04 July 2014

Bishop's Updates Moved

The LCNZ Bishop's updates are now located on the refreshed Lutheran website at http://www.lutheran.org.nz/news. Please visit that page for future updates.

06 June 2014

LCNZ Update 6 June 2014

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God

You Have Been Brought To Jesus
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel (Martin Luther in his Explanation to The Third Article of the Creed).

This Sunday the Church celebrates God’s gift of the Holy Spirit; the means by which we come to Jesus to believe in him and belong to him. Luther goes on to say that the Holy Spirit has called us by the gospel, enlightened us with his gifts, and made us holy and kept us in the true faith.

If you’re at worship this coming Sunday, then thank the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is responsible for you being there.

If you pray today, then thank the Holy Spirit, because it’s the Spirit that has given you faith to pray.

If you read something from the Bible today (or any day) and you feel warmed and loved by Jesus even more, then thank the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit has brought you to Jesus.

If you get a buzz about belonging to te whānau a te Karaiti (the family and friends of Christ and all the diversity and variety therein), then thank the Holy Spirit.

If you feel moved to visit someone today … someone who is unwell or shut-in; if you feel moved to offer a word of encouragement to someone in need, or if you offer to lend a hand to someone who needs help … then thank the Holy Spirit for enlightening you with his gifts and making you more and more like Jesus.

If you love belonging to Jesus Christ, then praise the Holy Spirit.

And if you think the Holy Spirit only works at a personal and individual level, then check out what Luther says about the Holy Spirit’s effect on the Church of God –

In the same way [the Holy Spirit] calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

What a blessing that you and I have been warmed and infused with the Holy Spirit of Jesus. However, let’s remind ourselves – the Holy Spirit is not a gift or a resource to keep to ourselves; it’s the means by which we share in God’s mission of telling the world that he loves them in Christ –

“Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)

The Holy Spirit Is Stirring the New Board for Local Mission
Recently, Sharolyn Mollet and I attended the second face-to-face meeting of the new Board for Local Mission (BLMiss), established by General Synod in April last year.

This board has one real simple objective, amongst many objectives and that is to be a doing board rather than a talking board. In other words it wants to ensure that mission at a local level throughout Australia and New Zealand is done and not just talked about. Of course, there needs to be some talking and planning, but it’s all with a view to doing some doing; to identifying the many opportunities that exist in both nations for sharing Christ and his love, and then actually doing it.

A gift to our meeting and indeed to our Church is Dean Eaton; newly-appointed Mission Facilitator and Church Planting Mentor. Dean shared with us a vision of a Church that is growing and going in and with the love of Christ.

Sharolyn and I had time to meet with Dean and to share with him our desire to see the Holy Spirit stir up some new ministries here in Aotearoa.

The Holy Spirit certainly touched this meeting and warmed our hearts; the Spirit is ready to blow and burn where and when it will through the LCA and the LCNZ. Eyes and hearts open, everyone!

Holy Spirit Stirs St Martin Marton to Call
Last Sunday morning after worship, the members of St Martin, Marton called Brent Siddall to be their new part-time Pastoral Ministry Worker. Brent trained for the Anglican priesthood, but never sought ordination. He has worked in the media (radio) here in New Zealand in the UK, and in sales and management also in the UK. He lives in Whanganui with his mother and is an active member of Harrison Street Community (St Johns Lutheran) Church in Whanganui.

In keeping with the Spirit who cares for the Church (gathers it, enlightens it, makes it holy), the Spirit has now offered a gift of love to the members of St Martin … someone to care for them and grow them in Christ, so that they also may go and bless others with his love.

Please pray for Brent and the saints at St Martin during this time that Brent will be considering the call.

Holy Spirit Stirs in Christchurch
Since I last wrote, there has been a lot of Holy Spirit-generated activity at St Pauls Christchurch, as they also plan for future ministry in their congregation and to their community.

During the interim ministry of Pastor Brian (and Janet) Schwarz, attendances at Sunday worship have steadily increased, a number of folk have ‘come back’ to St Pauls, and generally-speaking there is a renewed optimism and hope for the future. Thanks Holy Spirit; you can come again … and again and again.

Disaster Relief money, so generously given by people in Japan, Australia, the USA, and throughout New Zealand, is still being offered and made available to those with significant earthquake-related repair needs. At the same time the leadership of the LCNZ continues to discuss with the members of St Pauls how we might go about blessing the wider community as well.

Council of Synod (COS) held its most recent meeting at St Pauls over a Saturday and a Sunday, in order to give tangible expression of our love and support for this congregation.

Please pray for the members of St Pauls as they discuss a future ministry plan and vote on it in these coming days.

I Will Not Leave You … Close of Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship
The promise that Jesus gave as he prepared to ascend to heaven, is the promise of his continuing presence through the gift of the Holy Spirit –

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (John 14:16-18).

My prayer is that this word and promise of Jesus will sustain the members of Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship after their congregation closes on Sunday 15th June. I realise that this is a sad occasion in some ways, but it is also an opportunity for us to thank God that by His Spirit he gathered this congregation together for a season, enlightened these people with his gifts and made them holy.

Some members have already been led by the Spirit to find spiritual home and nurture in other churches in the region, but will continue to meet regularly as a ‘Lutheran group’ for fellowship, worship, and to receive the sacrament from a licensed lay-person. I have also committed to regular visiting, along with visits to Whakatane and Kawerau.

This Sunday Marks 200 Days to Go Until the Bicentenary of the Gospel …
It’s only 200 days until we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Te Harinui – the good news of great joy in Christ in our nation.

Once again, here are some suggestions for how you / your congregation might observe this –

You might:
College of Bishops Retreat
From Sunday 22nd June to Thursday 26th June, the College of Bishops will meet in their annual retreat at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay.

LCA Secretary and Mission Director, Pastor Neville Otto will also join us for retreat, and Pauline Simonsen will be the retreat facilitator. We will also be honoured by a visit and presentation by Dr Stuart Lange from Laidlaw College in Auckland; Stuart will present on the bicentenary of the gospel in Aotearoa.

I had hoped that there would be a Bishop (or Mission Director) to preach in each LCNZ location on the 22nd June, but that is not possible. Can I please encourage you all to get along to worship that Sunday morning where a Bishop is preaching?

Fakebook… National Youth Camp … 7th to 10th July

Fakebook … making connections in the modern world.
  • Have fun in the snow
  • Make new friends from all over NZ
  • Grow in your faith together
  • Ruapehu Christian Camp Owhango (near Taumarunui)
  • Cost is $150.00 pp
  • For more Information, contact Marjon at marjon.gerson@clear.net.nz or 09 579 4490
The Gateway Gift
A word from the Gateway Gift Trust Board chair, Jill Hobden –

The Gateway Gift Trust Board has signalled for some time now that the money available for grants from our investments is decreasing and this year the investment income will be more than 10% less than the total grants approved last year. This trend is expected to continue into 2015 and possibly extend beyond that. Congregations are requested to keep this in mind when making decisions about making a major grant application and to also note the 2014 closing date of 18th July for these applications.

Through the Holy Spirit
E karanga ana tou Wairua Tapu, i nga hunga, i nga iwi, i nga reo, kia manako ki nga mea miharo i poua e koe. Na tou Wairua Tapu, i tiri te rongopai ki Aotearoa. E karanga ana koe i tenei ra, i tenei ra, kia kotahi nga iwi i raro i tou maru, kia whangaia te hunga matekai, kia whakaorangia nga turoro, kia tukua nga whakarau kia haere noa, kia mataara te tatari atu ki tou rangatiratanga.

Through the Holy Spirit nations, races, and languages are called to welcome the great things you have done. Through the Holy Spirit you have brought the good news to our land. Day by day you call us to be one people, to be your people. Day by day you call us to feed the hungry, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, and to wait and watch for your kingdom.

(From Variations to the Great Thanksgiving in A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, for Pentecost)

Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.

Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa

28 May 2014

Close of Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship

Kia ora koutou dear friends.

I write to inform you that the members of Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship (TLF) voted recently to close their congregation.

No doubt many of you will be sad to hear this news. However, this decision has come after much prayer and conversation as the people of TLF have sought God’s will for their future.

The decision also comes on the back of the findings of the Acts 15:36 Tour in September last year, steadily declining membership, and in the knowledge that the 3-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between St Matthew Hamilton and the three Bay of Plenty congregations will finish at the end of May.

The MOU provided pastoral care in the form of the Hamilton-based pastor being available for the three Bay of Plenty congregations as well as St Matthew. However, as the LCNZ wrestles with how to use resources, time, people and opportunity in the most efficient manner for the sake of the gospel, the decision has been made to release Pastor John Davison to focus on a Hamilton-only ministry.

The members of the Bay of Plenty congregations are to be acknowledged and thanked as they recognised that this was the best use of the Hamilton-based pastor. They have, in effect, given something up, so that something might be gained in Hamilton; viz. a more effective ministry there.

This coming Sunday (1st June), Pastor John Davison will conduct his last service as pastor of the Bay of Plenty congregations. This service will be held at Whakatane Lutheran Church - 27-29 Hinemoa Street, Whakatane - at 10.30am and will be followed by a “bring and share” lunch.

The closing service of Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship (TLF) will be held on Sunday 15th June at 10.00am at Leon and Carole Jurgens’ home - 6 Greenstone Way, Tauranga.  I will lead this service.

Anyone reading this with a past or present connection with Tauranga Lutheran Fellowship is invited to send a word of greeting for this closing service (greetings can be sent to my email – bishop@lutheran.org.nz).

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua; grace and peace to you all from God …


Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand

Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa

05 May 2014

LCNZ Update 5 May 2014

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God

Irreversible Decline? No Way!
Pastor Jim Pietsch (St Pauls, Wellington) and I recently recorded interviews which were broadcast on Radio New Zealand’s Spiritual Outlook program on Easter Sunday evening and the Sunday evening after Easter. Pastor Jim spoke about the origins of the Lutheran Church from Reformation times, and I spoke about the early history of the Lutheran Church in New Zealand and of my ministry as Bishop.

I shouldn’t have, but I went looking to see what people out there in the ‘internet’ / ‘world-wide-web’ world had to say about our interviews.

I came across one blogger (someone who blogs) who commented on his blog (discussion) site that I was the Bishop of a church in irreversible decline … Bishop of a church that had never been successful in New Zealand and never will be.

Yesterday’s Gospel spoke to us of two men caught up in irreversible decline … their faces downcast (Luke 24:17). The irreversible decline for them was that the one that they had hoped would redeem Israel (24:21), Jesus had been crucified, was dead, and even the women had been told that he was alive; well … they just weren’t convinced at this stage.

Their hopes dashed; their faces downcast … irreversible decline … and a stranger (at first!) comes and joins their journey and their conversation.

Tell me all about he said, and they did. They poured their hearts out … and the stranger, Jesus listened.

And then, once he’d listened, he gently made sense of what they were saying. He answered their questions and wove their experiences of this momentous weekend into God’s salvation history plan right from the beginning –

Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them from all the Scriptures the things concerning the Christ (24:27).

And as he helped them make sense of all that had gone wrong, life did not seem so devastatingly pointless any more. Some light dawned in their minds, their hearts no longer felt desperately cold and hope started to resurrect within their own being.

Irreversible decline was being reversed, and later they were to remember this and say, and didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us while we walked? (24:32).

Dear members and friends of the LCNZ … the risen Lord Jesus comes alongside of us, to walk with us and talk with us, to listen to us and to answer our questions and deal with our uncertainties. Jesus walks with us; not a dead Jesus … but the risen Christ … the one that death could not hold down is the one walking with us.

The cross and the tomb couldn’t hold him. Friends, there’s no such thing as irreversible decline when the Lord of the Church is the risen Lord.

This gives me huge encouragement and hope for the future of the Lutheran Church; a Church empowered and enabled by the one who lives … Christ himself.

In the grave they laid him, Love whom men had slain, Thinking that never he would wake again (there’s your irreversible decline), but … Up he sprang at Easter, like the risen grain, He who for three days in the grave had lain (there’s irreversible decline reversed).

I invite you dear Church to welcome Jesus into your journey and conversation –

Risen Lord Jesus, when our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, By your touch, please call us back to life again. Amen. Alleluia.

Pastor Joe Kummerow, Julie and Family Involved in Serious Car Accident
Many of may be aware by now that on Saturday afternoon, Pastor Joe, his wife Julie, and their 4 children (Lucy, Emily, Nicholas and Alexander) were involved in a serious accident near the Bay of Plenty city of Tauranga in the North Island of New Zealand. The Kummerows were returning to Auckland after a post-Easter holiday.

While Pastor Joe and Julie and their family suffered ‘minor’ injuries, the driver of the other car – a young mother – died at the scene of the accident, and her two young children were taken to hospital in a serious condition; one of them, critical.

The Kummerows have now returned to Auckland. The children went back to school today, Joe will go back to work tomorrow, and Julie to her part-time teaching later in the week.

Join me in giving thanks for God’s protection of this family, and also in asking his comfort and blessing to be with the family who have suffered tragically through this accident –

He whakawhirinakitanga mō tātou ki te ingoa o te Ariki; Nāna nei te rangi me te whenua i hanga. Our help is in the name of the Lord; Who made heaven and earth.

Gracious and loving God – thank you for watching over Joe, Julie, Lucy, Emily, Nicholas and Alexander, and for protecting them from serious injury and harm on Saturday afternoon. Heal them of any injury and pain, and restore them to fullness of health.

Jesus, risen Lord – draw near to the family in the other vehicle, and bring your healing to the physical injuries sustained by the young children. Mercifully embrace this family in your love and heal their pain as they mourn the loss of a mother, a partner, a sister, a daughter.

E te Ariki, whakarongo mai ki ā mātou karanga Ā kia tae ki a koe ta mātou karanga. Āmene. Lord, hear our prayer, and let your cry come to you. Amen.

Meetings, Meetings and Some More Meetings
Over the next couple of weeks, the second round of meetings for 2014 gets underway. These are the councils and committees meeting –
  • Lutheran Support Ministries (10th May)
  • Financial Advisory Committee (10th May)
  • LLL Board (17th May)
  • Council of Synod (24th and 25th May in Christchurch)
  • Board for Local Mission (21st and 22nd May in Adelaide)
I invite you to pray for the work of these committees and meetings:

Almighty God, we give thanks that through the varied gifts of the members of these committees, councils and boards, you provide for the ongoing care of your Church. Help us to recognise and act on every opportunity for fruitful service. Send your Holy Spirit so that everything that is thought and spoken may be for the good of the Church and the glory of your name. Amen.

Future Ministry in Marton, Botany and Christchurch
This is a massive week in terms of getting alongside three congregations of the LCNZ with a view to seeking God’s will with regard to future ministry in each of these locations.

On Saturday, COS member Caroline Samsom and I met with members of St Martin Marton (and some observers from Harrison Street Community Church Whanganui) to look at some exciting ministry possibilities in Marton. Caroline and I are heading back there this Friday evening to work with a small task force in the hope that we can have a Ministry Proposal in place by the end of the month.

Tomorrow afternoon, COS member Jill Hobden and I will meet with members of St Pauls in Christchurch for the same purpose; viz. to seek to discern God’s will for future ministry in this location. As reported in a recent update, Pastor Brian Schwarz and his wife Janet have been living and serving in Christchurch since the beginning of March.

Our meeting tomorrow brings together some great minds, some enthusiasm and once again, a will to listen for God speaking his will for this congregation. The Director of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod’s (LC-MS) Disaster Relief Program, Pastor Glenn Merritt will be with us to encourage us towards mercy in action as we consider how we might reach out from St Pauls to the community of Burwood and Christchurch with the life-saving gospel of Christ. Pastor Bruce Zagel (Director of Reconciliation Ministry in the LCA/NZ) also plans on being with us to offer his encouragement as well. And then there are the members of St Pauls … people really keen to see God rebuild their congregation and His ministry in and through them.

And then next Sunday afternoon, the COS Exec will meet with members of Botany Lutheran Church in Auckland, along with the Coordinator of Asian Ministry in the LCA/NZ Pastor Brian Shek. And yes, you guessed it … to seek to know how God wants us to proceed with His ministry in and through our Chinese sisters and brothers in Botany.

Exciting times ahead for all these places, so can I ask you to please continue to pray for them as well in the words of this wonderful hymn –

The church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit-led, Must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.

Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry For shelter and for bread to eat, and never live until they die.

Then let the servant church arise, a caring church that longs to be A partner in Christ's sacrifice, and clothed in Christ's humanity.

We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord: To care for all, without reserve, and spread his liberating word.

8th June: 200 Days to Go …
In the latest New Zealand Christian Network New, we’re being encouraged again to make the most of the opportunity we have in this bicentenary year to proclaim Te Harinui – the good news of great joy in Christ – to our nation again.

Here is what they’re suggesting –

Sunday 8th June is not far away, but there's still time to prepare something for church that day to raise awareness of the Gospel Bicentenary and its significance in our country.

You might:
  • Ask your pastor to preach on 200 years of the Gospel in New Zealand
  • Show the trailer of Te Rongopai, the DVD specially created to tell the story of Christian beginnings and the spread of the Gospel
  • Show the whole DVD (or maybe just one or more segments from the DVD). You can order it here by going to this website
  • Include the Bicentenary Statement – Discussion Paper in your church newsletter, available here
  • Say a karakia / prayer in both English and Maori
  • Mention the NZ Christian Network and Gospel 2014 websites for people to find further information
  • Put the number of days left before 25 December somewhere in your church newsletter each week
  • Or something else.
Fakebook … National Youth Camp … 7th to 10th July

Fakebook … making connections in the modern world
  • Have fun in the snow
  • Make new friends from all over NZ
  • Grow in your faith together
  • Ruapehu Christian Camp Owhango (near Taumarunui)
  • Cost is $150.00 pp
For more Information, contact Marjon at marjon.gerson@clear.net.nz or 09 579 4490.

Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.

Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa

14 April 2014

Holy Week / Easter 2014

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God

A Holy Week
Once again we enter Holy Week.

We enter it with Jesus at the beginning … and afford him a royal welcome ... much the same as we are currently doing here in New Zealand with Prince William, Princess Kate ... and the real star, Prince George.

But what a contrast we observe between the welcome for Jesus and the welcome for the Cambridges.

Yes, there are crowds and flags and cheering for both. Both deserve acclamation and praise and the honour due their name and status.

One however comes deserving but not seeking the glory except the glory of the cross ... humbling himself unto death … giving up Divine status to take on our status … the status of sinner.

Maybe we'll only go so far ... to the cross and well leave him there … as some did that first Easter when it got too much for them.

Maybe we’ll only go so far … or will we?

Could it be that we will go the whole way … to some place beyond the cross?

That man on the cross, Jesus takes us the whole way, and you'll know it too come Easter morning when you find that you’ve arrived there.

One of my favourite and most touching (literally) liturgical actions is the asperges of Easter morning ... the sprinkling with baptismal water as we confess faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.

As cool water sprinkles over us from the font, we find ourselves wondering where we have felt that water before.

Maybe we think we’ll only go so far … stop at the cross with some of the others … go no further.

But your baptism and mine takes us the whole way with Jesus ... through death to resurrection … His and ours … from cross to empty grave … from death to life … and that cooling, refreshing, life-giving splash of water confirms this.

Your baptism and mine joins us to Jesus … Jesus, who though he was crucified, dead and buried, doesn’t stay crucified, dead and buried … Jesus, who on the third day rose again like wheat that springs up green.

Our baptism takes us the whole journey through with Jesus … and we spring up green as water and Word calls us back to life.
My song is love unknown, My Saviour’s love to me; Love to the loveless shown, That they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine; Never was love, dear King! Never was grief like Thine. This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
Samuel Crossman 1624-1683 (LHS-62)

Ngā mihi o te Aranga; happy Easter.

Easter Worship Throughout the LCNZ
These are the service times that were forwarded to me by the time of publication:

Mountainside, Auckland
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.30pm Passover Meal followed by Worship
  • Good Friday, 10.00am Sights and Sounds of Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday, 10.00am Worship

  • Maundy Thursday, 7.30pm Divine Service with Holy Communion
  • Good Friday, 10.00am Divine Service
  • Easter Sunday, 10.00am Divine Service with Holy Communion
  • Good Friday, 3.00pm Divine Service with Holy Communion (at 53 Pelorus Street, Welcome Bay)
  • Good Friday, 9.30am Divine Service with Holy Communion
  • Easter Sunday, 9.30am Divine Service with Holy Communion
  • Good Friday, 11.00am Divine Service with Holy Communion
  • Easter Sunday, 10.00am Divine Service with Holy Communion
Hawkes Bay
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.00pm Seder Meal at St Francis, Clive
  • Good Friday, 9.30am Holy Communion at Haumoana
  • Easter Sunday, 9.30am Holy Communion at St Francis, Clive
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.00pm Combined Parish Worship with Holy Communion at St Lukes
  • Good Friday, 9.30am Combined Parish Worship with Holy Communion at St Lukes
  • Good Friday, 12noon Pilgrimage of Faith
  • Easter Sunday, 9.00am Holy Communion at Trinity, Feilding
  • Easter Sunday, 10.30am Holy Communion at St Lukes, Palmerston North
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.30pm
  • Good Friday, 10.00am
  • Easter Sunday, 10.00am
Upper Moutere
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.30pm Service with Holy Communion
  • Good Friday, 9.30am Good Friday Service
  • Easter Sunday, 9.30am Easter Service with Holy Communion
  • Easter Sunday, 11.15am Easter Service with Holy Communion
  • Maundy Thursday, 7.30pm
  • Good Friday, 9.30am
  • Easter Sunday, 9.00am Preceded by Breakfast at 8.00am
Christian Broadcasting (CBA) on Air This Good Friday
Over 86% of those surveyed say that religion or spirituality is not a primary interest in their life.

This Good Friday, CBA has New Zealand’s largest commercial radio audience for 12 hours and we're designing our programmes with these people in mind.

NewstalkZB: 6am-6pm Good Friday (and simulcast on Radio Sport).

Estimated combined audience of more than 300,000 [Research International]

  • 6am-8am | Breakfast with Ian Grant
  • 8am-11am | Sam Bloore & Joy Reid
  • 11-12noon | Petra Bagust
  • 12noon - 3pm | Tim Sisarich
  • 3pm - 6pm | Frank Ritchie, John Cooney & Julia Bloore
Spiritual Outlook – Radio New Zealand – Introducing the Lutheran Church
Pastor Jim Pietsch (St Pauls, Wellington) and Bishop Mark can be heard in two interviews to be broadcast on Spiritual Outlook, Radio New Zealand National on Sunday 20th April and Sunday 27th April at 5.00pm.

These interviews will also be available as podcast after the event at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/spiritualoutlook

Call to Prayer
Friends of Jesus, I invite you to call on him in prayer for the following people and circumstances –
  • Assistant Bishop, John Davison’s parents are both quite unwell at the moment.
  • Thanks for the rain that has fallen in most parts of the country. Pray also for those areas – especially Northland – that still needs rain.
  • The people of Solomon Islands suffering from flooding and earthquakes.
  • The people of Far North Queensland, especially the Lutheran Mission in Hope Vale who have suffered through Cyclone Ita.
Those preparing for baptism at Easter.

Bishop Mark and Family on Leave

Friends, the time has come for me to have a little break with my family, so I will be on holiday for two weeks from Maundy Thursday 17th April through to Friday 2nd May. Some of our other pastors will also be taking some leave in the post-Easter period.

If you have an urgent pastoral need, please contact Robert at the National Office on 04 3852540.

Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.

Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa

01 April 2014

LCNZ Update 1st April 2014

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God.

Fools Day
Did anyone fool you this April Fool’s Day? There’s a spider on your back. Work called; they said you can have the day off … you know the sort of thing.

Thank God there’s only one Fools Day each year and that it’s almost over! Who would want to be caught out again?

There is some thinking around that those of us who follow the cross are fools for more than one day of the year; in fact that we’re actually foolish all the time. You can understand why this thinking exists; St Paul was on to it when he wrote –
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Yes; it must look pretty silly that we would look to an instrument of torture and death as the means of blessing and life; foolish even.

But that’s the way it is with God and the “back-to-front” gospel he saves us with … the first shall be last, blessed are the poor for they will be rich, lose your life and you’ll find it … that sort of thing. And that’s why St Paul concludes –
… but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Max Lucado writes –
Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal – the other vertical. One reaches out – like God’s love. The other reaches up – as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love; the other reflects the height of his holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standards.

How could he do this? In a sentence: God put our sin on his Son and punished it there.

“God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God on his throne. You on the earth. And between you and God, suspended between you and heaven is Christ on his cross. Your sins have been placed on Jesus. Jesus receives the blow. Since Chris is between you and God, you don’t. The sin is punished, but you are safe – safe in the shadow of the cross. (He Chose the Nails, ©2000 Max Lucado, Word Publishing)
As you continue your Lenten journey towards the cross of Jesus, don’t be put off by how foolish it might seem, but rather be drawn to its grace, its beauty, its love, and its power to save.
The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out (1 Corinthians 1:18-21, The Message).
Faithful cross, above all other, one and only noble tree, none in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit your peer may be; symbol of the world’s redemption, and your load, most sweet is he. (Pange, lingua, gloriosi, Venatius Fortunatus 530-609, LHS-50)
Bay of Plenty – Tauranga, Whakatane and Kawerau
Early next week I will be visiting these three congregations for the second time this year. In January I visited Tauranga, Whakatane and Kawerau to speak with them about what life and ministry might look like after their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with St Matthew in Hamilton concludes at the end of next month.

These three congregations are facing a future without a pastor regularly coming over from Hamilton to lead in worship, visit, conduct Bible studies, and inspire them to local mission.

It’s been a hard call to make, but is in keeping with the initiatives that came out of the Summit in 2010 where we as Church expressed a desire, that we believed God wanted us to make even better use of the resources he’s given us (people, time, location, money, facilities and opportunities). The MOU served to bring a pastor to these 4 congregations three years ago, but the time has come whereby having reviewed this arrangement we have decided that we need to make changes in order to make better use the resources and opportunities we have.

The Summit in 2010 encouraged the Church to consider -
  • Rationalising assets by looking at utilisation versus value.
  • Reviewing congregations in crisis and consider such solutions as providing more resources, merger or closure.
I invite you to pray for these small congregations and for me, as we meet together next week – Tauranga on Monday 7th, and Whakatane and Kawerau on Tuesday 8th. Please pray that God will reveal his future for these places, and through the changes that lie ahead, the people would be filled with a deep trust in the abundant grace of God.

Planning for Ministry
In recent weeks, two congregations of the LCNZ – Mountainside in Auckland, and St Matthew in Hamilton – have engaged in Visioning and Strategic Planning. Both congregations invited facilitators from outside the Lutheran Church to prod and poke, to review and challenge, to ask the questions and to pose the possibilities … but most importantly to seek the voice and will of God … Lord, use us … God, how can we serve you best … how will you use us to enable your love to come to life in and through us?

From all reports, both congregations were blessed by the process.

I was in Hamilton for their planning and was delighted at the attendance and level of engagement by the people with the facilitator and the conversation, and I’m encouraged to hear that congregations are wrestling with what it means to be called the people of God; people called to proclaim Christ to a world that desperately needs him.

If your congregation wants to engage in such a process, please get in touch with me, and I’ll see what I can do to support you to make it happen.
  • Lord, by your Spirit’s power, help us to seek you and your will, that we may do those things that please you and be useful for the sake of the gospel. Amen.
What Does the Future Hold for St Pauls Christchurch?
In a similar manner to what Hamilton and Mountainside are doing in terms of planning for the future, the members of St Pauls Christchurch are also looking to seek God’s will for their future. Pastor Brian Schwarz and Janet have been living and serving in Christchurch for a month now .. encouraging and building the people up in readiness for the future God has planned for them.

On 6th May there will be a special meeting at St Pauls where we are going to bring together some great minds, some enthusiasm and once again, a will to listen for God to speak and make his will known for this congregation. The Director of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod’s (LC-MS) Disaster Relief Program, Pastor Glenn Merritt will be with us to encourage us towards mercy in action as we consider how we might reach out from St Pauls to the community of Burwood and Christchurch with the life-saving gospel of Christ. Pastor Bruce Zagel (Director of Reconciliation Ministry in the LCA/NZ) also plans on being with us to offer his encouragement. And then there are the members of St Pauls … people really keen to see God rebuild their congregation and His ministry in and through them.

Exciting times ahead for Christchurch. Please continue to pray for them as well.
  • Lord God, thanks for the wonderful things you are doing in Christchurch through all the churches who have heard your call to serve the community in its time of need. Inspire the members of St Pauls by your Holy Spirit, and rebuild them for the ministry of your love and grace that you have called them to. Amen.
Hands and Hearts Joined at Hawkes Bay

Those signing the Memorandum of Cooperation in Joint Ministry, (L-R): Rev Adrian Skelton (Gisborne-Hawkes Bay Presbytery), Bishop Mark Whitfield (LCNZ), Shirley King (St Francis, Clive), Bill Groves (Redeemer Lutheran, Hawkes Bay) and Bishop Murray Mills (Anglican Diocese of Waiapu).

On Sunday 23rd March a congregation of almost 70 people gathered at St Francis Cooperating Parish in Clive (near Hastings) to welcome and embrace our small Redeemer Lutheran Church. Since the retirement of Pastor Trevor Jurgens in April last year, a dedicated group of people from Redeemer Lutheran and from St Francis Cooperating Parish have met together, talked together, prayed together and planned together for even more togetherness, which culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation relating to joint ministry activities.

All the various denominations participated in the service (Anglicans, Presbyterians and Lutherans), and I was delighted to be able to preach on Psalm 95 - O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

And what joy there was … and praise and thanks to God for this beautiful thing that he has done. And to show that hearts had been joined, we held hands in a large circle around the church at the end and sang our blessing song.

A member of the cooperating parish that welcomed our Lutheran sisters and brothers wrote the following in a letter to me last week –
Our negotiations with your people have invigorated our Parish … and we look forward to continuing our association with you and your local members.
Here is a wonderful example of a small Lutheran congregation in the LCNZ finding new life, new purpose and new energy for ministry, in relationship with others from other denominations in the family of God.
  • God of unity, thank you for bringing together our people with others who share the faith and your love. Bless their worship, their ministry, their service, their fellowship, and their life together. Amen.
Capital Visit
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting my own congregation – St Pauls, Wellington. This time I was there as Bishop; not as member or musician. Last Tuesday evening I sat round table with the leaders of the congregation and the few who braved the wet and windy conditions to come out as well. We talked together about many things including the relationship of St Pauls to the ministry of the LCNZ, how St Pauls might function as a regional church, a community church, and an ecumenical church, and I answered many questions.

The conversation continued, albeit a little more formally when I addressed the congregation during worship on Sunday. During my presentation, I told them the stories of what God is doing through you – his people – in the LCNZ.

I'm looking forward to doing this sort of thing with and for you all as the year progresses.

Cos Exec Goes to the Heartland
A couple of weekends back the COS Exec met at St Martin Lutheran Church in Marton. The Exec held its regular meeting in the morning, and then after lunch we met with a number of members from the congregation. The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss the possibility of a new SMP (Specific Ministry Pastor) for St Martin.

That’s right! God is so good; so faithful, that he is providing the saints (the sheep) at Marton with another possibility for them to have a shepherd after his own heart (Jeremiah 3:15).

Thanks Marton for inviting us! We’ll continue to pray for you and work hard towards making an SMP shepherd for you possible.

If anyone else would like the COS Exec to visit, you only have to ask. If we’ve got the time and can afford the bus-fare, train-fare, or whatever, we’d love to come to meet with you, pray with you and support you.
  • Once again God, we’re in awe of your faithfulness and love for your people. Thanks for providing another pastor possibility for your people at St Martin. Bless the process from here with your grace and love. Amen.
Jaswanth’s Coming Home
Jaswanth Kukatlapalli (from St Pauls Wellington) has almost completed his ALC (Seminary) training for the ordained ministry in the LCA. He is coming to Auckland to do his vicarage (practical training) with Pastor Joe Kummerow and the members of Mountainside Lutheran from June through to November. And then, God-willing, he will be approved for ordination in the LCA/NZ.

Preparations are well underway for welcoming Jaswanth ‘home’ and for giving him a valuable practical training experience in Auckland. The Church really appreciates the willingness of Pastor Joe and the members of Mountainside for making this possible, and for taking their part in forming another pastor for the Lord's Church.

Kogudus Retreat III – Spiritual Gifts
Just a wee reminder that the Kogudus Retreat III on Spiritual Gifts is being held this weekend (4th to 6th April) at Camp Morley, Clarks Beach, Pukekohe.

This retreat aims to help you discover your spiritual gifts, personal style, and God-given passion for serving in the body of Christ and your community.

It may be too late to register for this one, but just in case it’s not, why not email Simon Lieschke for more information – simon@lieschke.net?


Fakebook … making connections in the modern world.
  • Have fun in the snow
  • Make new friends from all over NZ
  • Grow in your faith together
  • Ruapehu Christian Camp Owhango (near Taumarunui)
  • Cost is $150.00 pp
For more Information, contact Marjon at marjon.gerson@clear.net.nz or 09 579 4490

How do you make sense of suffering? Just when life seemed to have fallen into place, Pastor Stephen Abraham was knocked down with chronic pain.

Lutheran Media has produced a series of 5 new mini movies that are being released every couple of weeks. The series is called "Chronic". It tells the story of Pastor Stephen and Therese Abraham and is designed to give people hope in the midst of suffering.

Go to www.facetoface.org.au to watch a 30 second clip promoting the series about the upcoming Chronic Pain series. It's also on www.youtube.com/luthmedia and called "Introducing Chronic".

There is also a free booklet on Chronic Pain that you can order by emailing us at luthmedia@lca.org.au.

'Noah' Study Guide
'Noah' has started screening in New Zealand. Reviews are mixed. Some Christians say it should be avoided because it doesn't mention the name God. Others say it's a brilliant opportunity to engage with non-Christians. To help you work out whether you love or loathe 'Noah', Pastor Richard Schwedes has posted a two-page resource guide on his blogspot.

In the Next Update
In the next update I’ll include Easter weekend worship opportunities in every part of the LCNZ

Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.

Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa

05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday - 5th March 2014

Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua

願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God

He Gave His Dear Son to Cheer Our Hearts

Yesterday I had the honour and pleasure welcoming and hosting Bach Collegium Japan to a formal reception as guests of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand. This group of outstanding musicians are in great demand all around the world for performances, especially of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and they are currently in Wellington to perform in the New Zealand Festival of the Arts.

This evening – Ash Wednesday – they present Bach’s St John Passion, and in so doing they will proclaim God’s love for his people in Jesus Christ.

Founder and Director of Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki said in an interview in a recent edition of The Listener –
In the St John Passion it is clear the message Bach sought to convey is nothing other than the message of the cross. The cross is the central symbol of Christianity and the Christian Church. It is the foundation of our faith. (The Listener, February 1 2014)
I imagine that some of you by the end of today will be wearing this cross that Masaaki speaks of; one made of ash and oil and inscribed on your forehead. And possibly by tomorrow it will have already rubbed or been washed off.

But the mark of the cross remains on you and I forever, as ones marked and inscribed by it at our baptism; it truly is the foundation of our faith.

One year before his death in 1546 Luther wrote –
For God has cheered our hearts and minds through his dear Son, whom he gave for us to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it. (Luther’s Works, Luther, vol.53, p.333, Martin Luther)
In this reflective and penitential preparatory season of Lent, when we even 'turn our worship down a notch' as we drop our ‘Alleluias’ and our ‘Great Gloria’ and as we give up chocolate and ice cream and the like, there’s still good reason for us to cheer and to be cheered by God in heart and mind.

May the days and weeks of the Lenten journey afford you the opportunity to be drawn closer to the cross; the gift of love and life. Here indeed, God’s love comes to life.

Haere Ra; Haere Mai
Pastor Bruce Zagel and his wife Kathy have returned to Australia, having spent the month of February here in New Zealand. They spent most of their time here with the Upper Moutere community, but were able to conduct Blessed Are the Peacemaker workshops in 4 other regions of the LCNZ. Pastor Bruce has indicated that he’d like to come back later in the year to offer a Conflict Coaching course to the LCNZ. For now, we thank God for the gift of Bruce and Kathy who came to us with servant hearts. How do I know that? Bruce always began his conversation with the question: How can I serve you best?

Last weekend Pastor Brian Schwarz and his wife Janet arrived in Christchurch for a 4 month interim ministry at St Pauls Lutheran Church in Burwood. Welcome back Brian and Janet; we pray that you will enjoy your time with the members and friends of St Pauls, and that your ministry amongst them will be blessed.

Lutheran Women of New Zealand
A reminder that all former members of Lutheran Women of New Zealand (LWNZ) and all Lutheran Women are invited to a day of celebration, reminiscence and thanksgiving led by Pauline Simonsen.

Theme: Jesus – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Saturday 8th March

St Luke’s Lutheran Church Palmerston North 9.45am - 3pm

$10 registration fee, lunch, morning & afternoon tea provided

Registration forms available from manawatulutheran@inspire.net.nz

Come along for a day of fun and fellowship with Christian women

Kogudus Retreat III – Spiritual Gifts
You are warmly invited to Kogudus Retreat III on Spiritual Gifts on 4th to 6th April 2014 at Camp Morley, Clarks Beach, Pukekohe.

Kogudus is an Estonian word that means Christian fellowship. The retreat format provides an environment of encouragement in which you can ask and discuss questions, share what you have already learned and just simply grow in exercising your faith. This retreat aims to help you discover your spiritual gifts, personal style, and God-given passion for serving in the body of Christ and your community.

The retreat begins meeting by 6pm on the Friday evening to start with a meal and conclude at 2pm on the Sunday. In between there is a mixture of teaching, prayer, good food, laughter, opportunity for a walk, fun, and fellowship.

Visit the LCNZ website events page for more details.

LCA Calls New Principal to Australian Lutheran College (Alc)
The Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) has called a versatile parish pastor with governance and leadership experience to lead Australian Lutheran College (ALC) as its next principal.

LCA Bishop Rev John Henderson recently announced that the General Church Council (GCC) has called Pastor James Winderlich, the senior pastor of St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide.

‘The GCC prayed earnestly and deeply before extending this important call, engaging in intense and searching discussions with the ALC Board of Directors, which has governance oversight of the college’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘We are confident that Pastor James has the God-given faith, skills and ability to play his part in leading our tertiary college into a strong vibrant future.’

Pastor Winderlich has been a pastor of the LCA for 22 years. After ordination in 1991, he served the Southport-Ashmore parish, Queensland, for six months, and then, further north, at Maryborough for four years. During this time he was also a part-time police chaplain.

In 1995 he moved to South Australia, where he served the Riverland parish of Paringa/Meringur and the Magill congregation in Adelaide, before accepting the call to St Stephen’s in the heart of the city. There he has served side by side with Sudanese special ministry pastor Peter Deng and now with Chinese pastor Wing Tso.

Pastor Winderlich’s cross-cultural experience comes also from the LCA’s ministry with Aboriginal people in central Australia.

As chairman of the Finke River Mission Board, he was instrumental in advancing the effective delivery of theological education to Aboriginal pastors and lay leaders. As chair of the LCA’s national Safe Place Committee, he steered the review and development of policy and procedures. He is an ambassador for White Ribbon, an organisation campaigning to end violence against women.

He has credentials in Human Resources and in Workplace Training and Assessment, and has recently been admitted to the doctoral program of the University of Divinity (Melbourne) through ALC.

Pastor Winderlich is Second Assistant Bishop of the South Australia/Northern Territory District.

‘ALC has a major role in the mission and ministry of the LCA’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘Like the church itself, it has many joys but also many challenges. Should God guide him to accept this call, Pastor James knows that a high level of service and leadership will be asked of him. As he considers his response and listens to the Holy Spirit, I ask church members to pray for him, and for ALC, that God’s will may be done.’

ALC Dean and Vice-Principal Dr Stephen Haar has been Acting Principal since June last year when former principal Pastor John Henderson left to take up the position of LCA Bishop.

The regular rules of the church allow a pastor four weeks from receipt of a call to give his response.

Ordination – We’re Listening
As the Church continues to discuss the matter of Ordination of Men and Women, you might like to check out the resources that are available on this issue at – http://www.lca.org.au/ordination-were-listening.html.

Kia noho a Ihowa ki a koutou; the Lord be with you.

Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pihopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa