Lent with Bonhoeffer: Divine Sorrow Leading to Joy

peter denies christ

(Photo: Sculpture of Peter denying Jesus at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu at the House of Caiaphus in Jerusalem)

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

Being the church of Peter is not only something to be claimed with unalloyed pride. Peter, the confessing, believing disciple, denied his Lord on the same night in which Judas betrayed him; Peter stood there by the fire that night and was ashamed, while Christ was standing before the high priest. Peter was the fearful one of little faith who sank into the sea. He was the disciple to whom Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Even after that, he was the one who kept faltering, kept denying and falling down, a weak vacillator, subject to the whim of the moment. The church of Peter is the church that shares his weakness, the church that also keeps denying Christ and falling down, being disloyal, of little faith, fearful, a church that again and again looks away from its mission and toward the world and its opinions. The church of Peter is the church of all those who are ashamed of their Lord, at the very moment when they should be standing up for him….

But Peter is also the one of whom it is said that he went out and wept bitterly. Of Judas, who also betrayed his Lord, it is said that he went out and took his own life. That is the difference. Peter went out and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). The church of Peter is the church that can not only confess, not only deny; it is the church that can also weep. By the rivers of Babylon–there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion (Psalm 137). That is being church, for what does this weeping mean, if not that we have found the way back, that we are on our way home, that we are the prodigal son who falls weeping on his knees before his father (Luke 15). The church of Peter is the church of divine sorrow, which leads to joy.

-from The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Volume 1, pgs. 84-85

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