Numbering Days with the Bonhoeffer Family

Sunday Musings

Metaxes Book CoverI have been slowly working my way through Eric Metaxes’ biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is well written, even if it lacks the documentation and footnotes that some would like. (Maybe Metaxas and the publisher will add that to later additions.) I am up to 1937 and the Nazi’s are beginning to get bolder in their corruptions and abuse of power.

Moments ago I read that on January 15th of 1937 Bonhoeffer preached a message from Psalm 90. His grandmother had died and he was tasked to preach her funeral. Just 16 days earlier, as was the tradition in the Bonhoeffer home, the family had read this very text on New Year’s Eve. Now that very text was the support for the family in their time of sorrow and also the wake-up call to all those who attended the funeral about the fleeting opportunities of life. Here’s an excerpt from that sermon:

A refusal to compromise over the right principle, free speech for the free individual, the fact that one’s word once given is binding, clarity and common sense in one’s opinions, candor and simplicity of life in private and in public these were the factors that went to her very heart. . . . She could not bear to see these values despised or to see the rights of an individual violated. For this reason her last years were clouded with the great sorrow that she bore for the fate of the Jews among our people, a burden which she shared with them and a suffering which she, too, felt. She stemmed from another age, from another spiritual world, and this world does not descend with her into the grave. . . . This heritage for which we thank her lays duties upon us.

Psalm 90 contains Moses sage advice on godly living. I have commented on this Psalm before.  The whole Psalm is filled with a sober call to use every moment of life for the glory of God. That was Moses counsel:

For all our days pass away under your wrath; 
we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 
10  The years of our life are seventy, 
or even by reason of strength eighty; 
yet their span is but toil and trouble; 
they are soon gone, and we fly away. 
11  Who considers the power of your anger, 
and your wrath according to the fear of you? 
12  So teach us to number our days 
that we may get a heart of wisdom. 

It’s always good advice to number our days and use them wisely. Maybe this Christmas or this New Year is a time to begin an annual family tradition that will nourish the soul of your family for generations to come—like the Bonhoeffer family.

Poetic reflection on Psalm 90   (Link)

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