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
A COUPLE OF REALLY GOOD NUMBERS – 23 AND 121
Friends, these are not my suggestions for lucky numbers for Big Wednesday or Lotto!
Some of you may have already worked out the significance of these numbers. They are the numbers for what are possibly two of the best-known and best-loved psalms in scripture; The Lord's my shepherd and I lift my eyes to the hills.
These were the psalms that spoke of the pure grace and love of God that sustained me during the weeks leading up to Mum's death on 19th May, and in the days following, including her funeral on the 25th May.
Over the last few months of Mum's life, one of the things I loved doing most when I visited her in Whanganui was to sing her hymns. Often it was just me singing because Mum's condition was such that she couldn't respond or join in, but occasionally she'd spark into action and sing ALL four or five verses of a hymn from memory! Two of the hymns that we often sang were The Lord's My Shepherd (LHS-387) and The King of Love My Shepherd Is (LHS-391; both really lovely settings of Psalm 23, one of which we also sang at her funeral.
What a wonderful assurance for me and for us as family that as we walked through the valley of the shadow of Mum's death we had the promise of the presence of the Lord of Life … with us, comforting us, protecting us from the fear of death (23:4). What a wonderful truth to be able to sing and share with Mum that her Lord of Life was leading her to the House of the Lord forever (23:6).
In the weeks after Mum's death, we still walk in the shadow of her dying, but we do so knowing the nearness of the Good Shepherd. How good is that!
And then, in the early hours of the morning of Mum's funeral … after a long and wonderful weekend at LCNZ Convention … I lay in bed awake, thinking of the big day ahead, and especially of my decision to preach … and some words came to me from Psalm 121: he will not let your foot be moved (v3). Again, I was given wonderful words of gospel and grace, of love and care and protection. And so I, together with my family, entered that day with a wonderful sense of God's presence and blessing, and in amongst our tears, we were able to celebrate God's gift of life to Mum with God-given joy.
23 and 121 were good numbers for me, and my prayer is that they will be for you too. We are so thankful that through Mum's witness to strong and committed faith, we are left with the sure hope of seeing her again at the end of our own lives.
We continue to rejoice in the release and healing Mum now has from her earthly suffering, and in the gift of eternal life she received at her baptism which she now enjoys in all fullness in the presence of her Lord.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
We have also been overwhelmed by messages of love and support from many people throughout the Church. Indeed, God's love has come to life through the love you have shown to us.
Please accept our thanks and love.
WAIRUA TAPU KUHU MAI – LCNZ DISTRICT CONVENTION – A SUMMARY
As we gathered for Convention of Synod … in fact, as we gathered for each session of Convention we quietly sang … we quietly prayed … and we invited the Holy Spirit to come amongst us; to be welcome, to guide us and speak to us again.
Wairua Tapu came and warmed us in our gathering, our worship, our meeting, and our decisions.
I am very grateful to Ingrid Phyn (Mountainside) for permission to reprint her 'Impressions of Synod' article in this update. She writes –
This was my first occasion as a delegate to an LCNZ Convention of Synod – it was a full-on weekend starting Saturday morning until late Sunday afternoon. There were worship services, a remembrance service, and a closing service; talking, debate, and decisions; listening to reports from the LCA Bishop John Henderson and NZ's Bishop Mark; and presentations by Lutheran Church of Australia servant-leaders.
One of the highlights for me was hearing about what is happening at other Lutheran churches in NZ, and in particular at the Harrison St Community Church in Whanganui (our hosts); also meeting some of the people who are part of their worshipping community.
Pastor Phil Husband and Brent Siddall, who has taken on the role of Church Worker, gave a PowerPoint presentation on recent activities which focused on the immediate neighbourhood around the church. Pastor Phil said to us 'How did we get new members? We prayed them into the church'. They decided to hold a neighbourhood breakfast – up went a marquee, and 10 of them were joined by 9 people from around the area. They thought that was pretty good. Their major event last year was a free Street Party. The task of organising it was supported by a group of local Christian youth who offered to help. There was a sausage sizzle, face painting, games, café and a fireworks display – and 200-300 people turned up.
At one neighbourhood event, one of the guys came and asked Pastor Phil, 'what can I do'; he said 'go and talk to people about God'; he said he didn't know much about God. Pastor Phil said, 'go and talk to someone'. Which he did, and that person is now in contact with the church.
As you can guess, Pastor Phil is a down to earth person, a good communicator, and one who looks for opportunities, but relies on God's leading. As part of a concept called 'Our Street' developed by Brent, they are exploring ways to reach out to more people in the community. This has included providing food parcels and looking at ways of holding informal seeker-style church services. The small but vibrant team at Harrison St Community Church were a joy to learn about.
Bishop John Henderson talked about his role as Bishop of the LCA, about 'why be a Lutheran' (because of the wonderful message God's grace) and about 2016 as the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran Churches in Australia and NZ coming together under one constitution – as such, we are a relatively young church. He talked about the fear people have when we mention falling numbers in the church – however Bishop Henderson said that as God's people we are to do what he has asked us to do, as in 2 Timothy 4:1-2 'I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching'. He said that the survival of the Church is God's business. He talked about the Ordination of Women issue which will be debated in September. National Synod is where the church decides on doctrine. PRAY FOR THIS. It is important that everyone feels they have been heard. It is also important that we treat one another with respect, and that listening can be more important than putting your point of view. There are 2 specific texts. There is an Ordination We're Listening website: owl.lca.org.au. In addition to study materials the website includes a new blog – OWL for Everybody – which enables anyone to make a comment or read others' comments.
Bishop Mark's report was divided into sections and at the end of each section was a question – we were invited at each table to discuss some of these questions for a few minutes and then share results of the discussion with the whole group – this was a great way to get us all talking and thinking. In 2017 there will be worldwide commemorations of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, an event which led to the Reformation. Bishop Mark has been reflecting on ways NZ Lutherans can commemorate this event and a Task Force will be set up. Watch out for opportunities at local congregation and national level.
Linda Macqueen, Lutheran Communications Unit emphasised the 3 simple ways to learn about what is happening in our church: (1) The Lutheran magazine (print media is still alive, particularly magazines); (2) LCA Website (the sliders at the bottom of the webpage are the Latest News); and (3) e-News – an email which anyone can sign up to via the website and PowerPoint displays which can be used in Sunday services. This is a wonderful way to build community and pray for what is happening all around the church, e.g. all churches that use this would have known about the LCNZ Synod at Whanganui.
Glenice Hartwich, Board for Mission Director, spoke movingly about people whose lives have been changed – from terror and torture to forgiveness and a growing faith. She highlighted 2 instances in Cambodia. There are many stories, photos and videos (free to download) on their website: lcamission.org.au.
The above are just some of the Convention highlights that excited me.
I also invited other attendees at Convention to offer their comments. Here are some of them:
The highlights were the powhiri at the opening service (and Bishop Mark's great mihi in response), the sermons from our two bishops, the nice music, the fantastic morning tea put on by our ladies (and the opportunity for fellowship that this provided) and meeting more people from the wider church. It was nice to see the church full of worshippers and good for us to have what we are doing as a small but active congregation within the LCNZ recognised. The feeling, I thought, through the church was much more positive than two years ago. At that stage all the congregational reports (including mine!) were about their struggles, rather than looking forward with a positive focus on the future. That changed. I look at what (especially the small) congregations are achieving and I felt things were moving in a good direction. I was impressed by the commitment and dedication of delegates to the work of the Lutheran Church and the Christian Faith as well as the enthusiasm to take the Lord's work forward in a proactive manner. Being on Phil's "turf" were the real highlights. What a great place to see the Holy Spirit at work … Whanganui and the Harrison Street Community Church … real people reaching out to people with real needs! Phil and Brent and the members of St John's Lutheran Church, Harrison Street, God bless you in your ministry! I really enjoyed being at Convention. I know there are some issues, but there are also great people amongst us. It was indeed a blessing to be at the convention. The aspect that touched me the most was how a perfect blend was achieved between being a business convention on one hand and being Gods people on the other. Enjoyed the cut and thrust of the proceedings when matters were debated with zeal and gusto and then worship and prayers went up with sincerity and devotion. To sum up it was a great experience more so being my first in LCNZ. Bishop John Henderson asked us in the Sunday sermon, "How's it going? Does the Kingdom feel closer? Then in the middle of the sermon he challenged us on how we use God's minor gifts and said, "It is about having the faith to get on with the job … this synod is about generosity, compassion; and love come to life." I have to say the Kingdom does feel closer when some of our Australian guests said afterwards how much they appreciated what they experience at our Convention of Synod. It was a privilege to be given the opportunity to present two remits. There is a timeless quality to the remits and it is hoped that they will generate further conversations about LCNZ in a changing context. This is the first full Convention that I have ever attended – I have always been involved in the supportive role of the 'home-front' of our congregation. I found the Powhiri and Opening service very moving and certainly felt the peace and wairua tapu of our God very real from the beginning of Convention. The waiata 'Wairua Tapu kuhu mai' was really wonderful and calming and felt that the Holy Spirit's presence throughout the whole of Convention. The service 'In Memoriam' I found very moving - especially when you Mark and your whanau were grieving the loss of your mother. Sunday morning Pentecost was just a wonderful uplifting service. Thought some of the business session went a bit pear shaped and difficult at times - however, that's life. The highlights at the convention for the three of us were the two Worship Services on the Saturday and Sunday, plus the memorial Service Saturday evening of the oak leaves placed in to remember the ones that have passed on. We also loved the idea of the Hikoi walk. Some things that stood out for me were: the fellowship and getting to meet people. The very thorough musical and liturgical (and theological) preparation. The excellent preaching from Bishop Mark and Bishop John (always Christ and cross centred but applied with relevance). The very thorough exploration of the work of the Holy Spirit in the opening service. Too often we tend to focus on the more 'spectacular' so I particularly enjoyed the way in which the service dealt with the manifold work of the Spirit: in artistic creation, creating bonds of unity between people etc. The highlights for me were the powhiri at the opening service (and Bishop Mark's great mihi in response), the sermons from our two bishops, the nice music, the fantastic morning tea put on by our ladies (and the opportunity for fellowship that this provided) and meeting more people from the wider church. It was nice to see the church full of worshippers and good for us to have what we are doing as a small but active congregation within the LCNZ recognised.
I wanted to share these comments with you because I find them very encouraging … and I hope you do too!
SOME OF THE MAJOR CONVENTION DECISIONS
In the absence of a more formal synopsis of Convention (sorry, I haven't had time to get this together yet), here are some things to note from Convention:
Paul Argyle (Manawatu) and Pastor Jim Pietsch (Wellington) were elected to Council of Synod.
The Lutheran Church of New Zealand endorsed a change of name of the Lutheran Church of Australia to a new name that recognises both Australia and New Zealand and, if a name change is adopted at the LCA Convention of Synod, authorises the Council of Synod (COS) to implement the change in cooperation with the LCA's General Church Council upon satisfying itself that all legal, constitutional and operational issues have been addressed. (I've just heard from our LCNZ General Church Council / GCC rep, Jill Hobden that GCC have decided to set the matter of the name change to one side for the time being).
The LCNZ Bishop has been asked to appoint a group of seven drawn from LCNZ members, including the Pastors of the Church, current office bearers, an LCA consultant, with an independent chartered accountant as facilitator to:
Review current practice of financial management and reporting noting any desirable improvements. Determine the financial reporting requirements of the LCNZ into the future. Involve the LCNZ auditor in the process. Investigate the type/s of service/s that would meet those LCNZ requirements with Firms of Chartered Accountants independent of the LCNZ and obtain costing for the work.
A decision was made that the special investigation into the 2010 and 2011 accounts agreed to by postal vote in 2013 now not proceed due to the passage of time and we accept that no audit be undertaken for those years. The matter of the 2010 and 2011 accounts is also due to incomplete records being available and the amount of time necessary to conduct the special investigation when considering that our auditor is quite happy with the 2012/13/14 year's accounts.
COS was asked to put the audit of Gateway and LCNZ, MOD to tender and to appoint a suitable auditor upon conclusion of this process.
The budget for 2015 will be circulated for approval to go with the 2014 audited accounts by 30 June 2015.
There are new directors for the Lutheran Layman's League (LLL). Retiring directors, as of the LLL AGM on the 16th May are Henry Chan, Clive Kingsley-Smith, Kate Clausen, and Daniel Pilli. The new directors are Elizabeth Barrett, Stanley Pidakala, Richard Hobden, and Pastor Rodger Russ.
The College of Bishops meets for its annual retreat in Sydney next week. I will be on the early flight out of Wellington on Sunday morning, and God-willing will arrive in time to play the organ for the morning service at St Pauls Lutheran Church in Sydney. I will be returning to New Zealand late next Thursday night.
Our retreats are an opportunity for us to meet in a more-relaxed setting, away from the formalities and demands of regular meetings (although we are setting aside one day during retreat for 'business'), to share life and ministry issues with each other, to worship together, study scripture together, pray, eat and drink together, and to encourage each other. We will also welcome the newly-elected Bishop of Queensland, Pastor Paul Smith to the College. I have written to Paul and his wife Heidi (sister of Pastor Tim Muller) on behalf of the LCNZ congratulating him on his election.
During my time in Australia, Assistant Bishop John Davison can be contacted for any 'emergencies' or 'special needs'
WAIRUA TAPU - KEEP SINGING THE SONG
In the lead-up to convention I invited all LCNZ congregations to sing the waiata that we would be using at Convention – Wairua Tapu kuhu mai (Holy Spirit, welcome) in their worship.
I invite you all to keep singing and praying this beautiful song as we continue to seek an outpouring of the Spirit in every part of the Church and in every heart of those who belong to the Lord.
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
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.