The great unravelling. From our porn epidemic rewiring our brains, distorting behaviour and destroying relationships (search, for example, for ‘A science-based case for ending the porn epidemic’ by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry), to areas of global neglect, meddling and hypocrisy that we cannot self-righteously absolve ourselves from, things are coming undone and none of us are immune from the fallout. Selfish individualism and a collective greed and lust for power are everywhere wreaking havoc.
Jesus said ‘my kingdom is not of this world’. Though he immerses himself fully in the life and sufferings of the world, he teaches and demonstrates a better way. Through his righteous life for us that none of us could live, his death as a sacrifice for our sin and his resurrection, he supernaturally triumphs over death and all that is evil. In this way Jesus not only points us to a better way, but ushers it in.
God, in the person of the eternal Son, sacrifices, suffers and dies, ‘the righteous for the unrighteous’, so that all who side with him may receive his righteous status and enter this new and perfect coming eternal kingdom under his peaceful, just and loving rule. There, no more pain. No more death, betrayal, falsehood. No addiction, disease, fear or war. No tears, conflict, rejection, disappointment, or loss. No eternal torments!
Jesus shows us what God is like because he is from God and one with God. Jesus says, ‘everyone on the side of truth listens to me’. He also reveals the great paradox that we in the West need to rediscover, as so many of our benefits have come from our Christian roots. Jesus said, ‘Those who seek to save their lives lose them, while those who lose their lives for my sake find them’.
A blessed Easter to you all,
Pastor Mike Steicke,
St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Hobart.
Tiny changes to the universe would mean that it wouldn’t exist. Hence physicists have increasingly talked of a fine-tuned universe which makes the existence of the universe by chance all but impossible. Such intricacy points to some sort of great cosmic intelligence. But who or what is this incredible, mysterious mind? Can we know?
Logos is a Greek word with a broad range of meanings. Philosophers and religious writers in antiquity used it to describe ultimate or cosmic reason, truth, wisdom and the utterance or speech of God. St John, a disciple of Jesus and the writer of the fourth Gospel found in the Bible, uses this word logos, translated into English as Word, to describe Jesus. He begins his Gospel with these words ‘In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God…Through Him all things were created…. The Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth’ (John 1:1-3,14).
Incredible. The One of whom another Biblical writer, St Paul, says ‘Through him and for him (Jesus) all things were created’ and ‘in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:16,17), lovingly entered our history, became one of us, makes God known, died, was resurrected and soon will return in glory to raise and deliver from sin, death, and the powers of darkness those who put their trust in him. He will put everything right and rule benevolently over his people forever.
Later St John states that he and the other first disciples who were with Jesus, have seen the Word (logos) of life with their own eyes. They have heard him and touched him (1 John 1:1-3). We humans don’t find God or become enlightened by our intelligence or technological explorations, but through the gift from God of the Word (logos) who becomes flesh and is revealed in the Bible.
What have the protests of a 16th century monk got to do with the child sexual abuse scandals of recent years?
In 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and priest, nailed 95 theses (points for discussion) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His goal was simply to raise awareness among the educated and those with influence of distortions of the Christian faith and truth at the time. A very gifted scholar, Luther and others came to questions some of the then teachings and practices of the Church, based on their study of the Scriptures and Church history. Among the greatest perversions were the selling of forgiveness and keeping people, most of whom were very poor, in ignorance and fear. Much of the proceeds went back to Rome for great building projects such as St Peter’s Basilica with the aim of reviving and promoting the Western Catholic Church and Empire.
Little did Luther realise the lid he was removing and what world changing forces he was unleashing. The gripping story and some of its implications can be discovered through the various movies, documentaries, YouTube presentations, books and articles on this figure and the Protestant Reformation he helped to spawn. It has been suggested that I write something on the Reformation. I will simply focus on one very interesting aspect relevant to contemporary life, that being Luther’s marriage to the nun Katharina von Bora.
Late in 1510, Luther and another monk travelled to Rome. The trip helped foster Luther’s questioning of the institution to which he belonged due to the corruption and hypocrisy he observed. Among the wrongs and excesses troubling him were religious figures who took vows of celibacy and rejected marriage, teaching that singleness was a spiritually superior estate that would merit them extra favour and reward from God, yet at the same time visiting prostitutes and keeping mistresses.
Luther himself was single and had taken vows of celibacy. He was quite content in that state and affirmed singleness as a good and God pleasing estate for those capable of celibacy. As St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7, singleness can allow for a less distracted focus on and service to God and spare us from many troubles. Yet this should never be mandated, and the Bible very much affirms marriage and our service to God through it by providing and caring for spouse and family.
At the age of 41, several years after Luther was excommunicated or ousted from the Roman Catholic Church, he married Katharina, a nun who had been smuggled out of a convent. She had come to agree with the rediscovery of the Gospel or New Testament faith, which was at the heart of the Reformation. This rediscovery of the Gospel was nothing other than God’s own declaration through the Bible that we do not earn God’s salvation, but that God has won it for us through the gift of the eternal Son Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. He took on human flesh, lived a holy life for us, took our sin upon himself, died a sacrificial death for us on the cross and rose triumphant over sin, death and the powers of darkness. Receiving this beautiful gift by faith is what gives us peace with God and provides us with the urgently needed pardon from his just judgments. God reconciles us to himself through the grace he freely gives in and through Christ to all who believe. Salvation is gifted, not earned! It is by grace through faith.
Luther knew from his study of the Scriptures that marriage was a good and natural gift from God and that many of the apostles and early Church fathers were married. He could see from his studies how rejecting this had become a man-made law and he observed the hurt, hypocrisy, lusts, disorder and exploitation that resulted. If his enemies did not hate him enough already and wanted him dead, his marriage to the nun Katharina von Bora sealed his fate. In many ways Luther was protesting an unjust and dehumanising system built on human power and control that would not affirm God’s good gifts as revealed in God’s word.
What is the relevance for today? Institutional child sexual abuse is evil and always needs to be addressed, yet the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse established in Australia in 2013 found that the rate of offending was exponentially higher among Roman Catholics and that the majority of these were committed by those who had taken vows of celibacy (eg priests or those who belonged to religious orders). While we do need to affirm the many faithful priests, so much of today’s destructive scandal could have been avoided simply by staying true to God’s word. In many ways Luther's radical stance and daring protest has been vindicated.
This raises further important questions for us. Where today is the Church rejecting God’s word in favour of human constructs or practices? Where is money, power and politics, rather than the word of God, currently dictating the Church and her institutions? Where are we too conformed to the prestige and money worship of our culture and time rather than listening to and following our Lord who is at the centre of Scripture? The Church, and each one of us, are always in need of reforming. This is to be an ongoing, lifelong task.
Luther never intended to start a new Church (Lutheran), or movement (Protestant). His aim was always reform and to call people to trust in Jesus Christ and to be faithful to God’s word, the Bible. That should still be the call of the Church today. It is all about God and his gift of Jesus Christ who is at the heart of the Scriptures. His forgiveness is the greatest good news for undeserving sinners like us, the answer to our deepest need as Christ lifts the curse of death that our sin has brought. Through his resurrection he is making all things new and even now lives in and brings his renewing love, warmth and peace into the hearts of believers.
Much ink has been spilled and angst experienced in some circles over the following: Vaccinations, their safety and efficacy. Vaccination passports. Restriction's and possible exclusion from public worship (and elsewhere in society). What are the implications of the Christian mandate to love our neighbour and to respect the governing authorities regarding these matters? Is there an overstepping of authority which raises questions as to whether we should conscientiously object or not? What is the way or path forward?
I recommend the following recent article by Megan Best, distributed by the Gospel Coalition Australia, because of its spiritually mature tone, thoughtfulness and the expertise evident. It is not an overly long read. Megan is an Ausstralian palliative care doctor, researcher, author and bioethicist.
“The recent announcement by the Australian government that increased freedoms would be available to citizens who were double vaccinated for COVID-19, or have exemption on medical grounds, has caused significant consternation in the Christian community. Issues of conscience and concerns about exclusion have been raised as reasons why such measures should not be introduced. This paper has been written to consider how Australian churches should respond.... “ (continue reading COVID vaccination and the Church here: https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/covid-vaccination-and-the-church/ ).
Questions and comments are welcome.
Warm regards and blessings,
The aim of this Page is to be a safe place to explore the ultimate questions of meaning and purpose and to enquire about and discuss the Christian faith from a Lutheran perspective.
A Little About Me
I am Pastor Michael Steicke, often referred to as Pastor Mike. I have been a Lutheran Pastor for over 30 years, having served Parishes in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, before moving to Tasmania to be the Pastor of St Peters Lutheran Parish in Hobart at the beginning of 2016.