Yesterday we received a new collection of sermons from Bonhoeffer appropriately titled The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These are sermons which have not appeared in English before and promise to be rich soil for lovers of Bonhoeffer and I suspect a good entry point for those who want to sample Bonhoeffer. I randomly opened it and started to read a sermon on “Overcoming Fear.” The first two paragraphs were very good. It was hard to put it down but it had to wait till I was off and could devote more time to it at home. Here’s what I read:
The overcoming of fear—that is what we are proclaiming here. The Bible, the gospel, Christ, the church, the faith—all are one great battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. Fear is, somehow or other, the archenemy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.
Now fear leers that person in the face, saying: Here we are all by ourselves, you and I, now I’m showing you my true face. And anyone who has seen naked fear revealed, who has been its victim in terrifying loneliness—fear of an important decision; fear of a heavy stroke of fate, losing one’s job, an illness; fear of a vice that one can no longer resist, to which one is enslaved; fear of disgrace; fear of another person; fear of dying—that person knows that fear is only one of the faces of evil itself, one from by which the world, at enmity with God, grasps for someone. Nothing can make a human being so conscious of the reality of powers opposed to God in our lives as this loneliness, this helplessness, this fog spreading over everything, this sense that there is no way out, and this raving impulse to get oneself out of this hell of hopelessness.
Have you ever seen someone in the grip of fear? It’s dreadful in a child, but even more dreadful in an adult: the staring eyes, the shivering like an animal, the pleading attempt to defend oneself. Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this person belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature. (60-61)
I’m looking forward to not only finishing this sermon but reading many of the others. The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is from Augsburg Fortress. It is a hardcover with 214 pages and sells for $29.95. You can read some samples here.