Good Friday

Rev. Dona Johnson | March 29, 2024

Unwilling to allow the church to compromise  its most fundamental beliefs in the face of  Nazism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran  pastor worked tirelessly to keep the true spirit  of the church alive in Germany, his resistance  cost him his life.  

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp Bonhoeffer composed prayers for the other  prisoners, circulating them illegally and he prayed for  the prison guards—he kept everyone going…  

                  On Sunday February 8, 1944 Bonhoeffer led a  worship service for the prisoners. He titled his  sermon, “Through his stripes we are healed”  (Isaiah 53:5). He continued with 1 Peter 1:3  “According to his great mercy, he has caused us  to be born again to a living hope through the  resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” Early the following morning Bonhoeffer was led  to the scaffold. The camp doctor watched:  through the half-door in one room of the huts I  saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his  prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying  fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved  by the way this loveable man prayed, so devout  and certain that God heard his prayer. At the  place of execution, he again said a short prayer  then climbed the steps of the gallows, brave and  composed. His death ensued a few seconds. In  the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor,  I have hardly seen a man die so entirely  submissive to the will of God. 

“Who Am I” is one of his well-known poems  written from his prison cell.

Who am I?

Who am I? They often tell me

I step from my cell

calm and cheerful and poised

like a squire from his manor.

Who am I? They often tell me

I speak with my guards

freely, friendly and clear,

as though I were the one in charge.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bear days of calamity

serenely, smiling and proud,

like one accustomed to victory.

Am I really what others say of me?

Or am I only what I know of myself?

restless, yearning, sick, like a caged bird, struggling for life breath, as if I were being  strangled, starving for colors, for flowers, for  birdsong, thirsting for kind words, human  closeness, shaking with rage at power lust and  pettiest insult, tossed about, waiting for great  things to happen, helplessly fearing for friends  so far away, too tired and empty to pray, to  think, to work, weary and ready to take my  leave of it all?

Who am I? This one or the other?

Am I this one today and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite, and in my own eyes a pitiful, whimpering  weakling? Or is what remains in me like a  defeated army, fleeing in disarray from victory  already won?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely  questions of mine, Whoever I am, Thou knowest  me, O God, I am thine! 1

 Prayer: Lord gives us the faith and courage to  surrender our wills to your will and live as  true and faithful disciples. Amen. 
1 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Translated by Nancy Lukens et al. Eberhard Bethge et al, eds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress, 2010). 459.