by Thomas Böhm

During the Luther Decade, which culminates in 2017 with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has organised a series of seminars to help Lutherans from across the world to connect with one another.

The aim of the program is to deepen participants’ understanding of Luther’s theology, its impact on Christian faith and world history.

The eighth of these seminars was held in Luther’s home town of Wittenberg, Germany, in the first two weeks of November 2013.

It brought together 21 participants from Lutheran churches in 17 countries (Argentina, Colombia, USA, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, Ethiopia, Senegal, Madagascar, South Africa, Myanmar, Thailand, Taiwan, Latvian Church Abroad and Australia) and three German states. We were led in the study of Luther by Professor Dr Theo Dieter and Professor Dr Sarah Hinlicky-Wilson from the Ecumenical Institute of the LWF in Strassburg, Germany.

The two weeks were filled with impressions of Luther’s life and work, his environment and historical context. Activities included reading and discussing selected writings of Luther (in English translation); visiting various Luther sites in Wittenberg, Erfurt and Eisenach; worshipping together and also with local congregations in Wittenberg, as well as visiting two small country parishes in the surrounding countryside.

We also met some of the leaders of LWF, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the German Lutheran church. Probst Kasparick, from the Evangelische Kirche Mitteldeutschland (Evangelical Church Central Germany) described some of the challenges his church faced. Its 800,000 members live in the least Christian part of Germany.

Today, less than 20 per cent of the population is Christian (mostly Lutheran) in the area around Wittenberg, while the rest are atheist or simply not engaged or interested in religion. One African pastor asked what steps were being taken to evangelise the population—especially the youth—but received no real answer. This perhaps showed one of the differences in attitude and confidence between the growing African and declining European churches.

We received many insights—especially into Luther’s sharp and clear mind and powerful pen—into his co-workers, especially Philipp Melanchthon, and how the work of the reformers influences the history of the Western world to this day.

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By Rosie Schafe

The 2014 Australia Day Honours List recognised the achievements and community service of 638 men and women from across Australia. Three of them were lifelong Lutherans.

Announcing the recipients, Governor- General of Australia Quentin Bryce supported the ideals of the honours system. ‘They elevate the concept of giving to others’, she said. ‘They heighten our respect for one another, and they encourage Australians to think about the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy.’

Elmer Knobel, Reg Munchenberg and Ken Semmler never went about the business of their lives looking for recognition. All three are people who when they see a need try to meet it; when they see that something needs doing, they get down to work. All three are 2014 recipients of the Medal of the Order of Australia.

And as Lutheran Christians—whether or not they were always consciously aware of it—they knew deep within that through service to others they were also bringing God’s love to life in their communities.

Elmer Knobel OAM

For service to the community of Moree

Elmer Knobel grew up near Henty in southern New South Wales, but it was on the rich black-soil plains surrounding the northern New South Wales town of Moree that he built his adult life.

He was about 25 years old and accompanied by his new wife Irene, when in 1952 he took up 810 hectares of undeveloped country at Milguy, about 50 kilometres from Moree. Clearing the scrub and building roads and dams, Elmer and Irene built a farm—and a 58-year marriage that ended five years ago with Irene’s sudden death.

For a couple raised in established churches, the early situation was a shock: there was no church or congregation, just a couple of Lutheran families scattered across the region.

These later Lutheran pioneers gathered regularly for worship in each others’ homes, while occasional visits by pastors (often relatives) ensured that the sacraments could be received. The first Lutheran church to be built in the region was St John’s, Milguy, constructed from timber donated by the Knobels and milled at their property. By the early 1960s the number of Lutheran families in the region had grown, and Grace Lutheran Church.

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by Chris Button

The life of a teenager is complex.

In these critical, transitional years, the approval of others reigns supreme over almost every other life goal. But many lives are hampered by peers who resort to bullying in order to feel a sense of belonging themselves.

Bullying has become the bane of schoolyards, adversely affecting individuals, families and entire communities. Many programs have been developed to combat the problem, but an initiative coming out of the Victorian seaside town of Portland might be one of the most promising opportunities yet. It is a locally produced feature-length film, Llewellyn Unlikely, which premiered just days ago. Directed by Steve Gollasch, a teacher at St John’s Lutheran Primary School, the film’s story revolves around the struggles with bullying experienced by the main characters, teenagers Llewellyn and Bridie. The action is set in the fictional school, Harbour View High.

Steve has been a passionate filmmaker ever since he was captivated by the original Star Wars at the age of eleven. He has made upwards of 70 films since his first in 1977, but saw Llewellyn Unlikely as a chance to do something even more remarkable.

‘This was my opportunity to not only attempt a feature but also to spread a topical and important message of care for each other’, Steve said. He did not have to look far for inspiration in the scriptwriting process; the topic of bullying remains very close to his heart.

‘Most of what happens to Llewellyn in the film happened to me’,

Steve explained. ‘High school wasn’t a very enjoyable experience for me between Years 9 and 12.’ Most of what happens to Llewellyn in the film happened to me

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by Richard Zweck

Buen Camino!

On 13 September 2013, my son Jon and I stepped, weary but triumphant, into the huge courtyard in front of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Behind us lay an experience we will not forget. We had completed walking part of the Camino Portugués (Camino means ‘path’)—the pilgrims’ way that links Lisbon in Portugal with Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Santiago de Compostela is, by tradition, the resting place of St James, Jesus’ brother, and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. This pilgrimage grows in popularity every year; recently it was celebrated in the film The Way. The story behind our own pilgrimage was a pilgrimage in itself!

For most of my life, I didn’t give pilgrimage a moment’s thought. This changed the first time I visited Chartres cathedral in France. Notre Dame, Chartres, has the most famous labyrinth in the world, and I was there to train as a labyrinth facilitator. (Scholars believe that labyrinths were placed in churches as a convenient mini-pilgrimage).

On the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday, I was woken by a great deal of noise outside my room. Unable to sleep, I went out to investigate. To my amazement there were thousands of young people packing up after an outdoor service beside the cathedral. I watched as they hoisted their banners and set off in a long line towards Paris. On Monday after Pentecost an even larger group of young people arrived in Chartres from Paris. I later found out that I had witnessed the annual Pentecost Pilgrimage between Chartres and Paris. The local newspaper’s headline announced that there were over 23,000 young pilgrims.

 

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Compiled by Rosie Schefe

Andrew Dockerill

Age: 48
Family:
wife Donna, Tobyn (19) and Ellyse (16)
Home congregation: Ascension Lutheran Church, Warnbro WA
Assigned to: Wodonga Vic
Before enrolling at ALC: I had my own building design and drafting business, working from home, drawing up house-plans.
How did your call happen? My call didn’t come as a ‘lightning bolt’ but as a slow awareness of God’s call on my life to move from ‘designing a place for people to call their home’ to being God’s ambassador, telling people of God’s design of people’s lives, and their call to their heavenly home.
If you could take only one text from the Bible with you to a desert island, it would be: ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
Where do you go when you need to escape? I go for a run. I really enjoy being immersed in God’s creation, and I especially enjoy this time to meditate on something I’ve read in the word of God. It’s a time alone with God, just he and I.
The best sound in all the world: It’s the sound of the birds in the trees; the sound of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze; and the friendly ‘good morning’ from other

Joshua Miller

Age: 30
Home congregation: Immanuel, Buderim Qld
Assigned to: Eudunda SA
Before enrolling at ALC: I completed a five-year double degree at Griffith University: a Bachelor of Engineering in Microelectronic Engineering and a Bachelor of Information Technology. I worked as an IT contractor for Powerlink Queensland for two years.
How did your call happen? During my uni days, at an early morning young adult Bible study, Dean Mills asked the simple…

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by Barry Klaer, Joanne Schache, Sarah Kubenk, Steve Burger and Keren Loffler

The National Lay Workers Conference at the picturesque Warrambui camp in early November was one of inspiration, encouragement and growth for me. These biennial events are much more than an exercise in networking.

Old friendships are renewed, new friendships are established and experiences shared, confirming that the body of Christ is alive and well and growing.

Heart-to-heart connections are created, as the love of Jesus is seen radiating from fellow lay workers. I attended the conference with an anticipation and desire for the Lord to speak into my life through prayer and the gifts of wisdom from presenters. It became a refreshing time in and around the word which brought reflection and challenges and a time of fresh visioning and realigning goals. (Barry)

Presenting—the speakers

Growing in our faith and in our relationship with God through Bible-reading and reflection, and then sharing God’s love from our experiences is the theme that the three lead speakers gave to us.

John North helped us to reflect on what it means to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth happens through reading and reflection on Scripture. When things grow they change, and spiritual growth does that: it changes us internally and then that change is reflected externally. Pastor Fred Veerhuis led us in the most thought-provoking Bible studies. Each hour we spent with him had us fully engaged. Small group discussions then gave us a wonderful opportunity to reflect and grow in quite unexpected ways.

From Pastor Bob Kempe we learnt that our life experiences can and do help us when we interact with others, especially those who are hurting. Often people who themselves have been wounded can be the greatest of healers. This gave us a time to reflect on our own lives and whom we may

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by Rev Dr Steen Olsen

When I am doing well, but also when I am making a mess of things, I bring Jesus.When I am good and when I am bad. When the Spirit of God is obviously at work through me in bringing the love and mercy of God to others, and when I fall into the depths of sin, I bring Jesus.

I can do no other. It is who I am as a child of God. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I do it with Jesus because he has promised never to leave me. Jesus said, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) and, ‘I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you’ (John 14:20). St Paul writes, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:19f).

I have this treasure in the broken vessel that I am. Yes, it is truly treasure, and one day my old nature will be done away with as I stand with you and all the people of God in his presence. Even now, as I am both old and new, my new nature is my true identity because it will continue forever. While it is true that I continue to sin, the fact that I am a child of God is my primary identity.

This means that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Jesus into and through my life is not a reward for my obedience. Jesus doesn’t leave us when we sin and fail. He remains with us even in our weaknesses and struggles.

Jesus comes along with me when I do the routine things, not just on special occasions. We are not Christians only when we are worshipping or praying. We live out our faith in our vocations, that is, in the things God calls us to do in the world. We are parents, children, neighbours, friends, workers, students and more. We also play sport, go to gyms, hang about in cafés and engage in other leisure activities. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, we bring Jesus. That is the nature of things. We can’t do anything else. Jesus lives in us and we are in him, so everywhere we go Jesus comes along. It is an ordinary, everyday reality.

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What is it about suggesting a long lunch that somehow also shouts out ‘Yay, a picnic!’?

At Blanchetown, South Australia, the Lutheran Lunch stretched across Australia’s longest river on a lovely warm and cloudy day—perfect weather for a venue without shade. Worship beforehand saw the little Blanchetown church bursting at the seams, and 58 people later sat down to lunch on the bridge. Shade wasn’t lacking at Duncraig, Western Australia, where people came and went under the shade of a big tree ‘which reminded us how covered and shielded we are by God’s grace’. What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Meanwhile in Buccleuch, South Australia, lunch was held a-Long the Mallee Highway, where locals—and even some tourists—joined in sharing sausage sangas with a few gourmet extras and lovely ice-cold drinks.

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By Sheree Schmaal

Remembering the Kentwells

For years Julius Kentwell was the most unlovable neighbour in his street.  The one person no-one in the Lower Blue Mountains town of Springwood wanted to have over for dinner. The one who had 16 cats and whose house smelled so bad that people used to cross the road when they walked by. He cursed Our Saviour Lutheran Church when it was built opposite his house and swore never to go in.

There was no way that you’d get me to attend a service’, Julius wrote years later—expletives removed.

‘It would have been the ultimate sacrifice: denying myself the pleasures of a lazy Sunday sleep-in. No minister could spout a good enough blurb to outdo my own pleasures.’

The 50-something-year-old man was not afraid to share his opinions with anyone who dared to walk past his front verandah.

‘I always regarded the traditional church as a place where the preacher dressed up like the village idiot and chanted a load of rhubarb; where the aims of the exercise were money and power; where I never knew any of the hymns; where the sermons would bore the armour off a medieval knight; and where there was an overwhelming lack of relevance to the real world’, he wrote.

Marie Hamann and her husband, Pastor Robert Hamann, were among the few who did walk past. Over cold glasses of Julius’ homebrew, things started to change.

‘We got to know Julius and his wife, Jenny, when we moved into the manse at Springwood in 1992’, explained Marie.

‘They were both intelligent and had a close, loving marriage, but were not the kind of people it was easy to love.’

‘No-one else in the street had any time for Julius because he was difficult to be around’, Robert said. ‘But we were prepared to stop and talk. On one occasion, after we had known Julius and Jenny as neighbours for quite a while—it was 31 October—I was walking past and Julius invited me in for a beer. I said, “What did you celebrate today Julius, Halloween or the Reformation?” It was sort of a poke to make him curious and to give me the opportunity to talk about it.

‘Of course, he didn’t have a clue what the Reformation was. But he was a very intelligent man and always interested in new things. So it was a good opportunity to open his eyes to what was right there in his community.’

Julius admitted he knew ‘as much about the Lutheran Church as [his] budgerigar knows about nuclear physics’, but still never imagined going inside the church.

Yet one day an invitation from Marie changed his mind.

‘Marie said to me I really ought to get myself out of the sack and across to hear her hubby do his thing. Yeah, sure, yawns I’, Julius wrote.

‘But there was something infectious about Marie’s excitement for her husband’s sermons, a series of analyses on the Apostles Creed … So, as much as anything to shut her up, I went to [hear] one after scraping up a fiver for the plate, on the basis that Bob’s sermons were his livelihood, so he’d better get some pay for his work.’

Julius sat right in the middle of the front row that first Sunday and for the rest of the 22-part series. Thereafter, he returned nearly every week for the rest of his life to continue learning about basic Christian theology.

‘To the other 30-or-so members of the congregation he was a shock; his lifestyle

 

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By Cath Pfeiffer-Smith

‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11

On 20 September, 2011, Edna Vonow sat at this remote railway line waiting for a train to go through the crossing. The driver waved at her and she waved back. What happened after that is nothing short of a miracle. You see, God was right there with her, waiting for that train too. Crystal Brook is a charming town some 200 kilometres north of Adelaide, just off the main highway. I drive down the main street and see clusters of people chatting, a friendly wave of a hand out the window, a tractor bumping through town. I catch the waft of freshly baked pasties as I snail-pace it past the bakery.

It’s a town that Edna Vonow and her extended family have called home forever. Its unhurried pace and welcoming ambience is engaging. But as much as Edna loves this place, for some time she had been praying that the town would be given a shake to its bones, to make it sit up and take more notice of God. Little did she know how God was going to answer her prayer.

The day started out like any other. Edna carefully arranged chairs in her lounge room for the church ladies to meet, prepared food and looked forward to the afternoon with her friends. The day went well, although she can’t remember any of it any more.
Then she headed out to her son’s place on the farm, some 12 kilometres out of town, the place she called home when she was younger. A road she had travelled many, many times and a crossing where Edna had stopped too many times to remember.

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