Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Bonhoeffer as a Lenten Companion

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of the liturgical season of Lent. Last year, I gave some reflections on why this Baptist participates in Lent (and the Christian calendar more generally), which is not traditional to my Free Church tradition.  You can find that reflection here.

This year, I’ve decided to re-read Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison for my Lenten meditations.  Prison writings seem to be a Christian invention, beginning with the Apostle Paul, and I have long been fascinated with both Christian and non-Christian writings from prison.  Bonhoeffer’s prison writings, with their deep Christocentric spirituality in the midst of great evil, their painful doubts, and their attempts to formulate of view of God for a “world come of age,” the “beyond in the midst of life,” still speak powerfully to our times of political and economic violence and oppression.

We still need the “acane discipline” of prayer as we seek to spend our lives in service and we still need the experience of suffering to learn to look at history “from the underside.”

So Bonhoeffer will be my companion as I seek to be a companion to Christ as he “set his face to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51-56) and the cross.  With whatever your companions, I invite you to accompany Christ on the road to the cross, this Lent as well. 

And I suggest that prison writings make excellent resources for spiritual discipline.

March 7, 2011 - Posted by | Lent


  1. This is quite strange, Michael, because I just picked up Letters and Papers from Prison from the book sale cart at Eastern Mennonite Seminary on Monday, and decided to start reading it with my daughter at bedtime. So I guess we’ll be sojourning through Lent with Bonhoeffer together!

    Comment by Brian Gumm | March 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Cool! Remember that much of it is written in code because of Nazi censors–such as all the protestations of innocence and expectations of soon return home.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 9, 2011 | Reply

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