Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

9 04 2013
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, died 1945

Today, the church commemorates one of the most influencial theologians, pastors, martyrs in my life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a pastor, a teacher, and one the leaders of the Confessing Church in Germany.  The Confessing Church was a church body that broke away from the National German Lutheran Church when the Nazis Regime took control.  They would not allow Hitler to dictate how the Gospel would be preached nor would they pledge allegiance to anyone other than God.  Later, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement in an assassination attempt on Hitler.  He spent over 2 years in prison and concentration camps and was hanged April 9, 1945.

His most common works are The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, and Letters and Papers From Prison.  I took a religious ethics course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer in college and it had a profound impact on my faith.  His book, Life Together, should be required reading for every church council and his book, The Cost of Discipleship, should be required reading for every professed follower of Christ.

I would like to leave you with my favorite written work of Bonhoeffer’s.  It is a poem that he wrote while in prison towards the end of his life.  He is questioning his identity, his personhood, his authenticity.  People call him incredible, and amazing, and inspirational, and the light of Christ, but he feels in his heart that he is somebody different.

I think that, while he wrote this in such an extreme condition and his context is not ours, we can still relate to these words.  We still feel this pull of being both Saint and Sinner.  We still feel in our hearts the brokenness, loneliness, fear, and terror of life and death.  And yet we can trust in the promise that we are God’s.  That our identity is in God.  No matter what we think or what others tell us, we are children of God and God loves us.

WHO AM I?

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 neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing 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 on 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.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers From Prison





Does God have a sense of humor or what?

30 05 2012

So, yesterday I wrote a long post about how perhaps the K.I.S.S. method isn’t the best way to go and we shouldn’t be worried about embracing complexity, mystery, and complicated questions as Christians when dealing with God.  I still stand by my what I said; however, I was called into question during my devotionals today.

Every morning I read through a daily devotion and right now I am reading through one based off of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings.  The title of today’s was: Simplicity of the Good News.  The quote that they centered the devotion around was out of Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the word of God in all simplicity.”

Haha! 🙂 Pretty funny, right?!  I do admit that we human beings have no problem over complicating just about anything and everything and simplifying things can be very beneficial to our lives and our faith.  I suppose there is good and bad about both.  We shouldn’t try to over-simplify our faith and God.  At the same time we shouldn’t get in our own way by overcomplicating matters either.

What do you think, K.I.S.S. or complicate?