Liberated from All That ‘Divides Us’

Prof. Dr Dirk G. Lange. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay
Prof. Dr Dirk G. Lange. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay

(Prof. Dirk Lange, currently seconded to the LWF as worship coordinator for the Twelfth Assembly and ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary, reflects on the assembly theme and worship.)

Liturgy has always been an integral part of my life. From regular worship attendance in a small Lutheran parish in Winnipeg, Canada to communal prayer, three times a day for almost 20 years as a brother of the Taizé Community in France. Today, I’m a professor of worship at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.

My primary experience of worship has been a global one. At the Taizé Community, young people come together from all the continents to pray. In song, in silence, in ardent intercessory prayer, the walls that divide crumble away. God has already brought about a deep reconciliation, not only between God and us but also between you and me. Worship allows us to live into that reconciliation. We not only live into it but we also carry it with us into the world, for and with the neighbor.

In the LWF assembly theme “Liberated by God’s Grace,” everything is new. And everything is on the way to becoming new. The theme of the 2017 Assembly reminds us of this two-part movement. God has reconciled the world and us to God’s self. And God invites us deeper into this reconciliation, to be witnesses to a new creation and to an on-going reformation that continually deconstructs all the identities and all the walls that we want to build. God liberates us and frees us to be a new people.

Worship opens our lives to this deep down goodness that is a communion. Martin Luther once wrote that in worship we become Christians! Of course, he knew that as a baptized people, we are already liberated, justified, new but he wanted to also emphasize that we are on a journey in which this liberation, righteousness, freedom, and life take shape in community.

“Liberated by God’s Grace” is at the heart of worship. Liberated from all that divides us, we discover that we are one communion, one body—one body of Christ—also with those who are not always at the table with us.

In worship—in the celebration of Holy Communion and in the faithful and obedient practice of daily, communal prayer—the Word of God addresses us, admonishes us, and comforts us. Everything that turns us in upon ourselves and everything that separates us is slowly (or sometimes quickly!) dismantled.

My life experience as a brother of Taizé, preparing worship with thousands of persons from every part of the globe and also praying together in small groups in homes and apartments, has opened up for me this dynamic of prayer that invites us into community.

It’s a great joy for me to serve as staff person to the International Worship Planning Committee (IWPC) for the Twelfth Assembly of the LWF. The responsibility is a big one but a marvelous one, especially when done together with so many multi-talented and diverse partners. As we begin this particular journey to Windhoek, as we prepare worship, we are always rooted in that communal prayer throughout the world where God liberates and makes everything new!

Prof. Dr Dirk G. Lange is Associate Professor of Worship at Luther Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota, USA. Since January 2015, he is supporting the LWF as project officer for the ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and as worship coordinator for the Twelfth Assembly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.