes he began on each verse of Psalm 119 – an acrostic poem of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each.  Every verse has different and “new variations on one theme, the love of God’s word.”

We have learned that “in the winter of 1939-40, Bonhoeffer intensified his long-practiced meditation on the Psalms and considered an interpretation on Ps. 119 ‘the climax of his theological life.'” His closest friend, Bethge noted that this Psalm was ‘the biblical passage quoted most frequently by Bonhoeffer.’ In his American diary, Bonhoeffer called it his favorite Psalm. He saw this project as central to biblical ethics.

We have notes on only 21 verses of Bonhoeffer’s Psalm 119 meditations. One reflection has been a constant reminder to me about “delighting” in God’s Word.

God gave us the Scriptures to be read and pondered anew every day…
Why do I forget God’s word? Because I cannot yet say as the Psalm says:
“I delight in your statutes.”

I do not forget the things in which I delight!
(Works, Vol. 15, pp. 517-18)

10 times in this great Psalm of the Word – the word DELIGHT is used to describe the Psalmist’s response to the revealed Teaching of God. Two more:

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (v.14)
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (v.92)

A suggested practice:
As a way of increasing your delight in the Word, read and meditate on this Psalm. We are reading 2 stanzas per week in worship currently. You may want to take a month and read one 8 verse stanza each week day.

“O how I love your law; it is my meditation all the day!” (Psalm 119:97)