Begin with Prayer.
As a group within the LCA, Lutheran Women of Australia (LWA) is one of the biggest supporters of LCA International Mission and the work we do overseas on behalf of the church. What projects can you name that LWA support? (If you’re struggling to recall them all, have a look at the amazing list inside the cover of this magazine!) Each of these projects helps our partner churches proclaim the good news of God’s love for all people in the life saving work of Jesus on the cross – and many of them are made possible by the wonderful support YOU provide!
As you freely give this support, you are fully engaged in Jesus’ well-known words from Matthew 28:18–20 which are often cited as one of the foundational texts for mission beyond our borders. But what does this reading say about mission closer to home?
It is sometimes easier to raise money to support mission ventures in other countries, than it is to become involved personally in our home congregations. The question is, does Jesus’ words give us the option of one or the other? Or does Jesus call us to do both?
As the make-up of Australian society changes, God is providing wonderful opportunities for our churches to be enriched by unknown friends from a vast array of cultures. With decades of experience supporting God’s mission in far off places, I believe the LWA are uniquely gifted to welcome these new friends and bring them into our Lutheran family right here in our home congregations.
Read Luke 5:27–32; Mark 14:1–9; Luke 19:1–10
How does Jesus show his acceptance of those who are considered outsiders? Imagine you were one of the sinners/outsiders who was welcomed to eat at the same table as Jesus, what difference would that make to your life? What is the common response of the morally upright people who observe these gatherings?
When I was serving as pastor in Shepparton (Victoria), we were blessed when God saved our church from imminent death by sending, to us, a group of African refugees. While we struggled with language and culture and just about everything you can imagine, we rejoiced to be together, firstly around God’s Word and Sacrament, and secondly, around the meal table together. One Congolese brother explained the significance of black and white, Aussie and African eating together both at the Lord’s Table and at our earthly tables. He told me of a Swahili proverb that states “when you put your hands in the same food pot, you are family forever”.
Reflect on this in light of how Jesus shows acceptance of ‘sinners’ through table fellowship in the above readings.
(For those who haven’t heard the story of St Paul’s, Shepparton, ABC’s Compass ran a story on the congregation which can be viewed here www.sheppartonlutheranchurch.org )
One of the wonderful gifts I have experienced from Lutheran women over the years, is this very gift of hospitality. Of making people welcome around the same “food pot”. How might your local Lutheran women’s group use this natural strength to reach out to new arrivals in your community?
In addition to looking for opportunities to host people at your table, why not invite a group of newly arrived ladies to come and share their culture, food and conversation with you so that you can grow in understanding and friendship. Who knows what opportunities the Lord might provide as you start building bridges and sharing your life with new friends.
Many people are worried about the changes we are experiencing as a society due to our increasing multi-culturalism. But in keeping with your theme for 2020, I believe this is an opportunity for us to give thanks to God for the new opportunities for mission that he is creating for us. With the support and commitment LWA have shown to International Mission, I can hardly imagine what God could do through you as you take up the local opportunities with the same gusto and love.
Recently I attended the synod of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia where the prayers and praises of God’s people were offered simultaneously in Chinese, English and Bahasa Malay. Although the sociologists tell us this kind of community shouldn’t work, it clearly does, and bears witness to the heavenly reality that the blood of the Lamb brings forgiveness and life and unity to people of every tribe, nation and language as they are remade in the image of Jesus.
In light of this, now would be a good time to re-read the passage from Revelation 7:9–17 we looked at last month and to consider how such a gathering described above might more fully reflect the picture St John is painting for us here.
It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it? So, what is it that holds us back?
I suspect that we are all a bit like the Christians in Corinth. Filled with pride, they stubbornly defended their way and their rights, while forgetting that they were all in need of Jesus and were united by the word of the cross.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–17
How did they differentiate themselves from each other? For what purpose?
A big picture looking at Corinthians shows that they were concerned about spiritual pedigree, social status, public image and pride. How are these same concerns present in the church today? More importantly, how have you seen these same impulses at work in you?
To you who still bear this trait of the Corinthians, Jesus has good news for you today. When God could have raised up children of Abraham from a pile of stones (Matthew 3:9), instead he decided to send his Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment and shame of his sinful children, bringing them peace by the blood of the Lamb.
Have you, in sinful pride, used your spiritual pedigree to put someone else in their place or to secure your place at the table? Well, hear again the good news that Jesus willingly set aside his pedigree and privilege, taking on the humiliation and contempt of a convicted criminal, suffering the rejection of the Father in your place, so that you would never be rejected, humiliated or despised by him. In his wounds you have been healed and forgiven (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
Now that you’ve received the Bread of Life in the good news again, you are ready to embrace your multi-cultural community in all its difference. Because you see, God does his mission through you by simply equipping you with the Gospel – enabling you, as a spiritual beggar, to tell other beggars where to find this magnificent spiritual food.
I thank God for the support Lutheran women provide so that LCA International Mission can share this good news with people in PNG and across South East Asia, and I look forward to how God will use Lutheran women to embrace the multi-cultural opportunities that are now right on our doorsteps. In everything, we give thanks to God!
End with Prayer.