The Cost – A Poem for Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On this day in 1945, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer died, imprisoned for his role in the plot to kill Adolf Hitler. His actions in this area were controversial, but he remains one of the most significant theologians of the twentieth century. Today he is remembered in the Anglican Prayer Book’s calendar, and so here is a poem also in memory of him.

The Cost
(For Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Some say
He bore the cost proudly,
Strutting forth from his prison
With all the smug confidence of a tyrant.

Some say that he sinned
A little too bravely,
That he took on a burden
That was not his to take.

Some say
He thought judgment his own to dish out,
Like a petty child taking refuge behind
His own pious gavel and wig,
And hid in the plans, the machines of the pack
Who could not wait quietly
In still, humble hope.

Some say, some say
What cannot be said
When we judge only by
The smile on his face
And the stirrings and churnings
Of a conscience that was,
All things considered,
Much tenderer than ours.

Some say he stood up
When all in the crowd
Cowered and drowned.
Some say he took up
Barbed wire as a cross
And was strong to the last
In the strength of his God.

Some say that the joy
On his face is held out
To all who would swim
In the sea of Christ’s grace,

And the cost of this grace
(The cost that he bore,
As he waited in hope
Of a city to break
Through all of these fences
And wirebarbed-hearts)

Is there in Christ’s cross,
Is there in his crown
Of wire and thorns,
And is paid and is there,
And is there for the counting.

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