Category Archives: Bonhoeffer

Death is The Supreme Festival

I am sitting down to begin constructing a biographical sketch on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is for a session of a seminar that my church is putting on called No Other God: The heart, mind and practice of love and worship. My goal is to tie loving God and worshiping God into obedience and Bonhoeffer is an example of one who did it. I am leaning solely on Eric Metaxas’ biography called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

I read the 551 page book last summer and re-reading parts of it have been a reminder of living a life in Christ with joy in obedience. After Bonhoeffer’s death Bishop Bell gave an address at his memorial service in London. It is a fitting testimony to a robust, full life that was lived:

We give thanks to God for the life, the suffering, the witness of our brother whose friends we were privileged to be. We pray God to lead us, too, through his discipleship from this world into His heavenly kingdom; to fulfill in us that other word with which Dietrich concluded his obituary of Harnack: ‘non potest non laetari qui sperat in Dominum’- ‘while in God confiding I cannot but rejoice.'” (542)

If you live in the area, please consider coming to this seminar on June 29th through 30th. I am looking forward to hearing what the other sessions will be in regard to this important topic of the Christian life.

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Closing Thoughts on Bonhoeffer

1. He recognized the importance of intense study but knew the greater importance of relationship with God. He said that merely studying Bible passages resulted in “rubble and fragments”. What exhilarated Bonhoeffer was that these texts were God-breathed. If anyone were to know anything about God it had to be revealed to him by God (62). He said, “Theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life which is governed by gathering round the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer.”

2. He knew the importance of discipling younger men in the faith. He was always mentoring,teaching, instructing and modeling to younger men the principles of the Bible. While teaching a Sunday school class he developed the Thursday Circle- a time for young men he had picked to come into his house and study God’s Word (64).

3. His aristocratic upbringing did not keep him from relational living. While beginning his first pastoral job he moved into a poor part of town to be closer to the people he was pastoring (132).

4. He was faithful in the small things. While in London he poured himself out in ministry while being a pastor of two churches, both of which numbered no more than 100 people total. He crafted his sermons as if he was preaching to thousands (202).

5. He was vigilant and uncompromising in his defense of the Jews. As Hitler grew to power, the German church tepidly went along with his demands. Even during the 1930’s Bonhoeffer saw the evil potential of Hitler and was vocal in standing up for those who were being wronged. He said, “Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.”

6. For Bonhoeffer, Christ was supreme in everything and was to be treasured. Metaxas describes Bonhoeffer’s faith in this way: “Christ must be brought into every square inch of the world and the culture, but one’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust. It must be free of cant and phraseology and mere religiosity, or the  Christ whom one was bringing into the world and the culture was not Christ at all, but a tawdry man-made counterfeit (248).”

7. He loved God’s Word. Each day he would meditate on a small portion of it for a length of time. He encouraged his seminary students to do this as well and demonstrated to them the importance of chewing on God’s Word, not just reading it. He stressed the importance of not defending the Bible but testifying to it (272).

7. He loved prayer. He said it was the strongest possible activity one could do.

8. He did not sit on the sidelines during World War II but helped battle for the soul of Germany. He was actively involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, a decision he did not come to lightly. He suffered greatly for this decision and it eventually led to his martyrdom.

9. He wanted to make others happy in God. “If human beings have passed on to loved ones and to may the blessing they have themselves received then they have surly fulfilled the most important thing in life; then they have surely themselves become persons happy in God and have made others happy in God (410).”

10. He finished well. The last chapter of the book, On The Road to Freedom, is a testament to Bonhoeffer’s steadfastness in Christ; to the end. He suffered greatly and yet was always lifting others up around him through generosity and comforting.

 


Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am within the last 100 pages of the Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas. As I near the end of this book, Bonhoeffer feels like an old friend; one I have been privileged to know through his letters, sermons and books. Today I read this poem that Bonhoeffer wrote. For the Christian this truth is a lighthouse amidst the fog of life which can confuse us and lead us astray. Indeed, Christian, you are God’s.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.