Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DISCIPLINE: The Call To Discipleship (Part 1) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 9, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship And as he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, “Follow me.”  And he arose and followed him. (Mark 2:14) The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience.  The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus.  How could the call immediately evoke obedience?  The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events.  By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them.  Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event.  Thus we get the stupid question: Surely the [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 4) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 2, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ.  It is true, of course, that we have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honors unparalleled in Christendom, in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself.  Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception.  So long as our church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified church!  So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms.  To be [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 3) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 23, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship At the end of a life spent in pursuit of knowledge Faust has to confess: I now do see that we can nothing know. That is the answer to a sum, it is the outcome of a long experience.  But as Kierkegaard observed, it is quite a different thing when a freshman comes up to the university and uses the same sentiment to justify his indolence.  As the answer to a sum it is perfectly true, but as the initial data it is a piece of self-deception.  For acquired knowledge cannot be divorced from the existence in which it is acquired.  The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.  Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 2) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 2, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship When the Reformation came, the providence of God raised Martin Luther to restore the gospel of pure, costly grace.  Luther passed through the cloister; he was a monk and all this was part of the divine plan.  Luther had left all to follow Christ on the path of absolute obedience.  He had renounced the world in order to live the Christian life.  He had learnt obedience to Christ and to his church, because only he who is obedient can believe.  The call to the cloister demanded of Luther the complete surrender of his life.  But God shattered all his hopes.  He showed him through the scriptures that the following of Christ is not the achievement or merit of a select few, but the divine command to all [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 1) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 19, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church.  We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.  Grace is represented as the church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits.  Grace without price; grace without cost!  The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.  Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite.  What would [...]

DISCIPLINE: The Cost Of Discipleship, Introduction, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 12, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the scriptures.  Behind all the slogans and catchwords of ecclesiastical controversy, necessary though they are, there arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself.  What did Jesus mean to say to us?  What is his will for us today?  How can he help us to be good Christians in the modern world?  In the last resort, what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that church, have of us, but what Jesus Christ himself wants of us.  When we go to church and listen to the sermon, what we want to hear is his Word – and that not merely for selfish reasons, but [...]

PSALMS: The Blessing Of Morning Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 22, 2017

From Psalms The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity.  This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer.  It is confirmed in work.  The morning prayer determines the day.  Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer.  Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God.  Decisions, demanded by work, becomes easier and simpler where they [...]

PSALMS: Petition For The Spirit Of Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 15, 2017

From Psalms We have taken this short stroll through the Psalter in order to learn to pray a few psalms a bit better.  It would not be difficult to arrange according to the Lord’s Prayer all the psalms mentioned.  We should have to change only slightly our arrangement of the order of the chapters.  But this alone is important, that we begin to pray the psalms with confidence and love in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Our dear Lord, who has given to us and taught us to pray the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer, grant to us also the spirit of prayer and of grace so that we pray with enthusiasm and earnest faith, properly and without ceasing, for we need to do this; he has asked for it and therefore wants to have it from [...]

PSALMS: The End by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 8, 2017

From Psalms The hope of Christians is directed to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.  In the Psalter this hope is not expressed literally.  That which since the resurrection of Jesus has divided itself in the church into a long line of events of holy history toward the end of all things is, from the viewpoint of the Old Testament, still a single indivisible unity.  Life in fellowship with the God of revelation, the final victory of God in the world, and the setting up of the messianic kingdom are objects of prayer in the psalms. The Old Testament is not different from the New in this respect.  To be sure, the psalms request fellowship with God in Earthly life, but they know that this fellowship is not completed in [...]

PSALMS: The Enemies by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 1, 2017

From Psalms No section of the Psalter causes us greater difficulty today than the so-called imprecatory psalms.  With shocking frequency their thoughts penetrate the entire Psalter (5, 7,. 9, 10, 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, 31, 35, 36, 40, 41, 44, 52, 54, 55, 58, 59, 68, 69, 70, 71, 137, and others).  Every attempt to pray these psalms seems doomed to failure.  They seem to be an example of what people think of as the religious first stage toward the New Testament.  Christ on the cross prays for his enemies and teaches us to do the same.  How can we still, with these psalms, call for the wrath of God against our enemies?  The question is therefore: Can the imprecatory psalms be understood as God’s word for us and as the prayer of Jesus [...]

PSALMS: Guilt by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 25, 2017

From Psalms More seldom than we expect, the prayer for the forgiveness of sins meets us in the psalms.  Most psalms presuppose complete assurance of the forgiveness of sins.  That may surprise us.  But even in the New Testament the same thing is true.  It is an abbreviation and an endangering of Christian prayer if it revolves exclusively around the forgiveness of sins.  There is such a thing as the confident leaving behind of sin for the sake of Jesus Christ. Yet in no way does the Psalter omit the prayer of repentance.  The seven so-called repentance psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) but not only they (also Psalms 14, 15, 25, 31, 39, 40, 41, and others) lead us into the total depth of the recognition of sin before God.  They [...]

PSALMS: Suffering by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 18, 2017

From Psalms Where do you find more miserable, more wretched, more depressing words than in the psalms of lamentation?  There you see into the heart of all the saints as into death, even as into hell.  How sad and dark it is there in every wretched corner of the wrath of God. (Luther) The Psalter gives us ample instruction in how to come before God in a proper way, bearing the frequent suffering which this world brings upon us.  Serious illness and severe loneliness before God and men, threat, persecution, imprisonment, and whatever conceivable peril there is on Earth are known by the psalms (13, 31, 35, 41, 44, 54, 55, 56, 61, 74, 79, 86, 88, 102, 105, and others).  They do not deny it or try to deceive us about it with pious words.  [...]

PSALMS: Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 11, 2017

From Psalms Many earnest Christians are struck as they pray the psalms by how often the petition for life and good fortune occurs.  From a glance at the cross of Christ there comes to many the unhealthy thought that life and the visible, Earthly blessings of God are in themselves at least a questionable good, and in any case a good not to be desired.  They take, then, the corresponding prayers of the Psalter to be an incomplete first stage of Old Testament piety, which is overcome in the New Testament.  But in doing so they want to be more spiritual than God himself. As the petition for daily bread includes the entire sphere of the necessities of physical life, so the petition for life, health, and visible evidences of the friendliness [...]

PSALMS: The Church by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 4, 2017

From Psalms Psalms 27, 42, 46, 48, 63, 81, 84, 87, and others sing of Jerusalem, the City of God, of the great festivals of the people of God, of the temple and the beautiful worship services.  It is the presence of the God of salvation in his congregation for which we here give thanks, about which we here rejoice, for which we long.  What Mount Zion and the temple were for the Israelites the church of God throughout the world is for us – the church where God always dwells with his people in word and sacrament.  This church will withstand all enemies (Psalm 46), its imprisonment under the powers of the godless world will come to an end (Psalms 126 and 137).  The present and gracious God, who is in Christ who in turn is in his [...]

PSALMS: The Messiah by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 27, 2017

God’s holy history comes to fulfillment in the sending of the Messiah.  According to Jesus’s own interpretation, the Psalter has prophesied of this Messiah (Luke 24:44).  Psalms 22 and 69 are known to the church as the passion psalms. Jesus himself prayed the beginning of Psalm 22 on the cross and so clearly made it his prayer.  Hebrews 2:12 places verse 22 in the mouth of Christ.  Verse 8 and verse 18 are direct predictions of the crucifixion of Jesus.  David himself may have once prayed this psalm in his own song.  If so, he did this as the king, anointed by God and therefore persecuted by men, from whom Jesus Christ would descend.  He did it as the one who bore Christ in himself.  But Christ himself used this prayer [...]

PSALMS: Holy History by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 20, 2017

Psalms 78, 105, and 106 tell us about the history of the people of God on Earth, about the electing grace and faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness and the ingratitude of his people.  Psalm 78 is not addressed as a prayer to anyone.  How ought we to pray these Psalms?  Psalm 106 summons us to thanksgiving, to praise, to commitment, to petition, to confession of sin, to the call for help in the light of the past history of salvation: thanksgiving for the goodness of God, which continues with respect to his people into eternity, which also we contemporaries experience as did our father; praise for the miracles which God works for our benefit, from the redemption of his people out of Egypt all the way to Golgotha; commitment to keep [...]

PSALMS: The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 13, 2017

The three psalms (1, 19, 119) which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise, and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law.  Under “law,” then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life in obedience.  Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ.  That God could at one time conceal his command from me (Psalm 119:19), that he could allow me one day not to recognize his will, is the deepest anxiety of the new life. It is grace to know God’s commands.  They release us from self-made plans and conflicts.  They make our steps certain and our way [...]

PSALMS: The Creation, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 6, 2017

The scripture proclaims God to be the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  Many psalms summon us to bring him honor, praise, and thanksgiving.  There is, however, no single psalm which speaks only of the creation.  It is always the God who has already revealed himself to his people in his word who is said to be known as the Creator of the world.  Because God has spoken to us, because God’s name has been revealed to us, we can believe in him as the Creator.  Otherwise we could not know him.  The creation is a picture of the power and the faithfulness of God, which he has demonstrated to us in his revelation in Jesus Christ.  We worship the Creator who has revealed himself as the Redeemer. Psalm 8 praises the name of God and his [...]

PSALMS: Classification, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 30, 2017

We shall arrange the subjects dealt with in the Psalter prayers in the following manner: the creation; the law; holy history; the Messiah; the church; life; suffering; guilt; enemies; the end.  It would not be difficult to arrange these according to the Lord’s Prayer and to show how the Psalter is totally absorbed in the prayer of Jesus.  But in order not to anticipate this result of our observations, we want to remain with the arrangement inferred from the Psalter itself. [...]

PSALMS: Congregational Worship And The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 23, 2017

In many churches the Psalms are read or sung every Sunday, or even daily, in succession.  These churches have preserved a priceless treasure, for only with daily use does one appropriate this divine prayerbook.  When read only occasionally, these prayers are too overwhelming in design and power and tend to turn us back to more palatable fare.  But whoever has begun to pray the Psalter seriously and regularly will soon give a vacation to other little devotional prayers and say: “Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter.  It tastes too cold and too hard.” (Luther) Therefore, wherever we no longer pray the Psalms in our churches, we must take up the Psalter that much more in [...]

PSALMS: Names, Music, Verse Form, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 16, 2017

The Hebrew title of the Psalms also means “hymns.”  Psalm 72:20 refers to all preceding Psalms as, the prayers of David.  Both items are surprising and yet understandable.  To be sure, at first glance, the Psalms contain exclusively neither hymns nor prayers.  In spite of that the didactic poems or the songs of lament are also basically hymns, for they serve to glorify God, and even those Psalms which do not contain any address to God (e.g., Psalms 1, 2, 78) may be called prayers, for they serve to submerge in God’s will and purpose the one who prays them.  The word Psalter originally referred to a musical instrument, and was first used only in a secondary sense as a designation for a collection of prayers which were [...]

PSALMS: Who Prays The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 2, 2017

Of the 150 Psalms, 73 are attributed to King David, 12 to the songmaster Asaph, who was appointed by David, 12 to the Levitical family of the children of Korah working under David, two to King Solomon, one of the music masters Herman and Ethan, probably employed by David and Solomon.  Thus it is understandable that the name of David has been connected with the Psalter in special ways. It is reported that after David’s secret anointing as king, he was called to play the harp for King Saul, who was abandoned by God and plagued by an evil spirit.  And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (1 Samuel [...]

PSALMS: Learning To Pray In The Name Of Jesus, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

April 25, 2017

Now there is in the Holy Scriptures a book which is distinguished from all other books of the Bible by the fact that it contains only prayers.  The book is the Psalms.  It is at first very surprising that there is a prayerbook in the Bible.  The Holy Scripture is the Word of God to us.  But prayers are the words of men.  How do prayers then get into the Bible?  Let us make no mistake about it, the Bible is the Word of God even in the Psalms.  Then are these prayers to God also God’s own word?  That seems rather difficult to understand.  We grasp it only when we remember that we can learn true prayer only from Jesus Christ, from the word of the Son of God, who lives with us men, to God the Father, who lives in eternity.  [...]

PSALMS: “Lord, Teach Us To Pray”, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

April 18, 2017

So spoke the disciples to Jesus.  In making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray.  The phrase, “learning to pray,” sounds strange to us.  If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never “learn” to pray.  But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself.  For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – all of which the heart can do by itself – with prayer.  And we confuse Earth and Heaven, man and God.  Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart.  It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Discipleship And The Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 9, 2017

From: Meditations On The Cross Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Out of my sight, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31-34) Suffering and rejection are the summary expression [...]

SERMON: The Coming of Jesus Into Our Midst by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 20, 2015

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment. Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously. When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination. “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!” (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings: Our whole life is an Advent, a time of waiting for [...]

FORGIVENESS: Transformation And Deliverance — Repent And Help Each Other, by Glen H. Stassen

September 4, 2014

From Living the Sermon on the Mount When he says, “Take the log out of your eye,” Jesus is calling for repentance – acknowledging our own need for change, and actually making the change.  The way of repentance is central to Jesus’s announcement that the reign of God is at hand: God is present, graciously delivering us; repent and believe the good news.  When we repent and allow Jesus to loosen our defensiveness, stop hiding our real selves from others, admit that we have a problem, and allow God’s grace to bring about a turning in our lives, that is participating in grace.  The reign of God then breaks into our lives.  When we allow Jesus to convert our judging into openness and gratitude, it really is the [...]

POETRY: Christmas Trees by Geoffrey Hill

December 26, 2012

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell bleached by the flares’ candescent fall, pacing out his own citadel, restores the broken themes of praise, encourages our borrowed days, by logic of his sacrifice. Against wild reasons of the state his words are quiet but not too quiet. We hear too late or not too [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Coming Of Jesus In Our Midst by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 21, 2012

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment.  Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously.  When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared?  Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place?  Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination.  “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!”  (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings.  It is very remarkable that we face the [...]