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November 22 – Eberhard Arnold

Today’s Bible reading

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:43-45

More thoughts for meditation about Eberhard Arnold

Eberhard Arnold was born in 1883 to a middle class family in Königsberg, Germany (now Kalinigrad of the Russian Federation). After a rambunctious childhood, he experienced an inner change at the age of 16. He became active in evangelism and had increasing compassion for the poor.

He married Emmy von Hollander. They would have five children. Both grew increasingly discontent with the new movements of urbanization and factorization in Germany. They criticized the state church of Germany for various reasons, Later their critique would provide a model for a new movement. In 1915 Arnold became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow) and became a sought-after speaker in the region.

Arnold supported Germany during the first World War at first, even enlisting for a few weeks before being discharged for medical reasons. He sent copies of The Furrow to young people at the front lines. The returning soldiers had a profound influence on Eberhard, and he had an increasingly difficult time reconciling the gospel with war.

During the war, the Germans sustained incredible losses. Afterwards, hunger protests and strikes were common responses to the political upheaval and national shame. Among groups working for change, the Youth Movement inspired Arnold with their love of nature, rejection of materialism, and aspirations towards joy and love.  Eberhard and Emmy began meeting with Youth Movement people once or twice a week in homes.

In 1920, the couple along with Emmy’s sister Else moved to the village of Sannerz to found the Bruderhof (place of brothers) community with seven adults and five children. Their community was founded on the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of the early church. The community grew and needed a bigger farm. Eberhard’s writing continued and he began corresponding with the Hutterite Brethren, an Anabaptist group that had fled to and flourished in the United States. The Bruderhof’s values now also included a common purse as well as pacifism.

The rise of the Nazi party was a catalyst for the Bruderhof to send their children (school age and draft age) out of the country. The rest of the community eventually also fled, during the travel Eberhard sustained a leg injury that led to his death on this day in 1935. The Bruderhof groups re-assembled in England before being forced out of the country. The Mennonite Central Committee helped them relocate to Paraguay, the only country that would accept a pacifist community with mixed nationalities. The Bruderhof Communites are now in four states in the US as well as Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

Quotes:

“Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.”—printed in Writings 

“Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder. ”
“Truth without love kills, but love without truth lies.”
“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself and to the life illumined by it.” —Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
 “We must have the love that exists among children, for with them love rules without any special purpose.”
Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“The whole world is shaking at its joints. We have the frightening impression that we stand before a great and catastrophic judgment. If this catastrophe does not take place, it is only because it has been averted by God’s direct intervention. And the church is called to move God—yes, God himself—to act. This does not mean that God will not or cannot act unless we ask him, but rather that he waits for people to believe in him and expect his intervention. For God acts among us only to the extent that we ask for his action and accept it with our hearts and lives. This is the secret of God’s intervention in history.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots and executions. We kill every time we close our eyes to poverty, suffering and shame.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We must live in community because we are stimulated by the same creative Spirit of unity who calls nature to unity and through whom work and culture shall become community in God.”—Why We Live in Community: With Two Interpretive Talks by Thomas Merton

Want more?

Biography and more: [Eberhard Arnold]

The Bruderhof website [link]

First of five interesting videos on Bruderhof history. Here’s one on Arnold:

Suggestions for Action

Arnold was a deep thinker who was open to the movement of God’s Spirit. He did not just think, he acted. His life was an incarnation of his convictions. He formed communities that had an influence much greater than their size might justify. Let his example inspire you to express your own faith and devotion in your troubled day.

April 9 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Matthew 5:38-42

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

More thoughts for meditation about Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his twin sister were born in a Prussian city (now in Poland) in 1906.   His family moved to Berlin a few years later. Bonhoeffer earned a doctorate in theology at the age of 21 from perhaps the most prestigious university in the world at the time – the University of Berlin.   He began to pastor but continued to pursue academic work which took him to Spain and then to Harlem. Dissatisfied with the lack of rigor at Union Seminary, where he was teaching and doing post graduate work, he became a disciple and Sunday school teacher at Abyssinian Baptist Church, where his love for spirituals developed along with his deep desire for the Church to change the world.

Two years after his return to Germany, the Nazi Party rose to power. Bonhoeffer was overtly critical of the regime and a resister from the beginning.  While Hitler and the Nazis infiltrated and found a stronghold in the German Church, Bonhoeffer was building something new in Germany through the Confessing Church.  After only a few months under Nazi control, Bonhoeffer moved to London to work on international ecumenical work, highly frustrated with the state of the German church.

Two years later, rather than going to study non-violent civil disobedience under Ghandi he returned to Germany, responding to the repeated pleas and demands of Swiss theologians and Karl Barth.  The Confessing Church was under fire by the Nazis.  Barth was sent back to Switzerland. Bonhoeffer soon lost his credentials to teach because he was a “pacifist and enemy of the state.”   He began underground seminaries and further resisted.

Bonhoeffer became more involved in direct resistance and was arrested in 1943.  He was part of a group that was responsible both for attempts at liberating Jews and attempting to assassinate Hitler. His pacifism has been widely written about, especially in light of this glaring contradiction.

Dietrich was executed on this day in 1945, two weeks before US soldiers liberated his prison camp.  He is largely considered a martyr for the faith, for peace, and as a Nazi resister.  Among two of his most influential works are Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship – this quote is from the latter:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Want to watch a small documentary about his life? Here is a [link]

Bonhoeffer speaks out against Hitler [link]

Suggestions for action

Bonhoeffer applied himself to unmasking the lies of his culture and the ideologies that took God’s place. It was not easy, since the church was generally in line with them. In spite of state threat and lack of support from the church, he took risks to teach the truth, even moving back to Germany when he would have been safer elsewhere.

That kind of courage is demonstrated in the Bible repeatedly by people whose loves are trained on God. What threat do you feel from those you know and from the great “other” of the powers that be when it comes to expressing your faith in word and deed? Pray for courage. Pray that we are a confessing church in a culture of lies.