Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

While it’s not overly long, I know my nose has long been the butt of jokes (perhaps a mixed metaphor…) among some of my friends and family.

You see, I gained a chickenpox scar on the end of it at around the age of four, took a fine slice off the tip at 15 when I fell through a glass door, began sporting a crooked septum after a run-in with a flyball during a softball game in my 20s and, more recently, was left with a dent at the end from shingles.

I’ve tried at times over the years to disguise these flaws – none of which wiped out the others, unfortunately – with make-up. But I’ve since given up worrying about them. Scars are meant to add character after all. And there are my crooked teeth, weak chin and many more things to add to my list of imperfections, in any case.

What about you? When you look in the mirror, do you focus on the wrinkles or age blotches on your face? If you’re still on the younger side, perhaps it’s difficult to see past the pimples or acne pocks.

Do you examine the stretchmarks on your body, or try to extend your neck to eradicate your double chin? Do you curse the grey or unwanted hairs, or despair at a receding hairline?

Perhaps rather than focusing on all of your so-called imperfections – like my nose – you instead smile at the visage reflected back at you, knowing that those attributes are just part of the physical you, the body God gave you (and fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139) to house your mind, soul and spirit. A body and face he adores so much that he gave up his Son for each of us, as we’ll reflect on especially in the upcoming seasons of Lent and Easter.

Most of us are taught when we’re young that looks aren’t everything. That having a beautiful heart is more important than a beautiful face. That being kind is better than being good-looking or fashionable.

But do we really believe those things? Or do we fall for the ‘beauty myth’ and the pressure that advertising, social media and our peers can put on us? Do we waste time, energy and money on trying to look the way models, actors, sportspeople or ‘influencers’ do?

In this edition, members of our Lutheran family address some of these questions, as well as Christian views on self-worth and how we see ourselves as beloved children of the Creator. We also introduce you to our newest General Ministry Pastors, as they begin parish ministry and update you on the LCANZ’s Way Forward project.

As usual, too, we bring you the latest news from across the church, a range of resources to support home and congregational faith life and our popular regular columns.

God bless your reading,

Lisa

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Most people want their church to look good! We want to apply the same rigorous routines we apply to our bodies and wardrobes to our church! We do this both to the building but also to congregations.

Of course, we must listen to the wisdom of the people in the field of church planting. People from outside a church need to know that the place is cared for. There is an intuitive awareness that goes on in the mind of a visitor to the church – ‘If these people care for their church building, then maybe they will also care for me’. Up-to-date websites, ease of parking, clear signage and friendly welcomes at the church door are vital for congregational vitality.

But deep down we know that church is not about looking good. It is about the goodness of God for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I write this to you, the season of Epiphany is upon us. In our culture, Christmas seemed to come to an abrupt end with the Boxing Day sales. Hot cross buns went up for sale along with ‘back to school’ resources. Businesses in New Zealand and Australia target us with so much marketing that it is very easy to drift into a mindset that we are simply ‘consumers’ needing to consume more!

In the Epiphany gospel reading from Matthew chapter two, we hear of the wise men who follow the star until they meet with King Herod in Jerusalem. They are then directed to Bethlehem where we are told, ‘they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy’ (Matthew 2:9,10).

Travelling through life, walking by faith in this story of the manger and the cross, is about joy. Joy was proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds at Bethlehem, ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy’. Joy was the experience of the disciples when the Lord Jesus appeared to them behind closed doors after his crucifixion and resurrection, ‘The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord’.

The scriptures speak of this joy as the joy of salvation. God has come into our midst to break down the dividing wall so that we would have peace with God. On the cross, our Lord brings the great exchange: our sin for his righteousness. We are baptised into his death that we would walk in newness of life. We bring nothing, he gives everything. Because of this great exchange, we come to God with complete confidence, as children to a loving Father.

But we know that the story of the wise men takes an ugly turn. This is an event that is often skipped over in the romantic portrayals of the Christmas nativity. The wise men are warned in a dream, not to tell King Herod of the baby. When Herod finds out he rages, and he orders all the little ones around Bethlehem to be murdered. This is a horrific story, showing the human heart that is in all of us. Herod is set against the way of God and provides an alternative to God’s way. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam declared to the Lord God, ‘It was the woman that YOU gave me’.

Scripture tells us that the wise men left ‘by another road’. They did not go the way of Herod. Herod’s way was to seek to thwart the good and gracious will of God. Herod’s way was human scheming and the destruction of human lives.

Christian faith is this ‘other road’. Our gracious God sends us along the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ to stand against the ‘way of Herod’. On this ‘other road’ the people of the church work together to keep our focus on the Christ and the work of his cross as the fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation. On this ‘other road’ the people of the church speak out against the use of power to destroy others.

As the church travels this ‘other road’ sometimes it might not look so good to others. But, in the name of the Lord, it will bring God’s peace and joy, that is the forgiveness of sin.

See hymn 804 LHS.

In Christ,

Paul

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.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

GOING GreyT! 1 Peter 4:10

In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCANZ, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are.

by Helen Brinkman

There’s special symbolism in a small wooden Christmas tree sitting in the local Lutheran church in the regional Victorian town of Nhill.

Not only does it remind us of the birth of Jesus Christ, but this tree’s peculiar decorations also remind us of the new life Jesus brings. This is because the adornments completely covering the tree’s trunk and boughs are damaged, used postage stamps.

These stamps have been given a new life on the tree lovingly decorated by 80-year-old Fay Sanders and built decades ago by her late husband Alf, both members of St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Nhill.

Each stamp on the tree is damaged, so it can’t be included in the bundles of 103 stamps Fay sends off to raise funds for the LCANZ’s Stamps for Mission program. These stamps are among tens of thousands collected by Fay since she was 15 years old.

For more than 60 years, Fay has collected, cleaned and bundled stamps from Australia and overseas which have been donated by individuals and businesses to support the church’s mission work. The program has raised more than $500,000 through the sale of stamps to collectors.

Fay started cleaning stamps to lend a helping hand to St Paul’s ladies’ guild while she was in high school. When she left school at 15 to help her bedridden mother manage her rheumatoid arthritis, stamp cleaning became a great hobby to suit her lifestyle.

‘It’s something I could do at home while looking after Mum and now it’s something I can do inside when the weather’s hot’, Fay says.

It wasn’t long before Fay asked her mum and two younger brothers on her family’s farm at Lorquon, north of Nhill, to help clean and bundle the stamps.

Fay recalls that her stamp recycling efforts also helped Nhill clinch a Tidy Town award during her high school days as her unique recycling endeavours gave the town extra points!

And the hobby continued after Fay’s marriage to Alf in 1967, and while raising their three boys. The family has since expanded to include a granddaughter and two grandsons.

Fay’s favourite stamps are brightly coloured ones depicting animals, birds and exotic scenery from neighbouring regions such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Christmas Island. Her preference will always be stamps that aren’t peel-and-stick, ‘I like the ones where you used to lick them and stick them on’, she says.

She would soak the stamps, drip-dry them, then lay them on a tea towel. The cat has been known to walk off with stamps stuck to its paws.

Fay has come close to discovering the odd stamp rarity. She once found a Christmas stamp that was missing its red printing, but alas, a ripped corner rendered it worthless.

Even to this day, she’s still collecting, despite a drop in the quantity of stamps – and the quality, she says, not being a fan of self-sticking stamps. She even wrote a letter to Australia Post: ‘I told them I wasn’t impressed. They wrote back saying they were working on ways to improve them.’

In support of the program, several local Nhill shopkeepers still save stamps, which are collected by one of Fay’s sons for her to clean and sort, with the help of Fay’s cousin Bev Hobbs, a fellow St Paul’s parishioner. This included one surprisingly large box full of old stamps donated anonymously that took a month to sort – ‘I was going morning to night, cleaning’, Fay says.

Fay also keeps up with the philatelic news of the day through Australia Post’s stamp bulletin, to find out what kind of stamps are coming out.

She remains living independently with family help, supported by a walking frame and regular home care.

The stamp-laden Christmas tree continues to promote the work of Stamps for Mission projects in PNG, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. It was originally created for the St Paul’s congregation’s annual Christmas Tree Festival, which started in 1999 and emulated a similar festival at the Lutheran congregation in Rainbow, Victoria (see Going Greyt, The Lutheran, September 2019).

‘My husband made the tree frame for me before he went on a four-wheel drive trip’, Fay recalls. She then set to work decorating it, using only the damaged stamps that didn’t have any monetary value. ‘In the kitchen, I had the whole table to myself – a week later when he returned it was done.’

The tree joined the ranks of 50 to 60 tree displays in the 1999 festival under the theme ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ (no Santas allowed!). To this day, the beautiful tree bearing damaged stamps stands at the church as a reminder that God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).

Helen Brinkman is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world. Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor lisa.mcintosh@lca.org.au


STAMPS FOR MISSION

Key details

Stamps for Mission was established in 1938 through the efforts of Pastor Ted Koch and Mr Ern Unger. Ern became the first stamp receiver and did this for the next 65 years, encouraging many other participants. In 2008 LCA International Mission (formerly Board for Mission) took over the Stamps for Mission program from the Lutheran Youth of Australia.

For more information, contact Peter Nitschke, the national Stamps for Mission project director, on 0418 868 103 or at pmnitschke@bigpond.com

Supported in 2024

  • National Youth Conference, Myanmar
  • Cultivate Program, Australia and Malaysia
  • Ogelbeng seminary in Papua New Guinea
  • Immanuel Music School, Thailand
  • LCC Sports Ministry, Cambodia

For more project details, a list of local stamp receivers, the guidelines for preparing stamps and a promotional poster, visit https://lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/stamps-for-mission/

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

What is our mission? We all know deep down, don’t we? We are to love God, love our neighbours as ourselves – and, as our cover text says, with the help of the Holy Spirit we are to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Being and bringing Jesus to people – sharing the gospel – is core business for us as individual Christians and for us as church.

Is that where we spend most of our time and effort though? Or do we tend to be navel-gazers and nit-pickers, and so consumed with the business and busyness of church life that we forget to just be still and quiet, being rejuvenated in God’s loving arms and listening for his voice and guidance?

And do we invest our energy and emotion so much in the people already in the church – and sometimes more negatively than positively – that we fail to make time for and share hospitality with those outside of it?

I know I’ve been guilty at times of neglecting the not-yet-Christians God leads me to. Of not taking the opportunities to be that witness I am called to be. I have not always reflected the light and love of Jesus to those who don’t know the blessings of being in a relationship with him.

I’m not saying that relationships within the church are unimportant. They are a great gift. Another of our primary roles within our faith families is to build one another up, as we work for God’s kingdom together. Nor am I saying that the organisation and administration of institutional church matters and practice are things we can ignore.

What I suspect we all need though is some perspective and some balance – because everything we have, including our mission, is a blessing from God.

So, as we look toward another Christmas, let’s ask him to help us focus on the Star of Bethlehem, to help us work together with our fellow believers in our great co-mission, and for the opportunity and courage to share the joy and hope we have with everyone around us.

And I pray that you’ll see that same hope and joy reflected by members of our Lutheran family featured in these pages.

As this is the last edition for 2023, I would like to thank you, our readers, subscribers and group collectors for your support and loyalty – especially after our switch to six editions this year. My gratitude goes, too, to our wonderful team – Linda Macqueen (executive editor), Elysia McEwen (graphic designer), columnists Helen Brinkman and Bishop Paul Smith, proofreaders Lyall Kupke and Kathy Gaff, Olivia Harman and others who have stepped in to help with subscription administration, and Trevor Bailey and all at Openbook Howden.

Have a safe, happy and blessed Christmas,

Lisa

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Bishop Paul’s letter

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

Did your parents ever warn you, ‘Don’t run in the dark!’? This is one of those ‘common sense’ things we learn in childhood for our own safety. If you run in the dark, you will fall over and hurt yourself.

So why did the Bethlehem shepherds run in the dark? The scriptures tell us that after the appearance of the angels, singing ‘Glory to God in highest heaven’, ‘the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste’ (Luke 2:15,16). Haste means quickly.

Remember it was very dark as they had no streetlights or mobile phones with a torch in those days. Also, these shepherds were out in the fields and would have had to stumble their way back into town without a road.

These hard-working shepherds had been captured by God, graciously keeping the promise to send a Saviour. Their passion to ‘go and see’ was inspired by God’s sure word and promise. This was despite the darkness and the hazards ahead of them on the way back into Jerusalem.

The life of a Bethlehem shepherd in New Testament times was not an easy journey. They lived in a country ruled by an overseas power. A shepherd usually suffered poverty and had little opportunity to change their situation. But God surprised them with his good news, and God gathered them to the side of the manger to see Christ, their Lord.

There are always obstacles in our journey. We trip and fall. We struggle with uncertainty. We long for the light in dark places. Even in matters in the church, we are not sure about the way ahead.

But it is God’s sure word and promise that carries us forward. We are confronted with the good news of the manger and the cross, where God’s heart is revealed as gracious and merciful – slow to anger and abounding in love.

The shepherds ran to see Jesus. Let us go forward together, keeping our eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith: Jesus Christ.

After the shepherds had arrived at the manger, they became the first ‘evangelists’ of the good news of the incarnation. They told everyone about what had happened and of the promise fulfilled in the birth of Mary’s son.

Scripture tells us that those who heard the witness of the shepherds were amazed.

Two-thousand years later we are called to follow the example of the Bethlehem shepherds, to gather family and friends with us at the Christmas manger so God’s good news would amaze us all and make us all people of hope.

This is the time of year to invite family and friends for Christmas festivities – including inviting them to worship with you at church.

With Christmas 2023 drawing closer, you will have seen the shops filling up with Christmas stock, including ornaments and decorations.

I encourage you to be on the lookout for nativity scenes. If you see one in a store or in your local community centre, please consider finding out who the person in charge of that place is. Then, as you are able, please thank them for the display of a nativity scene. In doing this, you are celebrating with that person ‘the reason for the season’.

‘O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in:
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!’

From ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)

In Christ,

Paul

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.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full