So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical times (3) Sunday 12 April 2020

Reflection on Easter: Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s Yes to Christ and his work of expiation.

The cross was the end, the death of the Son of God, curse and judgement on all flesh. If the cross had been the last word about Jesus, then the world would be lost in death and damnation without hope; then the world would have triumphed over God.

But God … raised Christ from the dead … The resurrection is the day of the begetting of the Son of God (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4). The Son receives back his eternal divine glory; the Father has the Son again.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s Yes to us. Christ died for our sins; he was raised for our righteousness (Rom. 4:25) … If Christ had remained dead, this death sentence would still stand: “We would still be in our sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Because, however, Christ is risen from the dead our sentence has been lifted, and we are risen with Christ (1 Cor. 15). This is the case because we are in Jesus Christ by virtue of his assumption of our human nature in the incarnation; what happens to him happens also to us, for we are assumed into him …

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s Yes to the creature. What takes place here is not the destruction of life in the body but its new creation. The body of Jesus comes forth from the tomb, and the tomb is empty. We are unable to grasp how it is possible and thinkable that the mortal and corruptible body is now present as the immortal, incorruptible, transfigured body … It is not a Christ-idea that lives on, but the bodily Christ. This is God’s Yes to the new creature in the midst of the old. In the resurrection we acknowledge that God has not given up on the earth but has personally won it back. God has given it a new future, a new promise. The vey earth God created bore the Son of God and his cross, and on this earth the Risen One appeared to his own, and to this earth Christ will come again on the last day. Those who affirm the resurrection of Christ in faith can no longer flee the world, nor can they still be enslaved by the world, for within the old creation they have perceived the new creation of God …  

TEXT: Hectograph, enclosed with the March 1940 monthly newsletter from the Pomeranian Council of Brethren of the Confessing Church to its pastors.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16, 472 ff., Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2006

TEXT & CONTEXT

Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes the resurrection as a relationship event of God in three dimensions: in his Yes to Christ, to Us and to the Creature. “For the world”, he writes at the end of his Reflection on Easter, “there remains an insoluble riddle.” “The world sees the ‘signs’, but it does not believe the miracle.” “For faith, however, this riddle is a sign of the reality that it already knows, an imprint of God acting in history … Faith receives the certainty of the resurrection solely from the present witness of Christ. It finds its confirmation in the historical imprints of the miracle, as scripture reports them. “

 To perceive “within the old creation … the new creation of God” – what does that mean in the historical context of this text?

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote it a few days before the Gestapo closed the Vicariate on March 18, 1940. Germany had started the war with the attack on Poland on September 1, 1939. In his letter to the Finkenwalder brethren of September 20, Bonhoeffer reports of the first war death of a Finkenwalder brother on September 3 as a soldier in Poland and writes: “Death has come again in the midst of us and we have to decide whether we like it or not, to think about it … If quarrel and death exercise their wild rule around us, then we are called to witness not only through words and thoughts, but also through the deed God’s love and peace.”

Half a year later, in the first manuscript of his ethics, Bonhoeffer unfolds his understanding of the double reality, which shapes the belief in the resurrection: “In Christ we are invited to participate in the reality of God and the reality of the world at the same time, the one not without the other. The reality of God is disclosed as it places me completely into the reality of the world. But I find the reality of the world always already born, accepted, and reconciled in the reality of God. That is the mystery of the revelation of God in the human being Jesus Christ. The Christian ethic asks then, how this reality of God and of the world, that is given in Christ becomes real in our world.” (Ethics, DBW, Volume 6, 55).

To perceive “within the old creation … the new creation of God” – what does that mean in our context of the corona crisis? Empathy and faith – facing the world – belong together. It all starts with empathy with those who are physically, mentally and in their very existence threatened by this crisis. At the same time, we need to look at signs of the new creation, because the strength of our resistance depends on our recognition and distinction: What can I leave behind – albeit in pain – and what do I want to live and stand for in future? What am I willing to do in our society and across national borders so that not only is solidarity practiced, but other people’s misery is raised as a criterion for law and justice? Believing in the threefold Yes of God, we already know that this new reality is “carried, accepted, reconciled” in Jesus Christ.

Christ, life from death,

overcome our world.

God reconciles what we separated.

So our guilt comes to an end.

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