Tag Archives: bonhoeffer


Nadia Bagdanov, 1924-2013 Rest in Peace

“There is nothing that can replace
the absence of someone dear to us,
and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard,
but at the same time it is also a great comfort.

For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled
one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness.
God in no way fills it but much more
leaves it precisely unfilled
and thus helps us preserve — even in pain —
the authentic relationship.

Further more,
the more beautiful and full the remembrances,
the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms
the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past
not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within,
a hidden treasure
of which one can always be certain.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

ht: Tiana Steinhoff for the Bonhoeffer quote; Ellen Bagdanov for the photo

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Eric Metaxas at 2012 National Prayer Breakfast

Eric Metaxas spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast which you can watch below, well worth the 30 minutes.  He is a well-known author, his biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a good read.

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich. Eric Metaxas.

Loved this book.  Bonhoeffer is a champion of the faith.  He grapples with believing in a very difficult context at a very young age.  He does the unthinkable and stands up to every conceivable authority structure in his life.  Challenging the church as he knew it when it went awry and conspiring to kill a truly evil man in Adolph Hitler as leader of the Third Reich.  Bonhoeffer is truly a good read.  I was inspired by his courage and faith.

One of my favorite sections of the book:

“This is how Bonhoeffer saw what he was doing.  He had theologically redefined the Christian life as something active, not reactive.  It had nothing to do with aavoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets.  It had everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action.  It did not merely require a mind, but a body too.  it was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the one who had made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny.  it was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a a life lived in a knd of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom – that was what it was to obey God.”  p. 446

“Bonhoeffer talked about how the German penchant for self-sacrifice and submission to authority had been used for evil ends by the Nazi’s; only a deep understanding of and commitment to the God of the Bible could stand up to such wickedness.  “It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.”  Here was the rub; one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin.  One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God’s purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes.  One’s obedience to God must be forward-oriented and zealous and free, and to be a mere moralist or pietist would make such a life impossible. ” p. 446-447

My favorite Bonhoeffer quotes from the book:

“It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying.  Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.”

“If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”

“Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed along with several others for their part in the conspiracy to kill Hitler at Flossenburg Concentration Camp at dawn on April 9, 1945.  A plaque at the site reads: “In resistance against dictatorship and terror, they gave their lives for freedom, justice, and humanity.”  Bonhoeffer was 39 years old. After witnessing Bonhoeffer’s death, the Flossenburg doctor reported:  “In the almost fifty years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

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Getting Along in Church

I ran across a marvelous quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book Life Together:

“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God.  A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”

It reminded me of some basic minstry principles.

God is at work in people, it is His work and He works in His own time. My job is to come alongside and assist.  Much like a nurse in surgery, I simply supply a service to God and His people by ministry.  Since growth is a work of grace in the life of a believer I should show grace to those who are not as “far along” in their maturity process. My job is to help people find their next step in growth not to complain that they aren’t mature.  This is hard because we then have to “put up with” or as Paul puts it “forbear with one another.”

People are the object of God’s love, not program and not event. Often the source of pastoral grumbling comes when the people God has placed in my charge get in the way of my goals.  I get frustrated at inconsistency and immaturity, half-hearted effort, shoddy work and have to remind myself that people in church often are on the way, not finished products.  When I don’t have this view I get caught up in a process by which to manufacture the outward signs of success in ministry.  Large crowds, new programs, “excitement”, and other fun things but not always appropriate to ministry to the body.  This kind of ministry often excludes those who are not easy to deal with or who have little to offer the machine.

Growth in Christ is a life long project not a quick fix. Longevity in ministry is not the norm any more.  Studies vary but show that the average length of time in a church is somewhere around 54 – 58 months (Moving on Moving Forward: A Guide for Pastors in Transition by Michael Anthony and Mick Boersma).  About the same length of time that people finance their car.  You may be shocked by this, but it takes longer than that to arrive at maturity in Christ.  Since we have a short view we have conceded to short term strategies that match that length of service to judge pastoral and church success.

These ideas are critical to the minds of not only pastors, but congregants.  People often switch churches based on marketing and whim.  Problems in church with people and pastors are not necessarily good reasons to move on to another church.  Church is not Starbucks vs. Its a Grind.  Church is community, the Scriptures often using the family metaphor as descriptive of the church.  This is a connective metaphor;  it is hard to leave family.  Even more connective is the body metaphor: I can’t do without my little toe; I am very reluctant to part with it.  When my body is sick, unaffected members don’t jump ship, they suffer together. When we stay at a church over the long haul we begin to learn something we cannot learn on the church circuit.  God doesn’t quit on me; and He is remarkably still at work in you.  Our job is not to complain about one another to one another and to God, rather it is to recognize the path of grace in each and every one.  God is at work in us.  Let me help you on the way.  Help me along the way.

Moving on Moving Forward: A Guide for Pastors in Transition

By Michael J. Anthony, Mick Boersma

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