Lessons from Europe…

This November/December I’ll once again be spending some time in Germany and Austria, teaching at two different Bible Colleges.  During the trip this year, though, I hope to catalog some of the sites and history over there that have shaped my theology.  If you’ve read my blog for a little while, you know that some of my favorite inspirational martyrs are the young students who comprised the “White Rose” Fellowship in Germany.  I’m also a huge fan of Carl Muth, their mentor, a Catholic Priest who was banned from parish ministry and whose magazine was shut down as the Nazis sought though control throughout the land.  I’ll hope to send back some footage and post it here in December.

But this evening, as I’m preparing for this coming trip by re-reading some of these works and thinking about these people, I’ve been pondering the reality that there were some things about their particular manners of truth speaking that stand out as exemplary to me:

1. The spoke the particular truth that was needed for the moment –  They pulled the covers off the elephant in the room by telling people:  Germany is killing Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.  The fury of nationalism had made people unwilling to see the heinous crimes that were being committed.  Let’s note that it would be easy to turn one’s head.  The new leader had created jobs, a new pride of country in the wake of a disastrous WWI and subsequent treaty, and a grand vision of a pure and strong race who could, and would rule the world.  What’s not to like after all the defeat, and inflation, and unemployment?  The fact is many of us would be seduced.

But the more significant fact is that most people who were seduced recited the Apostle’s Creed on Sundays and sang hymns.  Lutheran or Catholic, it matters not.  They proclaimed to know Christ – while they knew of, or actively participated in sending Jews to camps and, ultimately, ovens.

This little bit of history keeps me awake at night.  What truths are we, am I, failing to see, or seeing, failing to declare?

Lord, apart from your revelation, we all see through a glass darkly, picking and choosing the issues to address that are convenient rather than important.  Thank you for the example of those who’ve gone before me who were granted the clarity to see the sins of their day, and to name them with courage.  Grant us the same through your spirit.

2. The truth they spoke was resisted by many church going people who recited, and believed, the Apostle’s Creed

This also keeps me awake sometimes because history teaches us that being in church puts me on neither the right nor wrong side of God’s ethical fence.

It scares me to think that any of us should be found working hard to protect some certain things while missing the real important things.  This is exactly what happened in Germany.  So, for example, what if we’re fighting for inerrancy, but ignoring homelessness.  What if we’re fighting for a certain definition of marriage, but doing nothing about the horrific divorce rate?  What if we’re strong on protecting life in the womb, but once the baby is born, we leave them to fight in our Darwinian system.  No health care?  That’s their problem!

Lord you know that your church is divided into conservative and liberal camps, postmodern and neo-Calvinist.  I fear we’re all in danger of missing important truths because of these schisms.  Give us the humility to listen and learn from each other, rather than simply label and accuse.  But as well, give us the boldness of conviction to know exactly when and where to stand with boldness and unyielding courage.

3. They were willing to pay the price for their convictions

Like Stephen, John the Baptist, Isaiah, and Peter, the White Rose students paid for their convictions with their lives.  I love their robust faith.  I love their love of life.  But I love, most of all, that they “love not their lives unto death” and so are counted among the great faithful saints who paid for their convictions with their blood.

The fear of man is snare is what you’ve told us Lord.  Forgive us our careful living, thinking more of consequences than convictions.  Banish from us any consideration other than this one thing:  Lord, what do you want?  And we’ll accept the consequences of our actions.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Birgit

    Hopefully we’ll get to see you this time!!!!! We are in Schladming Friday-Sunday – maybe we can have pizza on friday night if you have time ;-)
    I have been listening to your sermons for 2 weeks now (since I discovered they’re online) – great blessing! Thanks for making them available :-)
    Blessings to you and your family,
    Birgit :-)

  • http://www.welcometomarriedlife.com Krista

    Your second point comment: fighting for the unborn and then leaving them to our Darwinian healthcare system after they are born. I have been pondering this quite a bit recently of course with all the health care debate. See, I’ve worked in a pregnancy center off and on for years and I remember picketing along a road when I was about 10 with my mom for some event against abortion.
    Yet only recently (and under the influence of my very socially minded husband ~ see influence of Mission Year on him!) have I thought about health care as more of a basic human need/right than a luxury. I even got into quite the debate (playing the devil’s advocate) with some friends about it yesterday.
    I’m still through and through Republican and I really don’t think health care should be mandated, but there are always 2 sides to every story and I think Republicans really fall down on this one when they are so strongly pro-life yet that only seems to extend to babies before they are born… what we could learn from each other if we would only stop and listen to the other side… or be forced to by marrying someone your polar opposite! ;)

  • Rochelle

    Thank you for speaking out. You seem to hit often on things that I have already been pondering. I find myself going back to WWII mentaly and how things looked as it led up to events and I look around the wold today. We are so quick to judge them and yet we are not so differnt in many ways.
    Thanks Richard for all you do!
    Enjoy Germany for me, greet Peter Reid from me and I wish you wonderful skiing weather and enjoy some gluwine for us!


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