Archive for February, 2013

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers…

February 27, 2013

…you don’t sing me love songs.  

At least not with the enthusiasm I’d like you to.
Is this what we imagine Jesus would say to us, given the chance?  Is this what faith is?  An emotional response, a stirring of the heart to the person and work of the Savior?
I deny this categorically.  But I have to admit that I often lack for other ways of describing the essence of faith.  If it isn’t something that I feel, then what is it?  It isn’t something that I know, utilizing our common usage of that word.  I can’t prove what I have faith in by empirical methodology.  Yet I have reasonable reasons for believing what I do, and from that standpoint I can claim to know that it is true.  
I think Martin Luther nails it:
  Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives
new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us
completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits,
our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with
it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this
faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't
stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone
asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without
ceasing.  Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an
unbeliever.  He stumbles around and looks for faith and good
works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.
Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many
words.
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Here’s to the Rooster

February 22, 2013

I suspect that the first time I encountered one of the loves of my life was many years ago sitting in a small Vietnamese restaurant in Mesa, Arizona.  The place is still there, and if you’re in the neighborhood, I can’t recommend strongly enough Khai Hoan.  It’s nothing fancy, but the food is fantastic.

Eventually I would settle on their lemon grass chicken as my go-to dish.  But this first visit occurred after a disastrous off-road trip that I had to bow out of early due to a flat tire on my Jeep Wrangler.  The young lady who was my passenger for the ride suggested Vietnamese as a consolation event and guided us to Khai Hoan.  I had never had Vietnamese food before.  I was nursing the beginning of a rather unpleasant cold, and she directed me to a steaming bowl of pho (pronounced fuh) – a Vietnamese staple.  It was fantastic and amazing, and my wife and I have since developed a basic recipe for pho that our family enjoys at home.  
But given my well-established penchant for the spicy, I was drawn to the colorful bottle of hot sauce on the table in the squeeze bottle.  With my first taste, I was hooked.  This had a powerful punch, and was distinctive from the Tabasco and other American-style hot sauces I was familiar with.  We now keep a bottle of Sriracha in the fridge at all times.  When I get it out to accompany a dizzying and probably tacky array of foods, my kids love to tease me about my love for this hot sauce.  
This is a great little article on the company that only makes me like the stuff more (beware, that last link is to a comic with some objectionable language – proceed at your own risk).  I love that the company bucks most of the assumptions about how a company needs to grow.  No US advertising.  No social media presence.  An outdated web site.  Firm commitment to a single vendor (near where we used to live!) that actually governs the supply of ingredients and therefore the scale of the operation.  There’s no indication that the owner is going to abandon this very successful strategy in order to expand operations further.  He sounds happy with the impressive success that he has.  
I gave my Jeep up when I got married.  The young lady is now a Facebook friend and we both have happy families of our own.  But Sriracha is still an integral part of my life.  A very integral part, apparently.  

Reading Ramblings – March 3, 2013

February 21, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

March
3, 2013

Date: March 3, 2013, Third Sunday
in Lent

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-20; Psalm 85;
1Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Context: What is the
nature of our salvation? Once received, is salvation irrevocable?
Can salvation be lost (or more accurately, thrown away)? The
readings this morning lead us to consider the powerful and real
danger of sin in our lives – a very appropriate theme for the
Lenten season of repentance. While the Christian lives in the grace
of Christ, sin can still lead us to a place where we remove ourselves
from that grace and reject it. Christians need to take sin very
seriously, while remembering the love of God through Jesus Christ
that, by the work of the Holy Spirit, seeks always to encourage and
build us up in our faith so that we might rest in our baptismal grace
eternally.

Ezekiel 33:7-20: We need
to see first of all who this passage is directed to. Ezekiel is
directed to the “people of Israel”. Ezekiel is to serve as a
watchman for those who already have a relationship with God. It is
sometimes easier for Christians to call attention to sin in the lives
of those who make no claim to being followers of Jesus Christ, than
it is for us to address the issue of sin within our own congregations
and communities of faith. Christians may tend to stress that we are
not to be judgmental of others because judgment and love seem to be
incompatible. Passages such as this make it clear that such an
understanding is dangerously flawed.

This passage is also important because
it reminds us that the goal of admonishing one another in the faith
is always the restoration of the wayward brother or sister. As such,
our posture towards them is always one of love and humility, and an
eagerness to forgive and forget the past, something that is not a
human trait! God’s people need to pray for the humility to truly
embody the forgiveness of Christ when someone returns in repentance.

Psalm 85: An affirmation
of God’s desired way of dealing with his people – mercy and grace
and blessing. Yes, the Lord is required to punish evil – even the
unrepentant evil amongst his own people. But his desire is to save,
and the author knows this and reminds the Lord of this. When we
suffer, we can always call on the mercy of God, reminding him of his
great love for us in Jesus Christ. It is this mercy that we cling to
regardless of whether or not our immediate concerns are addressed in
the way we would like them to be, because all of our present joys and
sufferings are experienced in the overarching greatness of God’s
promise of eternal life through his Son.

1Corinthians 10:1-13: We
may be tempted to believe that, given the same experiences as the
people of God in the Old Testament, we would never wander or stray in
our faith and trust in God. But our sinfulness runs deeply through
us. Even the amazing experiences of the Israelites in the Old
Testament were not enough to insulate them from that sinfulness. We
as God’s people by faith in Jesus Christ should therefore maintain
both humility and watchfulness in our spiritual lives, since we are
just as endangered by our sinfulness and the schemes of Satan as the
Israelites of old. We are to treat sin as the dangerous thing that
it is, and not presume to treat it lightly based on the forgiveness
we have in Christ.

Luke 13:1-9: This
reading continues to emphasize the theme of repentance found in the
other readings for today. It does so along two important lines,
however.

Many Christians have a tendency to
assume that whatever bad things happen in their lives are somehow
linked directly to their sinfulness, as though God is punishing them
directly. While this is certainly a possibility, it is not a
conclusion that we can in any way substantiate. We do not avoid sin
to avoid unpleasant things in our lives, but we avoid sin because of
the danger it poses to our faith.

This is the other emphasis of this
passage. Sin can quickly become habitual to the point that we no
longer see it as sinful, no longer truly desire to be rid of it. We
stand in danger of idolizing our sin so that we don’t receive the
forgiveness that we need. As such, the idea of cheap grace, or
thinking that we don’t really need to seek to rid ourselves of sin
because Jesus will forgive us anyway is dangerous.

Our lives are to reflect what we value
and hold most dear. As He does elsewhere, Jesus speaks here of the
fruit appropriate to a plant. Just as a fig tree should produce
fruit, a Christian’s life should naturally produce fruit appropriate
to our faith. It is not an option, it is unavoidable!

We need to be careful to avoid the
assumption that all fruit looks the same, however. Jesus words are
spoken as individual admonition, not as a call to begin inspecting
everyone else to see if they are bearing the type of fruit or the
quantity or quality of fruit that we see ourselves or others in our
Christian circles bearing. Each of us needs to soberly reflect on
our lives to see if our lives bear witness to our faith. Christian
community is the place where the Holy Spirit does the work of digging
and fertilizing that Jesus speaks of. It is not the place where the
uprooting and chopping down should be done! While we may need to
speak words of warning to one another, the intent is never the
chopping down of the individual in judgment, but the loving care and
love that a gardener provides to a sickly plant, with the goal of
restoring that plant to full health and potential.   

Haunting

February 20, 2013

I ran across this tiny short story a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  

Church Is Not the Christian Life

February 20, 2013

I wonder what people would say if I started telling them to quit coming to church?

Granted, that’s somewhat of a career-killing idea, and no it certainly isn’t Biblical.  But I wonder if it might not be a helpful tack to take for a period of time.  I wonder if church might not actually become more relevant, to utilize an overused and underthought term, by backing out of the picture for a few years.  
Conversation in many congregational circles focuses more on how do we get more people to come to church? and less on how do we create disciples of Jesus for whom coming to church is a given?  In other words, in mainstream American Christianity, would most people describe the Christian life as believing in Jesus and going to church on Sunday, and does this match the Biblical description of a Christian?  By focusing so much (at least lately) on how to get more people into church, is the Church failing to create disciples of Jesus with a faith that permeates every aspect of their lives, rather than just how they spend Sunday mornings?
The Christian life consists of so many aspects rather than just coming to church on Sunday morning.  Church should be the place that helps the Christian to live that Christian life, the place that recharges, educates, and gives them the blessings of Jesus in Word and Sacrament so that they can live the Christian life in a culture that directly contradicts it.  
I wonder how many people experience church that way, and I wonder if that is a problem with their church, with how they have been formed as Christians and the resulting expectations they have of church, or a combination of both?  I wonder if weekly worship were taken out of the equation, if people would appreciate it more, or better understand its function?

Personal Christian Fiscal Policy

February 19, 2013

This past Sunday there was an opportunity to preach about tithing, based particularly on the Old Testament lesson of Deuteronomy 26:1-11.  Coupled with the other readings for the day, I perceived an emphasis on the idea that Christians don’t have anything that we can call our own – meaning that it is mine and God has no right or claim to it.  Everything I have comes from the grace of God.  For that reason, I opted not to preach on tithing because I think that the narrow focus of tithing can sometimes eclipse the more radical message that the readings for the day pointed to.  

In other words, if people feel that what is God’s is really just 10% (or whatever their tithe is), then they’re prone to think of the remaining 90% as their own.  I’m pretty sure that’s exactly opposite to what the purpose of giving to God intends.
I’m guessing that the congregational leaders in many churches wouldn’t mind a few more sermons on tithing.  They know the congregation’s financial situation and rarely is that a situation of having too much money or too generous tithes.  On the other hand, there are undoubtedly more than a few people in each congregation that dread Sermons on the Amount, and are particularly sensitive to a church or pastor that is always pushing people to give more.
But I’m also guessing that both ends of this spectrum would not expect – and perhaps not even welcome – preaching on how God is the ultimate owner of all that we have, and we ought to take practical steps to demonstrate this.  Practical steps like eliminating debt.  This little article is a very potent challenge to the American Christian idea that my personal finances are my own issue, and that, if I’m tithing at least 10%, there isn’t much that God might have to say about my personal financial situation.
I hear a lot of ideas tossed around about how to live a radically Christian life, but very few ideas focusing on mundane issues like personal financial responsibility.  Ideas like working hard, paying your debts, and spending within your means were once part and parcel of Western Christian virtues, but now they’re rarely if ever talked about.  Curious, isn’t it?
Is personal fiscal responsibility a reasonable extrapolation of Biblical teaching?  Are the statements the author of the above-linked article compelling, or is there something he’s getting wrong?  

Reading Ramblings: February 24, 2013

February 17, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

February
24, 2013

Date: February 24, 2013, Second
Sunday in Lent

Texts: Jeremiah 26:8-15; Psalm 4;
Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Context: As the second
Sunday in Lent, the readings lead us to consider that being followers
of Christ may not always be a beneficial, socially acceptable, safe
identity. The readings call us to remember that our purpose as
followers of Christ is to serve as we are called. This is not always
a pleasant and enjoyable task. While many of us have been blessed to
embarrassment, we live in fear that God will call us to discomfort.
The American heresy of Prosperity Gospel promises just the opposite –
a life of ease and joy and health through faith in Jesus Christ. Our
passages today remind us that we are the Lord’s servants, and we are
bound to obey. If this means suffering, we are to accept it and
trust in the Lord who has sent us into it. He has already promised
our deliverance in Jesus Christ – not necessarily on our terms, but
on the far stronger and more reliable terms that He has promised
through the Resurrection!

Jeremiah 26:8-15: The
Word of God is always good, but not always pleasant. Jeremiah is
instructed to convey the Word of the Lord to the people of God. They
believe they already know what God has to say to them, and they are
offended at Jeremiah’s stark and contrasting word. How dare he
prophesy against the city and people of God?! Isn’t it ironic in
this passage that those who should know the Word and will of God the
best – the priests and prophets – are calling for Jeremiah’s
death, while the soldiers and officials who hear him recognize the
Word of God! Notice also that the Word Jeremiah speaks is ultimately
one of hope and promise, yet all the priests and prophets can hear is
the threat of destruction if they don’t listen. People love to hear
that God loves them, but they are offended if God has a critical word
to speak to them. When God pushes us beyond our comfort level, or
calls our actions sinful, we are likely to take just as great offense
as the priests and prophets. But we should always be listening for
the promise and hope offered in that same Word that demands
repentance.

Psalm 4: In light of the
Jeremiah passage, it is easy to envision these words being spoken by
Jeremiah himself, or some other long-suffering servant of the Lord.
The speaker wishes that others would return to the true God rather
than chasing idols, and hints that he suffers because he is a servant
of the true God. Because of this, he knows that God hears him,
unlike the idols that others chase after. They seek prosperity and
pursue whatever god seems poised to give it to them. Yet the
faithful servant of the Lord doesn’t worry about this. He
acknowledges God as the source of his safety and therefore the peace
in which he can fall asleep at night.

Philippians 3:17-4:1:
This would be a relatively innocuous exhortation, were it not for the
fact that Paul is imprisoned, and as such makes for an unlikely role
model! True, Paul is not exhorting the Philippians to copy his
imprisonment, but rather the style of Christian life that he has been
describing earlier in chapter 3. His warning is sobering though: we
face not just an indifferent world, but a world where some are active
enemies of the cross. As enemies of Christ, they stand as enemies to
the people of God, and we can expect to suffer in some respect
because of them. We take comfort in the fact that whatever they do,
ultimately they are subject to the control of God (v.21). Their evil
will not go unchecked forever. As such, we should stand firm (v.4:1)
in the hope we have in Jesus Christ, even if, for a time, that hope
is obscured somewhat by the evil of the world around us.

Luke 13:31-35:   This section follows some harsh words
from Jesus, including some not so subtle hints that the folks who
think they are a shoe-in for heaven might be in for a rude surprise
on judgment day.

So it may not be incredibly accurate
when the Pharisees suggest that Jesus should leave because of the
threat Herod poses. Jesus doesn’t seem too worried about Herod
either. What He does seem to understand is that Jerusalem – and
the religious leaders that call her home – has a long history of
slaughtering her own prophets. The Pharisees want to warn Jesus
about Herod (ostensibly), but Jesus reminds the Pharisees who the
real threat is to the one who speaks the Word of God – the people
of God.

What does this mean for us in Lent?
Does God want his people to suffer? Does He somehow delight in our
suffering? By no means! God is a God of love, and does not take joy
in the suffering of his creation.

It is for precisely that reason that
while God does not desire his children to suffer, He will sometimes
allow – or command – that they do. Suffering for the Christian
is not senseless in that nothing happens beyond the permission or
will of God, and we trust that in any suffering is an opportunity as
well for witness. I am fond of saying that the most persuasive
difference between Christians and other people is in how we suffer.
Do we suffer in the trust and knowledge of a loving God who loves us
even as He allows us to suffer? Or do we view suffering as somehow
beneath us, or as ourselves as somehow exempt from suffering?

Lent invites us to consider not just
our own suffering or the suffering of those around us, but the
suffering of Jesus on behalf of his creation. Jesus enters into
suffering out of obedience to God the Father, and despite plenty of
opportunities to escape or avoid it, continues onwards through it,
confident that regardless of how the world views his situation or
predicament, his ultimate strength and vindication will come from his
heavenly Father.

This would seem a powerful example for
us to follow. May we pray not simply to avoid suffering, but pray
that we may be faithful in it and ultimately through it, to the glory
of God the Father!

Living Together

February 15, 2013

It’s hard work, isn’t it?  Even in the best relationships, being with someone every day, all the time, is difficult work.  

Is it any surprise that it is difficult for those in the Church, living together throughout our lives?  I’m privileged to serve a congregation where some folks have known each other and been church family for over 50 years.  That’s a long time to live together in the Christian faith, to worship together every week, to wash dishes in the kitchen after potlucks or share the stove in preparing food beforehand.  It’s a lot of voters meetings to weather, potentially a lot of contentious decisions to live through.  Yet like those lifelong marriages we all admire, the Christian life together is inspiring and a thing of beauty.
But hardly easy.  Far less easy than breaking things off when things get difficult.  
I sat with brothers in the ministry this week and we talked in frustration and pain over the division within our denomination as evidenced in the past couple of weeks and referenced here at my blog.  We were fairly unified in our unhappiness with what happened.  But what struck me is that it is very easy to resort to the same tactics in discussing those you disagree with, when what you’re upset about are the exact same tactics employed by them.  In other words, it is easy to get caught up in righteous indignation at someone you think is acting self-righteously.  
Easy, but not very helpful.  Certainly not helpful when cultivating a life together that spans individual as well as communal lifetimes.  As such, the excerpt this morning in my daily devotional from Luther’s writings seemed very appropo:
“Receive your disreputable and erring brothers and put up with them patiently and take on their sins as your own.  and if you have anything that is good, let it be theirs.  if you think of yourselves as being better than these brothers, then do not take yourselves so seriously as if anything good could only belong to you, but, instead, humble yourselves and be like one of them so that you can carry them along with you.  For it is a wretched form of justice when Christians will not put up with people they regard to be worse than they are.  And you take flight from them and go into solitude instead of being of immediate use to them by your patience, prayer and good example.  If you are either a lily or a rose, then realize that your life must be lived among thorns.  Take care that you yourself do not become a thorn on account of your intolerance and outrageous judgments or secret pride.  The Kingdom of Christ is situated in the midst of His foes.  What fantasies are you dreaming up then with your kingdom amidst friends?”

– Martin Luther – 

Reading Ramblings – February 17, 2013

February 11, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

February
17, 2013

Date: February 17, 2013, First
Sunday in Lent

Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm
91:1-13; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Context: We are now in
the liturgical season of Lent. The liturgical color for this season
is purple, and the season lasts for 40 days. However, Sundays do not
count as part of the season of Lent. So while this is the first
Sunday in Lent, the day itself is not part of Lent. This is because
Sundays are always Easter – always the proclamation of the victory
of the Resurrected Son of God.

The readings for today set the tone of
our Lenten journey. Though faced with temptation, we rely on the
strength of God who is always sufficient for our needs. We are
constantly tempted to rely on our own strength or the strength of
those around us, but these can and will fail. The only one who can
truly save us is the one who has – our God!

Deuteronomy 26:1-11: One
of our greatest temptations is to rely on ourselves. We are
constantly tempted to view what we have accomplished or earned or
saved as our own achievement rather than a blessing from God. This
is not exactly a new temptation! Moses speaks to the people of
Israel as they stand on the edge of the promised land, knowing full
well that when God gives them the land, their impulse will be to
believe that their military prowess or virtue is what earned them the
land.

Our tithes and offerings are a reminder
that all that we have belongs to God. He is not entitled to some
percentage of it, but rather is the sole source of all of it. God
requests them from us as a reminder of the source of our bounty, and
we should give generously in thanksgiving for all He has already
given.

Psalm 91: This psalm
expresses confidence in the providence and protection of God. He
watches over his own, and we are shaded by his presence by the
harshness of life. The psalmist employs the imagery of a bird that
is being sought by the hunter. God becomes the mother bird that
shelters her offspring. Then the image changes to that of a battle,
and the one who is in the battle takes strength and confidence that
God is capable of sparing them from any harm. They fight valiantly
and boldly rather than cowering in fear, knowing that nobody can harm
them against the will of God.

We may be quick to point out that
plenty of Christians suffer and even are killed without God
intervening. The Psalm does not indicate that God will never allow
his children to suffer or die, but rather emphasizes the power of God
to protect whom He will. We live our lives knowing that God holds
our lives at all times. If we live, we give glory and praise to him.
And if we die, we go to be with him. Fear has no place in our
hearts! Who is it that can counter the power of God? Nobody!

Romans 10:8b-13: This
short reading joins together the psalm and the Old Testament reading.
Our faith is in God who declares us righteous through faith in Jesus
Christ. We have been given his Word that assures us of this, and so
we needn’t look to ourselves to provide our salvation – God has
already done that. Our proclamation of faith receives what God has
already offered and provided in Jesus Christ. Again, we have nothing
to fear, regardless of our backgrounds. The forgiveness of God
extends to all who call upon him and place their trust in him. As
such, we are already richly blessed, because we are assured of our
place with God by faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of
God, Jesus Christ.

Luke 4:1-13: We jump
back to the beginning of Luke 4, which we skipped several weeks ago.
Jesus has just been baptized and designated as the Son of God (Luke
3:21-22). If Adam was the First Man, through whom all fell into sin
and the power of Satan, Jesus is the Second Adam, free from the curse
of original sin and therefore not under the power of Satan. As such,
Satan comes to tempt Jesus to see if he can bring him under his sway.

Satan’s temptations all focus on Jesus
exerting his own will as a means of satisfying his needs or desires,
rather than trusting in his heavenly Father to provide. Is Jesus
hungry? Then create his own food. Does Jesus wish a shortcut to his
role as Lord of All? Then just trust in Satan to hand him the world
rather than allowing his obedience to God the Father to accomplish
this. Does Jesus wish all people to believe in him? Then show his
power and divine nature to everyone by testing the Word of God. In
each situation, Satan seeks a hold on Jesus’ desires or fears,
seeking to drive a wedge between the will of Jesus and the will of
God.

It is tempting (pun intended) to see
this as a blueprint for you and I. Jesus resisted temptation, we
should resist temptation. This is true, but we also must recognize a
major difference: we are still stained with original sin and
therefore are obedient to God only imperfectly. Jesus is without
sin, and therefore is capable of truly making a free decision whether
to obey or disobey. Many people believe that they have the power to
choose between good and evil equally. But Scripture shows us that
this isn’t true. None of us are moral free agents! We either are
under the power of sin and Satan or we are under the power of grace
in Christ. Even within that grace, our obedience is halting and
imperfect.

Some would use this as an excuse to
treat sin lightly, but this is a wrong turn as well. Sin is deadly.
It is not deadly to the Christian because we are forgiven. However
it can become deadly to the Christian because it might lead
one away from faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore we have to treat sin
seriously. Playing chicken with ourselves in terms of sin is a
losing proposition and one we need to strive to avoid.

As such, Jesus’ resistance to Satan in
Luke 4 is prescriptive. What Jesus relies upon is the Word of God,
the same Word that St. Paul has reiterated is already near us. Jesus
doesn’t call upon his divinity or hosts of angels to defeat the
temptations of Satan. Rather, He relies on the Word of God as the
source of truth to refute the devil’s suggestions, and the source of
strength to remain obedient to what God calls him to do.

We have this same Word available to us.
We will not always call upon it, but it is always available to us.
When we call upon it, we can rely upon it to deliver us from
temptation if we are willing to allow it to do so. We can call upon
the Word half-heartedly, not really seeking to hear it or obey it,
and in those times we will fall prey to sin. The Word is not a
talisman or magic formula, but it is the transforming power of God.
If we will trust it and follow it, we will find that it transforms us
day by day and moment by moment, ultimately promising to transform us
completely into new, perfect creations.

How blessed we are with this good news
– and how desperately our world needs to hear (or be reminded) of
this Good news!

Humdingers

February 10, 2013

I’ve just finished reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  

I’ve been reluctant to embrace Bonhoeffer, probably because so many people make such a big deal about him.  The book was a gift from friends in the congregation, and three weeks of jury duty gave me ample time to rip through it.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Metaxas is a gifted writer!
I’ve been trying to put together a review of the book for my denominational young adult web site.  But I’m having trouble.  It’s not that the book isn’t good – it is.  But what I want to tackle is Bonhoeffer’s take on the nature of Christian obedience and faith.  To do that, I suspect I’m going to have to read the rest of Bonhoeffer’s polished as well as unpolished works.  
The conundrum is this:  Metaxas asserts that Bonhoeffer reached an understanding of the Christian life and faith that made it possible to think and act in extra-moral ways.  Not meaning additionally moral, but beyond morality as we commonly think of it.  In other words, did Bonhoeffer argue that for the deeply Christian person, little details like the Ten Commandments could be dispensed with for a deeper and more radical obedience to Jesus Christ?  Did he, in fact, argue that Thou Shalt Not Kill might not actually be a binding commandment?  Are there exceptions to the natural law for those who have entered into a radical understanding and commitment to Jesus Christ?
This is what I hear Metaxas saying.  I don’t know if Bonhoeffer says it, and the excerpts that Metaxas quotes from are not enough for me to really tell.
If it is, I want to reject it.  It smacks of that most ancient of Christian heresies, Gnosticism.  Secret knowledge enables salvation or exception from certain aspects of life, to put it another way.  If Bonhoeffer argues that the truly Christian person can – and should – violate the command against murder in favor of a deeper obedience to Jesus Christ, then it seems to provide a way for the natural law to unravel, and for every person (or every Christian, at least) to justify any and all violations of the Ten Commandments (which I see as a shorthand summation of natural law) by their special knowledge or faith.  
It seems like a no-brainer that this can’t be right.  But then there’s the problem of Ehud.  Millenia before Bonhoeffer was embroiled (passively or actively) in a plot to assassinate Hitler, we have the story of a very, very similar situation.  Read Judges 3:12-30.  
Nowhere in the text does it say specifically that God commanded Ehud to assassinate the king.  Yet it is clearly implied (vs.15-16).  Now, I’ve made my peace with the concept of holy war in the Old Testament and the fact that God could command his people to do things that we would find reprehensible today.  Is Ehud an example of this on a personal scale?  
I guess I have less of a problem with this in the Old Testament context.  God’s people clearly delineated as such and acting under the special provision and authorization of God himself.  While we say that this is the state of the Church today, it is fundamentally different as well.  We are not theocratic in any sort of political, actionable sense.  At least since the Reformation, a good chunk of the Church has rejected the notion that the Church can or should function in a political, worldly way (through military might, specifically).  
But could God the Holy Spirit direct an individual Christian to act on God’s behalf to execute worldly judgment on someone?  If so, would anyone else be able to know or understand that this was the case?  Would Christians be right to condemn such actions by an individual as contrary to the natural law and the Ten Commandments?
I’m sure I must be missing something basic here, but I don’t know what it is.  I think Bonhoeffer is wrong (if that is indeed his position).  But then how to make sense of Ehud properly?  Gaaarrrrrrgggggg!