National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Being church together

May 2015

by Rosie Schefe

Sin …. it’s a dirty word, but someone has to use it.

‘In the church we get to work with sin all the time’, Pastor Paul Kerber says. ‘That’s what a pastor’s role is: to discern and appropriately apply God’s word so that people can name sin for what it is. But that is not the end of the story. As pastors, we use the word of law to identify sin so that we can bring the gospel of God’s forgiveness to all who so desperately need it. A church of the gospel proclaims the gospel—and the gospel changes lives!’

Whether we admit it or not, Paul says, over time many of us have adopted a worldly approach to sin—within marriage and family relationships, between neighbours and even within congregations. This approach is primarily law-based; identifying sin in legal terms, and dealing with it using only punishment or sanctions.

But this is not biblically based; what is missing is the work of the cross. A clear pronouncement of forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name is the gospel flowing freely, Paul says. And when the gospel flows, lives are changed.

On 26 April, Paul was installed into the position of Assistant to the Bishop— Reconciliation Ministry, commissioned to build on the groundbreaking work of Pastor Bruce Zagel and to ‘indigenise’ it into the culture of the Lutheran churches in Australia and New Zealand. His challenge is to transform reconciliation ministry from a primarily teaching and training focus into something much deeper, where the gospel can be seen to be permeating and active right through the church— ‘a part of its DNA’, in the words of LCA Bishop John Henderson.

‘This is about equipping us all to live as God’s children, set free by the gospel to live out our faith in the world’, Paul says.

‘It is also about learning how to speak forgiveness so that our language does what it needs to do—to build relationships in Christ.

‘As God’s children we are all called to be there for others who are caught in sin, to work with them in order to speak the gospel, so that the Holy Spirit brings healing and hope. That’s what biblical reconciliation is: it is the gospel. It is the good news that, through Christ’s death, we were reconciled to God. It is through our risen Lord Jesus that we have