Walking the Journey to Justice with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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1 Walking the Journey to Justice with Dietrich Bonhoeffer Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging April 9, 1945, at the Flossenbürg concentration camp, just two weeks before its liberation. He was one of about 30,000 prisoners who lost their lives there. This prayer service uses the words of the martyred pastor as a way to examine our own consciences and actions. Given its length, you may adapt it to meet your group s needs. Materials Needed Computer (with internet access) A chime or bell Bible Candle/Matches Photo of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (link included below) Band-Aids (one per participant) arranged in a basket Preparation Prior to the prayer service, the coordinator will need to: 1) Recruit five readers, including a leader and one person to light the candle. 2) Download a photo of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 3) Locate the following on the internet: Opening Song: Up to the Mountain by Susan Boyle (Optional) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xheg3vocme Youtube Reflection on Bonheoffer s poem: Who Am I? (2:26 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejqnzqhqiya 4) Invite a musician or singer to lead the closing song: Kumbaya. 5) Place Bible (opened to Matthew 5: 1-12), candle, photo of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a basket of Band-Aids on a small table. 1 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

2 Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer CALL TO PRAYER: LEADER: (Invite participant to light the candle.) As we come together, let us settle into stillness. Slowly, ever so slowly, center our minds and hearts. (A chime or a bell may be sounded.) OPENING SONG: (Optional) Up to the Mountain by Susan Boyle LEADER: Today we pause to remember the life of German theologian, pastor, spiritual writer, and activist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was one of the few church leaders who courageously opposed Adolf Hitler and his polices. He resisted National Socialism at a time when tyranny and racism ruled Germany, victimizing religious, ethnic, and social minorities. Bonhoeffer applied his faith and theological reflections to his everyday actions. Like Jesus, he understood the true cost of discipleship. On April 8, 1945, he was sentenced to death for his part in the plot to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer was hanged the following day. The last words of this courageous 39-year-old opponent of Nazism were, This is the end for me, the beginning of life. READER 1: (Leader sounds chimes or bell) Let us open our hearts to this prayer written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his incarceration at the Tegel prison in Berlin. O God, I cry to you. Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone. In me it is dark, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not desert me. My courage fails me, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace; in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me. Father [Mother] in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night s rest. Praise and thanks be to you for the new day. Praise and thanks be to you for all your loving-kindness and faithfulness in my past life. You have shown me so much goodness; let me also accept what is hard to bear from your hand. You will not lay a heavier burden on me than I can carry. You make all things serve for the best for your children. Lord, whatever this day brings, your name be praised. 2 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

3 READER 2: (Leaders sounds chime or bell) Let us listen to the words taken from the Gospel of Matthew words that had very special meaning for our brother Dietrich. For him, the Beatitudes encompassed the very essence of Christian discipleship. A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up to the mountainside, and after he sat down and the disciples gathered around, Jesus began to teach them: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit: the kindom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are those who are mourning: they will be consoled. Blessed are those who are gentle: they will inherit the land. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: they will have their fill. Blessed are they who show mercy to others: they will be shown mercy. Blessed are those whose hearts are clean: they will see God. Blessed are those who work for peace: They will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their struggle for justice: the kindom of heaven is theirs. You are fortunate when others insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great; they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. (Matthew 5:1-12 from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation, 2007) READER 3: We live in a world encompassing the agents of terror, their victims and those who risk their lives to defend them, and still others garbed in robes of fear and indifference. Bonhoeffer s words of long ago continue to inspire and to challenge peoples of all ages and nationalities. In these moments together let us dare to listen with opens hearts, searching minds and repentant souls to the prophetic words of our martyred brother that call upon each of us to examine our own conscience. Let us proclaim in unison: READER 4: We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. We must not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God. How have you allowed God to interrupt your life? Has this interruption sparked a readiness to accept your responsibility to confront violence and injustice in the global community? 3 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

4 READER 5: Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. LEADER: Invite participants to pause for a moment of silence and reflect on the following questions: In judging the harshness and cruelty of the world, should we not also remember our role in perpetuating it? As we look at the injustices of our world, in what ways do you contribute to their perpetration? ALL: There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler. READER 1: Being free means being free for the other, because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free. What does it mean to be in relationship with others? READER 2: Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God s will. What is God calling you to do? READER 3: We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. Into what wheel of injustice would you risk driving a spoke? READER 4: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. 4 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

5 When was the last time you spoke out against an act of injustice? Do you have an obligation to act against that which does not affect you directly, for example, the imprisonment of innocent men held at Guantánamo or the crisis of homeless teens in the United States? Reader 5: Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him. Do you need to be converted? Why or why not? READER 1: As brother stands by brother in distress, binding up his wounds and soothing his pain, so let us show our love towards our enemy. There is no deeper distress to be found in the world, no pain more bitter than our enemy s. Nowhere is service more necessary or more blessed than when we serve our enemies. Who is your enemy? How can you show love to him or her? READER 2: The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. What are you doing to ensure a world of peace and equality for children of today and tomorrow? READER 3: Human beings are dehumanized by fear But they should not be afraid! That is the difference between human beings and the rest of creation, that in all hopelessness, uncertainty, and guilt, they know a hope, and this hope is: Thy will be done. Yes. Thy will be done LEADER: Invite participants to pause for a moment of silence and reflect on the following: Name some of your fears. How do your fears prevent you from doing God s will? 5 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

6 READER 4: (Leader sounds chime or bell) We join with Bonhoeffer in contemplating that fundamental question which he asked one month before he was executed, Who am I? Hear the words of this man destined to die in the name of justice. (Note: The group can listen to the poem via Youtube. If Internet is not available, the poem can be read.) Who Am I? Who am I? They often tell me I step out from my cell calm and cheerful and poised, like a squire from his manor. Who am I? They often tell me I speak with my guards freely, friendly and clear, as though I were the one in charge. Who am I? They also tell me I bear days of calamity serenely, smiling and proud, like one accustomed to victory. Am I really what others say of me? Or am I only what I know of myself? Restless, yearning, sick, like a caged bird, struggling for life breath, as if I were being strangled, starving for colors, for flowers, for birdsong, thirsting for kind words, human closeness, shaking with rage at power, lust and pettiest insult, tossed about, waiting for great things to happen, helplessly fearing for friends so far away, too tired and empty to pray, to think, to work, weary and ready to take my leave of it all? Who am I? This one or the other? Am I this one today and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite and in my own eyes a pitiful, whimpering weakling? Or is what remains in me like a defeated army, Fleeing in disarray from victory already won? Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest me; O God, I am thine! (Pause for a moment of silence. If time permits, leader invites participants to share their reflections.) 6 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

7 LEADER: As we close, a basket of Band-Aids will be passed among you. Please take one. Keep it near you, perhaps in your wallet or pocketbook. May it serve as a reminder that our Christian responsibility is not only to care for the wounds of the oppressed but also to fearlessly speak truth to power to hold the agents of terror accountable and to bring out of the darkness the root causes of injustices. CLOSING SONG: From a hymnal or songbook, you may wish to sing Make Me a Channel of Your Peace by Jon Cohen. You may end by praying the classic Prayer of St. Francis, or you may sing: Kumbaya (American Folk Song, adapted) Change our hearts, Oh God, kumbaya, Change our hearts, Oh God. kumbaya, Change our hearts, Oh God. kumbaya, Oh God, kumbaya. Ease their pain, Oh God, kumbaya. Ease their pain, Oh God, kumbaya. Ease their pain, Oh God, kumbaya. Oh God, kumbaya. Feel our hurts, Oh God, kumbaya. Feel our hurts, Oh God, kumbaya. Feel our hurts, Oh God, kumbaya. Oh God, kumbaya. End abuse, Oh God, kumbaya. End abuse, Oh God, kumbaya. End abuse, Oh God, kumbaya. Oh God, kumbaya. Grant us peace, O God, kumbaya. Grant us peace, Oh God, kumbaya. Grant us peace, Oh God, kumbaya. Oh God, kumbaya. Make us brave, Oh God, kumbaya. Make us brave, Oh God, kumbaya. Make us brave, Oh God, kumbaya. Oh God, kumbaya. Change our hearts, Oh God, kumbaya, Change our hearts, Oh God. kumbaya, Change our hearts, Oh God. kumbaya, Oh God, kumbaya. 7 / 7 Dianna Ortiz, OSU l Copyright 2014, Center of Concern

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