Karl Barth for Holy Week

"Station 1: Jesus is Condemned" by Kevin Vandivier (photograph)

Consider these offerings from the Swiss theologian Karl Barth as an aid to a deeper participation in Holy Week. Consider them in fact as the offerings of a friend, who not only keenly felt but also prayed himself into the tensions of the Paschal Triduum and found himself thereby transformed in them, not despite them. My hope is that you will find these prayers encouraging, whatever the condition of your soul this week.

From Karl Barth, Fifty Prayers. Translated by David Carl Stassen (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008).

Lord our God, when we are afraid, do not permit us to doubt! When we are disappointed, let us not become bitter! When we have fallen, do not leave us lying down! When we have come to the end of our understanding and our powers, do not leave us to die! No, let us then feel your nearness and your love, that you have promised to those whose hearts are humble and broken, and who fear your Word. 

From a prayer which Barth prayed at the conclusion of a sermon he preached to prisoners in Basel, Switzerland (ca. 1956-1964).

O Lord, our God! Thou art great, exalted and holy above us and above all men. This is thy glory that thou dost not forget us, not abandon us, not reject us despite all that speaks against us. In thy dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, thou hast given us nothing less than thyself and all that is thine. 

We praise thee that we are invited as guests at the table of thy mercy throughout our life and beyond. We spread before thee all that troubles us, our mistakes, our errors and our transgressions, our sorrows and cares, also our rebellion and our bitterness – our whole heart, our whole life, better known to thee than it is to ourselves. 

We commit all this into the faithful hands which thou hast outstretched in our Savior. Take us as we are; strengthen us when we are weak; grant us, the poor, the bounties of thy blessings. Let thy lovingkindness shine upon our loved ones, upon all prisoners, and those in the pangs of misery, illness or death. Bestow upon the judges the spirit of justice and upon the rulers of this world some measure of thy wisdom, that they may strive for peace on earth. Give a clear and courageous witness to all who are called to preach thy word here and abroad. 

Gathering up all concerns we call on thee as our Savior has permitted us and commanded us to do: ‘Our Father…’

From a sermon preached on Good Friday in 1957, based on Luke 23:33, “They crucified him and the two criminals with him, one to the right, one to the left.” In this sermon Barth reorients our understanding of Christian community under the light of the cross.

"The Criminals with him. Do you know what that means? Please be not too surprised when I tell you: this was the first Christian community – the first safe, undissolvable, indestructible Christian community. 

Christian community is everywhere where there is a gathering of people who are close to, who are with Jesus – in such a way that his promise, his affirmation, concerns them directly and immediately – in such a way that they can hear it: that everything that He is, He is for them, that everything that He does, He does for them, in such a way that they can live by and from this promise. This is the first Christian community, and the first safe Christian community consisted of these two criminals."

And a final prayer:

None of us is a great Christian; rather, we are all very small Christians. But your grace is sufficient for us. Awaken us to the small joy and thankfulness that we are capable of, the timid faith that we bring, the incomplete obedience that we cannot refuse – to the hope in the greatness, wholeness, and completeness that you have prepared for us in the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ and that you have promised to us in his resurrection from the dead.

Samantha Wedelich, Lent 2005, Hope Chapel


Rod Lampard said…
Nice compilation, makes for a worthwhile reflection.
It does indeed, Rod.

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