Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God
I love spring! It’s a season of increased warmth (yes, even in Wellington), new growth, fresh beginnings, emerging life, new possibilities, etc.
And friends, it’s all around us!
I spent plenty of time during my recent two weeks of annual leave in the garden … digging through and freshening up the soil that had become somewhat sodden and lifeless through the cold of winter … pulling out weeds and planting in their place new seedlings … petunias, lettuces, tomatoes, daisies. And now I watch as rose bushes, once pruned hard, send forth new stems that hold the promise of beautiful flowers for the length of the summer … I see hydrangeas putting on a fresh lustre of green … the kowhai has, in most cases, blossomed already and is shedding spent flowers … but the Tui, still stops in its branches and sings its new song.
Spring … a time for new plants … a time for fresh flowering.
Next month, the LCA’s new Church Planting Mentor, Dean Eaton will visit the LCNZ to invite us to participate in a new springtime in the life of the Church. Dean and I will visit Christchurch, Palmerston North, Whanganui and Auckland during the week of 10-16 November, to talk with local congregations and pastors, to walk and drive through new locations where possibilities exist to plant the gospel; to plant new churches.
Jesus planted the Christian Church in the world. His disciples were the first church. But that was only the beginning. Looking into the future, Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). It was always his intention that the church, his body on earth, would grow, and keep growing. He knew we’d need a hand, so he promised to send us a Helper (John 14:16). Every baptised Lutheran in Australia and New Zealand is part of Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled – we’re part of the church he grew – and every one of us has received his promised Helper, the Holy Spirit, so that we can keep the church growing. The LCA Board for Local Mission is taking Jesus’ prophecy and his promise seriously. We are inviting you and your congregation to join us on the LCA journey to plant 30 new churches in 10 years. (Taken from Church Planting, an initiative of the LCA Board for Local Mission)
Bishop John Henderson encourages us – Now is the time, more than ever, for us to step forward in mission. Whether your congregation is new or old, large or small, urban or rural, you have an important role in bringing the gospel of hope to new people. Please consider prayerfully how you can take up this offer and challenge.
Friends, I encourage you to pray for the Lord's springtime in His Church; that there would be a new and beautiful flowering of the gospel in and through us, His people, His Church.
SIGNS OF SPRING IN THE CHURCH (and in OTHER PLACES)
In so many ways and places in the Church, there are signs of the new growth of spring. Consider these, for example:
- Six graduates from Australian Lutheran College (formerly “The Sem”) were approved just over a week ago for ordination and call. Included in this group are Nicholas Kitchen (wife Julie) originally from Feilding, and Jaswanth Kukatlapalli (from St Pauls Wellington). These men are raring to go, having been prepared and formed for the ordained ministry. They have planting on their minds and nurture and care of the gospel in the lives of many people. Pray for them, that their pre-ordination enthusiasm might translate into years of satisfying service, working in the harvest fields.
- At this time many of our congregations are holding their Longest Lutheran Lunch … an opportunity to reach out and invite many to receive our hospitality and welcome; an opportunity for us to gently share the gospel in word and in action … an opportunity for God’s love to spring to life in our communities. God bless you as welcome others to your embrace, and indeed to Christ’s.
- One of our smallest congregations – Kawerau – celebrated last Sunday God’s blessing of a place for worship and ministry in their community over the last 50 years … a place where the seed of God’s love in Christ has been sown and nurtured … a place where through all the seasons of those 50 years, the gospel has sprung to and given life.
- There are signs of new life at St Martin, Marton, where the Methodists of this small community are now regularly joining the Lutherans for worship. Please pray that the Lord would bless the springtime of this new season.
- This weekend I will meet with our Chinese sisters and brothers at Botany Lutheran Church in Auckland to discuss their future ministry plan. The Holy Spirit is stirring a fresh and new energy in this congregation for participating in God's mission of love to the world. Please pray for a springtime of growth in this recently-planted congregation.
- Last weekend your Lutheran Support Ministries (LSM) met to discuss and plan ways in which it might support the members of the LCNZ to be the means by which God’s love springs to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. The LSM is working on a plan to offer a ‘one-day’ series of events next year to encourage us in our faith and in our witness, so that we might participate in this springtime season of the Church.
- I’m aware that many students from our congregations – University and College / High School students especially – will be preparing for final exams for the year. Some of you will graduate and move on to new things next year … new opportunities for growth and training and service. God bless you richly in this springtime of your life.
- This spring has brought about a new parliament in our land; the 51st parliament of New Zealand. And while many of the faces are the same and the distribution of representation fairly similar to the previous parliament, it is none-the-less a fresh beginning of servant-leadership, and so we might do well to join with our parliamentarians in praying their opening prayer for each sitting session: Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE SPRINGTIME OF THE REFORMATION
In 1667 John George II, the Elector of Saxony, ordered the first Reformation Festival. The chosen date for the celebration was 31st October; the anniversary of Luther’s famous posting of the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517. With the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification, that is, the ‘springtime of the gospel’ – the good news of salvation by grace through faith for Christ's sake, a reformation took place across the church in many parts of the world. It is our heritage to this day. Celebrate the grace of God in Christ who delights in having mercy on us.
MĀNAWATANGA / BLESSING
Kia tau ki a tātou katoa Te atawhai o tō tātou Ariki, a Ihu Karaiti Me te aroha o te Atua Me te whiwhingatahitanga Ki te wairua tapu Ake, ake, ake Amine
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all Forever and ever. Amen.
Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.
Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa