Whilst visiting friends recently, I picked up a copy of ‘Life Together’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (It’s always fun to look through someone else’s bookshelves!). I was reminded once again of the significance of this young German pastor who openly resisted the Nazis and paid for that resistance with his life, being hanged in Flossenburg extermination camp just one month before Germany surrendered.
Bonhoeffer was just 39 when he was put to death. Had he lived, who knows in what ways he would have inspired and led the church in Germany and elsewhere. However he did leave behind some writings that allow us a glimpse of his understanding of what it means to be Christian. One of his most famous quotes is “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Words that were eerily prophetic. Bonhoeffer’s words remind us of the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
There are no greater themes in human experience than life and death. There are many experiences that are less than universal, but life and death are absolutely our shared human experience. That is why this time of Easter is so profound and significant. As winter comes to a close and we begin to feel the warmth of spring, we see and feel new life all around us. It is the perfect time to reflect on life and death, to face up to both with confidence and hope.
We do that by focusing on Jesus, by looking to the cross and reflecting on an empty tomb. With Bonhoeffer we need to realise that all that matters is to put Jesus at the very centre of all that we think, believe and do, then other creeds, philosophies and systems will take their rightful place. But Jesus doesn’t just call us to come and die, for he is ultimately the Lord of life. He also said, “I have come that they may have life in all its fullness.” Both in this life, and in the life beyond death this is the Easter promise for all who would take up their cross in their own time as Bonhoeffer did in his.
May you be blessed this Easter and find new energy for life and awakened hope for all that is to come.
Grace and Peace