This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today we remember and give thanks for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who died on this day in 1945, and who is one of my heroes in the faith. Here is how Bonhoeffer is described in my denomination’s worship planning material:
Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who, at the age of twenty-five, became a lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Berlin. In 1933, and with Hitler’s rise to power, Bonhoeffer became a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church, a resistance movement against the Nazis. He was arrested in 1943. He was linked to a failed attempt on Hitler’s life and sent to Buchenwald, then to Schönberg prison. After leading a worship service on April 8, 1945, at Schönberg prison, he was taken away to be hanged the next day. His last words as he left were, “This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.” Evangelical Lutheran Worship includes a hymn (626) by Bonhoeffer, “By gracious powers.”REPRINTED FROM WORDS FOR WORSHIP, COPYRIGHT 2020 AUGSBURG FORTRESS
No other writer has has influenced my faith and life more than Bonhoeffer, and my blog is evidence of that. Here are a few of my blog posts that feature his writings:
I have shared several of Bonhoeffer’s poems in the above posts, all written while he was in prison, but I have not yet shared his “Stations on the Way to Freedom.” It seems appropriate to share today, as I give thanks for Bonhoeffer’s life and witness, and give thanks that through Jesus this faithful servant is now enjoying the highest of feasts, “freedom eternal.”
Stations on the Way to Freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If you set out to seek freedom, then you must learn above all things
discipline your soul and your senses, lest your desires
and then your limbs perchance should lead you no hither, now yon.
Chaste be your spirit and body, subject to yourself completely,
in obedience seeking the goal that is set for your spirit.
Only through discipline does one learn the secret of freedom.
Not always doing and daring what's random, but seeking the right thing,
Hover not over the possible, but boldly reach for the real.
Not in escaping to thought, in action alone is found freedom.
Dare to quit anxious faltering and enter the storm of events,
then true freedom will come and embrace your spirit, rejoicing.
Wondrous transformation. Your hands, strong and active, are fettered.
Powerless, alone, you see that an end is put to your action.
Yet now you breathe a sigh of relief and lay what is righteous
calmly and fearlessly into a mightier hand, contented.
Just for one blissful moment you could feel the sweet touch of freedom,
Then you gave it to God, that God might perfect it in glory.
Come now, highest of feasts on the way to freedom eternal,
Death, lay down your ponderous chains and earthen enclosures
walls that deceive our souls and fetter our mortal bodies,
that we might at last behold what here we are hindered from seeing.
Freedom, long have we sought you through discipline, action, and suffering.
Dying, now we discern in the countenance of God your own face.