Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand

Because we bear your name. I share these words with you, as a prayer for our journey together as people of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand.

For the coming years of my service as bishop, I would like to use these words as the title for my column in The Lutheran.

Why these words? Many people would recognise these words as the refrain from the song, ‘Lord Jesus, we belong to you’. This Australian Lutheran song was published as number 292 in the All Together Everybody songbook. The words are written by our Australian Lutheran theologian Dr John Kleinig, and put to music by another Australian Lutheran theologian, songwriter, Dr Robin Mann.

On his website, Robin tells the story, ‘Dr John Kleinig, lecturer at Luther Seminary in Adelaide, preached at the monthly student service at St Stephen’s in October 1985. He not only prepared a sermon on Mark 9:38–50 but also this powerful set of lyrics for which I wrote the melody … The text from Mark seems like a collection of disconnected teachings, but John wove these together beautifully under the theme spelled out in verse 41, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ”.’

Let me give a brief explanation as to why I have chosen the refrain from Dr Kleinig’s song as the title for my regular articles to you.

Firstly, the song is a prayer to our Lord Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our very being.

Secondly, the song is wonderfully evangelical. Each verse is caught up in our Christian witness and service in the world, as we serve each other and the world around us in the name of the risen Lord.

Thirdly, the song is filled with the language of ‘us’ and ‘we’. Our Lord has gathered us through the waters of baptism to be with and for each other.

Fourthly, the song is so very hopeful about the presence of the Lord at work in and through us as we bear the Lord’s name.

Finally, there is something of the song that is deeply meaningful to me personally. It is something that is significant in my story as one who did not grow up in the Lutheran Church. (Actually, I did not grow up with any Christian church participation.) When I was enrolled at St Peters Lutheran College in Indooroopilly, Queensland, for Year 11 in 1978, my English teacher was a college chaplain, Pastor John Kleinig. We called him ‘PK’ at the time. PK not only taught me in the English classroom but, in 1979, taught me and three other students in confirmation classes and I was subsequently confirmed by PK that year.

Dr Kleinig later became a lecturer at Luther Seminary in Adelaide where I was studying. In 1988, he kindly took part in my ordination at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide.

At that same time, I was experiencing a profound influence from Robin Mann’s song writing. Much of the way that I speak of the work of our Lord Jesus in his life and his death and his resurrection for our salvation has been formed by the language that Robin has taught me in his many songs used for worship and devotion in our church.

So, with these words from ‘Because we bear your name’, I gladly acknowledge with gratitude the witness of both doctors, Kleinig and Mann, in my journey as a Christian. I also want to encourage you, the members of our church, to anticipate our Lord’s delight to be at work in and through each of us, as we ‘bear his name’.

‘Help us receive each other, Lord, for you receive the least of us, and come to us in them – because we bear your name.’

Your fellow in Christ,

‘Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name’

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