Bonhoeffer Deeply Moving Me

I posted a trailer for this wonderful Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography in March. I’ve been re-reading the book this week, and to say that it is moving me is an understatement. Bonhoeffer’s words really get under my skin. I think I will post some excerpts from the biography and from Bonhoeffer’s published works over the next two weeks. One passage that I really enjoyed is from his message to his first confirmation class in 1938. I guarantee you that I will look for ways to include this in our Confirmation class next year.  Perhaps, as a few others have done in recent years, I may mail the text to our Confirmands and their parents in April.

(While Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theology professor at Berlin University, he also had the opportunity to teach a confirmation class of fifty boys in Wedding, a tough neighborhood in North Berlin. Really up for the challenge after his visit to New York City, Bonhoeffer took the extra steps to get to know the boys and their families. It then fell to the young pastor to visit the homes and parents of every one of the fifty students. Wedding was a squalid, poverty-stricken district, and many of the parents allowed him into their homes only because they felt they must.  To be closer to all of these families and spend more time with the boys, he moved into a furnished room in the neighborhood at 61 Oderbergstrasse, which he kept open to all the boys.

Here are some wonderful words from his 1938 Confirmation Sermon on Mark 9:24:

This confirmation day is an important day for you and for us all. It is not an insignificant thing that you profess your Christian faith today before the all-knowing God and before the ears of the Christian church-community. For the rest of your life, you shall think back on this day with joy. But for that very reason I admonish you today to full Christian soberness. You shall not and may not say or do anything on this day that you will remember later with bitterness and remorse, having said and promised more in an hour of inner emotion than a human being can and may ever say. Your faith is still weak and untried and very much in the beginning. Therefore, when later on you speak the confession of your faith, do not rely on yourselves and on your good intentions and on the strength of your faith, but rely only on the one whom you confess, on God the Father, on Jesus Christ, and on the Holy Spirit. And pray in your hearts: I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief. Who among us adults would not and should not pray the same with you?

I love too these words:

“I believe.” Today, when the Christian congregation acknowledges you as autonomous members of the church, it expects that you begin to understand that your faith must be your very own individual decision. The “we believe” must now grow more and more into an “I believe.”

Faith is a decision. We cannot avoid that. “You cannot serve two masters”; from now on either you serve God alone or you do not serve God at all. Now you only have one Lord, who is the Lord of the world, who is the Savior of the world, who is the one who creates the world anew. To serve him is your highest honor. But to this Yes to God belongs an equally clear No. Your Yes to God demands your No to all injustice, to all evil, to all lies, to all oppression and violation of the weak and poor, to all godlessness and mocking of the Holy.

Near the conclusion, he says, “Come and receive in faith forgiveness, life, and peace.”


[1] Sermon preached on April 9, 1938. Text quoted from Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Theological Education Underground: 1937-1940 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works). Ed. Victoria J. Barnett. Trans. Victoria J. Barnett, Claudia D. Bergmann, Peter Frick, and Scott A. Moore. Vol. 15. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. Print. 476-480.


About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, an Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. I love working beside young people. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am going through a process to discern my calling, and to learn more about Christian Leadership. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
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One Response to Bonhoeffer Deeply Moving Me

  1. Noel Williams (prhayz) says:

    Mr. Bonhoeffer, was quite an individual. Moving next door to where those boys lived was very Christ-like. Not many of today’s Sheppard would do that. The souls of those boy meant more to him than even his own life. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).
    Excellent post Tom! Many for sharing those Bonhoeffer excerpts.

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