On Ash Wednesday: Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Guilt, Justification, Renewal

March 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

From his Ethics:

“The church is today the community of people who, grasped by the power of Christ’s grace, acknowledge, confess, and take upon themselves not only their personal sins, but also the Western world’s falling away from Jesus Christ as guilt toward Jesus Christ. The church is where Jesus makes his form real in the midst of the world. Therefore only the church can be the place of personal and corporate rebirth and renewal.

“That there are people whose knowledge of this falling away from Jesus Christ is kept fresh – not only by finding it in others but also by confessing it in themselves – is a sign of the living presence of Christ. Confession of guilt happens without a sidelong glance at the others who are also guilty. This confession is strictly exclusive in that it takes all guilt upon itself. When one still calculates and weighs things, an unfruitful self-righteous morality takes the place of confessing guilt face-to-face with the figure of Christ. Because the origin of the confession of guilt is the form of Christ and not our individual transgressions, therefore it is complete and unconditional. Christ conquers us never more strongly than by completely and unconditionally taking on our guilt and declaring it Christ’s own, letting us go free. Looking on this grace of Christ frees us completely from looking at the guilt of others and brings Christians to fall on their knees before Christ with the confession: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

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Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy Kingdom Come” Ash Wednesday Sermon, March 9, 2011

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