Tuesday, April 9, 2019

This is the end, for me the beginning of life

On April 9, 1945, after conducting a prayer service for fellow prisoners in Flossenberg camp, received a summons: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready and come with us.” He replied, "This is the end, for me the beginning of life.” He was hanged that night.

The path to his death at 39 was prefigured in his early work on "The Cost of Discipleship," where he wrote that the Cross "meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

This end was also prefigured in his early recognition of the idolatrous and evil designs of Hitler's Third Reich. He helped form the Confessing Church to resist Hitler's efforts to co-opt Christianity in favor of a national cult of "German Christianity." 

Eventually he accepted a safe haven in New York's . But in 1939 he returned: “I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the tribulations of this time with my people.” 

Back in Germany he joined a secret conspiracy to overthrow Hitler: “The church’s task is not simply to bind the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel, but also to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” 

Although this violated his pacifist leanings, he came to believe: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live.” With his fellow conspirators he was arrested in 1943. 

In prison he imagined a new perspective for the church—not from the center of power and status, but from “below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled—in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.” 

Bonhoeffer is the rare theologian whose biography is studied as carefully as his written work for clues about the challenge of faith in our time--in particular, the ethical dilemmas of responsible action in the face of injustice and tyranny. 

He represents a model of holiness: not in the cloister, or in some safe "religious" zone, but in the midst of history, in discernment, in judging how God is calling us to respond to the needs of our suffering neighbors. A witness for our time.

- from a thread of tweets by Robert Ellsburg on Twitter.
"There is no way to peace along the way of safety.  For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe.  Peace is the opposite of security.  To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.  Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.  Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God.  They are won when the way leads to the cross." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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