by Andrew Jaensch

Throughout the Book of Job we hear him questioning God’s way of acting, and we observe God respecting his challenge. God was big enough for Job’s questions. He is big enough for our questions as well—in particular the kind of questions aroused by our reading of Scripture that puzzle us, trouble us and perplex us.

‘God is big enough for our questions’ was the title I gave to my research project. I explored how Australian Lutheran College (ALC) Lutheran Strand students respond to a critical approach to study of the Bible.

Initially I was concerned that the term ‘critical approach’ could sound alarm bells for some Christians, and I was tempted to use a softer-sounding expression, one that was less likely to be misunderstood. But I stuck with the term because it is used widely in education and scholarship. The original Greek notion of criticism is about arriving at a judgement, coming to a decision; it’s about discernment. My own experience of a critical approach began at the then Luther Seminary, and it was very unsettling. But, looking back, I can’t help but roll out the old adage ‘No pain, no gain’; Christians should not be surprised if engagement with critical study of the Bible produces intellectual and spiritual pain for them.

A few years ago I became much more intentional about introducing my ALC students to a critical approach to study of the Bible. I considered the kinds of questions about the Bible that invite a critical approach to it. Here are some of them:

  • what to make of the apparently conflicting accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2
  • questions about the authorship of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible); did Moses really write them all?
  • the idea that Jesus’ words recorded in the gospels may not have actually come from Jesus’ lips at all, at least not in the way the gospel writers have expressed them.

While recognising that a critical approach to the Bible can raise disturbing questions for some Christians, I am also deeply conscious of the importance of distinguishing between a book (the Bible) and the One to whom that book points (Christ).

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by Rosie Schefe

Robin Mann and Dorothy Stiller first became an ‘item’ on 15 April 1966 as Year 12 students at Adelaide’s Immanuel College, sparking a lifelong musical collaboration as well as a marriage.

Their first performances, singing folk music, were for school houseconcerts. The partnership was so strong, musically and romantically, that it continued as Robin and Dorothy entered university and teachers college respectively, with the couple performing as a duo in clubs and churches around Adelaide. They were married late in 1969, immediately following Dorothy’s graduation from teachers college.

In 1969 Rev John Sabel (then tertiary chaplain) introduced a worship program at The University of Adelaide, where Robin helped lead the music. Rev Dr Les Grope (then pastor at St Stephen’s, Adelaide) organised the first Sunday evening worship services for students in 1970. Robin and Dorothy played at this first of the monthly services. They played at their last in 1998.

Following a performance at Scots Presbyterian Church in Adelaide in 1971, assistant minister Rod Jepsen asked Robin and Dorothy if they’d be interested in joining a band. Kindekrist was born, becoming one of Australia’s early Christian rock bands. The group produced four albums in the first decade and continued to perform together for another two. Although some of the musicians changed over time, the mixture of theological backgrounds largely held, appealing to a mainstream, ecumenically minded audience.

‘We played everywhere. One of our St Stephen’s services was televised and then another at St Peters [Adelaide’s Anglican Cathedral]’,

Robin said. The demands of recording and regular performance, especially for worship, meant that Robin’s song writing skills were brought to the fore and honed by necessity. ‘No-one else wrote the kind of church music that I wanted to hear’, he said.

Work began in 1979 on All Together Now, a project initiated by the LCA’s Board for Congregational Life (BCL). With Robin’s reputation as a songwriter well established, it was natural that a significant number of his songs were chosen by the selection committee. The first committee included Geoff Strelan, Neil Reichelt, Sharon and Craig Schlenker and Robin Mann.

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by Kendrea Rhodes

Lying here, I feel love washing over me, covering me head to toe, the inevitable inbound wave. I can’t avoid it. I feel the gift of life, just now, just in this moment.

I am in hospital with my baby in my arms. My beautiful baby boy. I relish the joy of him … his perfect mouth and fat little fingers, his immaculate fingernails, his hearty cry. I smile.

But my joy dies as quickly as it came, and of course the wave ebbs; all waves do. In the pit of my stomach is a clenching sickness. I have nowhere, no-one, nothing. How will I keep this perfect child alive?

My name is Som.

It’s as if there is only me and my baby. But of course his father must exist, too—even though I have scrubbed him from my mind, disinfected every nook in my brain that his memory stained. He lied. He already had a wife and children. How could I have been so stupid?

I can hear the woman—no, the mother—next to me. She screams in agony. She has no money for medicine. As the nurse moves around her, the flimsy curtain separating us flutters. In a fleeting instant I glimpse what might have been my own fate: sickly sweat, blood and pain. Her baby died, and I feel guilty.

My baby lives and I can’t look after him. But, oh, look how beautiful he is!

I think about my own mother. I want her to comfort me, I want it so badly. But I have invited the monster of shame into our household.

‘Your sick father needs looking after’, she said. ‘We need money for food’, she said. ‘We can’t feed another mouth’, she said.

‘You must give that child away’, she said. The memory kills me inside.

I relish the joy of him … his perfect mouth and fat little fingers, his immaculate fingernails, his hearty cry. I smile.

A lady from the hospital comes to me. She has a different aura. She carries hope. She wears it openly, so that even I can see. O, what a garment … hope. I long to wear it. I close my eyes, but the lady doesn’t go away. She is still there, waiting for me to be ready. She touches me gently. She tells me she has good news for me.

I don’t believe her. I open my eyes, but only because it’s not polite to feign sleep. She tells me there is a place for me, somewhere to go. There are people who will help me, protect me and care for me.

She says it’s called the Home of Grace and I can live there with my baby for two months, while I find my feet again. There are other mothers-to-be and new mothers and babies there too. I could make decisions about what’s right for

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 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
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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