Book Review of God Is On the Cross: Meditations for Lent and Easter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Note: I was sent this book from the publisher and as always I am not required to give a positive review but an honest one. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

As mentioned in a previous post regarding devotionals, I’m not big on them but I do look for them come Lent and Advent. I have to say, I was pretty excited when I saw God Is On the Cross: Meditations for Lent and Easter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and here’s the summary according to the publisher Westminster John Knox Press:

“These forty stirring devotions will guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Lent and Easter, encountering themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and sermons provide special encouragement as readers prepare themselves spiritually for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Supplemented by an informative introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life and a Scripture passage for each day of the season, these daily devotions are moving reminders of the true gift of Christ on the cross.”

Having read it through this Lent, I have to say it’s good work. Of course the material is great and one cannot help but feel the profound urgency in Bonhoeffer’s voice, especially in those final letters, sermons and journal entries. But if you know his story, he probably would have written and spoken the same had he not been imprisoned – clearly he was a passionate man. The editors and compilers did a fantastic job too in pulling from so many different sources, yet allowing his voice to feel strong.

The only thing that kept annoying me was its brevity. Each day were three paragraphs including the Scripture. It’s a devotional so you have to keep that in mind. It’s also an excellent entry point for those just getting familiar with Bonhoeffer’s zeal and die to yourself faith. Still, the cynical side got to me every now and then as I couldn’t help but wonder if this devotional was written to capitalize on the trending Bonhoeffer brand? I wouldn’t let that discourage as I concluded this resource is worthwhile you if you are truly reading for growth and not consumption.

Obviously Bonhoeffer lacked the time to finish his writing projects so know that this complaint bares no reflection on him. Still, I could not help but wonder of the intentions of this book – the readings were so brief! However, the brevity didn’t bother me too much on an everyday sense as I was supplementing this with other Lenten resources (like Lent for Everyone Year C: Luke – Here’s my review). In spite of its brevity, it is organized well.

In any case, I kept going back to what I mentioned earlier – the value lies in reading Bonhoeffer’s “journal” as he observes Lent during his Nazi imprisonment. I truly enjoyed reading it and I do recommend it as an excellent resource for Bonhoeffer appreciators, communicators looking for concise material and for newbies to the great 20th century German theologian.

It’s a long way off, but go on Amazon and add this for next year’s Lenten readings and God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.


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