top of page

Pastor's Message - March 2024

I am sure none of us were surprised when Alexei Navalny died in a Russian gulag. After all, Vladimir Putin’s assassination squads had already made at least one attempt on the opposition leader’s life in 2020. Having survived the Novichok nerve agent thanks to treatment in Germany, why did he return to Russia?

The same question is often asked about one of my personal heroes, the Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer had witnessed American racism first hand while doing a post-doctoral fellowship in Manhattan in 1930. He attended services at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he heard the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. preach the “social gospel.”

Soon after he returned to Germany, the Nazi party seized power with the support of many German Christians. Bonhoeffer was part of a small and increasingly targeted group of pastors and theologians who resisted Nazi control of the German church. Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, two important theologians, left Germany. But Bonhoeffer chose to stay. He believed that his faith demanded action.

Because of family ties to the Wehrmacht, Germany’s professional army, he was drawn into a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Captured, Bonhoeffer was executed on Himmler’s personal orders during the final days of the Second World War.

Why does anyone move toward danger?

During the season of Lent, we journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish power. Passover was always a powder keg, as Jews celebrated their historic liberation from Egypt while under the thumb of brutal Roman colonizers and collaborators from among their own people, an elite that matched Roman corruption with their own, and a high priesthood many considered illegitimate.

If we believe the gospels, Jesus expected to die there. I don’t know whether this is historically true or the result of later meaning-making. What is certainly true is that Jesus and his followers knew that Jerusalem was dangerous, so much so that Pontius Pilate would have marched a legion from his comfortable coastal base to the city for Passover, entering much the same way that Jesus would in his Palm Sunday parody.

Jesus moved toward danger.

Why did Jesus move toward danger? Bonhoeffer or Navalny? Why did John Lewis and so many others march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge?

And so we walk on toward Jerusalem, following a mad man who thinks God’s love is more powerful than greed and violence. May your Lent be filled with powerful stories of powerful love.



bottom of page