NATIONAL MAGAZINE OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
Print Post Approved PP100003514 VOL 48 NO4
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation [Isaiah 52:7a]
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Front cover: 'Spring Sunset in the Barossa' by kwest19. Courtesy Big Stock Photo.
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Moving is so stressful! Pastor Mike Fulwood seamlessly catches up with the latest LCA news and gets his hair cut as he prepares to travel from Rockingham, WA, to Wagga Wagga, NSW, as interim pastor. Marcia Smith makes sure she has a copy of The Lutheran ready to soothe restless clients.
As the magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia (incorporating the Lutheran Church of New Zealand), The Lutheran informs the members of the LCA about the church’s teaching, life, mission and people, helping them to grow in faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. The Lutheran also provides a forum for a range of opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor or the policies of the Lutheran Church of Australia. The Lutheran is a member of the Australasian Religious Press Association and as such subscribes to its journalistic and editorial codes of conduct.
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The Lutheran May 2014
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I’ve never been to Jerusalem, never visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but I understand that it is a very busy place, one of the city’s most important tourist destinations.
It’s been that way for a long time now, I suppose. Of course, when Nicodemus and Joseph first buried the body of Jesus in a new tomb there, in a garden close to where he was crucified, it must have been pretty quiet.
24 The game of life
05 Small mercies 10 God’s gardener
26 All-weather friends
But from before sunrise that first morning after the Sabbath, things were never that peaceful again. The gospel accounts have the place full of soldiers, angels, women, disciples … and the risen Jesus. People and angels come and go as the news begins to spread, ‘He is risen!’
What does it mean? For Pilate and the authorities it is confusion— any explanation sounds either downright weird or frankly very, very embarrassing—so they decide to say nothing. For the priests and Jewish leaders this is the conspiracy they all feared, so they quickly mount a whispering campaign to discredit the disciples.
15 Inside Story
But for Jesus’ followers, the news that he is alive again is life-changing. Suddenly it begins to make sense: the hints about destroyed temples and impossible rebuild times, the miracles, the stories, all the talk of his Father in heaven. Slowly the reality sinks in—that the rabbi they followed really is the promised Messiah he told them he was. That he was dead and now he is alive! I’m not surprised that they didn’t know what to do. I suspect that if Jesus had appeared to me rather than to Mary Magdalene, the word ‘Teacher!’ would not have been the first one past my lips (and I blush to think what I most likely would have said). But what they did do was to tell each other what had happened, to spread the news from believer to believer, so that when the gospels were finally collected we have different resurrection accounts—lots of them. He appears to one, he appears to many, he eats fish, breaks bread, teaches, cooks breakfast … There’s a lot of coming and going, to-ing and fro-ing around the resurrection. But at the centre of it all is Jesus, who wouldn’t ‘come down from the cross and save [him]self!’ (Mark 15:30) but who instead died and rose again that all who believe in him might have eternal life. And though I might want to join those tourists and pilgrims visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I don’t need to. I have the promise Jesus gave to Thomas, that I am blessed because I believe even though I do not see. That makes me one of the Easter people. And that’s something to get excited about.
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09 Reel Life 14 Little Church
18 Letters 19 Directory 20 Stepping Stones 22 Notices 23 Bookmarks
28 Bring Jesus 30 Heart and Home 32 World in Brief 34 Coffee Break
We are Easter people. Easter is God’s tour de force, when we drown in his love and he raises us to life. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the front and centre of our faith, everything we are and will ever be, ‘… because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them’ (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NRSV). A new start, a clean slate; what could be better? ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no-one may boast. For we
are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life’ (Ephesians 2:8–10 NRSV). What are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us? Sure, you can find the answer in places like the Ten Commandments (see Luther’s Small Catechism). Jesus was also quite clear about what he expects when he said things like ‘Love your enemies’ (Luke 6:29). But perhaps the first ‘good work’ God has prepared for his Easter people is to make us one body. When St Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, he goes straight on to talk about the peace that now exists between us. The blood of Christ breaks down the dividing wall. Now there is a single new humanity. So our first ‘good work’ as Easter Christians can be to live as that new humanity. Putting aside our natural divisions, resisting the temptation to separate, we live the common life God has prepared for us. We know we’re far from perfect. The visible church has more factions than an Australian political party. But we know they are a scandal, an offence to the body of Christ. Our divisions give people the excuse to be hurt, angry, and disdainful of others and the Christian faith. They can block
God’s clear message of the gospel of grace. That is not something we want. Each of us, in our own small or large way, has a part to play in this good work of living in the unity of Christ. It begins with you and me. Christ died for the whole world, not a select group. I don’t own the truth. It is God’s truth and he does with it what he will, giving it even to unworthy people like you and me.
Each of us … has a part to play in this good work of living in the unity of Christ This challenge of living as God’s Easter people is important today in our church. We face some major issues that can threaten us with division, especially when we strongly disagree. I pray, and I hope you do too, that we keep to the truth of God’s word, including the unity of love, selflessly sharing the good news of our Saviour with each other and the world.
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Picture: courtesy istockphoto.com
In suburban Australia, Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ has a 21st century urgency
Small mercies This story begins on the promise of a cruise ship that will carry precious cargo to a safer, more fruitful life in Australia. But the reality is a series of open boats, carrying hundreds of fearful asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia, all desperately hoping to arrive alive and to find welcome here. The story does not unfold in the same way for every single one of those passengers, but in the case of almost 40 Iranian and Sri Lankan asylum seekers, refuge, love and compassion were waiting when they were eventually settled into the Australian community under bridging- and communitydetention visas. Allocated to houses surrounding St Paul’s Lutheran Church in the Geelong suburb of Grovedale (Victoria), some of the asylum seekers soon took up regular Sunday worship at the church. So began a new chapter in the congregation’s journey in faith. Vol 48 No4 P109
by Yolande Schefe
The last time K— saw his family was
The trauma that many asylum seekers leave behind is unimaginable, but the grace with which they carry their pasts is inspiring.
four months ago, when he spoke to
K— fled Iran with his wife and two young daughters. The family arrived in Geelong about nine months ago. He spoke about the threat of violence he and his family left behind. ‘I have problem with Hezbollah’, he said, of the violent Shia Muslim military group in Iran (and other Middle Eastern conflict hotspots). ‘After I leave my country, they attack my family. My brother was in hospital for 20 days.’ They were threatened because K—’s marriage was opposed by his wife’s uncle, a member of Hezbollah, who wanted her to marry someone within the group, a Hezbollahi. ‘I cannot be quiet’, K— said. ‘But if you say something, they don’t like it.’
his mother on a video call. Since then, internet has been cut and he has lost all contact.
After I leave my country, they attack my family. My brother was in hospital for 20 days ‘I have problem at home—the future is dark’, he said. ‘They aren’t really safe; they can’t leave. Until Hezbollah stay there it won’t get better.’ The Lutheran May 2014
Above: Rev Tom Pietsch says that caring for the asylum seekers in their midst has been a beautiful experience for the people of St Paul's. 'The asylum seekers are my age, I enjoy spending time with them.'
Similarly, the Sri Lankan men within the St Paul’s community fled persecution and threats of violence.
This father and another housemate both lost the rest of their families in the war but their attitudes are astoundingly positive.
One of seven men living in a house close to the church spoke of the circumstances they fled, as Tamil men living as a minority in Sri Lanka.
‘Very happy—stay here’, the father laughs.
A group similar in nature to Australia’s ASIO would question the men, torturing them if they stayed silent. ‘My uncle, during war period, he is in civil war’, the 25 year-old said. ‘Then Sri Lankan army searching for my uncle. Sri Lankan army tortured my father.’ His housemate has been apart from his wife and baby daughter for two years and said he does not know when he will see them again. ‘Every time I pray, “When will you come … when will you come?”’ But this father does not want his wife and daughter to endure the boat ride from Indonesia. The men said the boat that brought them held almost 100 people and they were without water or food for five days. 6
The Lutheran May 2014
THE PRESENT Rev Tom Pietsch is the spiritual leader of St Paul’s—his first congregation since he was ordained.
We tried to allocate roles but it didn’t work. All those things were job titles but they weren’t love With energy and pragmatism, Pastor Tom established a system for welcoming the newest additions to the congregation, in the form of a two-stage plan. The first stage involves addressing the immediate needs of the asylum seekers: finding houses, securing rental bonds,
gathering warm clothing. The second stage is a continued effort of language and driving lessons, and of building community involvement. But after the initial practicalities were dealt with, a deeper effect on the congregation was revealed. ‘It’s beautiful—I don’t even know what’s going on. It’s its own beast’, Pastor Tom said. ‘We tried to allocate roles but it didn’t work. All those things were job titles but they weren’t love.’ ‘It’s a lovely parish’, he said. ‘I feel like we were ready for this. Everyone was strengthened for this.’ Many of the asylum seekers came to the church without any Christian background but became receptive to the faith because of the love of Christ they received from the congregation. ‘It’s not a doctrinal attraction; it’s an attraction to Christians’, Pastor Tom said. ‘But the doctrine isn’t irrelevant; it comes into it now. ‘It begins with suspicion of Islam (in the case of the Iranians) but develops, Vol 48 No4 P110
Picture: Emily Rose
Every time I pray, “when will you come … when will you come?”
Picture: Emily Rose
Only by loving other people do you grow in love for Christ Above: Almost 40 asylum seekers, mostly from Iran and Sri Lanka have been settled in the Geelong suburb of Grovedale, in an area surrounding St Paul's Lutheran Church. especially seeing the love of other parishioners, drawing them into the love of Christ.
Pastor Tom said his own faith has been strengthened and affirmed since the arrival of the asylum seekers.
‘They are brought up for blessing and they turn around with beaming smiles. There’s something important about communion—people who have helped [them] during the week, offering up their hands’, he said.
‘I think as a Christian you’re sometimes motivated by guilt’, he said, referencing the story of Cain and Abel as explanation.
K— said his life is of faith and worship now, and he will be baptised, together with his wife and daughters, in coming months. ‘Before I have no religion’, he said. ‘When I move here I contact with Christian people. Now I believe that God is Jesus.’
‘Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” My natural response is, “Why should I care?” about someone else’s problem—but love overcomes that.’ The efforts of St Paul’s congregation may seem like an enormous undertaking to outsiders, but Pastor Tom and his wife Chelsea quickly shut down
any notions of their experience with asylum seekers being a chore. ‘The asylum seekers are my age; I enjoy spending time with them’, Pastor Tom said. ‘My whole life is a gift; it’s not my own. My vocation as pastor is not a drag; it’s more than I deserve. ‘Only by loving other people do you grow in love for Christ.’ Chelsea adds, ‘They’re very close friends of ours’.
THE FUTURE After a hiatus in processing following last year’s federal election, more asylum seekers are being settled in the St Paul’s area.
A LIGHT IN THE COMMUNITY The main care that Pastor Tom Pietsch and St Paul’s provide to asylum seekers is their love, patience and generosity of spirit.
grant and we were happy to sign off on that’, he said. ‘All in all, it comes down to my decision and I thought it was a very worthwhile cause.’
‘They miss home desperately’, he said.
However, with community support, financial hurdles are being overcome too. St Paul’s was recently given a grant to provide care to the asylum seekers in the parish.
Pastor Tom said the grant will be used to create a 24-hour-accessible computer room that parishioners can use. Asylum seekers will be able to use the computer at odd hours, to speak with their loved ones on video calls.
Asylum Seeker Support Coordinator
Councillor Andy Richards of Geelong City Council said it was a simple decision to award the money. ‘Strictly speaking, the church put in an application for a council community Vol 48 No4 P111
He said there was a strong need among the asylum seekers for such a service, many of whom had not seen their family for years.
St Paul’s has also been awarded a grant from Lutheran Laypeople’s League which will be used to hire an (ASSC). The ASSC will work for ten hours a week to organise provision of care and connection between families and asylum seekers in the church. The ASSC will be the first point of contact for asylum seekers, as a spiritual and practical guide.
The Lutheran May 2014
Chelsea said she was looking forward to an even more diversified neighbourhood with the arrival of the newcomers.
We don't need something big ... we just need to start life ‘I’m just hoping we’ll see much more of a multicultural church here in Grovedale. ‘It’s a really encouraging thing to see … to see that the church is open to people of all different backgrounds.’
Most asylum seekers in the St Paul’s community are awaiting confirmation of refugee status.
‘We don’t need something big from them [the Australian government], we just need to start life’, K— said.
Pastor Tom referred to the trauma that many people in the group have survived and the ongoing challenges that asylum seekers face.
‘If we stay long time with no solution we get mental health problem.’
‘They’re promised a cruise ship; they’re promised great things’, he said. ‘They’re still scarred from that boat trip.’ Despite becoming engaged members of their new community, under the conditions of their community detention and bridging visas, most asylum seekers cannot legally seek paid work. The wait for answers on whether they will be able to stay is insufferable.
Nobody knows how long it will be until the fate of the asylum seekers is known, but Pastor Tom is clear about the church’s role in the path that lies ahead. ‘Our job is to love them. The government can’t love them. We can.’ Yolande Schefe is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. She is the stepdaughter of editor Rosie Schefe.
LUTHERANS CARE FOR REFUGEES The Lutheran Church and its members have long been part of welcoming refugees into Australia and New Zealand. Christians across the globe have been at the forefront of providing dispossessed people with new homes, communities, and hope. Many Lutheran schools are using the document Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders to engage students and staff in discussion about how asylum seekers are viewed and
Its website www.acrt.com.au holds a range of information that helps to build understanding of a very complex situation.
Lutheran Community Care SA/NT Director Helen Lockwood is the Lutheran representative on the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT), an initiative of the National Council of Churches in Australia. The ACRT’s purpose is ‘to promote a shared Christian Vision of compassion and hospitality for asylum seekers and refugees’.
The LCA Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions has been discussing this complex issue in consultation with Australian Lutheran World Service and encourages church members to do the same, using the resources of the ACRT and Welcoming the Stranger.
treated in Australia. You can access this document through the LCA website
A ‘Thanksgiving Service’ will be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church, followed by a light lunch at Redeemer Hall.
Please join us for two special milestones as we
celebrate Tabeel’s 60th anniversary and congratulate General Manager Roland Weier on his retirement after 23 years of service. 8
The Lutheran May 2014
Sunday 29 June 2014 10.30am Redeemer Lutheran Church 21 Patrick Street, Laidley RSVP by 22 June 2014 P: 07 5465 1133 or 07 5465 4394 E: email@example.com Vol 48 No4 P112
A dry husk of spirituality The Gods Of Wheat Street is shining the light on a distinctly Australian form of spirituality for the small screen. But is its creed able to offer anything more to Australians than Tony Robbins or the New Age Movement have? This new ABC drama is set in Casino, in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, where Odin Freeburn (Kelton Pell) is struggling to lead his Aboriginal family. As a teenager ‘Odie’ was involved in a terrible car accident which killed his mother. While she lies dying she has him swear that he will be strong for her other children; that he will ensure that they don’t get split up. In doing so she introduces the theme that shapes the entire six-part series: the family obligations that shape our futures. In the first episode Odie is introduced on the day of his boss’s funeral. He has been working for a struggling garage that, with the death of its proprietor, is now likely to go under. Odie’s family looks set to follow a similar fate. But from the first episode we realise that the Freeburns are a family who keep one eye on the next world. Rather than depart for the hereafter, the spirit of Odie’s dead mother reappears to him at crucial times in his life, to guide him towards the best future for their family. His crisis of employment is one such time, though he’s less than pleased with the extent of the advice she offers: Odie: Okay—what happens if I take that job in Sydney? Mum: You know I can’t tell you that … I know if you keep fixing bike chains and servicing lawn mowers you won’t go far. Vol 48 No4 P113
Odie: That’s not the question I asked you—go or stay? The spiritual world of The Gods of Wheat Street may have Aboriginal elements, but it’s decidedly Western in expression. Loved ones have gone on to a better place where their creator takes good care of them. They remain positively concerned with those they left behind, even if they can’t tell the living anything specific. But what they lack in practical help, they make up for in encouragement. The members of the Freeburn family are named after mythic figures, mainly deities. As Odin’s mother explains to her son: ‘You know why I gave you those names? Because names have power. I didn’t name you after a god so you could go around thinking you’re like everyone else.’ The ghosts of Wheat Street (such as Odie’s mum) are only there to help their loved ones be all they can be; they’re not gods at all. As the drama unfolds, viewers will realise that the ‘real gods’ of Wheat Street are the loving adults who make things happen. It’s a predictable post-modern storyline. The Gods of Wheat Street is Western spirituality in Aboriginal screenplay. The spiritual world has no law to be obeyed, only advice, and so there’s no sin and no need for confession and repentance. The ‘creator’ is merely in charge of blessing mealtimes and providing a heavenly retirement home. And, of course, there’s no mention of Jesus because there’s no need for him in Casino—not when it turns out you’re actually your own saviour.
THE GODS OF WHEAT STREET Rating: M Distributor: ABC1 Screening from 12 April 2014 Saturdays, 8.30 pm
Comments on contemporary culture
by Mark Hadley The Lutheran May 2014
Picture: Sheree Schmaal
[Jesus said] ‘I chose you … so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last’ (John 15:16 NIV)
Photo: Courtesy Rufus Pech
by Sheree Schmaal
Rufus Pech has had a keen interest in gardening since his bachelor days in New Guinea. He's equally passionate about his other gardening activity—planting and nurturing God's word in human lives. It takes a special sort of determination to challenge the status quo, especially in institutions that cling to tradition. People who do so are often perceived as difficult, obstinate, stubborn. But without them the Lutheran Church in Australia and in Papua New Guinea might be bearing less fruit today. In the spring of 1949, the president of Lutheran Mission New Guinea (LMNG) came to the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (UELCA) with an urgent appeal. Australian pastors were needed to serve with pastors from Germany and North America in the rapid Lutheran expansion into the untouched Central Highlands. 10
The Lutheran May 2014
Four of the eight UELCA pastoral students due to graduate from Immanuel Seminary in 1950 volunteered for service in New Guinea. Rufus Pech was one of them. His credentials for challenging the status quo had been established even before he had set foot inside the seminary. In 1941, Rufus and three other young aspirants to the ordained ministry had drafted a memorandum—or was it a manifesto?—setting out two conditions upon which they would enrol at Immanuel Seminary: ‘(1) instruction was to no longer be in German, but in English; and (2) “Doc Hebart” was to be the principal’. At the time, there had been no new enrolments to the seminary for some time. The document
was hand-delivered to UELCA General President Rev J J Stolz. Somehow the painful decision to accede to the youngsters’ request was made by the church and seminary leaders. So it came to pass that, from 1942 onwards, English was the seminary’s medium of instruction. (The second ‘condition’ could only be met after the end of World War II when Dr S P Hebart was called as principal.) After completing a course with the Summer Institute of Linguistics— Wycliffe Bible Translators, Rufus was ordained and commissioned in his home congregation, Holy Trinity, at Appila, South Australia. He arrived in Lae on his 24th birthday. After a leisurely missionboat journey to the old coastal mission Vol 48 No4 P114
Photo: Courtesy Rufus Pech
Photo: Courtesy Rufus Pech
Above left: Rufus was posted to the Amron Teacher Training Centre in Madang, a challenging post for a missionary only 24 years of age. Above right: Rufus, with his wife Margaret (in the driver’s seat) and daughters Denise and Cheryl, visit the old church on Karkar Island in about 1962; the church had been abandoned after it was damaged during the Japanese invasion of New Guinea.
All the mentors I had were people who were missionaries for life areas, for orientation, he began his first posting, at Amron Teacher Training Centre, north of Madang. This was the toughest assignment possible. Many Madang District Lutheran converts had been seduced by Papua New Guinea’s most widespread and best-organised cargo cult. The surviving pre-war American missionaries, who had returned with some newcomers to rebuild the mission after the traumatic years of Japanese occupation, were being shunned by large sections of their pre-war baptised ‘flock’. Within three months, Rufus had to begin teaching in two schools, using the rudiments of the Bel language he was painfully acquiring. He was warned he wouldn’t last long, but went into his Vol 48 No4 P115
assigned roles with the fixed idea that this would be his life’s service. ‘All the mentors I had were people who were missionaries for life’, he says. But did he have a have a clear idea of his purpose, his mission, there; what he wanted to achieve, and how he would do it? ‘I didn’t have a clue’, Rufus says. ‘I wasn’t so much scared or nervous though, as there was so much going on. You just had to put one foot before the other. It was just about taking one day at a time and surviving each day.’ As a bachelor for the first two years, he didn’t cook, and lived largely on raw local fruits and the produce of his terraced garden. That was a good way to enter Papua New Guinea’s subsistence society. For the next 41 years, Rufus spent his time getting to know and serving the people of Papua New Guinea—while teaching and trekking, training teachers and pastors, writing and translating documents, and through studying and lecturing overseas. He worked as an editor at the church’s publishing house, Kristen Pres, and contributed to the drafting of a common Statement of Faith for the three Lutheran bodies in the country.
This led to the establishment of Martin Luther Seminary for equipping Englishspeaking Lutheran pastors, and of Balob Teachers Training College, for staffing the Lutheran (and Anglican) primary-school systems. Finally, as the LMNG’s last full-time president, he guided the transfer of leadership from overseas mission to indigenous church.
For 41 years, Rufus spent his time getting to know and serving the people of Papua New Guinea Rufus’s contributions to the Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea were recognised with an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Australian Lutheran College in 2011. But his contributions in Papua New Guinea were not confined to the churches, schools and organisations The Lutheran May 2014