Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Blessed are those who… (Epiphany 4A, 29 January 2017)

Readings
Micah 6.1–8
1 Corinthians 1.18–31
Matthew 5.1–12

 

There are three principles for living into the spirit of the Beatitudes: simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. (Charles James Cook, in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol.1)

 

Today we heard the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…

And so on.

These words are all well known to us. But do we let them penetrate our hearts?

Let’s admit it, on the face of it, they are pretty absurd. ‘Blessed are the meek’? Is that how Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin got where they are today?

‘Blessed are those who mourn’? You don’t feel ‘blessed’ when you are grieving.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’? The arrogant and super-confident are better candidates for blessedness!

So let’s try to get a hold of what ‘blessedness’ is.

Normally, we might say we’re blest if something wonderful happens to us. We are blest when a new baby comes into the family. We are blest if we get good weather for a family wedding.

Or we may say we’re blest by natural gifts and talents, by good looks, a musical gift or high intelligence.

We could say we’re blest to live in Australia.

(I just want to say I’m avoiding the word ‘happy’ here. It’s a misleading translation. I may be blest to live in Australia, whether I’m happy or not. I could be blest with a wonderful singing voice—(I’m not!)—but be unhappy. You can be blest without being happy.)

So, Jesus is not saying you have to put a happy face on when you are mourning for something or someone. But he is saying you are blest.

This is the thing about the Beatitudes:

Normally, we say we are blest because we have a gift or because we live in fortunate circumstances.

The Beatitudes declare people blest when they lack something real and true, or yearn for something real and true, or accept something that is real and true. 

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‘Immediately they left their nets and followed him’ (Epiphany 3A, 22 January 2017)

Reading
Matthew 4.12–23

Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death. (When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship)

In Matthew’s Gospel, these are the first words John the Baptist speaks:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

By the time Jesus begins his public ministry, John has been thrown into one of Herod’s prisons. At this stage, Jesus was a ‘known associate’ of John’s; what would you do in Jesus’ place? Hide out? Run away? Change the message into something safer, more palatable?

I don’t know what you’d do, but I would take one of those alternatives. What does Jesus do? He preaches exactly the same message. He cries out:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Let’s stop for a moment and look at this. John has come across political opposition. This isn’t the first time political opposition has come in the Gospel of Matthew. It was there from the beginning.

First, Herod the Great tries to trick the wise men into revealing the whereabouts of Jesus, because he wants him dead.

When Joseph and Mary return from refuge in Egypt, they live in Nazareth because it’s off the beaten track and therefore safer.

Years later, John is arrested by Herod Antipas. Herod the Great, who wanted to kill the baby Jesus, was his father.

After John’s arrest, Jesus does withdraw from Judea, the southern part of Israel, where John was baptising. He goes to live in the north, in Capernaum on the shores of Lake Galilee.

But he wasn’t going into hiding! ‘From that time,’ we read, ‘from that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”’

Jesus wasn’t being cautious. A lot of Christian people are cautious. But Jesus had a mission, and he was far from cautious.

Jesus preached about the same thing as John: the kingdom of heaven.

What is the kingdom of heaven?

It’s not where you go when you die.

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Who am I? Whose am I? (23 June 2013)

Readings
1 Kings 19.1–15a
Galatians 3.23–29
Luke 8.26–39

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who was hanged on Hitler’s direct orders only a few days before the end of World War 2. While a prisoner in a Nazi jail in 1943, he wrote a poem called Who am I?.

Bonhoeffer’s poem starts like this:

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Bonhoeffer appeared to others to have it all together, even while he was a prisoner on ‘death row’. But inside, it was a different story. Continue reading

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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A, 22 May 2011)

While I was enjoying a weekend off, Rev Dr David Pitman preached the following sermon. Thanks, David!

STONES – AND THE ROCK OF AGES

Readings
 Acts 7: 54-60
John 14: 1-14

You may remember reading in the paper some time ago a story about the world’s first inflatable church! It’s made of poly-vinyl and can be transported anywhere on the back of a truck and inflated on the spot. Inside there are inflatable pews, and a blow-up organ and altar. The church even has false stain-glassed windows.

The inflatable church is the invention of a British entrepreneur who reminds us that God’s people once worshipped in a tent that could be put up, taken down, and moved to another place as required. He has a point! Nonetheless, this variation on the bouncy castle children love to play in, runs the risk of being not much more than a lot of hot air!

You and I know that there are no instant churches. At the heart of every church is a community of people who love and serve Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit…..

who build their lives on the strong foundation of faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

Today, within the context of the sermon, we will remember three individual disciples of Jesus who did just that:

The German Lutheran Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stephen, the first Christian martyr

and David Sheppard, once Bishop of Liverpool

This year marks the 66th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who participated in the plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed. Bonhoeffer was betrayed, imprisoned in 1943 in the Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp in Bavaria, and eventually hanged on the 9th April 1945, only a few weeks before the end of the war.

Whether, as a Christian, Bonhoeffer should have involved himself in the plot to kill Hitler has been the subject of much debate. Bonhoeffer himself believed that the death of the Nazi Dictator was for the greater good of humanity and could, therefore, be justified. He was, at any rate, prepared to give his life for the cause, and finished up doing just that! The letters and papers he wrote while in prison were later collected and published and have been influential right up to this present time.

His personal faith and courage were a powerful witness to those around him. The testimony of the prison Doctor at Flossenbuerg has often been remembered:

Through the half-open door in one of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was deeply moved by the way this loveable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 16 January 2011)

Whoever I am, O God, I am yours!

Readings
Psalm 40.1-11
1 Corinthians 1.1-9

Floods. In Queensland generally and in Brisbane itself, we are in the highly unusual position of being able to say we’ve had enough rain, thank you very much. We’ve been through a trial this week, with a devastating flood comparable to those of 1974 and 1893. Some of us have suffered flood damage, some have given help to others, some of us have been spared damage to our house and property. Not one of us is unaffected. The Courier-Mail says that 927 houses have been flooded in the Centenary, Sinnamon Park and Seventeen Mile Rocks areas. Our suffering has been small compared to the people of the Lockyer Valley, where lives have been lost.

Our own house is by the river at Riverhills, and is—normally!—quite high above the river. We weren’t so high above it the other day…! We lost power like everyone else, and we were cut off by road. We were able to walk out through a laneway, which is how we had shelter at Brenda’s place, but cars couldn’t get away. People who wanted to leave did have another option; the local rowing club ferried people across to the other side. They were absolutely wonderful!

We had a street bbq on Thursday night to use up food that was unable to be kept because of the lack of power. We’ve got to know our neighbours better—and we’ve had to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers alike to get through these last few days. We are very thankful indeed.

I want to speak a little personally today—I seem to do that from time to time. You may find something of yourself in my reflections.

I’ve found that I’ve been a little disappointed in my own reactions in these few days. I’ve been irritable, especially with my nearest and dearest. I haven’t listened particularly well, especially to my nearest and dearest. I’ve been feeling stunned at times, unable to act.

And yet I’ve also been receiving phone calls, making phone calls, offering pastoral care, ‘being’ the minister and ‘doing’ what a minister does.

All this has reminded me of a poem called Who am I?, which was written in 1943 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who was hanged on Hitler’s direct orders only a few days before the end of World War 2.

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 18 July 2010

Broken to be a blessing

Reading
Colossians 1.15-28

Sometimes, you read a verse of scripture and you think, Whaaat? What on earth could that mean? There was one of those verses in today’s reading from Colossians chapter 1. It’s verse 24; perhaps it made you wonder too. Let’s hear it again. St Paul says:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

Paul actually says, ‘in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions…’

Hang on, I thought, the first time I read that years ago. Didn’t Jesus die for the whole world on the cross? Didn’t he bear our sins on the cross? Wasn’t it a ‘perfect sacrifice’ for sin? How could there be anything ‘lacking in his afflictions’? Has Paul gone nuts? Perhaps he has! Read a few verses earlier, and you’ll see that Paul says this:

through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Here, Paul says that on the cross God reconciled all things everywhere to himself through Jesus. Because of Jesus, we are at peace with God. We’re not partly at peace, we’re not half-reconciled to God. We are wholly at peace with God, we are fully reconciled, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, we have a place in God’s loving heart. We are fully alive, and why? Because we been drawn into the grace-full, eternal, loving dance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Notice that all these things are true whether or not we feel them to be true. So what on earth could possibly be ‘“lacking” in Christ’s afflictions’?

Let’s hold that question, while we look at something we’ll be doing soon.
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Friday fragments — 9 April 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today, 9 April, is the day the Uniting Church remembers the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr under the Nazis; this was the day of his birth into eternal life. Read about his life here and be inspired.

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Assembly Update

April Assembly Update is out — read it here to see the latest from the Uniting Church Assembly.

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‘Something Wondrous is Afoot’

Easter has fifty days, so here is an Easter reflection from the wonderful Kathleen Norris.

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A common date for Easter

Eastern and Western churches calculate Easter in basically the same way, yet the dates are often different. This is because the West uses the Gregorian calendar, while the East sticks to the older (and less accurate) Julian Calendar to date Easter.

Thirteen years ago, a consultation at Aleppo, Syria proposed a basis for a common date which would use the most accurate astronomical timing. Their hope was the the year 2000 would see it happen. We’re still waiting! This year and next, Easter falls on the same day for both East and West. Let’s pray for a common dates from now on!

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Dear Pope: Call me!

Not me, no, but Rev Dr Marie Fortune who has written perceptively on the change of heart needed in the light of the child abuse scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

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