Freedom: Discipleship in action

Protestant Christians in the 20th century have been engaged in manifold ways in transformation of society, but perhaps the need for “freedom” in its manifold dimensions can be considered the most prominent and also ongoing challenge in its ambivalence, the political abuse of the word. Therefore, Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024 gathers music and liturgical elements which address the longing for freedom, injustices between humans and between humanity and the natural world. A core quality of freedom is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it from a Lutheran perspective, the choice to act.


This leads into Bonhoeffer´s unfinished reflections on what he referred to as religionless Christianity which is foreshadowed in his letter for the baptism of Dietrich Bethge:    
"Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action."


Bonhoeffer's insight that the past words have lost their strength and meaning could well have come from the Reformation period, perhaps from Martin Luther himself, and they have certainly not lost any of their urgency today. Bonhoeffer´s solution to a renewed faith goes along with Luther´s core theological principles, the mystical immersion in prayer and contemplation on biblical texts (sola scriptura), and the ethical action resulting from it through faith in and the grace of God (sola fide, sola gratia).


Germany and Europe were in need of new liturgies, new music and new words and prayers to overcome the devastation and spiritual “speechlessness” after the war and the holocaust.  Many others followed after the end of World War II the sense of a ground zero in what defines church and Christian faith in the protestant tradition and called for a new beginning, from the liberation theology movements in Latin America  to North America , Africa , India  and Palestine , to the international rise of feminist and womanist theology  and the development of ecotheology.


Simultaneously, the ecumenical ties between the different denominations were strengthened and new bonds created.   Accordingly, the second half of the 20th century was filled with liturgical reforms and new religiously inspired songs which focused on liberation and criticized injustice in society and the destruction of ecological resources. A rich spectrum that Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024 will draw from with an emphasis on songs from the 21st century which reflect and explore the ongoing strive for freedom and justice in global Lutheranism and its local churches.