Seeking the incarnation, stirring up the status quo

13 SEP 2023

Thirteenth Assembly opens in Kraków with worship service and sermon by Rev. Dokman from Suriname 

(LWI) - From East and West, from North and South, the global communion of Lutheran churches gathered to discern ways of bringing the light of the gospel into the darkest places of injustice, oppression, conflict and fear. Over 1,000 people joined the opening worship of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly, hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland at Krakow’s ICE Congress Centre from 13 to 19 September.   

The Assembly theme, “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope,” is taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

The festive service with Holy Communion featured music in many languages led by combined Lutheran choirs from Poland, as well as the sharing of special bread and salt, traditional symbols of hospitality in Polish culture. Representatives from LWF member churches in Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe poured water into a baptismal font to symbolize their shared faith, as LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt and President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa welcomed the congregation. 

Rev. Danielle Dokman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Suriname preaches as LWF Assembly opening worship

Rev. Danielle Dokman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Suriname preaches as opening worship is celebrated at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly, held in Krakow, Poland on 13-19 September 2023 under the theme of ’One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

Following in the footsteps of the Magi 

Rev. Danielle Dokman, a young pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname, preached on the familiar Bible story of the Wise Men travelling to find the baby Jesus after his birth in a stable in Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 1-12). Like those Magi, she said, “we have also travelled with a purpose,” to find out “where the incarnate One, the One Spirit of God and the One Hope for this world is growing today.” 

Dokman, a former LWF Council member, noted that the incarnation took place, not only in a specific geographical location, but also in the “ordinary yet extraordinary dwelling” that is the body of a child, “the most fragile human existence there is.” If we believe that God took on a human body and its vulnerabilities, she said, “this has real implications for our lives.” It means that “we cannot ignore our bodies and ignore others,” because “we will encounter God in our neighbors, in those we call strangers or foreigners, and even in the whole of creation.” 

In and through our proclamation we must stir up the status quo.

Rev. Danielle Dokman, preacher at the opening service for LWF Thirteenth Assembly in Krakow

Though we observe the many ways in which “bodies across the world are scattered and torn apart by discrimination, polarization and violence,” Dokman continued, we must not give up, because “we serve a God that is not afraid of our fragility, vulnerability or weakness.” Like the Magi, who asked: ‘Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?’, Christians today must ask questions and “make ripples” that can unsettle those leaders who are only concerned with securing their power.

Dokman concluded by urging delegates to “stir up the status quo,” and to be “united in our proclamation, one in speaking up about injustice and living together from the sacraments.” 

Worship and Bible study are integral to the Assembly, LWF’s highest decision-making body, with daily morning, midday and evening prayers. At the end of the morning prayer on 19 September, ecumenical guests will engage in a panel discussion on the message of justification for today. 

Over the coming days, participants will discuss speeches on the Assembly theme, share hopes and challenges from their regions in “Village Groups,” discover the various aspects that shape the work of the Lutheran communion at “Jarmark” workshops, and visit the nearby Memorial and Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Related Photos

Photos from the Thirteenth Assembly Opening Worship