Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Skip Christmas?

According to a recent BreakPoint article by Eric Metaxas, a new survey of Americans found that 45 percent would rather skip Christmas this year claiming they don’t have enough money to celebrate the holiday!

Times are tough and the economy is soft, but does it really all come down to dollars?

Ruth Haley Barton, in an Advent devotional, describes people feeling the pull of Black Friday and stores opening earlier. They didn’t want to leave family gatherings early but didn’t want to risk missing out on great bargains.

“You have to have these things to enjoy your children and your family…It shouldn’t be that way but in a sense there’s no way around it.  Everything ends up with a dollar amount.  Even your happiness.” 

Maybe it does all come down to the dollars! Maybe it is all about the stuff! Maybe we should skip Christmas!

Bonhoeffer

Or maybe not…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during WWII. Because he strongly and openly opposed Hitler and the Nazi regime he spent two years in prison and was executed just days before the end of the war. This excerpt is from a letter written to his fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer, December 1, 1943.

I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth. ~ From Love Letters from Cell 92

While many today expect a lackluster Christmas due to not enough stuff, Bonhoeffer sat alone in a prison cell expecting a glorious Christmas because of no stuff. He understood that the absence of material things would make more room in his heart for God and the gift of the Christ child come to earth.

question mark orange So what will it be, skip Christmas or create space for God to make it something extra special?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Advent, Black Friday, Choices, Christianity, Christmas, Consumerism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Divine presence, God, Religion and Spirituality

Bonhoeffer on Overcoming Fear

In January 1933, shortly before Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer preached this sermon at a vespers service on the evening of the second Sunday after Epiphany. It was a time of great tension in Berlin, and of widespread fear. The Hindenburg government was tottering, indeed was about to go under, and with it Germany’s fragile first republic, created at Weimar after World War I. There was fear of Communism — the “Red Tide from the East” — and other extremist movements, and danger from open fighting in the streets. In the midst of this storm, Bonhoeffer was no more certain of the future than anyone else, but he was sure that followers of Christ should know where to turn.

Matthew 8:23–27: And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

The overcoming of fear — that is what we are proclaiming here. The Bible, the Gospel, Christ, the Church, the faith — all are one great battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. Fear is, somehow or other, the archenemy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.

Now fear leers that person in the face, saying: Here we are all by ourselves, you and I, now I’m showing you my true face. And anyone who has seen naked fear revealed, who has been its victim in terrifying loneliness — fear of an important decision; fear of a heavy stroke of fate, losing one’s job, an illness; fear of a vice that one can no longer resist, to which one is enslaved; fear of disgrace; fear of another person; fear of dying — that person knows that fear is only one of the faces of evil itself, one form by which the world, at enmity with God, grasps for someone. Nothing can make a human being so conscious of the reality of powers opposed to God in our lives as this loneliness, this helplessness, this fog spreading over everything, this sense that there is no way out, and this raving impulse to get oneself out of this hell of hopelessness.

But the human being doesn’t have to be afraid; we should not be afraid! That is what makes humans different from all other creatures. In the midst of every situation where there is no way out, where nothing is clear, where it is our fault, we know that there is hope, and this hope is called: Thy will be done, yes, thy will is being done. “This world must fall, God stands above all, his thoughts unswayed, his Word unstayed, His will forever our ground and hope.”

Do you ask: How do you know? Then we name the name of the One who makes the evil inside us recoil, who makes fear and anxiety themselves tremble with fear and puts them to flight. We name the One who overcame fear and led it captive in the victory procession, who nailed it to the cross and committed it to oblivion; we name the One who is the shout of victory of humankind redeemed from the fear of death — Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Living One. He alone is Lord over fear; it knows Him as its master; it gives way to Him alone. So look to Christ when you are afraid, think of Christ, keep Him before your eyes, call upon Christ and pray to Him, believe that He is with you now, helping you . . . Then fear will grow pale and fade away, and you will be free, through your faith in our strong and living Savior, Jesus Christ.

From the Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Isabel Best copyright © 2012 Fortress Publishers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor and theologian whose striking theological journey and public witness against the Nazi regime led to worldwide fame after his death in 1945. He authored many classic books, including “The Cost of Discipleship” and “Life Together.”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Fear, God, Hope, Jesus, Peace, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

Bonhoeffer’s prayer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender. His view of Christianity’s role in the secular world has become very influential.

Bonhoeffer wrote the prayer below while incarcerated in a Nazi prison, uncertain of what his future would hold.

MORNING PRAYER
O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray And to concentrate my thoughts on you: I cannot do this alone. In me there is darkness, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me… Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now, that I may answer before you and before me. Lord, whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It’s a new day and most of us are likely enjoying freedom outside the walls of a prison. We may be facing a variety of events and issues; some big and some small; some tough and some easy. But few of us are facing execution.

In the midst of his darkness, Bonhoeffer asked God for the liberty and strength to live in such a way that he could one day stand before God unashamed.

When we pray today, what will we ask of God?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Courage, God, Humility, Inspiration, Persecution, Prayer, Trusting God

Thanksgiving quotables worth pondering

Sure it’s another Thanksgiving, but are we really thankful? May these quotes stir your heart and deepen your sense of gratitude as they did mine!

“You can’t be grateful for something you feel entitled to.”  ~ Steven Furtick

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world: It is not he who prays most or fasts most, it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” ~ William Law

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ The Apostle Paul – I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for sharing the journey!

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The cost of following Jesus

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who openly opposed Adolph Hitler. He could have stayed in America where it was safe, but chose to return to Germany and serve God’s kingdom agenda. It ultimately cost him his life in a prison camp just days before the Allies arrived. He spoke out often against what he called “cheap grace,” the notion that anyone can follow Jesus without it costing some kind of sacrifice. What follows is from his book The Cost of Discipleship.

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.

What portion of you needs to die today in order to more fully live out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?

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Filed under Christianity, Commitment, Discipleship, Surrender

Mirror or Window?

Early on, Stalin built a village in Poland called Nowa Huta, or “New Town,” to demonstrate the promise of communism. He could not change the entire country at once, he said, but he could construct one new town with a shiny steel factory, spacious apartments, plentiful parks, and broad streets as a token of what would follow. Later, Nowa Huta became one of the hotbeds of Solidarity, demonstrating instead the failure of communism to make just one town work.

What if Christians used that same approach in secular society and succeeded? “In the world of Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.

If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed. If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love. If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them. That, at least, is the vision of the church in the New Testament:

a colony of heaven in a hostile world.

Like the dissidents in Communist countries, Christians live by a different set of rules. We are a “peculiar” people, wrote Bonhoeffer, which he defined as extraordinary, unusual, that which is not a matter of course. Jesus was not crucified for being a good citizen, for being just a little nicer than everyone else. The powers of his day correctly saw him and his followers as subversives because they took orders from a higher power than Rome or Jerusalem.

What wold a subversive church look like in the modern United States?

~ Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? (262-263)

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