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NATIONAL MAGAZINE OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
where faith flows The Lutheran May 2012
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www.thelutheran.com.au We Love The Lutheran! 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.
The Lutheran reaches the lofty heights of Nepal, thanks to members of Good News Lutheran Church, Middle Park, Qld. (Story: â€˜Friends in high places', p26). Photo: Sean Conry
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As a Queenslander, I used to find it decadently satisfying to watch long strands of toad eggs frying to death on sun-baked rocks.
I'd make myself comfy on my sitting rock, sometimes with a glass of wine in hand, and watch the first tendrils of water venturing tentatively down the stream, creeping into every crack and crevice, painting dreary grey rocks shiny black, tinkling all the way. I'd stay there, dangling my feet in the toad-free water, until the pond was full, glistening with joy. I understand why so many of us are drawn to water when our spirit needs a refill. I understand why the biblical writers so often used water as a metaphor of new life, why it's used together with the word to create new birth in baptism, why Jesus said that the life he gives is like a stream (John 4:14) and why Revelation paints heaven with a river of life running through it (22:1). Many people say they can get by just fine without faith in Christ, and some do seem to. But every year, in that dry creek-bed filling up with water again, I could see the difference between a life where faith flows and a life where it doesn't. This edition of The Lutheran is brimming with stories about Jesus, the water of life—moving, creating, re-creating in every corner of life and of the world. There's no place where the tendrils of life-giving water cannot reach. I hope these stories will help you to believe that where faith in Christ flows, there is life.
Vol 46 No4 P111
05 It's not fair! 08 Where faith flows
But aside from the murderous delight that the annual ponddraining gave me, maintaining our front garden's stream was a lot of work, and sometimes I wondered if we should leave it dry, permanently. But I could never do it. A stream without water is … well, not a stream. A dry stream and pond would be perpetually weary, sad, lifeless—a reminder of all that is wrong with the world. So, after murdering toad embryos, my next favourite delight of the annual ponddraining was the refilling.
12 The ring-in 26 Friends in high places 28 All we need is love
COLUMNS 04 From the President 14 Little Church 15 Inside Story 20 Directory
21 Letters 22 Stepping Stones 24 Notices 25 Reel Life
30 Heart and Home 32 World in Brief 34 Coffee Break
What a country! Week after week across the LCA in our two countries we petition in the Prayer of the Church for good government. God always answers prayer. Of course, he may say ‘no’ or ‘wait’ or ‘I’ve got a better idea’. He doesn’t always say ‘yes’, as that would make us gods with the ‘knowledge of good and evil’. Remember the first temptation we gave in to with our free will? To be like God. Now we ourselves become the measure of all things. We judge ‘good’ by what attracts us, and what we do not like becomes ‘bad’.
Rev Dr Mike Semmler President Lutheran Church of Australia Keep up to date with news, prayer points and call information by visiting http:// www.lca.org.au/presidentspage-archive.html or by subscribing to the president's electronic newsletter. To receive the newsletter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. au giving the email address you would like included. All LCA pastors and layworkers are automatically included in this list.
For good order and protection, the government is a gift of God to society. In Australia, with regard to the inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, our government invited presentations from our church. As president, I accepted the invitation to appear as a ‘witness’ before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in the week following Easter. How many countries across the world would afford that privilege? What a country! God has answered our prayer for a good government with a ‘yes’. That does not mean that we will necessarily get what we would like from the legislation which is before the federal parliament. The basic grounds upon which these bills may be decided (apart from any political considerations) is likely to be the notion of human rights and that of the ‘evolution of society’. From the point of view of the state these appear useful. From the point of view of the church we see them as limited by the human capacity to think, rather than coming from God who alone knows ‘good and evil’. In the church we
The Lutheran May 2012
In the church we have truth outside of ourselves and therefore not limited by us.
have truth outside of ourselves and therefore not limited by us. The state must deal with the realities presented by contemporary society. Then it must consider what is best for society by providing good order and protection for its citizens. It is a blessing that we can have input into that process and, in this case, present our request that the unique institution of marriage—created by God for all communities (not just the church) and without which society does not even exist—has its integrity upheld. No matter how the government rules, what a country! We were able to point beyond the ‘rights’ issue to God’s order—of blessing, privilege and responsibility. That lifts the discussion into a different sphere. The ‘right’ we have is to be called ’children of God’ and that is by God’s grace in Christ. Our government will not deny us that, but neither will it promote it. Our prayers for good government have had an untold positive effect on our society. What a country! Our Lord Jesus Christ has opened our access to ‘our Father in heaven’. Keep on praying! Vol 46 No4 P112
photo Rhodes photoKendrea Jen Pfitzner
, it s not fair!
by Kendrea Rhodes
photo Jen Pfitzner
Year-six student Sophie Feltus, from St John's Lutheran School, Eudunda, SA, stands with her hands on her hips, thinking hard. She's trying to work out how to distribute 30 bags of pasta so that everyone in the world has enough to eat. She knows there are a lot of people in Asia and Africa—because most of the 20 paper dolls live there—so she has to make sure they get more bags of pasta than countries with fewer paper dolls. She has already learnt that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone.
The way ALWS teaches it, even a child can see that
greed is wrong. Vol 46 No4 P113
This foundational fact is an important starting point in ‘Food Matters', the title of this year's Awareness Week program run by Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) for school students. ALWS teaching staff will take the
program to 16 venues, and students from over 80 Lutheran schools will participate. This year's program will involve twice as many schools as last year's, which is really saying something because last year's tally was double that of the year before. Ultimately ALWS's goal is to give every Lutheran school in Australia the opportunity to have this experience. Sophie and her friends finish distributing the pasta to the paper dolls and are pleased with their efforts. Sensibly, they've given more food to those countries that have a big population of dolls and less to those with smaller populations. Every paper doll in the world will have enough pasta to eat. This simple act of distributing food evenly represents the children's sense
Above: Some people get to eat only one scoop of rice a day. By comparing their own three meals a day with what many people get to eat, students (including Jackson of St Michael's Lutheran School, Hahndorf, left) are encouraged to consider how blessed they are. The Lutheran May 2012
They were shocked when the ALWS staff rearranged the bags of pasta to reflect how the situation really is. They could see that some countries with big populations receive only a small amount of food, not nearly enough for everyone. A number of voices chimed in, ‘That's not fair!' There you have it: awareness. After that comes understanding. ‘Our goals at ALWS focus around understanding', explains Vicki Gollasch, ALWS Community Action Officer. ‘Awareness is the first step to understanding. ‘Through the Food Matters program, we want students to become aware, and then to understand, that world hunger is an issue of injustice—because some countries keep more food resources than they need, while others don't have enough. We want students to understand also that God has a great concern for the poor and the hungry, and that our church and ALWS have roles to play in helping those people. In fact, everyone, even these children, can contribute in some way.'
Immanuel Lutheran School in Gawler asked the obvious question, ‘So, why don't we all share?' At Spring Head Lutheran School in the Adelaide Hills, the 92 students from Spring Head and nearby schools are learning that some people get to eat only one scoop of rice each day. Does anyone want to volunteer to take on the Rice Scoop Challenge? The idea is simple: just eat this one scoop of rice at 11.00 am and see how you feel by lunchtime. Those who try it report back that they feel tired, hungry and unable to think, only two hours later. This is teachable empathy—a glimpse into the life that millions of people face daily. The students began to understand that if life depends on needing to run from danger or carry water for your family, you need to eat enough food to give you energy. But what if there is only one scoop of rice to eat each day? Or even less?
So, if there's enough food for everyone, why
are so many people in the world hungry?
What if you're hungry all the time? The children might not be great lovers of maths, but they will remember these two sets of figures. The first: one in seven people worldwide is hungry. The second: every five seconds a child dies of a hunger-related illness. These staggering statistics were displayed interactively, with students representing the numbers. The lesson won't easily be forgotten. ALWS have been running Awareness Week in Lutheran schools for seven
photo Kendrea Rhodes
of justice and fairness. But it doesn't represent reality.
Each of these issues is covered creatively throughout the day-long program. The hands-on, fast-changing approach keeps children interested from start to finish. Colourful visual aids are employed—nothing technical, just things like paper dolls, large pictures, buckets, packets of pasta, photographs, containers of rice and dried food samples. The students' sense of justice is well and truly piqued by the time they learn that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. So, when that point finally sinks in, you can just imagine the next question on their lips: ‘So, if there's enough food, why are so many people in the world hungry?' In a child's world the solution seems simple enough. One lad from 6
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Vol 46 No4 P114
photo Linda Macqueen
years. The program beautifully reflects one portion of ALWS's mission: ‘bringing people together in partnership to ensure the voices of the poor are heard'. Those voices were heard loud and clear in Tanunda Lutheran School's spacious hall, as 138 students from five schools listened to Pastor Peter Deng's story. He told them about his old life as a refugee and about his new and blessed life in Australia. He said that when Sudan was at war, he fled his village and lived in a refugee camp. There he lived on one small meal a day, served at 1.00 pm. He ate the same bland food every day. A student asked him if he got sick of it. Peter replied simply: ‘I wanted to live'. Stunned silence … in a hall full of energetic school children. No doubt many were silently promising never to complain about their food again. Karen Dymke, Director of Learning at Luther College, Melbourne, asked the children what they'd eaten for breakfast. They reported a wide variety of breakfast options—as they did for lunch and dinner too. Three meals a day is the norm in Australia, and we take it for granted. This is what Food Matters is about—increasing awareness not only of the plight of others but also of our own privileged position. With awareness comes understanding. With understanding comes gratitude, and then, hopefully, action. Kendrea Rhodes is a freelance writer for The Lutheran and the LCA website. She lives in Lobethal, South Australia. More information: ALWS: www.alws.org.au Awareness Days: Vicki Gollasch 0448 832 263 Left: 'That's not fair!': Sophie Feltus (St John's Lutheran School, Eudunda, SA) is perplexed by the inequality as she compares the vast amount of food available for every American person with the small amount available for every African person. Vol 46 No4 P115
PIGGY BANKS Students participating in ALWS's Food Matters program are surprised to learn that the ALWS doesn't deliver boxes of food to poor countries, but something many times better: education. People are taught how to provide food for themselves. They get to own their food-production projects and to take responsibility for their management, and in the process they get something else: dignity. This is achieved through some innovative ideas, such as revolving animal banks and food banks. It was the pig banks in particular that got the children's attention. In Cambodia ALWS funds provide a poor family with a sow and the nails for a pigpen. The family builds the pigpen from local timber and looks after the sow. When her first litter is delivered, the piglets are sold off one by one until the debt has been repaid. After that, the family gets to keep whatever piglets the sow produces, and from there they can start to generate a livelihood. Once the children had caught on to this simple but clever system, they quickly worked out how a food bank would work. The ALWS food bank lends one bag of rice at the start of the season to the farmer, who then plants, cultivates and harvests the rice. The loan is extinguished once the farmer returns one-and-a-fifth bags of rice to the bank. The farmer can sell the rest of the rice or keep it to eat. So, one pig and one bag of rice may eventually feed thousands of people. Which reminds us of another story: Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:30-44). It's amazing what God can do when we open our hearts and share. The Lutheran May 2012
where faith flows by Sheree Schmaal
Can a person's life be neatly divided up between the sacred and the secular? Flossie Pietsch and her art say no—God is in all of life. If you walked into a room and saw a set of dining-room chairs hanging on a wall at odd angles, your thoughts might not immediately jump to God. But gaze a little longer at the art of Flossie Peitsch and you might find yourself reflecting on the presence of spirituality in ordinary, everyday life. That's the kind of reaction for which Flossie has spent 35 years creating art. ‘My ministry is the “evangelism” of spirituality through art', Flossie says. ‘That's what I see as my reason for being on this earth. ‘People these days seek spirituality, and I believe that begins in the home and community and through everyday things like eating a meal together. Those chairs could be a reminder of that.' Encouraging spirituality in others might seem like an impossible task. What is spirituality, and how do you make people think about it? Flossie says one way to do it is to find common ground with people who might not go to church or have connections with traditional Christian rituals or traditions. ‘I think the common denominator is living in a community and being 8
The Lutheran May 2012
part of a family', she says, ‘That's why my art uses everyday processes like knitting, tapestry weaving, woodworking and embroidery.' No matter what the shape or form, Flossie's art is firmly focused on the family, the home and spirituality. These themes also feature in Flossie's doctoral thesis The Immortal Now: Visualising the Place Where Spirituality and Today's Families Meet, which she completed at Victoria University in 2007 following a Master of Fine Arts degree at Monash University in 2002. ‘One of the earliest lessons I learnt as an academic artist was to shed my use of overtly Christian symbols and clichés', Flossie says. ‘I had always thought that my art clearly reflected my faith, but with all the attitudes I came across at university [about being a Christian], I realised I would have to be much more clever and subtle. A lot of non-Christian artists use Christian symbols, so I don't any longer. By learning to avoid typically recognisable Christian symbolism, I am opening a dialogue with those who could otherwise be dismissive of me and my religion. People are encouraged to think more deeply.'
Flossie says it was through this approach that her work became regarded as art in its own right, critically acclaimed and accepted as equal among peers. The list of media Flossie has used over the years continues to grow: watercolour, oils, tapestry, installation, improvisation theatre, performance art, community art, wood, steel, metal, rubbish, knitting, canvas, matte board, polystyrene, artificial grass and sound. ‘If you Google “art + Christian + Australia” it's possible my name won't come up, because my work is not known as overly Christian', Flossie says. ‘And I hope that's true, because when you label it like that some people are put off by the preconceived idea of “us and them”. I think this helps reach across to people who aren't “churchy”.' Flossie has used this platform to engage with people who might not otherwise come across her art. Her most recent solo exhibition, Bed, Breakfast and Belief: Seeking the Spiritual Self in Community Relationships, was shown at Nowra, New South Wales, last year. It also toured regional Victorian galleries in 2010 under the title The Immortal Now. Vol Vol4646No4 No3P116 P78
My art is generated through daily experiences through which my faith flows. There isn't a part of my life that is secular, so
everything I do has something to do with God, even if that's cooking a meal or cleaning the house.'
The exhibition featured a range of installations based on found objects, tapestries, wooden constructions, textiles and, of course, the dining-room chairs found in Eight Unseated. ‘Some pieces in Bed, Breakfast and Belief date back to 2002 when I did my Masters', Flossie says. ‘The exhibition Vol 46 No4 No3 P117 P79
changes as new work appears. It is my goal to place the spirituality that we know exists into the everyday scene.' Flossie says it's important for her to focus on spirituality rather than religion, because it's more relevant to modern society. ‘I think that people are moving away from the idea of religion, but they are open to spirituality', she says. ‘This search is transient. It is about the unexplainable—moving from the known to the unknown and towards the divine. In my Christian interpretation, God can't be separated from spirituality.' Flossie's faith is shared with her husband, Tom Peitsch (Lutheran pastor in the Illawarra parish) and their six children. She says family and everyday life not only provide the subjects and materials for her creations; they are also the inspiration. ‘The inspiration for my art draws on everything I've been taught: my baptism, confirmation, marriage in the church, association with family, being brought up in Canada and coming to Australia as a Lutheran teacher … this has made me who I am', she says. ‘It's far more than being inspired by the Bible. My art is generated
through daily experiences through which my faith flows. There isn't a part of my life that is secular, so everything I do has something to do with God, even if that's cooking a meal or cleaning the house.' A great example of this is the Left Sock project that formed part of Flossie's Wollongong exhibition. Lutheran women from all over Australia sent in decorated odd socks, as a tribute to household chores. Many of these socks came with symbols and anecdotes of God's presence in the owners' everyday lives. Flossie says part of being an artist is to offer her works to others and let them make their own connections and meanings, without judgement or coercion into one certain interpretation or meaning. ‘My job as an artist is not to tell people that something clearly means this or that. Rather, it's about setting up the question, ‘What do you think this is about?' It's a bit like St Paul preaching about the one true God to people who had many gods (Acts 17). He didn't alienate anyone or put anyone down because they had ideas different from his, but he directed people to the journey that he himself was on The Lutheran May 2012
Flossie reflects on Prayer Pockets ‘I was asked to be the speaker for women's fellowship retreats in Victoria. I was interested in focusing on women being community. It is often the responsibility of women to pass on culture to the next generation and one way women do this is by coming together to do handicrafts. Out of that comes the conversation. So I decided to start a kind of sewing circle where women could have conversations about their families and faith while they create Prayer Pockets to hold their prayer points. These were designed to be a kind of devotional aid, since the participants could write down their prayers and put them in the pockets.
and talked about his basis for faith. All we have to do is be true to the track that we're on, and if it holds true for anyone else, they'll see that. My job is to completely accept anybody in their search for the divine and not judge them based on their responses.' Flossie says it's the conviction that we are ‘saved by grace' that makes her approach to art take on a particularly Lutheran texture. ‘I think that my attitude towards “saved by grace” is what generates my acceptance of other people and their spiritual journey', Flossie says. ‘God doesn't hold me accountable for the list of rights and wrongs in my life, and I can extend that same grace to everyone else. You and I are equal in God's sight. The hard part that I want to encapsulate in my art is the idea of acceptance and dominance of God's love in the world and for me.' Like many evangelists, Flossie finds it hard to measure the impact of her art. She admits it is difficult to know whether the art affects people or not—whether it makes them reflect on spirituality and connect with God. ‘I've been doing this for so long and the response from people is so limited', she says. ‘But if I based my work on getting responses, then I would have stopped being an artist 20 years ago. The best reaction I can get from my art is to hear people say, “Hmmm, I'm not sure what this is, but I'm really intrigued by it”. ‘Even if people don't understand at the time, I like to think that eventually the art can tie in with another experience, and then God can work in whatever mysterious way God works.' Sheree Schmaal lives in Canberra and works in the public service. She is a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Belconnen ACT. 10
The Lutheran May 2012
At the first workshop we made hundreds of them, and they all went home to be used. I then took the concept to New South Wales, where it developed to another level. Now the pockets contained prayers created by women, but not just women from church; women from the wider community were also invited. Women from all walks of life, different cultures, languages and religions were all invited to put their prayers into a pocket and seal it shut. I now have many of these prayer pockets, and I have created a quilt out of them. Together they create a spiritual space for God to work in. The amazing part is that I advertised the workshops as ‘prayer pockets' but I didn't have to explain spirituality to anyone who came along. These women already had a sense of spirituality. Actually, it was some of the women from the Lutheran Church who finished sewing their pockets, then asked me for a prayer to put in it! Overall, it was very powerful to see these Prayer Pockets being produced without any theological discussion or instructions. I think it shows that these women are linked to the essence of life; everyone who put in a prayer was in contact with God. I felt very privileged to be accepted as an equal despite my narrow spirituality, as many of the women had a much more trusting relationship with God than I seem to. Even with art—it's just about shape, colour, texture of the exterior—it's clear that the one who made all of that is God. Very ordinary things can take you to another place or time in life, so you can see how God works in your life. It's all part of your experience of this immortal life and God being with us through all of it. Prayer Pockets will go on display at the Mount Kembla Heritage Centre on the New South Wales south coast, to honour the community that survived the 1902 mine disaster. Prayer Pocket workshops also featured at the Lutheran Women of New South Wales Retreat in March. Read the story: http://www.lca.org.au/ everyones-an-artist-lwnsw-retreat.html Vol 46 No4 P118
One bite isnâ€™t enough, is it?
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