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Archive for April, 2011

Quite a few years ago, when the world was all abuzz about another royal wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury made this observation, if memory serves:  other nations celebrate their national identity with a display of arms and weaponry but here we are celebrating a marriage between a man and a woman and the possibility of life.  I think he was referring to the practice of the then Soviet Union every May Day parading their military might in Red Square, as it was called then in Russia.  I think the Anglican Pastor was on to something.  The Soviets celebrated death, England life. The Soviets were ostensibly atheists and England ostensibly Christian.  It  still showed.

The world is again all gaga over a royal  wedding, this time Prince William, one of the beloved sons of the previous royal wedding and as we know, failed marriage,  and a commoner, Kate Middleton with all the accoutrements of a wedding, especially a royal wedding.  But it is excited over a wedding, a marriage and the life of a man and a woman becoming one which is always for life.  Truly we are seeing the  “focus on the family”.

In our culture saturated with lust and sexuality outside of marriage, I do not think this focus tomorrow, with all it’s glitz and media trivialization,  can be so slightly dismissed by Christians and with us the adherents of many other religions.  After all, marriage is truly the ecumenical institution of all mankind.  Remember:  marriage was given by the Lord before the Fall into sin.  Marriage is truly a catholic, that is the universal institution,  the estate “ordained by God”.   And the word, catholic is from two Greek words, kata holos, that is “according to the whole”.  Marriage between a man and a woman and the possibility of life and family is according to the whole and the whole is of God.  I know that  I maybe grasping at straws in these dark days.  But it has to be said:  I can only imagine with horror the ‘nuptials’ so celebrated between Prince William and say, a ‘Prince Stephen’.  Such can not work. In that there is nothing “according to the whole”.  Yes, the previous royal wedding ended in tragedy: divorce.  But even then, that royal couple had two sons, as do many other couples have children after the sorrow of the ending of a marriage.  We might mean it for evil, but God intends it for good… yes, in spite of us.  The marriage tomorrow is fraught with all the dangers inherent in marriage today, as it always has been:  see for instance Abraham and Sarah. And yet,  marriage between  man and woman is abundantly blessed by God.

The media has reported all the justification for the continuation of England’s monarchy:  tradition, it brings in tourist dollars, etc. If there was a raison e’tre for the monarchy and the 1,000 year plus tradition it embodies, it maybe is for in our day what will happen tomorrow:  a very public  celebration of nuptial love. Yes, the royal wedding tomorrow is accompanied by such media hype:  but here for once I can say, maybe it should be and that’s great!  Christians are adherents of the Lord who begins His narrative with marriage in a Garden and says that in His Beloved Son all history will be consummated in a wedding with all the glory of Heaven which can only be revealed in the joy of wedding and marriage which will really be over the top:

 “Hallelujah!For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure”—

(Revelation 19:  6-8)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

(Revelation 21: 2)


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NEWS

Best columns:Europe

The following article is from The Week, May 1:

Why are we dumbing down the Bible? asked Jakob Holm. The Danish Bible Society has just published a revised translation that it says renders the holy book into “modern Danish” to make it easier for children to understand. If it were just a matter of changing a few terms that have become archaic, that would be perfectly fine. But the group made more than 1,500 edits, and most of them not only detract from the beauty of the text but also rob it of its religiousness. The “key biblical word ‘blessed,”‘ for instance, is now rendered as “lucky”—”a singularly unblessed translation, one is tempted to say.” Similarly, “meek” has been replaced with “shy,” a word that lacks the undertones of melancholy. And “blissful” has become the tepid “happy.” Are the biblical terms really so grueling? Surely children “who can grasp difficult concepts like those in the Harry Potter books” will be able “to understand a word like ‘blissful’ if it is explained to them.” Understanding Christian terms, after all, is how one comes to understand Christianity. “Belief and religion are something that people must learn,” through applied study. “Not everything must be easily understandable.”

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Intro:  In Lent, the Sundays are in Lent, not of Lent.  Lent is a somber, penitential time.  Sundays IN Lent are always the Day of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and so are not of Lent:  the Sundays are never counted in the 40 days of Lent.  In fact, Sundays are never considered penitential and  a  time of fasting.   In contrast, the Sundays at this time of the Church Year are always OF Easter, of His Resurrection as He appeared for 40 days on earth, then on the 40th Day ascended and the disciples waited 10 days for Pentecost, the 50th Day after Passover and the Resurrection:  the Bright Season.  According to long-time practice, each Sunday of Easter has a name, in Latin(of course!) from the Scripture passage traditionally assigned for that Sunday.  It seems only The 4th Sunday of Easter is of newer vintage:  Good Shepherd Sunday and the Gospel reading is always from John 10.   Here are the names of

 the Sundays of Easter, then a comment on this coming Sunday’s theme, Quasimodogeniti Sunday:

May 1, Easter 2, Quasi Modo Geniti

May 8, Easter 3, Misericordias Domini

May 15, Easter 4, Good Shepherd

May 22, Easter 5, Cantate

May 29, Easter 6, Rogate

June 5,  Easter 7, Exaudi

May 1, Easter 2, Quasi Modo Geniti

Note:  Quasimodo is the name of the deformed bell-ringer in Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame–Pr. Schroeder

Yesterday. the first Sunday after Easter, is traditionally known, primarily in France and other parts of Europe, as “Quasimodo Sunday” because of the beginning words of the Introit which come from 1 Peter 2:2,3: Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus, which in English is: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2: 1-3:  From the Epistle Lesson for Lutherans, 5th Sunday of Easter–Pr. Schroeder) It is used in the context of this particular Sunday to refer to the newly baptized at Easter as well as applying generally to all of us.  

I  first read Hunchback in the 10th grade, and it has always been one of my favorite books, and now that I understand the Easter connection better, I can understand the figure of the Hunchback, named after the Sunday on which he was found, much better than I did then. Victor Hugo’s story is a tale of redemption in the face of corruption, the sublime versus the grotesque. While the world prided itself on being beautiful on the outside, yet was bitter and ugly on the inside, only Quasimodo, the disfigured hunchback in Hugo’s story, understood the value, and the pain, of being inwardly transformed in the innocent loving of others. (From: Ad Altare Dei)

Once again, the Lord describes His Word through his prophets and apostles as physical and spiritual sustenance (in 1 Peter, the Word as milk) to keep alive in the Holy Spirit our lives risen and hid in Christ Jesus (see 1st Lesson for Easter: The Resurrection of our Lord, see  Colossians 3:1-3  and in addition, Colossians 2:11-13).  We eat and imbibe so much of the junk food of the world, that fills but never satisfies.  His Word alone sustains us in this world to live as He has called us.

The movie clip below is from the classic, Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda and the great Charles Laughton as Quasimodo.  Just watch the first three minutes or so (FWIW:  I was hooked for the whole segment):  What are the differences between the gypsy, Esmeralda and all the other prayers being spoken?  How is Esmeralda like Quasimodo?

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In my first parish on Long Island, NY, on my day off I was perusing the stores in East Northport.   There was a sign for an art studio sale.  The artist, Stanley Twardowicz, (Bio) was selling off his all his studio supplies, works of art etc.  I came across a series of black and white photos of which you see two.  These series of photos are entitled, “France-1952 (Christ)”.  The artist  came across one of many road-side shrines in the French country-side.  At this particular one, the workers had taken down the corpus (the representation of the body of our Lord) from the cross and inside was a bee-hive.  Those workers be a bee line away from it!  Mr. Twardowicz then took a series of photos of the corpus on the ground.

Though I have never seen one,  I like the idea of road-side shrines of our Lord’s Crucifixion.  Life in Christ is a journey.  G. K. Chesterton said of the Cross that it is the sign-post for free travelers.  I would tweak his statement and say, freed travelers.  Following Him we are freed. These photos striking and stark as stark as sin and the One Who bore our sin in His Body so that we are freed in faith to love and serve.  Our will always leads to death and damnation.  His will leads to life and salvation:  always, as He is risen! On Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, He took all our death and sin into Himself to the grave.  He rested and now we can both rest in Him so He works in us.  Yet, even in death, as the photo below portrays:  He is the Victor.  His arm raised in victory for us.

“It was a strange and dreadful strife
When Life and Death contended;
The victory remained with Life,
The reign of Death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That Death is swallowed up by Death,
His sting is lost forever.
Hallelujah!”

(“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546)

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I was told growing-up the importance of good posture.  Now there are varieties of good postures in the Scriptures. In Christ Jesus we see the various postures.  Tonight’s sermon and tomorrow night’s 3 Good Friday meditations are entitled:  Postures of the Passion. Tonight we reflect on kneeling.

In the Bible kneeling can be for these reasons:  1. Confession of sin, as Peter kneeling before the Lord after the miraculous catch of fish and confessing, Depart from me O Lord, for I am a sinful man.  (BTW:  the Lord did not depart).  2. Confession of praise, as in the first Psalm of Matins, 95:  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!  But on this Holy Evening, in the night in which He was betrayed, two other types of kneeling are indicated for our focus on His Word:

3. Kneeling to serve;  4.  Kneeling to receive His Body and Blood

This night is entitled Maundy Thursday.  Maundy derived from the Latin, mandatum, mandate or commandment.  We did not read the other appointed Gospel for this first day of the Triduum, the Three Days, John 13, Jesus gave us a new mandatum, commandment, to love one another as He loved us by washing the disciples’ feet.   Then in the same evening the Lord’s blessed command:  Take and eat, This is My Body.  Take and drink, This is My Blood of the new Testament.  Now kneeling is not prescribed in the Scriptures to receive Communion yet as a godly custom it is meet, right and so to do:  see kneeling in confession of praise and adoration for the Gospel’s joyful sound:  you are forgiven.

These two reasons for kneeling are inter-related. The Lord of heaven and earth knelt to wash His disciples’ feet.  He was doing the work of a slave.  He is the Master who is servant and slave for His people.  If He did this, should we not so love?  Just think:  Jesus this evening also washed Judas’ feet and the Lord knew what was transpiring in the dark recesses of Judas’ heart and inJerusalem.  We do not know if Jesus felt like doing this.  If we had to wait for the mood to strike us so to serve and love, then nothing would ever be done. Jesus did not feel like suffering and dying.  He asked this evening of the Father, take this cup away from Me. If He had waited till He felt like it, we would still be in our sins.  To serve in love is not primarily a feeling but a doing. Though it is not by doing are we saved for then we should be so doing non-stop.  But this kneeling flows out of the first:  He knelt to give us His Body and His Blood tomorrow on the Cross. As Mary sat at His feet to be taught by the Lord in His Word, the good portion He said that will not be taken away.

‘My God is too big to fit into any one religion.’ The true God was so big He fit into the very religion through which He loved His people from Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Joshua to Deborah to David and till this day:  His beloved Son was born a Jew to kneel in prayer and service for the life of His people and in love of the fallen world.  ‘My God is too big to fit into a box’.  The Lord is so big, big in heart, in anger and grief toward His wayward children in going after false gods that He came to find them. Even serving without His forgiveness is for sinners to use even service to control others.  My God is too big…yes,  He was placed at birth in a box, in a manger. He never went abroad.  He hardly journeyed more than a 100 miles from His place of birth.  He was boxed in by the sin of the world and was handcuffed this evening after He knelt to wash His disciples’ feet and commune them. He said this evening over simple bread and wine, This is My body and blood, so we are freed, not boxed in by our trespasses and live to serve and kneel in confession of sin, confession of faith, confession of praise to kneel to serve, IN the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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The video is from an entry in a Roman Catholic contest for portraying Confession.  A reminder:  in the Lutheran Church, for a long time, the only way one confessed his/her sins was to the Pastor in utter confidentiality in order to hear the Lord’s forgiveness.  The Roman Catholic video below also demonstrates that confession and forgiveness, and the need for it, is truly catholic, that is universal, as is Christ Jesus’ command to so forgive.–Pr. Schroeder

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  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32

INTROIT         Ps. 42:3, 9-10 (antiphon: Ps. 42:5-66)

Why are you cast down,O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?*

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

My tears have been my food I day and night,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”I say to God, my rock: “Why have you for- I gotten me?*Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the I enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries I taunt me,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”

 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

*Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John12:23-50

GRADUAL:

     Heb. 9:120,  Ps. 111:9a:

[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, by means of I his own blood,* thus securing an eternal redemption.  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,*  so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He sent redemption to his people;*  he has commanded his covenant forever.

Meditation and Memorization VERSES:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”-John 12:23b, for Holy Monday

  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I  ask that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  He is the Draw.

“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIs. 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel LessonJohn 12:1–43

Meditation and Memorization Verse:  John 12: 23b, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

The Lord  the Master,  dies instead of the servants

In place of the debtors, the Faithful One;

The Physician dies for the good of the patient; The Shepherd rescues His sheep,

The King dies for the sins of His subjects;

The Peace-maker for the warriors;

The Creator dies for His creation;

God Himself wins man’s salvation!

What now should the servant, the debtor,

the sick one, the sheep, the nation, the multitude do? What should the creatures, mankind, do?

In love extol his Redeemer!

(from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

Reflection:  as servant, debtor, patient, sheep, subject, warrior, creature, sick one, Pr. Gerhard pointed out where should we picture ourselves this week and indeed every week.  Answer:  under the Cross.  Here is love, love’s pure light in the palpable darkness that would spread over the whole land.  The palpable darkness of wanting to be God and not be loved.  No wonder a cross as jewelry is a token of love but the actual man and God Jesus was no mere token.  As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians:  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2: 20  Gerhard pointed out that many of the sacrifices in the Temple were burnt whole.  Christ Jesus burnt whole in His love for you.  We sing at Christmas(s):  “Christ was born for this”.  Yes.  He was anointed for this from before time began and now it is clearly so by His Word to Mary.

O Lord Jesus Christ, you who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anointed the members of Your spiritual body–especially the needy and suffering ones–with the oil of  compassion and gentle kindness. Amen

(Prayer by Pr. Gerhard, same volume)

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“I hope this isn’t meant to be a criticism of our current life style”

In this cartoon from The New Yorker Magazine that I quote above, we see  people drinking, swilling gin, gambling, a motorcycle gang, businessmen,  suggested adultery, etc.  I would guess that given the sins shown it is from circa the 1960s: we  might say that those ‘sins’ are now so jejune and passé.  WE could add a lot more now.  Our public corruption has become more sophisticated… and debased.  For instance:  no one  shown shooting up, either say heroin or steroids. A question:  How come at least a cartoonist in The New Yorker got it right and in many a Christian denominations, we don’t?  Yes, the Law of God is a criticism (at least!) of our current life styles…but how dare anyone foist his morality on me!  Well, the Lord does and we know  He is true in His Word deep inside.

This gets to this teaching in  Lutheran theology:  the third use of the Law.  The first two uses:  1. the political use is to protect each other externally from each other and ourselves and is copied in civil law.  2. The spiritual use is used by the Lord to show us our sin and so our need for the Savior.  The third use shows if our “life-styles” are God pleasing. Back to the cartoon, for instance,  is it wrong to ride a motorcycle?  Of course, not!  Is it wrong to drink?  No…but getting drunk is not good. C. S. Lewis writes that sin is like incorrectly playing a piece of  music.  One may realize he made a mistake in playing and say, I played the wrong note. But Lewis wrote, there are no wrong notes, just notes played at the wrong time.  For instance, physical love between a husband and wife is a good from the Lord, but doing so with prostitute is definitely the good note played at the wrong time.  Earning a living, enjoying a motorcycle, playing cards, etc are good things.   I think for myself this gets at meaning of the phrase, “life-style”:  that is,when one of these behaviors becomes quite literally our way of life, that somehow these activities become our life, from which we expect our, “…help and consolation from creatures, saints or devils” (Luther, The Large Catechism, 1st commandment).  Then we have another god, not the Lord Who is the Life of all the living, and the death of death our foe.

If we do not teach and preach the Law of God in our Churches, then how may the Gospel ever heard?  Indeed, as the Lord taught:

Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

-St. Matthew 5: 19


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“Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.

Biographical Introduction:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on Feb. 4, 1906, in Breslau, the sixth of eight children, along with his twin sister, Sabine.  His father Karl  was a leading professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother was the granddaughter of a distinguished church historian. When Dietrich was 6, his family moved to Berlin. He was educated at the universities of Tübingen (1923-1924) and Berlin, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.  He surprised his family by his choice of theology and becoming a pastor as his vocation.

Early Career

Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation, The Communion of Saints(1930), introduces some of his most characteristic emphases: a passionate concern that Christianity be a concrete reality within the real world of men; a wholly Christ-centered approach to theology, grounded entirely in the New Testament; and an intense preoccupation with the Church as “Christ existing as community.” (see 1 Corinthians 12:27)

After a year as curate of a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona, Spain (1928-1929), Bonhoeffer spent the academic year 1930-1931 in the United States as Sloane fellow at Union Theological Seminary. In fall 1931 he became a lecturer in theology at Berlin University, and his inaugural dissertation was published that year as Act and Being. Two collections of his lectures were later published: Creation and Fall (1937), an interpretation of chapters 1-3 of Genesis; and Christ the Center, published posthumously from student notes. The latter work foreshadows the central idea of his last writings–Christ’s whole being is His being-for-man, and His powerlessness and humiliation for man’s sake are the fullest disclosure of the power and majesty of God.

Resistance to Nazism

Bonhoeffer was one of the first German Protestants to see the demonic implications of Nazism. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer helped organize the Pastors’ Emergency League, which became the nucleus of the Confessing Church of anti-Nazi German Protestants. While serving as minister to a German-speaking congregation in London (1933-1935), he sought support from international Christian leaders for the German Christians who were protesting Nazism.

In 1935 Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and founded a clandestine seminary to train pastors for the illegal anti-Nazi church. The seminary, located chiefly at Finkenwalde, continued despite Gestapo harassment until 1937. Bonhoeffer organized the seminary as a living workshop in Christian community and developed close relationships with his students. Out of Finkenwalde came The Cost of Discipleship (1937), a clarion call to active obedience to Christ based on the Sermon on the Mount, and Life Together (1939), a brief study of the nature of Christian community.

As war became increasingly inevitable, friends arranged an American lecture tour for Bonhoeffer with the hope that he would remain in the United States indefinitely. But only 6 weeks after his arrival in New York, he decided to return to Germany to suffer with his people.

Bonhoeffer became a member of the German resistance movement, convinced after much soul searching that only by working for Germany’s defeat could he help save his country. From 1940 to 1943 Bonhoeffer worked on a study of Christian ethics, which was grounded in the biblical Christ as the concrete unity between God and the world. The sections he completed were later published as Ethics (1949).

In January 1943 Bonhoeffer became engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer, a longtime acquaintance. In April, however, he was arrested; while incarcerated he wrote the correspondence that later appeared as Letters and Papers from Prison (1951). In these fragmentary but highly original writings he developed his earlier ideas into a highly positive evaluation of modern secular thought and life, and a strongly negative judgment on traditional religiosity.  These last writings had an inordinate influence on post-war liberal Protestantism.  Generally speaking, his two books, Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, are the tomes he is most remembered.  After the abortive attempt on Hitler’s life by the resistance (July 20, 1944), evidence came to light that incriminated Bonhoeffer, and he was hanged at Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945.

A Brief Reflection:

I am currently reading Eric Metaxas’ 2010 Biography:  Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I find this bio edifying.  During the Nazi years, the Nazis developed the “German Christian Church” which fused Nazism and Christianity, or more precisely:  the neo-paganism of the “blood and soil” mythology loved by the Nazis under the name of Christianity. (See:  2 Timothy 3:4-6) Two of the phrases used by the German Christians were  “practical Christianity” and “positive Christianity”.  At the risk of using the “N” word, Nazism, as in political discourse:  so-called practical and positive Christianity espoused  in many quarters today and is the grist of much Christian publishing and even given those titles.  These folks say that  such preaching should be about, for instance, “real life” and practical living, not  the real life we have in Christ Jesus, and most decidedly not the Cross and true repentance.  They say that this fills pews and sadly it does. I am not saying these folks are Nazis.  But the Old Adam does not want to die but live and fluorish.  So any Christianity, liberal or conservative, which says that the Lord’s call is not to repentance, but evil/sin is some “them” out there (for the Nazis it was Communists, for socialists its capitalists, etc. etc.), the Old Adam is left untouched and loves it.  If Christianity and the Church is about moral uplift, a positive message and the like, then  it is like putting a band-aid on a corpse.  Our Lord faced our sin and death and died that we might live.  We also must so serve in His Word from Pulpit, Podium, Prayers and Sacrament in face of  the death and horrors of our times.  No band-aids, only the Cross. (see  1 Corinthians 2:2) Bonhoeffer knew that and by God’s hard as nails grace, lived it with many others in the minority in the Truth which alone sets us free (see John 8:30-32).–Pr. Schroeder

QUOTES FROM THE WRITINGS OF PASTOR BONHOEFFER

On Preaching in American Churches during Bonhoeffer’s Year at Union Seminary, NYC, 1930-1931

As at Union Seminary…”Things are not much different in the church. The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. As long as I’ve been here, I have heard only one sermon in which you could hear something like a genuine proclamation, and that was delivered by a negro (indeed, in general I’m increasingly discovering greater reli­gious power and originality in Negroes). One big question continually attracting my attention in view of these facts is whether one here really can still speak about Christianity … There’s no sense to expect the fruits where the Word really is no longer being preached. But then what becomes of Christianity per se?” Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

On the Two Types of Love

“Human love is directed to the other person for his own sake, spiritual love loves him for Christ’s sake.”

“…spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy but in Christ and His Word.  Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above; it is something completely strange, new and incomprehensible to all earthly love.”

“…this spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother more than to a brother about Christ.”

“We are bound together by faith, not by experience.”

From Life Together

On Being Pious

In matters of piety, the “I will” can cause the greatest harm…”

“God alone knows our good works; all we know is His good work.”

On Being a Pastor

The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.  Not in the former but in the latter is the lack.  The Church will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus Christ because it knows that then it will be guided, not according to human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd.

The question of trust, which is so closely related to that of authority, is determined by the faithfulness with which a man serves Jesus Christ, never by the extraordinary talents he possesses.  Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, whom himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.

From Life Together

On Life Experience

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word. It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to think that a man has to become entangled deeply in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and guilt from our own experience, but only from God’s judgment of mankind and his grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

On Marriage

In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than some­thing personal – it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. As you first gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.

From “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell”, May 1943, Letters and Papers from Prison

On Confession and Absolution

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person the more destructive will be the power of sin over him,  and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart.  The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass bars of iron (Ps. 107: 16).

From Life Together

On Building up the Church

“It is not we who build. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess—he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him—that he may build.  We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.  It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess…, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds” (No Rusty Swords, [New York: Harper and Row, 1965] 216-217 On the Cross and the Bible

“Either I determine the place in which I will find God, or I allow God to determine the place where He will be found. If it is I who say where God will be, I will always find there a God who in some way corresponds to me, is agreeable to me, fits in with my nature. But if it is God who says where he will be, then that will truly be a place which at first is not agreeable to me at all, which does not fit so well with me. That place is the cross of Christ. And whoever will find God there must draw near to the cross in the manner which the Sermon on the Mount requires. That does not correspond to our nature at all; it is, in fact, completely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only the New Testament but also the Old. (Is. 53!) In any case, Jesus and Paul understand it in this way — that the cross of Jesus fulfills the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The entire Bible, then, is the Word in which God allows himself to be found by us. Not a place which is agreeable to us or makes sense to us a priori, but instead a place which is strange to us and contrary to our nature. Yet, the very place in which God has decided to meet us.”

From Meditating on the Word

On the Cross and the Bible

“God is completely other than the so-called eternal verities.  Theirs is an eternity made up of our own thoughts and wishes. But God’s Word begins by showing us the cross. And it is to the cross, to death and judgment before God, that our ways and thoughts (even the ‘eternal’ ones) all lead.  Does this perspective somehow make it understandable to you that I do not want to give up the Bible as this strange Word of God at any point, that I intend with all my powers to ask what God wants to say to us here?  Any other place outside the Bible has become too uncertain for me.  I fear that I will only encounter a divine double of myself there.”

Ibid

From Pr. Bonhoeffer’s Poem, “Who am I?”, the last stanzas (Letters and Papers from Prison)

“Whom am I?  This of 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.”

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