Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


1 Comment

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Destiny

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Many of us enjoyed the Valkyrie movie which showed the courage of those who sacrificed life and family to put an end to Nazism.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, though not mentioned directly in the movie, was instrumental in the Valkyrie plot to stop Hitler.  Martyred for his faith just 23 days before the Allies liberated Germany, Bonhoeffer’s last poem and his Barmen Declaration are printed in the ‘Lutheran’ hymnbook.[1]

Coming from a highly educated, aristocratic family, Bonhoeffer shocked his family by deciding to become a pastor.[2] Bonhoeffer was spiritually impacted by his Moravian Brethren ‘nanny’ Maria Horn who introduced him to the practice of having daily devotions.[3] After earning his doctorate at age 21, Bonhoeffer moved to the United States where he encountered African-American gospel music and preaching at the 14,000-member Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY.  The Abyssinian Church was led by Dr Adam Clayton Powell Sr, the son of slaves whose mother was a full-blooded Cherokee.  Dr Powell told a powerful story of his conversion to Christ from heavy drinking, violence and gambling.[4] Bonhoeffer was deeply moved by Dr Powell, saying “…here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.”[5]

Moving back to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer warned people about the dangers of Nazism, but many brushed off his prophetic statements as alarmist.  The Nazis worked carefully to first silence and then take over the Churches in Germany, birthing a movement called the German Christian Movement which discarded the Old Testament, putting the swastika at the centre of the cross.[6] At the Berlin Sports Stadium in 1933, in front of 20,000 supporters, the cross was denounced as ‘a ridiculous debilitating remnant of Judaism, unacceptable to National Socialists.’[7]  Nazis believed that it was un-aryan to let Jesus take our sins on the cross.

 Bonhoeffer responded by forming the Confessing Church movement which rejected racism and hatred of others. The Confessing Church started five seminaries/centres for training future pastors. Many Confessing Churches were firebombed by gangs of Hitler Youth.  On December 1935, the Nazis declared the Confessing Church to be illegal. They forbid the Confessing Church to hire employees, send out newsletters, take collections, or train students for ordination.[8] In 1937, the Nazis banned worship services from being held in unconsecrated buildings, homes or in public meeting halls.  It also became illegal to pray for anyone who had been sent to prison.[9]  Many Confessing Church pastors ended up in prison.

In 1938, Bonhoeffer quietly contacted Admiral Wilhelm Canaris who was involved in the German resistance movement. As the leader of the Abwehr Intelligence, Canaris was seeking for a way to remove Hitler.[10]  After the annexation of Austria and the destruction of over three hundred synagogues and 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses on the night of Kristallnacht, Bonhoeffer was persuaded to return to the United States. His friends were sure that Hitler was about to destroy Bonhoeffer.  He had no peace in the USA, knowing that Germany needed him.  Bonhoeffer opened his bible to the verse: He who believes does not flee. After only four weeks, he embraced his destiny, taking the last ship back to Germany.[11]

After the invasion of Poland and then France, Bonhoeffer was now required to report regularly to the police. He was forbidden to speak in public or publish books.[12] In 1943, while working for the underground, Bonhoeffer fell in love with and became engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer. Three months later he was arrested by the Gestapo.   “Your life would have been quite different, easier, clearer, simpler, had not our paths crossed,” he wrote to her. But Maria stayed faithful to Bonhoeffer to the very end.[13] While in Tegel Prison, Bonhoeffer wrote: “Church is only church when it is there for others.” One of the guards, Sergeant Knobloch, tried to smuggle Bonhoeffer out disguised as a mechanic. But Bonhoeffer rejected the escape plan in order to protect his fiancée and family.[14] A British fellow prisoner said later that ‘Bonhoeffer was all humility and sweetness with a deep gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive.’[15]

After Bonhoeffer was hung at Flossenburg, the prison doctor reported: “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”[16]

I thank God for the courage of Bonhoeffer that he sacrificed his own life in order to make a way forward for others. Bonhoeffer was truly a man who embraced his destiny.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


[1]Schlingensiepen,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 1906-1945: martyr, thinker, man of resistance, T&T Clark, 2010,   P.xxii

[2] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, March 20th 2009,  http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[3]  Schlingensiepen, P. 10, 228, 382 “chapter 1 ft 6 “the Moravian Losungn ( watchword for the day), the daily devotions book, played an operant part in Bonhoeffer’s life and is still widely used today.”

[4] Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy , Thomas Nelson,Nashville, P.108

[5] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, March 20th 2009,  http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[6] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[7] Metaxas, P.193, P.290 Himmler told Moni Von Cramin: “As an Aryan I must have the courage to take responsibility for my sins alone.” He rejected as ‘jewish’ the idea of putting one’s sins on someone else’s shoulders.

[8] Schlingensiepen, P. 193

[9] Schlingensiepen, P. 205

[10] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[11] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[12] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[13] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, http://bit.ly/dMqnb8

[14] Schlingensiepen, P. 359

[15] Schlingensiepen, P.369

[16] Metaxas, P.464


Leave a comment

Bill W. and Dr. Sam: 12 Steps to Freedom

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

With millions set free from the ravages of uncontrollable drinking, who among us cannot be thankful for the gift of Alcoholics Anonymous?  Many of us have friends, family, and co-workers who are alive and well today because of the miracle of the 12 Steps.  Over the years, I have had the privilege of doing a number of ‘5th Steps’ with people in recovery.  I have always come away from those experiences with a deepened sense of gratitude for the amazing gift of life.

One of the perhaps unexpected spin-offs of AA has been the dozens of recovery groups who apply the 12 Steps to all kinds of addictions and challenges, including overeating, narcotics, sexual brokenness, emotional dysfunctions, and gambling dependencies.  One of the fastest-growing spin-offs is the ACOA movement for Adult Children of Alcoholics.  There is even a specifically Christ-centered expression based on the beatitudes called ‘Celebrate Recovery’ that over 400,000 have already participated in.

Where did these amazing 12 Steps come from, in the first place?  They were written by Bill W who had been mentored towards a life-changing faith by the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker.  Dr. Sam, as he was known affectionately in AA circles, had a profound impact on the spiritual awakening of Bill W.

As Bill W tells it in ‘AA Comes of Age’, he went with his friend Ebby to Dr. Sam’s Calvary Church Mission.  “There were some hymns and prayers.  Then Tex, the leader, exhorted us.  Only Jesus could save, he said.  Somehow this statement did not jar me.  Certain men got up and gave testimonials.  Numb as I was, I felt interest and excitement rising.  Then came the call.  Some men were starting forward to the rail.  Unaccountably impelled, I started too…I knelt among the shaking penitents. Maybe then and there, for the first time, I was penitent too.  Something touched me.  I guess it was more than that.  I was hit.  I felt a wild impulse to talk. Jumping to my feet, I began…Ebby, who at first had been embarrassed to death, told me with relief that I had done all right and had ‘given my life to God.’”

Bill W said that ‘It was from Sam that co-founder Dr. Bob and I in the beginning absorbed most of the principles that were afterwards embodied in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA’s way of life.’  Bill W went on to say that Dr. Sam ‘gave us the concrete knowledge of about what we could do about (alcoholism)’ and that Dr. Sam ‘passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated’.  Dr Sam, according to Bill W, ‘has been the connecting link’.  Dr Sam even hosted the first AA meetings in his Calvary Episcopal (Anglican) Church Hall in New York.

Even though Dr. Sam was not an alcoholic, he had unusual insights into the human condition that drew alcoholics to him.  Reminiscing about the first time that he met Dr. Sam, Bill W said: ‘I can still see him standing there before the lectern.  His utter honesty, his tremendous forthrightness, struck me deep.  I shall never forget it.’  According to Bill W, Dr. Sam ‘always called a spade a spade, and his blazing eagerness, earnestness, and crystal clarity drove home his message point by point…Here was a man quite as willing to talk about his own sins as about anybody else’s.’

The author of twenty-eight books, Dr. Sam was named as one of the ten greatest preachers in North America.  He challenged all of the backward failings of humanity with fierceness, wit and relevancy.  But Dr. Sam was never pessimistic or despairing.

Upon Dr. Sam’s death, the late Billy Graham said: ‘Words cannot express adequately the sense of personal loss I have felt at the home-coming of our beloved Sam.  What a blessing it has been for me to talk and especially pray with this giant among men.  I doubt that any man in our generation has made a greater impact for God on the Christian world than did Sam Shoemaker’.

Many 12 Step groups around the world pray both the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s prayer.  Both prayers are about ‘letting Go and letting God’.  According to Bill W, breakthroughs happen when “…we can surrender and truly feel, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done’”.  It is so hard to let go.  Yet as we work the twelve steps, as we admit our powerlessness, as we turn our lives and will over to the care of God, as we seek only for the knowledge of God’s will, then miracles can happen.

As Dr. Sam said to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention, “Prayer is not trying to get God to change His will. It is trying to find out what His will is, to align ourselves or realign ourselves with His purpose for the world and for us.  When we let willfulness cool out of us, God can get His will across to us as far as we need to see ahead of us.  Dante said, ‘In His will is our peace’.”

Dr. Sam concluded his address to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention by saying: “I thank God that the church has so widely associated itself with AA, because I think AA people need the church for personal stabilization and growth, but also because I think that the church needs AA as a continuous spur to greater aliveness and expectation and power.”  “Perhaps the time has come”, said Dr. Sam, “for the church to be reawakened and revitalized by the insights and practices found in AA.”

My prayer for those reading this article is that as with Bill W and Dr. Sam, God may make each of us a channel of his peace, his serenity and his sobriety.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca