by Pastor Chris McKnight
As our culture and country continues to cascade into moral chaos and spiral down the toilet of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, it is good for us to hear voices from the past, voices from a time even worse than our own. That voice is Pastor/Theologian/Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German spy and theologian of the resistance against Hitler and the Nazi regime.
In 1935 in London, he preached a sermon on death. He would be executed in 1945 (only two weeks before American soldiers liberated his prison camp). Just the fact that he preached on death is telling.
As your pastor/teacher, high on my list of priorities is to do all I can to prepare you for death. Of course that means preaching Christ as our only hope in life and death, Christ crucified and risen and ascended and returning as the singular and exclusive means to be right with God, Christ Jesus the Lord as our only way, truth and life. But I want more for you than mere readiness to die. I want you to die well when your time comes.
To that end, here is an excerpt from Pastor Bonhoeffer’s sermon addressed to the believers that day in London on the eve of WW II:
“No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.
He was 28 when he gave this sermon. Some might suggest these are the brave but empty words of a young person with death decades away, but that simply wasn’t the case. By 1935 he saw, perhaps before anyone else, where Hitler would take Germany and what it would likely cost him personally.
The concentration camp doctor at Flossenburg, where Bonhoeffer was hanged, gave the following account of Bonhoeffer’s death years later:
“On the morning of that day between five and six o’clock the prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open 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 lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensured after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
(Quotes are from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, pp. 531-532).
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight