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When most people think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, they may think of the Nazi Germany and World War II time frame. And that is easy to do. Those were the years that first attracted me to Bonhoeffer. However, we all have formative years including Bonhoeffer. The years of 1928 to 1931 greatly impacted Bonhoeffer for the future.
Dietrich was completely engaged in the community, becoming a member of the “German Clubs”: the German tennis and glee cubs. His talents in music, chess, and athletics were, at the same time, beneficial
(Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life, 17)
After the completion of his first dissertation, Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
became a vicar to the German congregation in Barcelona for a year. This may have presented a somewhat difficult situation for the pastor who was there, since the tranquility of the comminity was suddenly upset.
Bonhoeffer encouraged new ways of doing things and reinvogorated the old. Whenever he led the worship service or the children’s worship, the church was full.
Naturally, the country irself also fascinated the young vicar. He visited Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and Madrid.
With the encouragement of his brother Klaus, who already knew Spain, he came to enjoy the bullfights!
(Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life)
Dietrich’s sister, Susanne wrote the following about her brother’s plan to celebrate the coming of spring (1927)
Dietrich proposed to celebrate the first beautiful days of spring in April with a journey through the countryside. Through it all, we were a very happy group. We stopped wherever we pleased, and in the afternoon we planned our itinerary to the next village. We sent two ahead to arrange accommodations–in any inn, never in youth hostels (14).
After the trip to Italy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer returned home and set to work in earnest on his studies in Berlin. Not only was he busy, however, with his tasks at the university; he also partcipated completely in what Berlin had to offer: concerts, theaters, and museums.
Besides that, he had an active life at home with many siblings and friends. They went on trips, arranged parties, and often went to dances.
His mother always had good ideas for these occassions, and even years later one heard from the participants how much they enjoyed these festivities
(Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 13)
Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words … never really speaking to others. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together , tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 98 (see the book; see also Prov. 17:27; 29:20; Tit. 1:10-11; Eph. 4:29; more at Authenticity)
It was not easy for him to leave Rome.
His journal notes…
“When I looked at St. Peter’s for the last time, there was a pain around my heart, and I quickly got on the trolleycar and left…”
(Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 12).
Today, I read Charles Colson’s BreakPoint commentary government run churches. Can it happen in the West? Well, read Colson’s comments below.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly experienced the intrusion of the government in churches.
In Rome, Dietrich’s encounter with the Catholic church–which played only a minor role in Berlin at that time–was very important. In his journal he noted:“Palm Sunday…the first day that something of the reality of Catholicism dawned on me, nothing romantic or the like, but rather that I am beginning, I believe, to understand the concept ‘church'” (Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 11).