Archive for April 27th, 2014

Introduction:  Today’s appointed Psalmody is Psalm 119: 9-16.  Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (+9 April, 1945) in his unfinished commentary on the longest single chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, has these sharp observations on verse 9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to Your word.

A young man here asks the question of his life, and he asks it not because of flaming idealism or enthusiasm for the good and noble in general, but because he has experienced the power of the Word of God and his own weakness.

Does this question about the blameless and pure way sound inconsistent with youth, freedom and affirmation of life?  If so, it is only because we have become accustomed to a very godless conception of youth and are no longer able to understand the power and fullness of life which is found in innocence.  It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to that a man has to become entangled in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and guilt from own experience, but from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.

It has become clearer in my studies that  pre-war, pre-Nazi Germany had a large youth movement just we had in our country the 1960s.  In both time periods youth were extolled as the measure of the good and the noble.  A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Kurt Marquart, wrote in an 1978 article on liturgy, the following trenchant comment on the Church:

Who, after all, could respect an institution which is, after two
thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as
to say, in effect: “Dear children, help us! We are no longer
sure about what we ought to be doing. Perhaps you might
have some good ideas?” Who could possibly take seriously the
play -worship prefixed with that horrid word, “experimental”?
The fact is that no healthy. viable society lets its children
arbitrate its values. It is for the elders of the tribe to guard its
cultural heritage and to transmit it solemnly to the younger
generation-never vice versa. Also in our society the problem
is not with the youth but with their elders. 

In Bonhoeffer’s time, before World War II, after the utter devastation of the first World War, a youth movement began in Germany that was looking for a leader, (German: Führer) to lead them to a new day. In 1933, after Herr Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address, “The Younger Generations’ Altered Concept of Leadership” based upon “Führer Princip” or Leader Principle”.  It was cut short, history can only guess who cut it short and Bonhoeffer later gave it again. I wrote an article about this principle at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  Yet it all started in a youth movement. One musical caught the incipient terrors of this youth movement, Cabaret, in a song written for the musical (set in prewar Nazi Germany) which almost sounds like a song of that era:

It seems to me at least that in Bonhoeffer’s comments on Psalm 119: 9 that  he is reflecting a saying of this new understanding of youth. He calls it “godless”.  Growing up in the 60s, I was told that you have to become thoroughly immersed in “living” to understand life.  No, says Bonhoeffer, based upon God’s Word:  we learn of life, it’s guilt and redemption only in God’s Word.  I was never directly taught that it is good to be innocent,as it was derided as naiveté.  Look at what youth, unrestricted by any wisdom, Biblical or traditional, wrought in Germany.  Look what has happened with my generation dictating, not merely bad liturgy, but what we wanted:  drugs, pot, ‘free’ love, narcissism, abortion, STDs.  Look at what has been wrought.  Bonhoeffer:

“Not good intentions, burning ideals, nor even work and fulfillment of duty can keep the way pure, only God’s Word can do that.

We need the Word of Lord more than ever, beloved in the Lord.

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