Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Season of Lent

In 1998, Westminster Abbey in London unveiled a new set of sculptures over its western door - 10 modern martyrs who reflect a level of discipleship and devotion to the Christian faith that put them in harm’s way and eventually led to their death. Included are Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr. as well as lesser known Christian martyrs from Russia, China, Africa, Pakistan, New Guinea and Europe. 

Included in this group is pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

Bonhoeffer croppedThe first thing we teach about Bonhoeffer is that he was killed by the Nazis at the very end of World War II for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. 

But for the month of March and the season of Lent, we will spend time digging deeper than this single piece of trivia to the political, theological and pastoral legacy of Bonhoeffer and why all those elements are still relevant and instructive for us as Christians today. 

This Sunday we will view the 90-minute documentary Bonhoeffer, which is a great primer for those seeking to learn more about his personal and professional biography. Join us in Witherspoon Parlor for that immediately following our 10:00 a.m. service this Sunday. 

Next Sunday, March 10, I am so delighted that we will host Dr. Victoria Barnett, who is not only director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust, but also one of the preeminent scholars of Bonhoeffer in the United States today. Many of you have been reading her companion essay to Bonhoeffer’s 1943 essay After Ten Years, that reflects on the first 10 years of the Nazi regime. As the larger church - beyond our walls - is asking questions about whether or not we are living today in a “Bonhoeffer moment,” Dr. Barnett is helping us to wrestle with that question. 

Join us on March 10 in Congregational Hall for her presentation and a chance to reflect on our One Book One Church selection for this spring. We will have books available to purchase this week and next. 

The following two Sundays we will learn more about Bonhoeffer as a theologian and pastor from Dr. Katie Day of the United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia and our own David Smith. 

I am also very hopeful that you have marked your calendars for the afternoon of Sunday, March 17 for the performance of Thomas Lloyd’s Bonhoeffer, which will be presented by our Bryn Mawr Chamber Singers. 

Finally, as the season of Lent begins this coming Wednesday, March 6 with our Ash Wednesday worship together,you should be sure to pick up this year’s BMPC Lenten Devotional, which includes not only selections of scripture and reflections on these passages by members of our community, but selections from the writing and letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well. 

I keep posted above my office desk a prayer of Bonhoeffer’s that I believe is a helpful guide as we begin this journey of Lent with one another and with Bonhoeffer: 

"God of the day and of the night, in me there is darkness, but with you there is light. I am alone, but you will not leave me. I am weak, but you will come to my help. I am restless, but you are my peace. I am in haste, but you are the God of infinite patience. I am confused and lost, but you are eternal wisdom and you direct my path; now and forever. Amen." 

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

May we in this season be confident in the presence of God in our midst, and Christ alongside us on the Lenten path. May we be inspired by the witness and the sacrifice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. May we be encouraged by one another as we remain ever mindful that we do not do this work of being Christian disciples alone.