Promise and hope is what the Lenten season is to lead us to with the Easter morning. We are promised paradise and we are given hope in the new life. What we experience here isn’t the only life that is offered to us. Through coming to understand the depth of the love Christ experienced for us we are shown images of the promise for each one of us. It is right there ready for us to grasp a hold of in those times of trial. It is about never giving into the darkness that is sometimes all around. We see the strength and confidence that this promise, this love of God gave to those earliest apostles. They too faced persecution, humiliation, taunting, and death yet they faced it with grace and hope; with courage and strength.
One of my favorite theologians is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is a favorite of mine because he faced true evil in this world with such grace, with such hope that transcended the pain that he experienced. He rose above the darkness in his own life and in his own country and community to preach the message of Christ Resurrected, of God’s love that calls each person to a higher moral code. I choose to share his story because it was his faith that called him to risk everything; it was his faith that gave him strength when others would have crumbled and did crumble under the stress of his situation; it was his hope based in the promises of the crucified Christ that gave him the courage to do what was right when others turned fearful blind eyes.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in Wroclaw Poland. He was an ordained minister in Germany, no different than me. But when the Nazis rose to power and Hitler took control of Germany and the German people began to see the true evil that would spill forth from that government, he became more than a minister. He spoke up when it was most dangerous to do so. He became a political dissident and spy in addition to a founding member of the Confessing Church. His preaching and writing became known for its anti-Nazi stance, highly critical of Hitler’s euthanasia programs and genocidal persecution of the Jewish peoples.
When faced with darkness, he didn’t turn in fear, just as Jesus didn’t turn in fear and hide. Bonhoeffer stood his ground knowing full well that it was going to be a losing battle. He spoke the light of God and believed in living the Christian message. He was given confidence and strength to do what he knew was morally right. He was showing a broken world the love of God. A theological contemporary of his, Henri Nouwen wrote, “Knowing the heart of Jesus and loving are the same thing … The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God”. Bonhoeffer believed this and lived this and encouraged the German people to do the same.
Yes it resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in a concentration camp where he would be executed. But before his death, which he knew was inevitable; he used every moment to show the love of God to all peoples. He used his very last breath to inspire the people to live into that love shown in how they treated one another. He took the new covenant and showed an entire nation and the entire world just what the new covenant could do and what it gives to each one of us. There is hope for all of us in all parts of our lives when we look upon that cross.
Jeremiah spoke with hope about the coming of a new covenant vastly different from the conditional covenant the people lived with. The covenant of Moses did not give life and was far too often easily broken because of all the rules and regulations and it was dependent on humanity’s self discipline. Which let’s be honest, humanity isn’t the best with following rules and regulations. This is what is meant when he talks of the law not being abolished but being written on the hearts of many, taking the place of desire and sin which often take precedent in the lives of humanity. An unconditional covenant offered life free from the restraints of reward and punishment and offered a more open flowing relationship with God affording learning opportunities that deepen trust, faith, and understanding and care for one another.
Jesus, though very openly distraught about his impending death, recognized with the coming of Greek gentiles that finally there was a wider understanding and broadening on this new covenant and it could finally be fulfilled. The time had finally come. Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. Through his sacrifice, Jesus has opened a new type of relationship with God. This relationship will mirror the early one between God and humanity in the Garden of Eden, where we will be invited to walk beside God in an unconditionally loving relationship. We are encouraged with these passages to see the promise that awaits humanity through Christ and the hope offered to all of us: we shall never suffer alone; we shall never wander this world lost, just as long as we look to God in complete trust allowing his word to be written upon our hearts. This week look to God and find strength, hope, and the confidence that you need to live into his message with each new day. Look to God and find just what you need to feel fulfillment in this world away from worldly cares learning to live into his new covenant with confidence, courage, and strength to seek a the inspiration to openly care for those in need.
 Henri Nouwen, 20th century theologian.
 John 12:32, RSV.
(Based on Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and John 12: 20-33)