A good time to be the church

LWF General Secretary Rev Dr. Martin Junge preaching in Nidarosdomen, the cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: Church of Norway
LWF General Secretary Rev Dr. Martin Junge preaching in Nidarosdomen, the cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: Church of Norway

LWF General Secretary Martin Junge addresses Church of Norway synod

(LWI) – “I don’t think there ever was a better time to be the church, announcing boldly and joyfully that core message which we know so well,” said The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge in his sermon at the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway on January 29. “It is by God’s grace and compassion that we are set free to love and embrace our own lives, the lives of our neighbors and the entire creation as God’s good gift,” he added addressing members of the Synod, and representatives of the government of Norway, among them the Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The General Secretary visited the Scandinavian country to address the General Synod at its first meeting after new laws of the separation of church and State took effect on January 1. He participated in an event that marked the launch of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by the Church of Norway. “I am delighted with the decision of the church to adopt the LWF’s theme “Liberated by God’s Grace” as their own theme during the whole year of commemoration of the anniversary. The sub-themes will also be used throughout the year, for instance “creation not for sale” during their Lenten campaign.

Reflecting on the Reformation Anniversary, Church of Norway Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien expressed her gratitude for the ecumenical steps taken at the Joint Commemoration in Lund and Malmö last year: “We have come closer together. And there is no doubt that what binds us together is much stronger than what separates us. All are seen and loved by God and human dignity is inviolable. The basis of salvation is God's grace alone."

Church and believers called into new places

In his sermon on the story of Jesus healing a blind man near Jericho (Luke 18, 35-43) in Nidarosdomen, General Secretary Junge reflected on the vocation of the church: “This ancient narrative of Jesus approaching Jericho sends the church into a very particular journey that approaches the complexities of its reality with compassion as a guiding principle. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of the message of compassion, but announce it boldly.”

He thanked the Church or Norway for its meaningful witness through the years and its commitment to those seeking refuge in Norway. “You welcome the stranger. […] Your witness represents a great encouragement to us all.”

He expressed concern about the respect for human rights: “I am grateful to be living in times that know about human rights, but I am concerned that they are under so much pressure today, globally. As somebody who grew up in the context of dictatorship I know all too well that the curtailment of human rights leads to nightmares, particularly for the vulnerable and the marginalized. […] Because we know all of this, we must remain vigilant so as to not to allow any little door to be reopened, through which old nightmares would reinstall themselves in our world.”

A good time to be the church

Referring to the upcoming Twelfth Assembly to be held in Windhoek, Namibia, in May this year Junge underlined the importance of “affirming each other in our common witness in this world.” He described this mission as being sent to “a world which doesn’t need more fragmentation, but rather bridge-building; which doesn’t need more polarization, but rather communities reaching out to find common ground while sharing a common space; a world which doesn’t need more corrosive discourse, if not communication breakdowns, but rather communities engaging in dialogue and joint discernment.” Because of its calling the church has a lot to offers in midst of these realities, he added. “It is a good time to be the church,” Junge stated.