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Haddon Willmer invites you to meet Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his poems from prison – 7.30pm, MBC, 9 April 2019 

16 March 2019

The Poems.  In his ten prison poems, Dietrich Bonhoeffer  breaks out of the disciplined reticence of a learned Prussian theologian, and comes into the light as a human being, struggling with loneliness and fear and anger, suffering  as war and bad government and loss of faith and love destroyed humanity, all  the while trusting in God, following Jesus, and being sustained in the good company of God’s grace. 

If the theological letters only speak to a few, the poems are accessible to many. 

In this talk, large parts of the poems will be read in English translation so that everyone has the opportunity hear  Bonhoeffer for themselves.  

Bonhoeffer is famous for  his resistance to the Nazi regime,  which cost him his life.   And for some of his  ideas which have been stirring up theologians, for and against,  even to the present day.   It is easy to lose the man in the fame and in the thousands of words of his prose that were smuggled out of his cell. But the human being can’t be missed in the poems. There, we can meet him, person to person. 

The  Season  This talk is being given at 7.30pm on 9 April 2019, the anniversary of his being killed in Flossenburg  concentration camp on 9 April 1945.  He died just after Good Friday and Easter Day, which, that year, were on 30 March and 1 April.  We will be reading his poems just a few days before Good Friday this year.  

We can live this season together as Bonhoeffer lived it – with Jesus Christ.  He loved life and looked for its fullness, in company  with the Easter  Lord and Giver of life.   Keeping company with Jesus  means staying with him in Gethsemane,  and  Bonhoeffer had for many years not evaded the dark Gethsemane he along with many others was called into. 

He wrote about  the ‘constant knowledge of death and resurrection’,  which goes with   ‘living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but the sufferings of God in the world – watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith;  that is metanoia, and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian (cf.Jer.45!).’

And in his final poem which is full of joy and love and hope,  there is an unflinching yet peaceful  reference to Gethsemane:  ‘And should you give us  the difficult cup,  the bitterness of suffering, filled to the very brim, we will take it thankfully without trembling, from your good and beloved hand.’

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