It is nearly ten years since “9/11”, one of the most heinous acts of violence ever perpetrated on American soil. Whatever one may believe about the socio-political ramifications of what our response should be/should have been to this event, the fact remains that we are left with a sense of violation, vulnerability and uncertainty. As is the case with all international conflicts there are common patterns that emerge when we look at the players involved.
We experienced many of the same feelings of shock, dismay and indignation that faced the nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. There is a certain déjà vu rooted in our psyches that can haunt our shared memory. What are we to make of all this? What does it say about God? About our world? About us?
One man of God, a German Lutheran preacher, writer and theologian, Dietrich Bonheoffer, asked these hard questions to an audience who watched with baited breath the insidious advance of the Nazis through Europe during the Second World War. As one well acquainted with a dark and broken world desperately needing the redemptive touch of God, few others can speak more capably to the gospel notion of life through death. Bonheoffer’s personal commitment to Christ and the humble way of the cross led him into a Nazi prison and ultimately to a martyr’s death at the hand of his captors literally hours within reach of an allied rescue and the fall of the Third Reich. As we seek to follow Jesus and the way of the cross, we, like Bonheoffer and countless ones before and after him, will be expected to “die” in order that others may live.
Ash Wednesday, historically the beginning of the Lenten season, pictures Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and signifies a time of contrition – of repentance, humility and self-inspection before God and others. Whether in the larger events of our day or the minutiae of our lives both hidden and otherwise, we are beckoned to the desert with Jesus. Bonheoffer’s writings invite us, especially at the Lenten season, to a place of introspection and smallness before God. We are urged to frame the question, how are we ‘dying’ to live?