Monday, April 9, 2012

Prisoner Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born February 4, 1906, and later studied in Berlin and Tübingen. He became a Lutheran pastor, and served two small congregations in London from 1933-1935. Protesting against the Nazi regime in Germany from its beginnings, Bonhoeffer became a major spokesperson for the Confessing Church. 

Bonhoeffer was also an intellectual and writer, composing a book on community, Life Together, and a very forthright exposition on Christian living, The Cost of Discipleship.

After 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer became increasingly involved in  political opposition against the Nazis, and was even introduced to a group attempting Adolf Hitler's overthrow. Pastor Bonhoeffer was at length arrested on April 5, 1945 and jailed in Berlin. A year later, April 9, 1944, there was an attempt on Hitler's life at a top-level
Nazi meeting, and documents linking Bonhoeffer to the conspiracy were discovered. He was sent first to Buchenwald concentration camp, then to Schoenberg Prison. A later book, Letters and Papers From Prison, was published by friends of Bonhoeffer's in 1953. As he was taken from his prison cell, he said to a fellow prisoner: "This is the end. For me, the beginning of life." He was hanged on April 9, 1945, at Flossenburg Prison.

Two passages from Bonhoeffer, one in 1940, the other in 1944, give us much to reflect on in this Easter season: 
"...Faith receives the certainty of the resurrection only from the present witness of Christ. It finds its confirmation in the historic imprints of the miracle as recounted by scripture." (Theological Letter on "Easter")
"Easter? We focus more on dying than on death...Learning to deal with dying, however, does not yet mean we have learned to deal with death...overcoming death means resurrection...from the resurrection of Christ...a new, purifying breeze can blow into the present world...If even a few people were really to believe this, allowing this belief to move them in their earthly actions, much would change. To live from the perspective of the resurrection: That is Easter." (Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge)

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