“Scholar as preacher leaps into my mind,” said Helmut Thielicke’s translator in trying to describe him. John Doberstein, who translated Bonhoeffer also, notes that Thielicke combines “deep, scholarly, biblical and theological mastery with strong, vividly colorful, pictorial utterance, eschewing the worn cliché.…Thielicke’s sermons have been heard in bombed-out churches during Hitler’s regime, on contemporary radio and TV, and by overflowing crowds at his large Lutheran church in Germany. His sermons are considered by many to be among the finest ever preached. This selection is abridged from chapters nine and ten of the sermon collection entitled “How the World Began,” published by Fortress in 1961, and is used by permission.

I still have a vivid memory of one night during the war. On a height near Stuttgart there were some twenty boys from a Latin school manning an antiaircraft battery. They were anxious to have me come and give them religious instruction. But since this was prohibited and their request was not granted, they went on to a higher commanding officer and finally, by their spirit and persistence, secured his permission. So I walked out to visit them regularly and we sat down among the guns and talked about the “last things.”

But on this occasion they had called me for another reason. Their position had been hit by a low-level attack and the father of one of the boys, who happened to be visiting, was killed while his boy was manning the gun.

The boy carried his dead father away in a wheeled stretcher. The youngsters—for that’s all they were—crowded around me deeply shocked, almost like chicks around a hen. They were ...

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