Bonhoeffer on the Reformation

I thought in light of Reformation Day (Oct. 31) I am posting about a sermon I recently read in the newly published Volume 12-Berlin: 1932-1933 of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works – English.  I was so thoroughly challenged by the words of his Reformation Sunday sermon (Nov. 6, 1932) that I couldn’t help but share some of it. His text was Revelation 2:4-5, 7:

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at the first.  Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent….Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”

(The following is an excerpt from the sermon):

     Protestantism is not about us and our protest against the world, but rather about God’s protest against us: ‘But I have this against you…’ 
     But we are still pretending, aren’t we?  When it comes down to it, we know very well that it is not about ‘A mighty fortress,’ nor about ‘Here I stand’; this is not the protest we are talking about.  We know full well about God’s protest against us, and we know that, most of all on Reformation Day, God is out in force against us.  But we don’t want to admit it, either to ourselves or to the world.  We are afraid we would look foolish in the eyes of Gd and the world if we admitted any such thing.  That’s why we make so much noise about this day, October 31, hammering wrong ideas into the hands of thousands of schoolchildren, only so that they don’t notice our weakness, so that we can forget it ourselves.
     No our time has run out for such solemn church feast days on which we put on an act for ourselves.  Let us stop celebrating the Reformation that way!  Let us lay the dead Luther to rest at long last, and instead listen to the gospel, reading his Bible, hearing God’s own word in it.  At the last judgment God is certainly going to ask us not, ‘ Have you celebrated Reformation Day properly?’ but rather, ‘Have you heard my word and kept it?’ (441-442)

He reminds the Church that the charge laid out by the Reformers (and found in his text) was that the Lord Himself was protesting against the Church and demanding repentance and works of obedience from Her.  Such a powerful reminder that the Church is in constant need of faithfulness…therefore let our cry be ‘Semper reformanda’ (‘always reforming’)!  With Bonhoeffer let us pray, “God be our help.”

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