Your Daily Lenten Devotional
March 19, 2012
Into the Wilderness
Genesis 4:1: Now Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.
Adam and Eve become the proud creators of new life, a new life which, however, is created in human beings’ obsessive desire for life together and for death; Cain is the first human being born on the ground that is cursed. History begins with Cain, the history of death. Adam, preserved for death and yet consumed by a thirst for life, begets Cain, the murderer. The new element in Cain, Adam’s son, is that he himself, in his being like God, violates human life. He who is not permitted to eat of the tree of life reaches all the more greedily for the fruit of death, the destruction of life. Only the Creator can destroy life. Cain usurps for himself the ultimate right of the Creator, and becomes a murderer. Why does Cain commit murder? Out of hatred toward God. This hatred is great. Cain is great. He is greater than Adam, since his hatred is greater, which means that his obsessive desire for life is greater. The history of death stands under the sign of Cain.
Christ on the cross, the murdered Son of God–that is the end of Cain’s history, and thus the end of all history. It is the last, desperate assault on the gates of paradise. The human race dies under the slashing sword, under the cross. But Christ lives. The trunk of the cross becomes the wood of life, and in the middle of the world life is established anew in the accursed ground. In the center of the world, from the wood of the cross, the fountain of life springs up anew, and all those thirsting for life are called to this water, and whoever has eaten the wood of this life will never again hunger or thirst. A strange paradise, this hill of Golgotha, this cross, this blood, this broken body; a strange tree of life, this trunk on which God himself had to suffer and die- and yet here is bequeathed anew by God in grace: the kingdom of life, of resurrection, an open door of imperishable hope, of waiting, and of patience. Tree of life, cross! of Christ, the center of God’s fallen and preserved world, that is the end of the story of paradise for us.
Today now he unlocks the door
To blessed paradise.
No angel bars it anymore,
To God all honor, glory and praise.
(Text from a lecture series on Genesis 1-3 (and 4:1) Berlin University, Winter Semester 1932/1933)
Meditations on the Cross
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The cross and resurrection, suffering and overcoming death were central themes in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological work. Meditations on the Cross contains excerpts from his letters and sermons relating to these topics and makes for insightful reading during Lent or any other devotional time.
Used with the kind permission of our friends at Westminster John Knox Press.