Dose of Deitrich – Seeds of Change

Posted: 29th January 2011 by Rob in Uncategorized

In the section, titled “The Great Change,” page 121 in Eric Metaxes book “Bonhoeffer – Pastor,  Martyr, Prophet Spy,” upon return from his less than one year of study or more rightly called his enlightenment of American liberal religion at Union Seminary in New York City in 1932, Deitrich finds his own country facing what Metaxas describes as an “unimagnable future.” And so it was to be.  When he left for New York,  “the Nazi’s were a tiny gray cloud on the horizon of an otherwise clear sky.” On his return, seemingly overnight they were a force of which to be reckoned. His country was ripe for change, so was he.

Through his experiences, in “enlightened America” in which he rightly noted a religious, “skepticism…as an example of progress.” And concluded that in:

“New York they preach about vitually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life…The heart of the gospel has been marginalized.”

Back in Berlin, Bonhoeffer wrote that the “outlook is really exceptionally grim.” He felt that they “were standing at a tremendous turning point in world history.” He, of whom was described as the light hearted, fun loving, yet a most passionate theologian and bible scholar at twenty five years old, was greatly,  “concerned for the future of the church.”

Bonhoeffer now had,  “an urgency and a seriousness…that had not been there before.  Some how he sensed he must warn people of what lay ahead. It was as if he could see a mighty oak tree, in whose shade families were picnicking, and from whose branches children were swinging, was rotten inside, was about to fall down and kill them all…His sermons became more severe.”

On Reformation Day, the German equivalent to America’s Independence Day, he was asked to preach, before the who’s who at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, a counterpart to our National Cathedral in Washingto D.C.

The people, he said of “the mainstream Protestant Church,” seated in the pews that day, “inflated with pride,” and “expecting…to have their ego’s sensetively stroked,” instead heard a sermon delivered by Bonhoeff that,  “must have seemed like a nasty sucker punch followed by a wheeling roundhouse kick to the chops.”

His text was Revelation 2:4-5.  In his own observations he believed that the Protestant church was “in the eleventh hour”, the German church was “dying or already dead” and they were not here to hear “celebration… but a funeral.”

Metaxas writes then quotes: “It was as if he’d thrown a bucket of water on the congregation and had then thrown his shoes at them. ‘We do not see that this Church is no longer the Church of Luther’ he said. He called it, ‘unpardonable frivolity and arrogance’ for them to blithely appropriate Luthers famous words, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other’ for their own ends – as if these words applied to them and the Lutheran church of their day.”

Bonhoeffer rightly observed that because you say you are a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a Christian. Let’s stop playing church and be the church!

These were only a few, though significant, of many  seeds of change that God would providentially use in order to effectually change greatly Bonhoeffer’s destiny forever.

Next Up- “The Efficacy of Change”