We are told John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify to the light,” and despite the distinct possibility of imprisonment and execution, John the Baptist looks to the future with hope. Whatever the outcome he holds firm to his conviction that the world is poised for the coming of the One who will lead us into all truth.
Living under threat while proclaiming the truth is a hard road to tread. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian, had the opportunity to flee from Nazi Germany by retaining his teaching position in the United States. Instead, he chose to return to his homeland. As a resistance worker involved in the plan to assassinate Hitler, he was arrested, imprisoned, and hung. At the time of his arrest, he was engaged to be married and, like anyone else, longed for life, freedom, family, and future. Even as he hoped for these things he knew they were unlikely to be his fate.
Confronting the horror of his age, Bonhoeffer proclaimed that a new Christ was needed for a changed world – that Christianity would be forever changed by the evil and cruelty of his times and that Christians needed to rely on Christ’s word as their only true security. Bonhoeffer was prepared to stand in the wilderness and declare, despite the evidence, that when Christ is the center, there would be grace enough.
Bonhoeffer was convinced that Christ’s transforming presence is real and made known to us in Word and sacrament. His famous work,
The Cost of Discipleship,
spoke of the immense importance of our commitment to Christ, of our taking seriously the call to follow the Lord in small ways and large. He felt that the gospel is cheapened when Christians desire to be in right relationship with God, but fail to change their lives in response to Christ’s call.
John and Bonhoeffer were living lives imprisoned by the forces of corruption and evil. Both died fully committed to the ministry of reconciliation of God and humanity. They invite us, no matter what the cost, to do the same. We are to be Christ in the wilderness and make straight a pathway for the Lord.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves