Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and scholar who was arrested and executed for plotting against Hitler in World War II. His life and works are of great interest to Christians. Although his life span was a mere 39 years, he engaged with the most difficult issues, took the greatest risks, endured suffering, and died at the hands of the Gestapo.
Crux, the journal published by Regent College, published an issue devoted to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Vol. 42, #3). In "Bonhoeffer's Last Writings from Prison," John Conway relates the final words of Bonhoeffer:
Bonhoeffer read the set texts: Isaiah 53:5 "With his wounds we are healed," and 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." But then two guards arrived to summon him to leave. There was only time to ask Captain Best, if he survived, to take a short message to England, and to remember him to his ecumenical partner and friend, Bishop George Bell of Chichester: "Tell him that for me this is the end but also the beginning-with him I believe in the principle of our Universal Christian Brotherhood which rises above all national interests, and that our victory is certain." (Page 9).
The Christian martyr was executed shortly afterwards.
In The Boenhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of a Protestant Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress Press) 2004, Stephen R. Haynes examines how Bonhoeffer's life and work has provoked different interpretations and receptions since his death. Liberals and conservatives, philosophers and historians, Christians and non-Christians alike all have their own ideas about the historical significance of his life and the theological significance of his writings. It appears that the global Christian community has just begun to realize the full brilliance of the man and his life.
Compared to so many other momentous aspects of his life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's thoughts about meditation seem secondary in significance. Yet he was indeed a man who meditated upon scripture:
Daily, quiet reflection on the Word of God as it applies to me (even if only for a few minutes) becomes for me a point of crystallization for everything which gives interior and exterior order to my life. Meditating on the Word edited and translated by David M. Gracie (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley) 1986. Page 51.
He also encouraged others to do so:
Meditation can give to our lives a measure of steadiness; it can preserve the link to our previous existence, from baptism to confirmation to ordination; it can keep us in the wholesome fellowship of the congregation, of our brothers, of our spiritual home; it can be a spark from that hearth fire that the congregations want to keep tending for you at home. Meditation is a source of peace, of patience, and of joy; it is like a magnet which draws together all the forces in our life which make for order; it is like deep water which reflects the clouds and the sun on its clear surface." (Gracie, pages 51-52).
This man of courage and action did not hesitate to speak in poetic terms about the virtues of meditating upon scripture.
In response to the question of how one should meditate, Bonhoeffer offers simple instructions:
We begin meditation with a prayer for the Holy Spirit. Then we ask for composure of mind for ourselves and for all those whom we know to be meditating as well. Then we turn to the text. At the end of the meditation we will be in a position to say a prayer of thanksgiving with a full heart.
The Way to Freedom edited and translated by E.H. Robertson (New York: Harper and Row) 1966. Page 59.
Someone who prayerfully reads and thinks about scripture cannot go wrong with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Let us, therefore, out of respect for the memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and to the glory of God, meditate upon the following verse:
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
That I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, O Lord, according to your laws.
(NIV Psalm 119: 147-149).
We may be assured that, through the promises of God, the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was and is preserved throughout eternity. Praise Jesus.
In faith and fellowship,