Practical Christianity in the time of the passion

We sometimes refer to ourselves as “An Easter People” and some occasionally add: “Living in a Good Friday World”.  But, to be honest, the problems we face hereabouts, cruel as they may be for some people, are relatively mild.  Some of you have read the challenging book “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He not only wrote the book in 1937 in a Germany and a Church that were being Nazified, he lived it out, helping to found the underground “Confessing Church”.  He was, with other theologians, offered a safe haven in the Unites States in 1939.  But he returned to Germany after six weeks here on what would turn out to be the last scheduled passenger ship before the outbreak of war.  He continued to resist the Nazis and to minister to others doing the same.  He was arrested in 1943 and hanged on April 9, 1945, a week after Easter, and a month before the Resurrection experience of VE Day ended the long Good Friday of Nazism.  His death came at the personal, spiteful order of Hitler, who, knowing his cause was lost, determined to settle scores where he could.

He not only wrote the book in 1937 in a Germany and a Church that were being Nazified, he lived it out, helping to found the underground “Confessing Church”.  He was, with other theologians, offered a safe haven in the Unites States in 1939.  But, unable to live in safety while his comrades were at risk, he returned to Germany after six weeks here on what would turn out to be the last scheduled passenger ship before the outbreak of war.  He continued to resist the Nazis and to minister to others doing the same.  He was arrested in 1943 and hanged on April 9, 1945, a week after Easter, and a month before the Resurrection experience of VE Day ended the long Good Friday of Nazism.  His death came at the personal, spiteful order of Hitler, who, knowing his cause was lost, determined to settle scores where he could.

Another stirring example of practical Christianity was documented by Pierre Sauvage, a French film director, who was born to fleeing Jewish parents during WWII in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.  This farming community of about 5,000 souls in the mountains of the Auvergne, was mostly Protestant, descendants of those Huguenots who had not been killed or exiled after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of 1572 and the repression that followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.  When France fell to the Nazis their pastor, André Trocmé, told the community: “The responsibility of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the spirit.”                                                               

André Trocmé

André Trocmé

Trocmé was an outspoken opponent of the Nazi-Vichy segregation and then round-up of the Jews.  He was later arrested but not before he had arrange a network of safe-houses for Jews and other fugitives from persecution.  He was later released by mistake and escaped into the underground resistance.  By the war’s end almost 5,000 people found refuge in Le Chambon and were never betrayed by a community that had embarked on a “conspiracy of goodness.”  Sauvage’s parents and the infant Pierre were among the saved.  In homage he made the documentary, “Weapons of the Spirit”, in 1989.  It is a powerful description of Christian practice in the face of adversity.

                                                                                                       Christopher David