Monday, 22 February 2016

Cloud of witnesses: Sophie Scholl

The blade is sharp, but her courage is sharper still.
Along with her brother and small cohort of friends,
she has looked the regime squarely in the eye and called it out for what it is:
brutal, dehumanising, death-giving.

Motivated by her faith, and horror of the accounts of atrocities in the East shared by 
the boyfriend who is a serving officer, she, with her friends, begins to leave leaflets 
around the city in the summer of 1942. They urge fellow citizens to passively resist 
the killing machine that has replaced good government. 
The machine is nothing, if not efficient: a climate of fear turns citizen against citizen. 
Sophie, brother Hans, and friend Christoph are caught in the February of '43, 
informed on by a university janitor who has seen them drop what is the sixth, and final,
leaflet. A trial quickly follows and the death sentence is passed four days later.
They are to be beheaded by guillotine within hours.
Before she dies, she talks to a cell-mate and states:
'How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to

give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have
to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened
and stirred to action?'
The blade is sharp, but her courage, sharper still.

I've been recently thinking around the idea of 'wild church'.
I've also been thinking of power and courage - due in part to
wrestling with various lectionary texts, and also, due to the ongoing season of Lent.
Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem.
The powers that be - religious and political - have been challenged.
To hear words such as 'the last shall be first, and the first, last',
is a prime motivator to nip such notions in the bud:
the 1% in any given era will always be determined to remain at the top,
and to keep the 99% firmly at the bottom.
Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem, the place where prophets go to die.
He not only walks on the margins with the least,
he walks on the wild side of non-conformity with systemic structures of power
and shows that real power is life-giving:
the giving of life, for the living of life in a more real and abundant manner.
The wild side of the kindom of God throws down a challenge.
It's about waving, or shining a torch, calling out:
'there's so much more than this: look! Come and see! Come. Live.'
It's the very thing that institutions and regimes fear,
for it casts a light on their own desperate clawing for power at any cost.
The Cross is looms large, but his courage, larger still.

Sophie's faith feels like a 'wild' kind of faith - the faith that dares to move from a
place of quiet comfort. A faith that turns its face towards a variation of Jerusalem,
and witnesses to that very different understanding of power:
which refuses to buy into the notion that force and bullying,
fear and manipulation, are just the way of things,
and that conformity is always the best course.
That the strongest, or the loudest, wins.
It may seem that way, but there's so much more than this: look! Come and see!

Sophie Scholl, 9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943, member of the White Rose resistance group

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